WrestleMania season is officially underway. With the Royal Rumble upon his heading into this upcoming Sunday afternoon, we are mere days away from finding out what the main event for WrestleMania 33 will be. For wrestling fans, this season never ceases to be the most exciting time in the wrestling world every year. It is in this time frame where we speculation arises for how the Mania card will shape itself, who will and won’t make it into marquee matches, and of course, what will be the show’s main event. As exciting it is to speculate what WrestleMania matches will happen this year, it is just as fascinating to contemplate which WrestleMania matches did not make the big show in prior years.
As we have seen for past Mania shows, some matches invoke such a natural exhilaration in the atmosphere in fantasy booking alone that it would have been blasphemy if these matches were left off the card for any reason. Certain matches can define an entire WrestleMania show. What is WrestleMania 12 without Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart taking each other to the limit in an Iron Man match? How could the Austin Era have begun without Stone Cold stunning Michaels for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 14? What are WrestleMania 25 and 26 without the blockbuster Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels headlining each show? And WrestleMania III is damn near impossible to even comprehend without thinking of Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant in the middle of the ring. Matches like these are ludicrous to imagine not taking place at WrestleMania in the same way that it is mind boggling that some of the matches on this list did not take place at WrestleMania. Sometimes, plans just fall out of place to the point that a no-brainer of a WrestleMania contest gets scrapped at the last minute. It happens all the time, but here are just a few examples.
15. Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho — WrestleMania 32
This is the most recent entry on the list. Chris Jericho revealed in a recent interview on Busted Open Radio that in the months leading into WrestleMania 32, the plan was for Jericho to turn heel and enter a program with Dean Ambrose that would lead into Mania. There were even some seeds planted for Jericho’s eventual villainous turn dating as far back as September 2015 at Night of Champions when Jericho shoved Ambrose out of his way after they lost against The Wyatt Family. What changed the plans was the fact that AJ Styles came to WWE in January 2016 and had a phenomenal set of matches against Jericho. Vince McMahon was so impressed with how the two worked off each other that he pushed back Jericho’s heel turn and put him in a tag team with Styles. When Jericho finally turned heel, he had another match with Styles at WrestleMania with Y2J coming out on top. As for Ambrose? He was on the losing end of a No Holds Barred match against Brock Lesnar at Mania. His feud with Jericho didn’t happen until post-Mania where the two had a nearly show-stealing bout at Payback and a lukewarm one at Extreme Rules. Ambrose won both matches.
14. The Miz vs Shawn Michaels — WrestleMania 26
Fans love to criticize Vince McMahon as someone who tends to neglect pushing the younger stars on his main roster in favour of pushing older veterans and part timers. Little do they know is that around 2010, McMahon was keen on pushing a new initiative to create new stars out of young talent. He had plans for this initiative to pay off in dividends at WrestleMania 26. His biggest plans saw him booking The Undertaker against then-newcomer Drew McIntyre while a freshly repackaged Miz took on Shawn Michaels. In the latter case, HBK would have been taking a fall for the sake of Miz’s Awesome Mania win. However, by time Mania season finally rolled around, McMahon decided that the two young guns weren’t ready for such marquee matches. Instead, McIntyre was inserted in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match while The Miz successfully defended his Tag Team Titles with The Big Show by his side. Michaels, on the other hand, went into retirement after losing a Career vs Streak match against The Undertaker, killing any future chances for Miz to beat The Showstopper.
13. King Booker vs Shawn Michaels — WrestleMania 23
WrestleMania 23 is notable for the highly-publicized Battle of the Billionaires match that saw major entrepreneurs Vince McMahon and Donald Trump put their hair on the line with respective competitors wrestling on their behalf. In Vince’s corner was Intercontinental Champion Umaga and in Trump’s corner was ECW Champion Bobby Lashley. Although, these two wrestlers weren’t always inked to play a part in this match. In the earliest stages of planning this match, Booker T (then donning his King gimmick) was penned to vouch for McMahon while Shawn Michaels was meant to do the same for Trump. It seems like plans changed when Triple H, who was originally penned to face John Cena in a main event rematch from the previous Mania, got injured at the last minute. Michaels filled in for Triple H while Lashley took his spot in the Billionaires match. Booker’s spot was scrapped in favour of Umaga and Booker was instead inserted in the Money in the Bank match.
12. Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper – WrestleMania I and 30
Despite how much publicity WWE garnered from booking Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff as the main event of the inaugural WrestleMania, most fans believe that in retrospect, it would have made more sense for the very first Mania main event to be headlined by a more important match. Specifically, a WWE Championship match pitting arch-rivals Hogan and Piper against each other. Originally, that was exactly the plan, but then it was decided that WWE should add the A-Team star into the mix so that him and The Hulkster could capitalize on their Rocky III fame. In related news, 3 decades later, it was reported that Piper pitched a marquee tag team match for the 30th Anniversary of WrestleMania. This time, Piper wanted to team with CM Punk to take on Hogan and John Cena. Allegedly, discussions surrounding this match were serious up until Punk packed his bag and left WWE the same month Piper pitched the idea. Even if Punk had stayed, Hogan likely wouldn’t have been able to get cleared to wrestle given the state of his health. Much like the original WWE Championship plans 30 years earlier, this proposed tag match just wasn’t destined to be.
11. Razor Ramon vs Goldust — WrestleMania 12
Everyone remembers the Hollywood Backlot Brawl between Goldust and Roddy Piper from WrestleMania 12. Many deem that match to be one of the biggest highlights of the show and a fun match-up that almost stole the show. However, the way that WWE’s Powers That Be originally envisioned the match, it looked a whole lot different. Instead of a Hollywood Backlot Brawl, it was gonna be a Miami Street Fight, the Intercontinental Championship would have been on the line, and Razor Ramon would have filled Piper’s role. Ramon and Goldust had been feuding over the IC Title for quite a few months before WrestleMania and their Mania match was booked to be the culmination of that feud. Things changed when Ramon began talks to jump ship to WCW. At the same time, a month before Mania, Ramon was hit with a suspension for failing a drug test. At the very last minute, Piper filled Ramon’s role against Goldust in a feud over Goldust making homo-erotic advances towards Piper.
10. Stone Cold vs The Rock vs Mankind OR Stone Cold vs Triple H — WrestleMania 15
The main event of WrestleMania 15 is prolific for beginning the critically praised WrestleMania trilogy between Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Given the significance of the contest, it is hard to imagine WrestleMania 15 without the match on the card, but it almost wasn’t. In fact, as Mick Foley revealed in his book Have A Nice Day, his Mankind character was so popular at that point in time that backstage suits were strongly considering inserting Foley into the main event for a Triple Threat. Alas, it was decided (with heavy persuasion from Shawn Michaels) that as traditional told at the time, the main event of WrestleMania was better suited for a one-on-one match. At the same time, Michaels was doing some heavy championing on behalf of Triple H to not only insert his buddy into the main event, but take out The Rock and Mankind altogether in favour of Austin vs Trips. Ultimately, it was a unanimous opinion backstage that The Rock was far too over as the company’s top heel to leave out of the main event.
9. The Rock vs JBL — WrestleMania 21
After losing a handicap match with Mick Foley against Evolution at WrestleMania XX, The Rock disappeared from the WWE Universe for 7 years until hosting WrestleMania 27 and subsequently wrestling John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 28. If The Rock had it his way, he would have been wrestling at every WrestleMania for a special appearance every year. He was reportedly so excited to return for WrestleMania 21 that he provided WWE with a plethora of ideas. One idea saw him wrestling Sting (who was speculated to sign). According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, this was only Rock’s 2nd best idea. Other ideas saw him facing Ric Flair one-on-one—picking up where the two left off at WrestleMania XX—and facing JBL for the WWE Championship. To surprise naysayers who doubted The Great One could win, Rock would’ve won the title, dropped it a couple days later, and headed off to Hollywood waiting for the next Mania. However, it seems like a contract dispute nixed that idea right out of thin air. It might’ve been for the best given how if Rock beat Bradshaw for the title, then Cena would not have had his illustrious championship coronation as the new face of the company.
8. Triple H vs Mike Tyson — WrestleMania X-7
When WrestleMania X-Seven was on the horizons, Triple H was without a WrestleMania opponent to be penciled in for him. Eventually, right after he defeated Stone Cold at No Way Out in their 3 Stages of Hell match, Trips was finally slotted for Mania in a match with The Undertaker, but before that was thrown together, there was uncertainty as to where The Game would be placed on the card. There were talks for The Cerebral Assassin to face everyone from a returning Shawn Michaels to former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. A big match that was in the works was for Triple H to wrestle Iron Mike Tyson, basing their history from when Tyson turned on DX to help Austin win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 14. Triple H revealed in a WWE.com interview that there were plans for the two to go 6 rounds to a finish at Mania X-Seven. While he doesn’t remember specific details (would it have been a legit boxing match, would Trips have been wearing gloves, etc.), Triple H does remember that the match was cancelled because it would have cost a bunch of money.
7. Hulk Hogan vs John Cena — WrestleMania 25
The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania was set to be a big event. WWE wanted to make WrestleMania 25 the biggest WrestleMania there ever was and ever will be. The only way to make the show monumentally big in WWE’s mind was to book two of their biggest faces to go head-to-head with each other. John Cena and Hulk Hogan were in early talks to wrestle each other and for Hogan, it would have been one last hurrah before finally hanging up his boots once and for all. Seeing the top star of the 80s bow out to WWE’s current top star certainly would have been a fitting way for The Hulkster to go out. Unfortunately, as with many contests on this list, it just wasn’t meant to be. During a Q&A session with The National, Hogan confirmed that there were plans in place for Hogan to have one last match against John Cena. Those plans were halted when Hogan’s back finally gave out on him after a series of back surgeries and Hogan was advised to stay out of the ring. Hogan’s last match ended up being against Sting at TNA Bound for Glory 2011.
6. Undertaker vs Kurt Angle — WrestleMania 22
The Undertaker and Kurt Angle had one hell of a slobberknocker at No Way Out 2006, but the two were originally supposed to have that match on the grandest stage of them all a month later. In fact, Angle vs Taker at Mania had been in the works for the past year. The two originally were pegged to headline WrestleMania 21 for the WWE Championship as Smackdown’s two biggest stars. Instead, WWE deciding to keep up JBL’s WWE Championship run going until Mania 21 given how much momentum he built as a heel. So obviously, that would mean Angle and Taker’s bout would be saved for Mania 22, right? Sort of. Taker certainly wanted it to happen. Given that (in his mind at least) he never had a classic WrestleMania match, Taker wanted that match with Kurt Angle. He was even willing to take a loss and let Angle end The Streak. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as there were already plans in place that year for Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton to go into Mania for the World Title picture with Angle.
5. Shawn Michaels vs Eddie Guerrero — WrestleMania 22
On The Court Bauer & John Pollock Show, ex-WWE writer Court Bauer admitted that there were plans in place to book Eddie Guerrero vs Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 22 just days before Guerrero’s passing. While there were no plans for Guerrero to win the World Title as it has been romanticized in the past, Bauer confirmed that Bruce Pritchard was the one to pitch the match to Vince McMahon. The story would have paralleled the careers of both men as icons rising through the ranks of their respective countries to become the WWE stars they were in the 2000s and Guerrero would have played heel to Michaels’ face. McMahon loved the idea and was excited to get working on the video packages for the match. It’s really a shame that this match never came to be as the story surely would have been exhilarating to witness both in and out the ring.
4. Hulk Hogan vs Stone Cold Steve Austin — WrestleMania X8
As entertaining as The Rock vs Hulk Hogan was at WrestleMania X8 was, a popular belief among wrestling fans is that there was more money and appeal in a match between Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The biggest star of wrestling’s Golden Age vs the biggest star of wrestling’s Attitude Era. The story writes itself. All of the dominoes were in place for the two to work together and were actually slotted to face off. However, Stone Cold kept the match from happening for various reasons. He didn’t think that the match would be any good given how Hogan was slowing down in his later years. Plus, being familiar with Hogan’s politics in WCW, Stone Cold was concerned with who would go over in the match. With neither man willing to take a fall from the other, neither stepped in the ring together for a one-on-one match at Mania. There was another attempt to bring the two together at WrestleMania 21, but the same issues and concerns arose then as well.
3. Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair — WrestleMania 8
This is arguably the biggest dream match to never happen at WrestleMania. It pitted the two biggest stars in wrestling during an era when the sport was booming. In 1992, Hulk Hogan was the biggest star that WWE ever produced while WCW’s biggest star, Ric Flair, had just made the jump to WWE and won the World Title. It would have been easy to book this as Mania main event and instantly make it a money match, especially when the match had been teased since their feud began in late 1991. Unfortunately, every problem that could arise to keep that match from happening had happened. One of the biggest being that McMahon thought that the house show matches the two were having were bad matches. Also, knowing Vince, he probably thought that a big guy like Sid Justice had a better chance at drawing as a headliner than Flair. Instead of Flair vs Hogan, we saw Hogan beat Sid Justice by DQ and Flair lost the belt to Randy Savage in a classic contest. Hogan vs Flair never happened until WCW Bash at the Beach 1994.
2. Sting vs Kurt Angle — WrestleMania X8
Up until his long overdue debut at Survivor Series 2014, Sting was always marked as the best wrestler never to sign with WWE. Though he was reluctant to signing with the company that played a hand in overthrowing his native WCW, he came pretty close in 2002. According to former WWE creative writer David Lagana, Sting was strongly considering coming to WWE and had he signed that year, WWE planned to have his first match be against Olympic Gold Medalist, Kurt Angle, but after becoming reluctant of having to work WWE’s hectic stressful, Sting decided to take a hard pass at WWE’s tempting offer. Instead, Sting went into a semi-retirement that included brief and sporadic appearances in TNA before joining company full time in 2006. Meanwhile, Kurt Angle wrestled and defeated Kane at WrestleMania X8. Sting vs Kurt Angle didn’t happen until Bound for Glory 2007, TNA’s version of WrestleMania.
1. Sting vs Undertaker – WrestleMania 27
Arguably the dream match to end all dream matches, especially in regards to WrestleMania dream matches. The Stinger vs The Deadman. Everyone wanted to see it, but it never happened. What many don’t realize is just how dangerously close this match was to happening. Anyone with a strong enough memory to take them back to 2011 will remember that there were a long series of eerie vignettes alluding to the date “2.21.11.” WWE wanted this date to mark the WWE debut of Sting and to make as big a statement as possible, he was going to challenge The Undertaker to a match at WrestleMania. As Sting told Kevin Eck of The Baltimore Sun, he found it bizarre that WWE would allude to him appearing in these vignettes without speaking to him or securing a deal, but at this point, as Sting was approaching the twilight of his career, he was seriously considering finally making the jump. He was actually very close to signing this time, but ultimately declined. For that reason, the perpetrator behind these vignettes ended up being revealed as Undertaker himself and instead of Sting challenging The Phenom’s Streak, it was Triple H. The two had a show stealer at WrestleMania while Sting stuck to TNA for another 3 years.