We were so close, yet so far away. We almost got the WrestleMania main event most fans were salivating for, but the WWE snatched it away from us. At the end of WWE Fast Lane a couple of weeks ago, Daniel Bryan fell to Roman Reigns' spear after a great match which finally closed the book on the idea of a Brock Lesnar versus Daniel Bryan World Title match at WrestleMania 31. No matter how much people will debate me on this, I'll stand by the fact no matter how good Reigns/Lesnar might be, it will always pale in comparison to the guaranteed classic story that would have been Lesnar/Bryan. Now instead of a reality, Bryan/Lesnar joins a long list of WrestleMania which shoulda woulda coulda happened over the 30 year history of the event.
With this unfortunate loss of a main event fallen before us, I felt it was as good a time as any to look back on a host of potential matches that we could have seen at WrestleMania. Don't get this confused with any dream matches that were impossible to ever book. All these matches had some sort of rumour or actual report to go along with the possible match. Comparisons to the actual matches which occurred will also be made and the better match would based on story implications, actual match quality and if it made sense on the card. Also for variety's sake I will mention one match per WrestleMania or else WrestleMania X-8 would dominate a lot of the list.
10 Mankind vs. Vader, WrestleMania 13
Actual Match: Owen Hart (c) and British Bulldog(c) vs Mankind and Vader
Preferred Match: Mankind vs. Vader
WrestleMania 13 is one of the most lackluster Manias of all time. If you were to remove the incredible submission match between Bret Hart and Stone Cold, the card stunk worse than Bastion Booger's diaper. While it would have taken more than one match to save the card, a matchup between Vader and Mankind would have definitely added some much needed spice the card.
This idea sprung about directly from the mind of Mick Foley. In his inaugural literary opus Have A Nice Day!, Foley writes about how he pitched the idea to Vince McMahon based off his and Vader's past history together in Japan and WCW. Vince liked the idea, but thought he should team them up first so they can break up later. That never happened and we were left with a forgettable tag match at WrestleMania 13 instead.
9 Lita vs .Trish Stratus (c), WrestleMania 21
Actual Match: Christy Hemme vs. Trish Stratus (c)
Preferred Match: Lita vs. Trish Stratus
It's hard to make the argument that there ever was two more popular Divas in WWE history than Lita and Trish Stratus. They came into the company in 2000 and quickly became bigger stars than most of the men who they were sharing the stage with. Having said that, it's an incredible shame that Stratus and Lita never had the chance to lock up at WrestleMania. If they were good enough to main event a RAW, they deserved a clash on the grandest stage.
The match seemed likely to happen given how the landscape of the Divas' division in early 2005 but Lita tore her ACL in January against Stratus at the New Year's Revolution PPV so plans were scrapped. Instead we got Stratus taking on an inexperienced Christy Hemme, who had just posed for Playboy magazine (with Lita as her "mentor") whom Stratus managed to carry to a decent match. Obviously it goes without saying that the two best Divas at WrestleMania for the Women's championship would have been better than what we got.
8 Triple H vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (c), WrestleMania X8
Actual Match: Triple H vs. Chris Jericho (c)
Preferred Match: Triple H vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
The berating which WWE gets from fans for a lack of long term booking might be warranted, but there are times which extenuating factors force plans to change. After WrestleMania X-Seven, Triple H and Stone Cold paired up into the Two Man Power Trip alliance and proceeded to capture all the major titles in the company. The plans were for the two to eventually break up and feud for the World Championship in Toronto at WrestleMania.
Due to the HHH's quad tear in 2001 however, the plans were scrapped and instead Chris Jericho ended up squaring off against Triple H at WrestleMania in a good match hindered by a horrible build. A SCSA/HHH match would have had much more steam behind it and Jericho's premature championship reign would have perhaps been saved for later in the year.
7 Mankind vs. Stone Cold vs. The Rock (c), WrestleMania 15
Actual and Preferred Match: Stone Cold vs. The Rock (c)
Through the help of sock puppet and a killer feud with The Corporate Brahma Bull, Mankind became one of the most over babyfaces in the WWE around early 1999. His connection to the crowd was so hot in fact that the original plans for WrestleMania 15 were for a triple threat match featuring Mankind alongside The Rock and Stone Cold. However, Shawn Michaels suggested to McMahon that the main event of WrestleMania should be a one on one match instead.
Despite HBK's ulterior motive to get Triple H in the main event (according to the rumor), I do agree with him that a one on one encounter with Stone Cold and The Rock worked better than the triple threat. Rocky and Mankind had already had several matches together prior to WrestleMania and Austin/Rock was a fresh matchup between the number one face and heel. Also, this set the stage for their legendary WM X7 rematch.
6 Triple H vs. Mike Tyson, WrestleMania X-Seven
Actual and Preferred Match: Triple H vs. Undertaker
Most hardcore fans are opposed to having celebrities getting involved in actual wrestling matches at major events and it's understandable why. They often take up a spot from a wrestler who works his ass off all year and the match more often than not end being an overbooked fiasco. The first reason though would be thrown out the window though if Triple H squared off versus Mike Tyson at WrestleMania X-Seven like the original plan was. Yes, this was a possibility.
There are a couple of reasons why I'm happy this match didn't happen. First off, Mike Tyson in 2001 was in horrible shape. Sure, he was still boxing but his mental state and drug addiction had him teetering on the edge of a breakdown, the last thing he needed was to be in a wrestling ring. Also, would you rather a phony boxing match between Triple H and Mike Tyson or an awesome street fight between The Game and The American Badass? I thought so.
5 Big Show vs. Shaquille O'Neal, WrestleMania XVIII
Actual Match: Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show for Intercontinental Championship
Preferred Match: Big Show vs. Shaquille O'Neal
As I said on the HHH/Tyson slide, most hardcore fans are opposed to celebrities fighting at WrestleMania but I think this one would have been a slam dunk (pun totally intended). The original WM plans for Big Show were to have the giant face off veruss the one and only Shaq Daddy. O'Neal actually confirmed the match himself on a local Miami radio show back in December 2011. Apparently, WWE didn't like Shaq's big mouth and negotiations ultimately fell through. What an idiotic reason for not booking the match.
Out of all the guest hosts WWE had on Raw for 2009, Shaq shone far and above 99% over everyone else. His sense of humour translated perfectly into pro wrestling and his captivating presence let to an electrifying stare-down between himself and Big Show. If booked correctly to accentuate Shaq's strengths, a match between Show and Shaq in Miami (where Shaq won an NBA Championship by the way) would have been the best celebrity match in wrestling history. Not saying much, but cool nonetheless.
4 Kurt Angle (c) vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 22
Actual and Preferred Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle (c)
If it was up to Mark Calaway, The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak would have ended eight years earlier than it actually did. In an interview with the U.K newspaper The Sun, Kurt Angle said that the original plan for the WrestleMania 22 World Heavyweight Title match was the Olympic Gold Medalist vs The Phenom:
"Undertaker really wanted to have that match, he asked Vince to push our match back from No Way Out to WrestleMania and, since I was champion they wanted me to keep the title. Undertaker was willing to take the loss."
As amazing as this match would have been, I don't think Angle needed to break the streak in 2006 to cement his legacy. We were still treated to a classic between Angle and Taker at No Way Out 2006 which didn't need WrestleMania. I think giving Rey Mysterio the world title win at the event was a better and more heartwarming outcome than Undertaker possibly tapping to the Ankle Lock. I realize the the triple threat between Orton, Angle and Mysterio was lackluster, but that was due mostly to the short time given for the match, not the quality of performers.
3 The Rock vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 2000
Actual Match: The Rock vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley vs. Triple H
Preferred Match: The Rock vs. Triple H
WrestleMania 2000 is a contender for one of the most bizarre WrestleManias of all time. It has some great moments sprinkled throughout, but there are a host of matches with absolutely no pop to them and oddly enough, there is not a single, well, singles match for the men. Every match on the card was three or more person affair, except for a divas match. The only one on one 'match' was a catfight between Terri Runnels and The Kat (yes, it was actually billed as a catfight).
Perhaps the greatest sin of all though, was the lack of a WrestleMania main event between the top heel and top babyface: The Rock and Triple H.
Now to be fair, the fatal four way isn't as bad as people make it out to be. While it is highly unnecessary to have all the McMahons in the match and to have Mick Foley come out of retirement just a month after a thrilling Hell in a Cell match, it's still decent. Having said that, a WrestleMania main event pitting Triple H and The Rock at the peak of their powers is a match which has my five-year-old self salivating. The funny part is that I'm sure WWE knows they screwed up, as they booked this match at the next PPV and it was awesome.
2 Sting vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 27
Actual Match: The Undertaker vs. Triple H
Preferred Match: Sting vs. The Undertaker
My oh my would this have heavily helped out this troubled WrestleMania. In January 2011, promos began to play during WWE programming which featured an unidentifiable man in a trench coat entering an abandoned cabin in the middle of a forest. WWE fans went banana (intentional misspelling, thank you Pat Patterson) trying to uncover the identity of the man and essentially came up with three answers: Undertaker, Sting, or both.
Indeed, there was willingness on WWE's side to sign Sting in 2011. In fact, they offered Sting a match with Undertaker and a spot in the WWE's Hall of Fame. Sting however chose not to sign and instead Taker faced Triple H in the second of an eventual trilogy.
I realize the match could totally happen at next year's Mania, but this still feels like a missed opportunity. As good of a match HHH/Taker II was, it was a match we had seen before several times and lacked pop. A Sting/Taker match in WCW's backyard of Atlanta, Georgia would have surely saved this doomed card which featured, say it with me, John Cena versus The Miz in the main event. At least we can still see this match happen, unlike our last entry...
1 Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania VIII
Actual Match: Sid Justice vs. Hulk Hogan
Preferred Match: Do I have even have to say it?
This is the one which boggles the mind more than any other. Back in the 80s, there were no bigger wrestlers in pop culture than Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. One styled and profiled his way to the top of WCW and the other hulked up the WWE into the juggernaut we see today. When Flair shockingly left WCW in 1991 due to WCW wanting him to shave his hair, wear an earing and changing his name to Spartacus (really) it seemed like all the stars were aligned for the dream match of wrestling's golden era: Hulk Hogan versus Ric Flair, WCW vs WWE.
Except they weren't. Due to the big egos involved in the match, rumour has it that Hogan didn't want to lose to Flair at the event which he made famous. Going by Hogan's track record, that is probably true. Another reason was that the match sold poorly on house shows prior to WrestleMania, leading McMahon to change plans for his show of shows. As a result, the only televised WWE match between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair was in Madison Square Garden on December 29th, 1991.
Maybe the numbers weren't there for house shows, but I find it hard to believe that it wouldn't have drawn at WrestleMania with the proper promotion and storyline. Plus for historical purposes, it's absolutely insane that this match never happened. A WrestleMania match between these two would have been the perfect way to cap off that era of professional wrestling and allow the new generation to take over in 1993. No, instead Hogan stole the spotlight from Bret Hart and Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX and Ric Flair versus Hulk Hogan never main evented WrestleMania VIII. Tragic.