WrestleMania matches can be the highlight of the year. They’re usually heavily hyped and greatly anticipated, and sometimes planned months or even a year in advance. But like all plans, they can change for so many reasons, and without any warning whatsoever. Even the main event of WrestleMania has been greatly altered just weeks before the show, and sometimes, we lost a shot at some incredible matches in the process. With that in mind, we’ve scoured the depths of the Internet to bring to you some of the biggest matches that were supposed to take place at WrestleMania, and then for a myriad of reasons, never happened.
10. Triple H vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania X-7
That’s right, Shawn Michaels’ magical comeback from a career-ending back injury, one of the most triumphant stories to ever take place in professional wrestling, actually nearly happened a year and a half earlier. As the story goes, Triple H, in need of a high-profile WrestleMania match and not currently a factor in the WWE Title picture (due to WrestleMania being headlined by Rock vs Austin, because of course it was going to be), attempted to bring his best friend out of retirement to work an angle that would lead to a match between the two at WrestleMania. It was believed at the time that while Michaels’ injury was not conducive to a full-time return, he could probably wrestle one or two matches and then slip back into retirement (actually, this was also the thought during his actual comeback in 2002). Unfortunately, Michaels had not yet reached the point where he managed to clean himself up and get his life turned around, and allegedly showed up at a Raw taping in absolutely no condition to perform. He was sent home immediately, the angle and match were scrapped, and Triple H ended up facing The Undertaker. In fact, because this was in the days before The Streak was something WWE paid real attention to, there are rumors that Triple H was originally booked to beat Taker, which would have clearly had far-reaching consequences all the way to present day.
9. Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania VII
The first Hogan-Warrior match at WrestleMania VI is a masterpiece of good timing, good writing, and a match that was scripted to the hilt to maximize the limited wrestling abilities and boundless charisma of both men. It brought in lots of money and was supposed to be a true “passing of the torch” moment, with Hogan slipping into a smaller active role in WWE while The Ultimate Warrior took over as the biggest star in the company. However, it didn’t quite work out that way, as Warrior was a financial disaster as champion, perhaps in part due to being unfairly compared to Hogan’s drawing power. In any event, it seemed like fans and the company itself were not yet ready to move on from the Hulkster. Several solutions to the problem were reportedly discussed, and at one point, it is believed that a Hogan-Warrior WrestleMania rematch was a very real possibility, either to get the belt back onto Hogan or attempt to put Warrior over a second time and try to rescue the entire idea. Instead, the Gulf War happened, and WWE decided to cut things short and transition into a feud between Hogan and Iraqi sympathizer Sergeant Slaughter, and we all know how that turned out.
8. The Rock vs Triple H – WrestleMania 2000
With “Stone Cold” Steve Austin sidelined indefinitely at the height of WWE’s dominance, the spotlight moved to The Rock and Triple H, who were more than ready to carry the ball in the absence of wrestling’s biggest star. From the moment Austin was removed from WWE due to a serious neck injury (and from television due to being the target of a hit-and-run at Survivor Series), WWE began clearly building to an ultimate confrontation between The People’s Champion, The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment, The Rock, and the man who had been dominating WWE through his role as head of the McMahon-Helmsley Era, Triple H. Rock won the Royal Rumble in impressive fashion to earn the title shot, while Triple H engaged in a war with Cactus Jack, the most brutal persona of Mick Foley, which got him over both as a dastardly heel and a legitimately good wrestler, making a one-on-one match between both men seemingly inevitable, and also highly anticipated. But then the over-booking kicked in, as Big Show was inserted into the match (allegedly in a last-ditch effort to justify his mammoth 10-year guaranteed contract by having him in the main event of WrestleMania), followed by a retired Mick Foley, with each of the four on-screen McMahon family members backing a different candidate. With a ridiculous number of outside factors playing into the match, it was considered to be a massive disappointment. WWE would eventually book a Triple H-Rock match for the next Pay Per View, Backlash, and it was, as expected, an excellent match.
7. Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 13
At WrestleMania 12, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels met in an insane 60-minute Iron Man Match for the WWF Championship that people still consider one of the best matches in WrestleMania history. Unfortunately, WWE was not doing very well financially, and the long-awaited Shawn Michaels title reign wasn’t exactly doing spectacularly from a business perspective (although Shawn, to his credit, was wrestling incredible matches) Allegedly, the plan was always for the two to have another spectacular match the next year at WrestleMania 13, with Michaels losing the title back to Hart, which would then lead to a longer feud between the two. However, a month before WretleMania, Shawn Michaels claimed that he had suffered a potentially career-ending knee injury, and forfeited the title on an episode of Monday Night Raw. It’s been believed to this day that Michaels lied about the injury to get out of losing to Hart, but in any event, WWE was forced to completely re-shuffle their WrestleMania lineup, leading to Sid vs The Undertaker for the title, while Hart had a match with Steve Austin that would change the wrestling industry forever.
6. Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair – WrestleMania VIII
When WWE signed away the WCW World Champion Ric Flair while he was still the champion, it was an enormous coup for them and immediately had fans salivating at the prospect of the potential Flair-Hogan dream match, between the two long-standing pillars of their respective organizations. In fact, WWE itself was promoting a potential Hogan-Flair match for WrestleMania after Flair won the vacant WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble. However, even at that point, it was never the true plan, as Sid Justice would turn on Hogan shortly after the press conference aired with implied Hogan would be facing Flair, claiming Hogan didn’t deserve the shot due to his actions at the Rumble and the fact that Sid was the last man eliminated in that match and theoretically the most deserving to face Flair. In the end, Hogan faced Sid while Flair defended the title against Randy Savage, and in fact, in what would be seen as a huge wasted opportunity for WWE, Hogan and Flair would never face each other one-on-one on television or Pay Per View before Flair returned to WCW.
5. Steve Austin vs The Rock vs Mankind – WrestleMania XV
While it was inevitable that Steve Austin would eventually face Corporate Champion The Rock at WrestleMania and finally get revenge for an entire year of mistreatment at the hands of Vince McMahon and his Corporation, in the intervening months between The Rock’s ascension as WWF Champion at Survivor Series and the expected WrestleMania match, Rock was sidetracked by Mankind, who had also been betrayed by Vince and sought vengeance. The two fought in a series of match throughout the winter, including Mankind’s emotional first WWF title victory on Raw, an infamous “I Quit” match at the Royal Rumble, and the under-rated (and also fairly silly, in a good way) Empty Arena match which took place during halftime of the Super Bowl. The feud was actually such a hit that at one point there were rumors (confirmed by Foley’s second autobiography) that WWE was seriously considering adding him to the Rock-Austin match at WrestleMania as a reward for becoming such a huge star through his hard work. Eventually, it was decided to keep the match a one-on-one affair and Mankind was denied a chance to main event WrestleMania (although he would get his shot the next year).
4. John Cena vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXX
Frankly, this match has been proposed several times over the years, but the rumors really reached a peak during the build for WrestleMania XXX. Cena was coming off two straight Mania matches with The Rock, while The Undertaker was running out of high-profile stars that would have the necessary credibility to make people believe that they could actually defeat him and end The Streak. The match was obvious, especially with the added rumor that WWE might have Cena defend the WWE title against the Dead Man, adding extra intrigue. Would WWE consider putting the WWE Title on a man who was barely wrestling at that point, or allow The Streak to end at the hands of John Cena? Instead, The Undertaker faced off with Brock Lesnar, who did manage to end The Streak. As a side effect, Lesnar’s victory also ended most people’s desire to see Undertaker face Cena at WrestleMania, as part of the interest was whether WWE’s biggest star would break The Streak, or lose such a big match at WrestleMania.
3. Randy Orton vs Triple H – WrestleMania 21
From the beginning, the stable known as Evolution was set up to make third generation wrestler Randy Orton a hot new star and set him up to face Triple H at WrestleMania 21, where he would establish himself as a main event talent and help carry WWE going forward. There was just one problem: With most of the greats of the Attitude Era either in some form of retirement (Austin, Rock, Foley) or relegated to the Smackdown brand (Undertaker, Kurt Angle), Triple H was in the middle of what many saw as an insane power trip and was using his position backstage to avoid going over anybody while trying to set the narrative on television that he was the greatest Superstar in WWE history. And when Randy Orton shockingly won the World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam in 2004 in the first step of his planned elevation, Triple H, for no discernible reason, decided the best idea would be to have him defeat Orton for the title at the very next Pay Per View, then hold it until a potential re-match at WrestleMania. By the end of 2004, Orton’s stock had plummeted, due to his increasingly popular heel act not translating to a successful face character (the original plan had allegedly been Orton remaining a heel and kicking Triple H out of Evolution), and in the meantime, his former Evolution teammate Batista had quietly become a fan favorite, ultimately earning a WrestleMania title match with Triple H and going on to become a big star in his own right.
2. The Undertaker vs Sting – WrestleMania 31
For some reason, these two have been tied together as some sort of potential WrestleMania “dream match” ever since WCW collapsed. Perhaps it’s because of their steadfast loyalty to their respective companies, perhaps it’s their relative longevity and the fact that they’re two of only a handful of remaining stars still active from even before the Attitude Era, possibly it’s because their characters have somewhat similar “supernatural” qualities, or maybe it’s just because of their combined love of dressing in black and wearing really cool overcoats, but whatever the case, Undertaker-Sting has been a rumored possibility for years. And all the dominoes appeared lined up perfectly when it was revealed that Sting had signed a contract with WWE in 2014, with the assumption being that he would face Undertaker at WrestleMania in what could potentially be the last match for both competitors. Of course, none of that ended up being true, due to WWE being unsure that Undertaker would even be able to participate in a match at WrestleMania, eventually throwing together a feud with Bray Wyatt for the Dead Man, while Sting took on Triple H instead. And, in fact, both men have had more matches afterwards, with neither expressing a real desire to fully retire, which means this dream match may yet come to pass.
1. Bret Hart vs Steve Austin – WrestleMania 14
Remember earlier in this very list, how we talked about a planned Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels match that never happened due to an alleged injury that might have been faked? Well, the fallout from that series of events led to real-life bad blood between Hart and Michaels, which WWE basically wrote into a feud on television. At the same time, Bret and his newly-formed Hart Foundation stable (who were hated heels in the United States but beloved good guys everywhere else in the world) were also feuding with rising star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, with the ultimate plan being for Austin to topple WWF Champion Bret Hart at WrestleMania 14. But in the meantime, Hart needed to settle things once and for all with Shawn Michaels, and the stage for that confrontation was at Survivor Series 1997, which happened to take place in Montreal. That’s right, the Montreal Screwjob, brought about in part due to Bret Hart leaving for WCW after WWE intentionally broke his 20-year contract, cost wrestling fans what was sure to be another classic Austin-Hart showdown, replacing it with Austin-Michaels instead.