Dream matches have always been a big part of wrestling, especially during the old Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWE. With great wrestlers on both rosters, fans would often dream of the potential matches that could take place between the biggest stars of the competing promotions. When WCW folded and WWE became the only major wrestling company in North America, a lot of those potential dream matches actually would come to pass. However, due to bad timing, injuries, or any number of other outside factors, many of the biggest dream matches in wrestling history still haven’t happened, and in all the following cases, it’s almost certain that they never will.
10. Steve Austin vs Goldberg
This dream match stemmed from a challenge that Goldberg actually made to Austin when he made a guest appearance on The Tonight Show while he was in WCW. The challenge was never accepted, because it was clearly a publicity stunt from an increasingly desperate WCW, who were searching for any way to claw their way back into the Monday Night Wars once WWE took the lead. However, at that point, it was clearly one of those matches that fans probably would have paid a lot of money to see, if only it were possible. Goldberg was undeniably WCW’s largest remaining star at that point, and Austin was the biggest name in the entire industry. Both had similar appearance (although vastly different abilities), and were just the latest in a long line of WCW vs WWE “dream matches” that everyone knew would never happen. That is, until WWE purchased WCW, opening up an entire world of possibilities. Unfortunately, Goldberg was still under a lucrative deal that paid him even though WCW no longer existed, and unsurprisingly, he decided to sit at home and get paid. Goldberg would eventually enter WWE for a single year, debuting the day after WrestleMania XIX, which also happened to be the show where Steve Austin would wrestle his very last match.
9. Hulk Hogan vs John Cena
Okay, so this dream match probably only exists inside Hogan’s own mind, and in fact he made statements to the effect that he believed this was a planned match for WrestleMania 32 (which seems incredibly unlikely), but if Hogan’s age wasn’t a factor, this would definitely qualify as a potential dream match. Both men have been the face of WWE for extended periods of time, and both played prototypical good guys, acting as good role models, supporting the troops, you know, the usual stuff. However, as much of a miracle worker as John Cena has been in his career, dragging watchable matches out of some of the worst wrestlers on the planet, the aging Hogan is probably well beyond even Cena’s superhuman capabilities. Hogan has been retired in all but name since a series of hip surgeries rendered him unable to deliver his patented legdrop finisher, and it’s unlikely doctors would ever clear him to wrestle. Of course, you can also throw in Hogan’s ongoing legal and PR issues, which led to him being fired from WWE in 2015 after recordings of him using racist language was made public, as reasons why WWE almost certainly wouldn’t be willing to risk putting him in a high profile match.
8. Batista vs Brock Lesnar
Originally, these two behemoths barely missed each other in WWE, with Lesnar leaving after WrestleMania XX and Batista rising to the main event just a year later, but when Batista returned to WWE in 2014 after a brief absence, Lesnar was already back in the fold, and the possibility of this match became a reality. Many remembered the disappointment of Lesnar-Goldberg in a similar situation, but that was plagued by extenuating circumstances and never had a chance to succeed. Lesnar and Batista are two of the best big men of the modern era, and a match between the two would have likely been an incredible display of power wrestling. Although there were alternative plans for both men leading up to WrestleMania XXX, both Batista and Lesnar were reportedly under multi-year deals, and it was considered very likely that WWE would have them face each other at some point (in fact, they actually had a tense stand-off on an episode of Raw that implied future activities). However, WWE quickly shot themselves in the foot, as Batista’s return was so badly mishandled that he abandoned the company only months later. That summer, his role in the surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy made him a legitimate commodity in Hollywood, and if his recent public statements are anything to go by, he doesn’t see himself returning to WWE anytime in the future, at least not in a wrestling role.
7. Steve Austin vs CM Punk
It’s hard to say if this match was ever seriously discussed within WWE, because by the time CM Punk rose to prominence, Austin was already well into retirement and making regular statements about how he had no inclination to ever wrestle again. However, the two men had just enough random interactions on WWE TV that fans began to theorize about a match between WWE’s hard drinking redneck and the man who proudly abstained from alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. As a promotional video for one of their video games, WWE even created a hype video for a potential Austin-Punk match, and Punk’s decision to wear an Austin shirt during his infamous Pipebomb promo sent speculation running rampant (Punk later revealed that he literally threw on the first shirt he could find backstage, and there was no ulterior motive behind it). There is no doubt in our mind that in their primes, these two could have torn the house down, but sadly, it’s a match that will have to remain in our dreams forever.
6. Kurt Angle vs Bret Hart
Unlike many of the matches on this list, this one never had a real chance of ever becoming reality. Angle’s wrestling career was only starting to take off in WWE as Hart’s career was coming to a sudden end in WCW due to an errant superkick, but that hasn’t stopped fans from dreaming about what a match between two of the greatest technical wrestlers in the history of the business would have looked like. Angle, a former US Olympic gold medallist who became a pro wrestling prodigy, would have made an excellent foil for Canadian legend Hart, and it’s unfortunate that Angle, who got to wrestle in his share of dream matches against other great wrestlers like Brock Lesnar, Shawn Michaels, and Samoa Joe, never got his chance to face off against Hart. Of course, Hart’s departure for WCW and subsequent career-ending injury actually robbed us of a great many dream matches, because Hart was arguably still well into his prime as a wrestler when he was forced to retire.
5. Daniel Bryan vs Shinsuke Nakamura
The heartbreaking retirement of Daniel Bryan due to serious concussion-related injuries denied us many anticipated matches, especially with the multitude of international talent that WWE had brought in to fill out their developmental system, many of whom had faced Bryan during his independent career and had looked forward to new opportunities to renew rivalries on the larger stage of WWE. But possibly even worse was the one match that had never happened in Bryan’s career, and one he clearly dreamed of having one day, against Shinsuke Nakamura. The King of Strong Style had been one of Japan’s biggest stars for over a decade, and in early 2016, made the shocking announcement that he would be signing with WWE. A few weeks later, it was revealed that Daniel Bryan’s wrestling career was over, much to the dismay of Nakamura, who said publicly that one of the reasons he’d wanted to come to WWE was for an opportunity to wrestle Bryan. While Nakamura will undoubtedly have some great matches for however long his WWE career lasts, it’s truly disappointing that he’ll never get to wrestle a man that he clearly had a lot of respect for in Daniel Bryan.
4. Brock Lesnar vs Steve Austin
This match was one of the reasons why Steve Austin would walk out of WWE and not return for nearly a year in 2002, but not for the reasons you might think. Austin had become disillusioned with the state of WWE’s Creative team, feeling (quite rightly) that they would often sacrifice long-term vision in favor of getting big matches on Raw in an attempt to halt sliding ratings. When Austin heard that he was scheduled to face rookie phenom Brock Lesnar in a first-round matchup of the King of the Ring tournament, and that match would take place on Raw with absolutely no promotion ahead of time, he decided that he’d had enough. Feeling that a the first match between Lesnar and Austin was guaranteed Pay Per View gold and to throw it away on live TV with no build was a complete waste (again, correctly), Austin refused to do the match and walked out of the company. By the time Austin returned in 2003, Lesnar was otherwise occupied in the main event of WrestleMania, and Austin would wrestle his final match on that same show. Brock would then leave WWE in 2004, removing any possibility that Austin might come back for one more match against the Next Big Thing. By the time Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012, Austin was comfortably retired, with no interest in ever wrestling again.
3. The Rock vs Shawn Michaels
At WrestleMania XIV, Shawn Michaels’ career in WWE ended abruptly due to a serious back injury just as The Rock’s career was about to take off. By the time Michaels made his miraculous return, Rock was already making the transition to the Hollywood mega-star we know and love. In fact, HBK’s first match back in WWE at SummerSlam 2002 was Rock’s last for six months, as he went off to film his first starring role in The Scorpion King. But if it seems like bad timing is the reason why Rock and Shawn Michaels have never faced off in the ring, well, that’s only part of the story. After all, following his return, Michaels went on to wrestle regularly in WWE for most of the next decade, and Rock would also pop in and out of the company multiple times in between movies. As two of the last remnants of the Attitude Era, a major Pay Per View match seemed inevitable, and was often listed by fans as a match they’d love to see. However, it turned out that The Rock still held a fairly large grudge against Michaels for attempting to hold back his wrestling career when it was just getting underway (Michaels, of course, was not well-liked by many wrestlers backstage for his political machinations during his initial run), and refused to be involved in any feud with HBK. Whether or not they eventually buried the hatchet is unclear (The Rock has obviously never had a problem working with Michaels’ best friend, Triple H), but with Michaels fully retired and clearly enjoying it, and The Rock’s movie committments becoming more restrictive when it comes to allowing him to step back in the ring, this match will almost certainly never take place.
2. Sting vs The Undertaker
This match was a popular rumor for WrestleManias for several years. Two respected company mainstays, with dark, gothic personas, it seemed like a match made in wrestling heaven, but as the years went by, the worries began to grow that both men were getting too old to actually ever have that match, if Sting could even be convinced to sign with WWE, a company he had never worked with in his career. Still, every year, when The Undertaker’s opponent at WrestleMania was teased without being immediately announced, Sting’s name would always be among those rumored. When Sting finally signed a deal with WWE in 2014, it looked like we might finally get the match that had been rumored for so long. However, when WrestleMania 31 rolled around, WWE was unsure if The Undertaker would be physically ready to compete in time, and decided to put Sting into a feud with Triple H instead, ensuring that Sting would have a relatively high-profile match at the event. While The Undertaker did end up competing at WrestleMania, it was too late to change plans, and they would never get another opportunity. During a match against Seth Rollins at the Night of Champions Pay Per View in 2015, Sting, putting on one of his best matches in recent memory, fell awkwardly into the turnbuckles and lost the feeling in his legs. Afterwards, he was diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, and it was eventually determined that Sting could never safely wrestle again, denying wrestling fans the match they’d dreamed of for a very long time.
1. Hulk Hogan vs Steve Austin
This will forever be the biggest money match that ever had an opportunity to take place, but ultimately never did. Hogan, of course, was the face of WWE in the 80s and early 90s, who then jumped to WCW and re-invented himself as “Hollywood” Hogan, starting the New World Order and turning WCW into front-runners in the Monday Night Wars. Ironically, one of the side effects of Hogan joining WCW, and bringing many of his close friends into the company at the same time, was that several mid-level wrestlers got squeezed out of WCW in the process. One of those was Steve Austin, who would take that resentment at being fired and turn it into the character that would revolutionize wrestling itself, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. They are the two biggest icons in sports entertainment, and when WCW folded and rumblings began that Hogan would be making his way back to WWE, a match between them seemed like an obvious WrestleMania main event in the making. However, things didn’t work out, Hogan ended up facing The Rock at WrestleMania X8, and Austin actually left WWE for a year shortly after that event. When Austin returned, it was quickly revealed that the neck injuries he’d suffered earlier in his career had finally made it impossible for him to be medically cleared to wrestle, and he was forced into retirement. In fact, the only time Hogan and Austin have ever faced each other in a WWE ring was in a 3-on-2 handicap match on Raw that took place in the weeks before WrestleMania X8.