Silly as it sounds, being the worldwide leader in sports entertainment puts WWE in the unique position to genuinely make dreams come true on a daily basis. We’re not just talking about the wrestlers employed by the company, although most of them certainly appreciate the opportunities their jobs allow. However, each and every fan of WWE is likewise able to have wishes granted by the company they spend so much time watching, so long as WWE is willing to listen to their cries, that is.
The idea of a “dream match” has been around far longer than Vince McMahon has been promoting sports entertainment. When two athletes or sports teams achieve a particular level of greatness, its only natural fans want them to square off at some point in time. Because WWE is scripted, it’s almost always possible for these picture perfect encounters to happen, yet sometimes the most obvious ideas are the ones McMahon is most likely to reject. Other times, he just doesn’t seem to notice what he has.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the power to book WWE, nor do we possess the time machine that would allow us to right some of Vince McMahon’s wrongs. What we can do is look back through time and point out all the main events he let slip through his fingers, while offering a few suggestions of money matches he may not realize could wow his audience. Keep reading for 8 dream matches WWE failed to deliver and 7 that could still happen.
17 FAILED TO DELIVER: The Rock vs. Shawn Michaels
In all fairness to WWE, as incredible as it would have been, the stars never quite aligned for a match between The Rock and Shawn Michaels to have worked. The Great One was still transitioning out of his Rocky Maivia phase as HBK started his first retirement, and by the time of Shawn’s comeback, it was time for another reformation by The Rock, this time into Hollywood actor Dwayne Johnson. The poor timing trend continued when Rock made his long awaited WWE return one year after HBK retired for good, pretty much cementing that this match would be impossible. Nonetheless, fans have long discussed what a spectacle it could be, with the People’s Champion meeting one of the few wrestlers who can match his in-ring charisma posing an eternal what-if in the minds of many.
15 COULD STILL HAPPEN: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Brock Lesnar
Technically speaking, Shinsuke Nakamura and Brock Lesnar have wrestled before, but there are several reasons why a WWE rematch would basically be an entirely new match. For one, their encounter happened more than ten years ago and in a different promotion, meaning modern-day WWE has in no way effected the pairing. More than that, both Lesnar and Nakamura have evolved immensely as performers. The Beast Incarnate hadn’t stepped inside the octagon once prior to facing Nakamura, who himself had yet to be crowned the King of Strong Style. Even if their characters remained relatively the same, ten years of experience can change absolute everything about who a performer is, and the initial match between these two will likely have no bearing on a potential rematch. For that reason, WWE basically needs to make it happen.
14 FAILED TO DELIVER: Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair
All right, so not only did Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair wrestle one another; they’ve wrestled one another probably well over 100 times. That said, the majority of these occasions were outside of WWE, and the so-called leaders in sports entertainment wasted an opportunity at staging the first and biggest encounter of the two most famous wrestlers in the 1980s. Granted, it was 1992 at that point, but both Flair and Hogan still had tremendous star power, and capitalizing on their respective fame through the main event of WrestleMania VIII virtually wrote itself. Throw in that Flair had just jumped from WCW to WWE for the first time and still had their World Championship belt, and it would have been a truly historic affair. Unfortunately, the house show circuit didn’t respond well to the matches (or so the story goes), so the company went in different directions with both competitors. Two years later, WCW finally paired them together.
13 COULD STILL HAPPEN: Samoa Joe vs. Goldberg
At this point, the truth is that Goldberg’s status in WWE and perhaps pro wrestling in general appears a little unclear. That loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33 may well have been Da Man’s lost match. On the other hand, WWE could easily talk him into having a few more, especially considering how successful that program was for everyone involved. Were Goldberg to have one more match, our suggestion for his opponent would be another wrestler who once had an incredible winning streak himself, Samoa Joe. Recently, Joe has skyrocketed up the WWE roster due to his unmatched intensity, which is the same way Goldberg dominated WCW. They also have a loss to Brock Lesnar in common, and the build to a rematch would be all it took to justify them locking up and delivering what would promise to be a hard-worked power match.
12 FAILED TO DELIVER: Daniel Bryan vs. Brock Lesnar
Given the state of Daniel Bryan’s neck and brain, maybe it’s for the best he didn’t face Brock Lesnar in the main event of SummerSlam 2014. Presuming Bryan is healthy and the Beast Incarnate lets him stay that way, however, fans would have almost certainly preferred this to the perfunctory bout they saw between Lesnar and John Cena. Of course, those same health concerns are why it isn’t exactly WWE’s fault that this match didn’t come to be. The original plan was for Bryan to hold the WWE Championship from WrestleMania XXX until this match, but his injury caused him to vacate the belt, and his career was virtually over from there. A match between Bryan and Lesnar simply wouldn’t have made sense in any other scenario, unfortunately depriving the world of what could have been a masterful David and Goliath-style encounter.
11 COULD STILL HAPPEN: Fínn Balor vs. AJ Styles
The absolute only downside to WWE finding a way to have Fínn Balor wrestle AJ Styles is that the company can’t make reference to what would be the basis of their entire feud anywhere else in the world. Unbeknownst to some WWE fans, Balor (then Prince Devitt) was the original leader of Bullet Club, the New Japan Pro Wrestling organization Styles later took over upon Balor's exit for NXT. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were there throughout both tenures, adding in readymade alliances and loyalties, yet again, it’s a moot point, as WWE won’t acknowledge anything happening outside of its own Universe. On the plus side, this doesn’t change the fact Styles and Balor have remarkably similar wrestling styles, and could put on an outstanding match together under just about any circumstances. In fact, all they need to do is set out to prove which one is better, the oldest explanation in the book for two guys to fight and for good reason.
10 FAILED TO DELIVER: Hulk Hogan vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Of all the matches on this list, WWE came closest to actually booking Hulk Hogan and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, albeit not quite in the way fans had long wanted. More importantly, it didn’t actually happen, so how close it came to existence isn’t exactly relevant to begin with. It would have been the biggest star of the 1980s and the face of saying your prayers and eating your vitamins versus the ‘90s' answer to such a hero; the self-proclaimed world’s toughest son of a b*tch who would slap the vitamins out of your praying little hands. Every wrestling fan alive identifies with one of those two archetypes, and they almost squared off at WrestleMania X8, only for the sides to find they were unable to decide who deserved to win. Ultimately, fans got Hogan’s match with The Rock in this would-be classic’s absence, and there wasn’t really any other time it could have happened.
9 COULD STILL HAPPEN: Samoa Joe vs. John Cena
While it may be a bit of a stretch to suggest Samoa Joe face off against Goldberg, the idea of a match between The Destroyer and the Face of WWE, John Cena, is a far more possible scenario. In fact, rumor has it this was the original plan for WrestleMania 33, until Cena revealed he was going to propose to Nikki Bella, leading to his mixed tag match. On the plus side, there’s still plenty of time for Cena and Joe to find reasons to wrestle. In reality, the two have known one another for nearly 20 years and were actually close friends during their training to become wrestlers, allowing for a deep and personal backstory about the nature of fame and success in sports entertainment, should WWE choose to go that route. Of course, they could also simply have Joe decide he wants to beat the crap out of Cena because that’s what he does, and fans would be happy to go along for the ride.
8 FAILED TO DELIVER: Shawn Michaels vs. Eddie Guerrero
Once again, there really wasn’t much of a window for WWE to deliver on the idea of a match between Shawn Michaels and Eddie Guerrero. However, more so than most other examples on this list where that was the case, the opportunity was definitely there, as the two were both working for WWE during a solid three-year stretch from 2002 to Eddie’s death in 2005. At any point in those three years, Guerrero and HBK could have found reason to cross paths and put on show stopping classic, yet the two were never given the opportunity. Adding one more layer to the tragedy of Eddie’s death, his nephew and close friend Chavo later claimed that the dream encounter was in fact the plan for WrestleMania 22, with the plan to cast Eddie as Mexico’s answer to HBK. Obviously, that was immediately out the door upon his passing.
7 COULD STILL HAPPEN: Braun Strowman vs. Goldberg
So long as we’re entertaining the idea of Goldberg wrestling one more match, let’s just go ahead and offer a second suggestion along with that, as well. In some respects, Braun Strowman might be an even better opponent for Da Man, considering the two shared a brief moment during an episode of Raw that never quite had any payoff. Strowman may be slower and bulkier than Samoa Joe, yet this merely makes him more similar to Goldberg, lining up their compatibility as potential rivals a step further. Quite frankly, Strowman also has more upside than Joe as a competitor, being several years younger and an all-around newer prospect, both things that could make Vince McMahon see him as the superior choice for a match with Goldberg. Of course, that’s all compliant on Goldberg even wanting to step inside the ring again, so it may be out of McMahon’s hands.
6 FAILED TO DELIVER: John Cena vs. The Undertaker
To the cynics of this world, it may be too soon to fully accept The Undertaker as retired. For now, though, the official stance seems to be that the Phenom wrestled his final match against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33, which means the idea of a similar Showcase of Immortals encounter against John Cena is entirely out of the question. Even were the two to cross paths again, the true of appeal of such an encounter was lost way back at WrestleMania XXX when Lesnar ended Undertaker’s undefeated streak. The main reason fans wanted to see Cena square off against The Undertaker so badly, and at WrestleMania specifically, is that both men had a reputation for never losing, Undertaker at the Grandest Stage of Them All, and Cena in just about any major one on one match. Once Undertaker lost to someone else, the intrigue was virtually dead, and the dream of this match was over.
5 COULD STILL HAPPEN: Kurt Angle vs. Chad Gable
To put it bluntly, Chad Gable is nowhere near Kurt Angle’s league, and yet that’s part of what could make this match so great. If nothing else, it would at least justify the ongoing mess between Kurt Angle and Jason Jordan, perhaps in a case of the forgotten American Alpha partner bitter about missing out on the spotlight. However they make it happen, Gable is the absolute perfect opponent for Angle in terms of the modern day WWE roster. From the very beginning, insiders and fans alike were comparing Gable to Angle for their incredible similar in-ring styles, and there’s no doubt the two former Olympians would put on an amazing technical display if they had the time to do so. Unfortunately, WWE only seems to want Angle wrestling very rarely if ever, considerably decreasing the odds of him facing a rising star like Gable.
3 FAILED TO DELIVER: AJ Styles vs. Shawn Michaels
In one sense, we totally understand and appreciate when a sports entertainer decides they’ve retired and choose to stick with it, never again stepping inside a ring to wrestle. On the other hand, Shawn Michaels is a total jerk for depriving the world what could have been an outright classic. Okay, maybe that’s going a bit too far with it, but the fact remains WWE very nearly allowed the dream encounter between HBK and “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles to happen, and at WrestleMania 33, no less. Unfortunately for Styles, WWE, and the many fans of both, Michaels was steadfast in having retired seven years earlier, feeling a mere classic match wasn’t worth going back on his decision. In fairness, Michaels does deserve some respect for sticking with retirement, as countless other performers have been goaded back into the ring for money with diminishing returns, and there’s always the chance this match could have disappointed if his heart wasn’t truly in it.
2 COULD STILL HAPPEN: AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar
During the first few months AJ Styles spent in WWE, commentary repeatedly referred to his similarities with pit bulls, reportedly because Vince McMahon was doing the same thing backstage. If Styles is a pit bull, then Brock Lesnar is a big, snarling Rottweiler, and it makes no sense why McMahon hasn’t let these dogs rip one another apart inside the ring yet. In a manner of speaking, letting Styles and Lesnar have an all out war could make up for the lack of a match between Lesnar and Daniel Bryan. Styles needs to make up for countless matches he missed out on while wrestling for TNA, and Lesnar serves as a good conduit for pretty much anyone to work for WWE while he was there, having beaten them all at one point or another. Even without the symbolism, these two could have a true classic, and sometimes that’s all fans need to want it to happen.
1 FAILED TO DELIVER: Sting vs. The Undertaker
Forget about the small, albeit extant likelihood that The Undertaker could crawl out of the cobwebs for one last match against John Cena. An even more highly anticipated match involving the Deadman also never happened and no longer ever could, that being WWE’s Phenom squaring off with WCW’s Icon, The Undertaker versus The Man They Call Sting. Granted, of all matches on this half of the list, WWE had the smallest window to actually make this match into a reality. It was pretty much WrestleMania 31 or nothing, and had the opportunity been missed because both men were busy with more important matches, we almost wouldn’t blame them. However, Undertaker wrestled Bray Wyatt in a meaningless bomb, and Sting faced Triple H in a bizarrely pointless mess, significantly intensifying the pain inflicted by missing out on what could have been an iconic dream match come true.