It’s that time of the year again when wrestling fans around the world get excited for the annual “sports entertainment” spectacle known as “Wrestlemania”. While so many great clashes have occurred under the “Wrestlemania” banner have created moments and superstars unlike anything ever seen before or after in professional wrestling. But there have been several potential memorable battles that didn’t go down during the big event. Here are the greatest “Wrestlemania” matches that never happened.
Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper – Wrestlemania 1
Not long before the first “Wrestlemania”, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper began one of the first wrestling talk shows entitled “Piper’s Pit”. It was during these segments that Piper got on his figurative soapbox and lambasted the growing phenomenon later known as “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” where pro wrestling gained so much mainstream appeal that celebrities were getting in on the action. Hulk Hogan took exception to Piper’s lamenting after befriending the likes of Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper. In February of 1985, during “War to Settle the Score”, Hogan and Piper clashed in a match to end all matches as the world watched the biggest bad guy in wrestling take on the all-American WWF Heavyweight champion. After several minutes of brawling, the match ended in a disqualification victory for Hogan after “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff interfered – which also brought out Mr. T to even the odds.
Rather than have a highly anticipated rematch between Hogan and Piper with Mr. T and Orndorff in the wrestler’s respective corners, both potential seconds were added to the rematch – making a tag team main event instead of a singles, one on one encounter. Though putting Mr. T in an actual wrestling match added to the spectacle that would become synonymous with “Wrestlemania”, the fact fans never saw Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper wrestle each other during their respective primes (both as athletes and financial draws) on what would become the “Grandest Stage of Them All” still irks a lot of fans to this day (and their battle at “Starrcade 1996” eleven years later just intensified that disappointing feeling).
Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan – Wrestlemania 8
For many wrestling fans growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the biggest argument was who could win a match between WWF Heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan and NWA/WCW World champion Ric Flair. One was a superhero-like strongman while the other a flamboyant grappler. Both had dominated their respective home companies and had people clamoring for the one day they would meet in a ring with the lights on bright. Flair, still the World champion of WCW, left the promotion while still recognized as the champion. It didn’t take long before Flair’s face graced television screens in front of a WWF while proclaiming himself to being the “real World’s champion” (sporting the WCW title belt on his shoulder to emphasize this fact). Hogan, still the WWF Heavyweight champion, took exception to Flair’s statements and “The Nature Boy’s” involvement in Hogan losing the title to The Undertaker. Thanks to a controversial ending during Hogan and ‘Taker’s rematch, the WWF Heavyweight title was vacated and put up for grabs in the 1992 Royal Rumble match. Flair would win the title, leading many to believe Hogan would conquer “The Nature Boy” during the eighth “Wrestlemania”.
But that didn’t happen. Though Hogan and Flair were wrestling on the house show circuit, the inevitable “Wrestlemania” match never took place. Ric Flair defended the title against “Macho Man” Randy Savage while Hogan fought Sid “Vicious” Justice in the main event of what was being prompted as “The Hulkster’s” final WWF match. The only explanation as to why the match never came to be was the fact Hogan would have to walk out as the champion – something that couldn’t be done since “The Hulkster” was leaving for a career in Hollywood. The WWF had already vacated the most important title once in less than six months; so leaving the company without a Heavyweight champion again wouldn’t look good at all. In reality, the company was stuck between a rock and a hard place and couldn’t deliver a match that would’ve been the biggest drawing match in wrestling history up to that point (if not all time).
Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart – Wrestlemania 13
“Wrestlemania 12” featured the first and only “Wrestlemania Sixty Minute Ironman” where the grizzled veteran Bret Hart defended his WWF Heavyweight title against the flamboyant number contender Shawn Michaels in a match where the person who could gain the most pin falls, submission victories, count-out or disqualification situations over his opponent in sixty minutes would walk away as the champion. The match featured no conclusive decisions until overtime where Michaels pinned Hart to win his first WWF Heavyweight Championship. Hart would step away from wrestling while Michaels was given the spotlight as “the man” in the company. By the time Hart returned, Michaels’ attitude began to change. “The Heartbreak Kid” was growing more and more visibly upset over the fact fans were turning against him while “The Hitman” was suffering with the same problem.
Shawn, having lost and regained the WWF title, seemed to be getting back on track mentally as Hart began cracking under the pressure of a booing crowd. Then the champ, having the appearance of someone who hadn’t slept in weeks, entered New York’s Manhattan Center to announce he had “lost” his “smile” to cover up the fact he was suffering from a knee injury – thus forfeiting the championship. Hart questioned the legitimacy of Shawn’s injury because of their backstage problems. Bret was not only pushed out of the WWF title match, but also the main event where The Undertaker and Sid Vicious would collide while Hart took on Steve Austin in a “Submission” match. Hart and Michaels would fight less than a year later in what would become “The Montreal Screwjob” rather than having their highly anticipated “Wrestlemania” rematch where the two could tear the house down once again. Instead, the legacy of Hart vs. Michaels became forever associated with controversy rather than unparalleled athleticism that broke barriers for wrestlers of non-“larger than life” stature.
The Rock vs. Steve Austin vs. Mankind – Wrestlemania 15
“Mrs. Foley’s baby boy” Mick “Mankind” Foley achieved his near lifelong dream during the end of 1998 when he became one of the most unlikely WWF Heavyweight champions in history by defeating “The Corporate Champion” The Rock thanks to some help from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The Rock would regain his championship a few weeks later at the 1999 “Royal Rumble” event, only to lose it back to the masked man in an Empty Arena match. As Austin battled the likes of the future “Big Show” Paul Wight to earn his spot as the challenger in the main event of “Wrestlemania 15”, Mankind and The Rock were raging wars across the country; culminating in a Ladder match on “Raw” that saw The Rock walk away a three time WWF Heavyweight champion thanks to interference from the aforementioned Wight.
Like their previous encounters, many assumed Mankind would get his rematch after losing the title. But with Austin officially the number one contender, Mankind was shut out of the title picture heading into “Wrestlemania”. Yet, that didn’t stop Mankind from getting involved in The Rock-Austin feud over the title; interfering in pre-“Wrestlemania” fights and matches that had the fans intrigued and predicting Mankind would be added to the match at the last minute. Instead, the company moved Mankind into the supporter role – a role where Mankind wanted to be the referee for the main event rather wrestle in the match and regain the title he was cheated out of thanks to his eventual “Wrestlemania” opponent in Wight. But this wasn’t the last time the WWF wouldn’t go with a potential must-see Triple Threat match featuring three of the biggest names in all of wrestling for the main event of “Wrestlemania”.