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. (Part 1)
The Rock vs. Triple H – Wrestlemania 16
Thanks to Steve Austin’s neck injury and subsequent neck surgery, The Rock took the opportunity to become “the man” in the WWF; turning into the most popular individual in all of wrestling. On the other end of the spectrum was The Rock’s old rival and enemy in Triple H – who had grown into a true villain that the fans were paying to see get his in the form of beatings courtesy of The Big Show, Kane and Cactus Jack. With The Rock winning the 2000 Royal Rumble match and defeating The Big Show to retain his status as the WWF Heavyweight title number one contender and Triple H disposed of Cactus Jack in a Hell in a Cell match, the stage seemed to be set for Triple H-The Rock for the first time at “Wrestlemania”.
Then everything changed. The McMahon family started picking sides as Stephanie supported her husband Triple H while The Rock had Vince McMahon backing him. Shane McMahon decided to voice The Big Show’s disgruntlement before Linda McMahon announced Mick “Cactus Jack” Foley would have his “Wrestlemania” moment – thus making Triple H vs. The Rock into Triple H defending his WWF Heavyweight title against The Rock, The Big Show and Mick Foley in a Four Way Elimination match that featured a McMahon in every “corner”. The match wasn’t the classic many hoped it would be and ended with the hated Triple H retaining his title thanks to Vince McMahon not-so-shockingly turning on The Rock. A month later, the fans got the match that should’ve headlined “Wrestlemania 16” – a match that literally had the building shaking before The Rock’s title victory and proved just how great The Rock and Triple H were when standing across the ring from each other.
Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs. Triple H – Wrestlemania 17
On the same night of “Stone Cold” and The Rock’s first “Wrestlemania” clash, D-Generation X leader Triple H turned on his stable mate and good friend X-Pac to align himself with Vince McMahon’s “Corporation” faction in hopes of finally take that next step toward main event status. The decision worked perfectly because by the end of 1999, Triple H was a two-time WWF Heavyweight champion who defeated both The Rock and Steve Austin over the course of the year. The fans were clamoring for Triple H to get his just desserts either at the hands of their favorite wrestlers in Austin and The Rock, or both. The 1999 edition of the “Survivor Series” was to see Triple H defending his title against Steve Austin and The Rock in a Triple Threat match. Then Rikishi (unbeknownst to “Stone Cold” and the audience watching live) ran Austin down with his car, putting “Stone Cold” out of the match and wrestling for almost a year.
By the time “Wrestlemania 17” season came around, The Rock was the WWF champion, Triple H was still one of the biggest villains in the company, and Austin had won the Royal Rumble match to earn a WWF Heavyweight title shot during the Houston-hosted event. To add fuel to the fire that the lost Triple Threat match could actually happen sooner than later, Triple H defeated Austin in a “Three Stages of Hell” match; thus defeating the number contender before “Stone Cold’s” title match the month before “Wrestlemania”. Triple H never capitalized on the win by demanding a title match and went on to fight The Undertaker at “Wrestlemania 17” while The Rock and “Stone Cold” had a classic bout.
Unlike the potential Austin-Rock-Mankind match that was stopped by management (both on-screen and off-screen), Triple H prevented the main event of The Rock vs. Austin vs. HHH by going on a vocalized campaign backstage that the main event should be a one on one bout. Triple H’s honorable ways cost the fans a historic match, but at least what did occur became one of the most profound moments/matches in wrestling history.
Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan – Wrestlemania 18
Almost one year after the WWF purchased WCW, fans witnessed the company debut of the New World Order faction featuring the returning Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, Kevin “Diesel” Nash and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan. As expected, fans started clamoring for a potential confrontation between Hogan and another one of the biggest (if not the biggest) names in wrestling history in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Rather than be pushed into a feud with Hogan, Austin took a step back and let The Rock shine while “Stone Cold” took the fight to Scott Hall. Not long after “Wrestlemania 18”, Hogan embraced the fans’ support and Austin left – leaving wrestling fans both active and fly-by-night without their most wanted match in recent history.
Like Triple H talking himself out of a Triple Threat match with The Rock and Steve Austin at “Wrestlemania 17”, it was “Stone Cold” who put the kibosh on the highly anticipated clash featuring two distinct personalities that drove wrestling to new heights during their respective eras. According to Austin, he felt Hulk Hogan would slow him down in the ring and the end result would be a very disappointing match that would tarnish the legacies of both men. As seen during the match that replaced Austin-Hogan in Hogan-The Rock, “Hollywood” would’ve done fine with “Stone Cold” and one of the biggest gems in wrestling wouldn’t have been lost forever.
Steve Austin vs. Triple H – Wrestlemania 18
2001 was one of the most interesting years in the history of professional wrestling. Not only were there the purchases of World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling by the World Wrestling Federation and Vince McMahon, individuals like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had character changes that created brand new landscapes in the WWF. By becoming a villain following his destruction of The Rock at “Wrestlemania 17”, Austin began teaming with former arch nemesis Triple H to form a “Two Man Power Trip” that took control of the company via championships. Just when it seemed no team could stop them, Triple H suffered a quad injury that would put him on the shelf for the rest of the year.
As Triple H spent time rehabbing his injury, Austin went out of his way to mock his former ally before joining forces with a contingent of former WCW and ECW wrestlers looking to take down the company that helped put them in the unemployment line temporarily (ironically led by Vince McMahon’s children). It was obvious “WWF for life” Triple H would make his highly anticipated comeback at the expense of Austin and save the company from a harrowing demise. But before Triple H could return, the WWF opted to embrace the fact the fans refused to wholeheartedly boo “Stone Cold” – turning him into a good guy once again. Triple H did return and win the WWF title that moved from Austin to Chris Jericho – though the company did use the Royal Rumble match that would catapult Hunter to the title to give the fans a glimpse of what the company wanted to do for “‘Mania” when Triple H overcame Austin in the match.
The dynamic of a “hated” Austin versus a fan favorite Triple H for the WWF Heavyweight title at “Wrestlemania” would’ve been incredibly interesting. But seeing how the Toronto crowd treated the villainous Hulk Hogan like a hero during his dream match with The Rock probably would’ve incredibly warped the main event’s dynamics and potentially left the fans disappointed.
Randy Orton vs. Triple H – Wrestlemania 21
”Summerslam” 2004 was a monumental night for third generation wrestler Randy Orton. Orton, defeating Chris Benoit in one of the best matches of 2004, became the youngest World champions in WWE history. It seemed Randy was riding on cloud nine when the group that helped create him in Triple H’s “Evolution” (featuring Hunter, Ric Flair, Dave Batista and Orton) turned on the new champ. Triple H bumped “The Legend Killer” out of his golden throne only a month after Orton’s historic victory by winning the title – causing Randy to chase after his former mentor by running through the gamut from Ric Flair to Evolution wannabe Mark Jindrak in hopes of regaining his championship.
But then something unexpected happened – the muscle behind Evolution in Dave Batista started getting more and more popular. The story of inner dissension in the faction that should’ve occurred after Randy Orton won the World Heavyweight title began with Batista after Triple H destroyed “The Legend Killer” in Orton’s first defense on pay-per-view. Following the “Royal Rumble”, Orton was dead in the water as a good guy while Batista moved into the slot that was obviously molded for Randy during the fall of 2003. Triple H and Randy Orton did wrestle in the “Wrestlemania” main event four years later in a match that is still considered one of the most disappointing “Wrestlemania” finales of all time. But on that night it was Triple H as the conquering hero taking on the villainous Orton in a match hampered by a one-sided “No Disqualification” stipulation.