When it was announced that Dolph Ziggler had been injured and as a consequence would be out of the World Heavyweight Championship Match at Extreme Rules, it got me thinking. Are we now ever likely to see him face Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger in a triple threat match? What’s more, even if we do, is it really likely to be in a ladder match as the contest at Extreme Rules was supposed to be? Whilst the answers to these questions are yet to be decided, I couldn’t help but wonder about the matches that have never happened and are either very unlikely or definitely not going to ever take place.
Below are the 5 that stuck out most for me, in terms of the potential for the money they could have made had they materialised, the significance that the two getting into the ring together could have had, or just simply how special the match they might have had been if it had occurred.
Undertaker Vs Sting
The Undertaker and Sting have both been main event players at the top of the industry for over 20 years, they were key players in the Monday Night War, held multiple World Titles and have headlined a plethora of pay-per-views, what’s more is that they are both still active and competing in the ring, albeit on a part-time basis, to this day. All this makes the fact that they have never faced each other in the squared circle that much more incredible. It is as a result of their longevity and continued status as in-ring performers that gives the mere idea of this match an almost mythical aura, as though worlds really would collide if they finally stepped in the ring on opposite sides.
Of course, the reason for their continued evasion of each other is that Sting has never signed for the WWE. Sting remains perhaps the only major wrestling star that has never performed under the management of Vince McMahon, and given the state of play in the business these days, with major stars being made outside the WWE very rare indeed, it is unlikely that this will change anytime soon. Sting is a wrestler who was a major player in the old NWA and subsequently the WCW when it became WWE’s main competition in US Wrestling, he remained at the company through its entire history and only left in 2001 when the company folded. Following his time in Atlanta, whilst most of the significant WCW alumni (Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bill Goldberg, Dallas Page, Scott Steiner etc) signed for WWE, Sting never did and when TNA came calling in 2003, Sting joined their roster and has been there ever since.
In the meantime, The Undertaker, a character created by WWE was becoming a major star. The man behind the gimmick, Mark Callaway, who wrestled for the WCW briefly as ‘Mean’ Mark Callous’, has stayed with the WWE ever since making his debut for the company back in 1990. Given their respective ages and the deterioration, specifically of Sting’s performances over the last decade, any match now would likely be an almighty disappointment and would almost definitely match up to The Undertaker’s recent high standards. For this reason, coupled with Sting’s long running reluctance to sign with WWE, this is match that is now highly-unlikely to happen, and maybe from a mythical standpoint, that is for the best.
There is however, one more reason to feel that this match should take place still. There is a sense that, whilst this match doesn’t take place, the true value of WWE buying WCW all those years ago will have been lost. When the purchase happened, one of the dream matches that wrestling fans imagined would be possible was the long awaited collision between these two men, and yet it still hasn’t come close to taking place. Until it does, it will be almost as if the Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW never really ended and that that last thread of closure that’s required to fully let go of that era will remain elusive.
Kurt Angle Vs Randy Savage
I have dipped into the realm of complete fantasy for this match as there was really only a short window of time that both were still actively competing concurrently. Whilst Savage was still making sporadic appearances at the turn of the century and Angle was in his debut year, these two could have had a match (had the much-speculated about personal issue between Vince McMahon and Savage allowed ‘Macho Man’ to sign for the WWE at the time) but it probably wouldn’t have been quite the contest that these two were capable of during their prime, so for this contest, I’ll ask you to use your imagination.
Randy Savage contested some absolute blinders in the late 80’s/early 90’s, he was an obsessive about match quality and was a great believer in plotting out a match ahead of time in minute detail to ensure the best possible end product. It was this method that resulted in his classic with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania 3 that some still call the greatest match in Wrestlemania history. But it was Savage’s work with lesser in-ring performers such as Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior that really set ‘The Macho Man’ apart. Indeed, his matches with Hogan at Wrestlemania 5 and Warrior at Wrestlemania 7 are nothing short of top quality encounters against two men who were never renowned for their overall body of in-ring work. In truth, the Randy Savage of the eighties could have a good match with anybody which is why a contest with Kurt Angle would be such a prospect.
Kurt Angle in 2013 doesn’t seem to have quite the same ability as he did in the past, maybe Angle has finally got to the point where his age has caught up with him (I say this despite the fact he was able to draw a fine contest out of the truly awful Wes Brisco at Lockdown a few months ago). But Angle was arguably the wrestler of the noughties having lit up the WWE on his arrival and taking part in countless classics with the likes of Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit and others before moving to TNA and also contesting non-WWE style super fights with Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and their ilk. If proof was needed of Angle’s brilliance it was the stunning match he had with the lumbering Abyss at Turning Point 2008. Angle, much like Savage was capable of having a good match with anybody.
There are dozens of dream matches that only imagination can let us enjoy, but none could be considered to be so certain a great match as this one. Though a Randy Savage and Kurt Angle match may never have been a realistic possibility given the short time they were simultaneously active workers, just think how good it might have been had they been in their primes at the same time.
The Rock Vs Shawn Michaels
If ever there was a match that seemed destined to never happen then this is it- these two men were just not supposed to have a match. Their lives and careers never pinning them to the same place at the same time meant that we were never able to see ‘The Brahma Bull against ‘The Heartbreak Kid’. The Rock and Michaels are two of the biggest stars in WWE history, who (aside from Michaels run with the AWA back in the mid-80’s and The Rock’s brief spell as Flex Kavana in USWA) have both spent their entire wrestling career’s with the company and yet have never been around at the same time. This in spite of the fact that most of their big matches came against the same opponents as each other.
When The Rock burst onto the WWE scene as Rocky Maivia at the tail end of 1996, Shawn Michaels was WWE’s World Champion and top draw. With Maivia brought in as a babyface, and Michaels the lead face in the company, there was no chance of an encounter between the two happening in the near future (even in a match on Raw). That situation might have changed when Rocky became The Rock and joined the Nation of Domination in mid 1997, turning heel in the process, except that Michaels was making only occasional appearances for the WWE at the time and would soon after turn heel himself at Summer Slam that same year. Not that at the time, anybody was particularly bothering themselves with making the match happen, The Rock was still only a midcard act at best, and Michaels was concerning himself with major programmes opposite The Undertaker and Bret Hart.
As The Rock’s star grew through the second half of ’97 and early ’98, Michaels won back the WWE title from Hart at the infamous Montreal Screw Job and then faced The Undertaker in a Casket Match at Royal Rumble 1998. During the match, a seemingly innocuous bump where Michaels’ back seemed only to graze the corner of the casket on his way down inflicted an injury to Michaels that, after putting over Austin in his only other match after the Rumble and passing him the WWE Title, effectively ended the Heartbreak Kid’s career. After Wrestlemania 14, The Rock continued his meteoric rise to stardom and became one of the biggest names in the history of professional wrestling, a status that eventually led to him appearing in Hollywood movies and subsequently leaving the wrestling business behind.
Coincidentally, just as The Rock was putting over Brock Lesnar at Summer Slam 2002 before leaving WWE to make another movie, Shawn Michaels was making his in-ring return against his long time friend Triple H. Given that Michaels had been away from the ring for 4 years there was some belief that Michaels couldn’t possibly be the same calibre of performer he had been during his original run. It was to some surprise then, that the street-fight in which Michaels and Triple H performed was a dramatic and emotional contest that showed that Michaels hadn’t missed a step. Like ships in the night however, Michaels and The Rock had passed by each other as whilst The Rock did make a few fleeting appearances after this time, he had made the decision to step away entirely from WWE to embark on a full time movie career. This time it was The Rock who appeared to be done with wrestling.
After Michaels return in August 2002, Michaels slowly increased his schedule of matches and embarked upon a series of classic matches with the likes of Triple H, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit and John Cena amongst others. In fact, though it had seemed impossible, Michaels was an even more polished performer during his 2nd run with the WWE than he was during his original tenure; unable to take some of the wilder bumps he had back in the 80’s and 90’s, Michaels refined his psychology and timing which made his overall body of work that much more impressive. At the age of 44, Shawn Michaels had nothing left to prove, his place as perhaps the greatest worker of all time secured, he did the job to his old foe The Undertaker in the magical main event of Wrestlemania 26 and hung up his boots for the 2nd time.
But our story doesn’t’ end there, because in one last twist The Rock agree to return to the WWE at the age of 38 in time for Wrestlemania 27, just one year after Michaels had called time on his career. Over the past couple of year’s The Rock has taken part in matches against John Cena and CM Punk and appeared on an occasional basis during that time, but there is some speculation that The Rock himself has now decided to end his association with the WWE for good this time on the back of his Wrestlemania main event with John Cena just over a month ago. Once again though, The Rock and Shawn Michaels had missed each other as if by fate, by the narrowest of narrow margins.
Steve Austin Vs Bill Goldberg
It was a testament to how much the business had changed by 1998 that ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin was the industry’s biggest star. With his no frills approach, black boots, black wrestling tights and a bald head, Austin was the antithesis of what was the perceived look of a headlining act in WWE. Of course, in truth Austin’s real star quality came from his engaging promos, unique character and overall charisma but there was no doubt that Austin’s one-dimensional look stood out in the glitzy world of professional wrestling, to the point that he was instantly recognisable because of the monotony of his appearance. It was then, with some derision that Bill Goldberg burst onto the scene over in WCW sporting almost the exact same look.
In truth, Austin and Goldberg could not have been more different, both on screen and off. Austin was a life-long wrestling fan who had paid his dues and worked his way up the ladder of the sport, finally hitting the top of the industry with the full backing of the WWE’s creative and marketing teams after being overlooked by WCW in the past. Goldberg on the other hand, had been a defensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers in the NFL before suffering an injury to his pelvis that would mean he could no longer play. It was suggested to him that he take up pro wrestling thanks to his size and athletic features. Perhaps because of this though, Goldberg always saw wrestling as a job, nothing more, nothing less. After working for a few months in WCW’s school of wrestling ‘The Power Plant’ he was soon making his debut in a dark match on Monday Nitro.
In the ring, Austin was at first known for being a technically sound grappler routed in the basics but had to adapt his style following the infamous neck injury he suffered against Owen Hart at Summer Slam 1997, to a high-tempo brawling based style. Goldberg in stark contrast was as green as they come, his matches were deliberately limited to 3 minutes at a time to hide his limitations, and the moves he did were all big power-based manoeuvres that highlighted Goldberg’s main asset- his strength. So whilst some WWE fans wrote Goldberg off as simply a Steve Austin wannabe, WCW fans saw a genuinely exciting new star that had come out of nowhere to be perhaps the most over guy in the promotion.
There is no doubt that had the two companies done a deal to promote a joint card where the big stars from both promotions would face each other, that this would have been the marquee match of the night. Indeed, much like with Sting and The Undertaker, it was believed that when WWE bought its competitors in March 2001, one of the features of any future storyline war between the two entities would result in a major Austin versus Goldberg pay off. In the same way as Sting and Undertaker however, this match never took place thanks in part to Goldberg’s reluctance to sign with Vince McMahon’s WWE.
When WCW folded, its workers remained under contract with Time Warner, and Goldberg still had two year’s to run on his deal when WWE bought the company’s trademarks and video tape library. It was considered too high a price to pay to buy Goldberg out of his Time Warner deal and then hand ‘Da Man’ a large contract on top. Furthermore, Goldberg was unwilling to walk away from a guaranteed contract thought to be worth around $2million, in order to sign with the WWE, for less money, where he would be required to work an ordinary schedule. As such, when WCW and WWE went into their storyline war, Goldberg was nowhere to be seen. Unlike Sting however, Goldberg did eventually turn up in WWE for a year between Wrestlemanias 19 & 20.
Unfortunately for those fans who had been hoping for the big match between the two bald headed superstars to take place, Austin retired the night before Goldberg’s first appearance in the company and so the match never happened. The closest wrestling fans got to seeing this contest was at Wrestlemania 20 when Austin was the special guest referee for the match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. After a terrible performance in which neither man seemed eager to sell for the other (or barely even take part in the match at all), Austin delivered a ‘Stone Cold Stunner’ to both men to the cheers of the Madison Square Garden audience. The next night, Goldberg’s contract was up and he left the business for good.
Hulk Hogan Vs John Cena
Given John Cena’s level of popularity and his dominance of not only the industry, but pretty much every opponent he comes up against, it is unsurprising that many refer to the leader of the ‘Cenation’ as the PG-era version of Hulk Hogan. In much the same way as the ‘Hulkster’, the WWE has a proven formula for booking Cena in storylines and scenarios, constantly feeding him the latest heel on the block before overcoming them in their feud-ending encounter. ‘Super Cena’; the often-ridiculed manner in which Cena no-sells the effects of the match that has just taken place and mounts a super-human comeback which usually leads to a Cena victory is really not all that different from ‘hulking up’ either. It’s easy to see the comparisons and as such, from a fantasy booking perspective, a Hogan versus Cena match has to be right up there.
The interesting thing about this match is that, though it may be unlikely, there is still a chance that it could happen. In spite of his age, and the mounting list of health concerns that he has had over the past couple of years, it is hard to imagine a time when we will ever be completely sure that Hogan won’t make yet another in-ring return at some point. After all, it is widely believed that Hogan is in preparations to be the man who will face Bully Ray in the main match at TNA Bound For Glory later this year. If that does indeed happen, is it really that much of a leap to believe he might return to WWE for a money spinning turn with John Cena? Though in the past Vince McMahon has not been willing to balk to Hogan’s substantial asking price, he has also never been one to let an opportunity slip by.
Of course, if it were to happen, it’s incredibly likely that it would be an awful in-ring spectacle. Hogan was never one of the best workers in the business, but he at least, given the right opponent, could take part in exciting and believable matches during his prime. Now, at the grand old age of 59, and completely unable to take bumps at all, Hogan is simply not capable of putting in a performance worthy of taking part at an indie card, let alone a Wrestlemania. If a Hogan match was to work, his opponent would have to take all the bumps and be willing to throw themselves around all over the ring to put Hogan’s weak looking offence over- whatever you think of John Cena he isn’t the man for such a job.
Despite all this, much like it was for his Wrestlemania 18 collision with The Rock, any match featuring Hulk Hogan would play before fantastic heat. With the generational gap being so pronounced thanks to older fans disdain for John Cena, this would be the ultimate cross-generation contest, old versus new in a way that even The Rock and Hogan’s match couldn’t approach. Popular belief dictates that the Undertaker’s match at Wrestlemania 30 will be against John Cena, but if you want an outside bet on a future Wrestlemania opponent for Mr ‘You Can’t See Me’ don’t look beyond Hogan, who for all his shortcomings, in a WWE setting would still be a massive draw, as the old saying goes- “anything can happen in the WWE!”.