The untold stories behind 10 WrestleMania matches that almost happened
Hogan-Andre, Austin-Rock, Michaels-Undertaker. Some matches are simply destined to occur at The Showcase of the Immortals. But with so many moving parts in WWE paired with the complexities of organizing entertainment’s greatest spectacle, many bouts planned for WrestleMania have been nixed, cut, scrapped or changed for reasons unexplained — until now.
From dream matches to the culminations of longstanding rivalries, these are the contests that became lost pieces in WrestleMania’s constantly evolving puzzle. To learn their untold stories, WWE.com spoke with WWE Hall of Famers, a few degenerates and even a certain COO who were involved in these potential encounters. Read on to discover the truth behind 10 WrestleMania moments that almost were.
Mr. McMahon vs. Mick Foley: WrestleMania X-Seven
“I was under the ridiculous notion that I would never wrestle again [laughs]. I thought when I had that final match at WrestleMania 2000, that it really would be my final match. Had I known that I would be back three years later and would be continuing to make sporadic returns, I would have taken advantage of that opportunity to beat up Mr. McMahon and make what probably would have been a nice sum of money for the evening.
“I politely declined the match, and I was able to take part in some memorable vignettes with Mrs. McMahon, including one that involved slicing a grapefruit in half — a very symbolic act. And I was able to play a referee role in the match that Mr. McMahon had with his son, Shane. I was glad to be part of it.
“Looking back, I wish I’d have taken advantage of the opportunity. It’s one of my three biggest regrets in my career. I also should have taken part in the first Eddie Gilbert memorial show, and I also should have written the foreword to Lou Thesz’s book when I was asked. Those are my three main regrets.
“From then on, I think I was the boy who cried wolf. I don’t think my relationship was ever the same with Mr. McMahon or the company.” — MICK FOLEY
I.R.S., The Headshrinkers, Rick Martel and Jeff Jarrett vs. Tatanka, The Smoking Gunns, Bob “Spark Plug” Holly and The 1-2-3 Kid: WrestleMania X
“I didn’t understand how things worked back then. So I didn’t realize on big pay-per-views like WrestleMania, you sometimes have issues with one or two matches, or a match may go over the time allotted. That kind of stuff happens. They threw us all together for that match. It was a cool thing for them to do. They didn’t even have to put us on there. That was my first WrestleMania.
“They call it a collapsible match, because you can take it out and people aren’t going to get upset. It’s usually placed later on in the card in the semi-main event position, but it’s definitely not a semi-main event match. It’s sort of a buffer in-between matches. Shawn [Michaels] and Razor [Ramon]’s Ladder Match went way over the time, but it needed that much time.
“We found out the match was cut when we were all on deck. I had a family in the crowd that were upset about it, and I was disappointed because I wanted to show what I could do out there. I think a lot of guys were probably feeling the same way as I was. But I didn’t understand how things worked back then. We did it the next night on Raw, but that’s like getting Rice-A-Roni as a concession prize on a game show [laughs].” — SEAN WALTMAN (THE 1-2-3 KID)
Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan — WWE Championship Match: WrestleMania VIII
“Something that just didn’t happen was WrestleMania [VIII at the Hoosier Dome]. It was supposed to be me and Flair. That just didn’t happen. We were scheduled to wrestle each other. We’d gone on a [Live Event] loop, went to Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee and broke all the old records. Flair-Hogan was magic. You could have doubled the ticket price and it would have still sold out. We were on that fast track to WrestleMania. Me and Flair. Then, all of a sudden, the gears got switched and I never really figured it out.” — HULK HOGAN, AS TOLD TO RYAN MURPHY
Mike Tyson vs. Triple H — Boxing Match: WrestleMania X-Seven
“Every now and then I would get something thrown at me to do something with somebody outside of the business. And I remember there was a discussion about [Super Bowl Champion] Ray Lewis, and at one point in time there was a discussion with me fighting a big Japanese guy who was the Pride Champion. We were trying to work out a deal where he could come to the U.S. and I would go to Japan. I don’t remember the guy’s name. This was when Ultimate Fighting first got big.
“A lot of ideas get bandied about, but we were going to do me vs. [Mike] Tyson in a boxer vs. wrestler match at WrestleMania X-Seven, with Mills Lane and Earl Hebner both in the ring. We were going to do six rounds. I don’t remember if it was going to be full boxing rules, or whether I was wearing gloves. But it ended up being a deal where the whole thing just would have been a ludicrous amount of money, and it got pushed off. I wrestled ‘Taker [instead] and that ended up becoming one of my favorite matches.” — TRIPLE H
Razor Ramon vs. Goldust — Miami Street Fight: WrestleMania XII
“The match was originally supposed to be a Miami Street Fight — me and Razor somewhere on the streets of Miami via satellite during WrestleMania in Anaheim, Calif.. I wasn’t told much more than that. But it never ended up happening. I never really talked to Razor about it. It just happened that the next day he wasn’t there and he’d gone to WCW. I don’t remember the circumstances of what actually happened. I was so young I was just enjoying what I was doing. Whatever Vince said, I did.
“I wasn’t disappointed, because I went on to bigger and better things in “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. And that was tremendous. It was one of the standout moments in my career. It would have been with Razor, too. It would have been nice to wrestle him in a Miami Street Fight in his style match. It probably would have been the same kind of deal as it ended up being with Roddy, but instead of a backlot in Universal Studios, we’d be on the street. They would have had some people surrounding us and things like that. And we would have just been beating the crap out of each other.” — GOLDUST
Big Show vs. Shaq: WrestleMania XXVIII
The chemistry was undeniable. On July 27, 2009, only one month after being traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Cleveland Cavaliers, basketball great Shaquille O’Neal hosted Monday Night Raw. At the show’s conclusion, the seven-foot-one, 325-pound beast stood toe-to-toe with the seven-foot, 425-pound Big Show. Shaqamania ran wild as he tore off his T-shirt and shoved the former WWE Champion. Big Show grabbed The Big Aristotle by the throat to attempt a chokeslam, which Shaq did right back. After powering out of the hold, the four-time NBA Champion shoulder blocked The World’s Largest Athlete out of the ring, leaving the crowd thirsty for more.
For years, a potential matchup between the massive athletes was rumored, and two and a half years later, it looked as though the collision might finally become a reality. On no fewer than four occasions, the hoops legend insisted it would happen.
In December 2011, Miami-based broadcasting personality Rodolfo Roman questioned Shaq about a possible match against Big Show, with Shaq simply responding, “I’m gonna see Big Show again.” Less than two weeks later, Shaq announced on “The Abe Kanan Show” that he was engaged in discussions with WWE to potentially compete against Big Show at WrestleMania XXVIII. At the Cartoon Network Hall of Game Awards on Feb. 18, Shaq told HollywoodLife.com that he would indeed be at WrestleMania, but wouldn’t disclose any other details. And during an appearance on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” radio show three days later, Shaq stated he would be competing at the event against Big Show.
Later that day, this website released a statement confirming that O’Neal was not scheduled for the card, and the match never took place, leaving the WWE Universe to continue wondering what might have been.
John Cena vs. Jay Z & Fabolous — Battle Rap: WrestleMania XIX
“On television, I issued an open invite to anyone to add celebrity status to WrestleMania XIX. Knowing my experience, I certainly was setting myself up for failure, but also setting up a nice little entertaining WrestleMania segment. Jay Z and Beyonce were rumored to come to WrestleMania. They had to cancel, but with long enough lead time for us to still find a replacement. Fabolous was slated to be there and cancelled the day of. And it wasn’t out of emergency reasons. He had just chosen to go to another function. So that upset the WWE higher-ups. I think he chose to go to Spring Break instead, so they kind of let me tee off on [a cardboard cutout of] him.
“I regret that it didn’t happen, because I’m a big hip-hop fan and I’m very rarely star struck. I not only admire Jay Z’s music, but I look up to him as an entrepreneur. I was asked by a major journalist a question that you often get asked: 'If you could sit down at dinner with three people, who would it be?' I said, 'John D. Rockerfeller, FDR and Jay Z.' I really admire what he’s done, what he continues to do and how he continues evolving. Hip-hop is a young man’s game yet he always is on top of the mountain. I would truly love to meet him. He is one of those people I wouldn’t know what to say to.
“I don’t miss being The Doctor of Thuganomics. Like I said, it’s a young man’s game. I sometimes feel awkward in denim shorts at 37. I would definitely feel awkward trying to spit street slang. That’s something you do with the guys and you just try to hold your own. That’s the extent of my hip-hop these days.” — JOHN CENA
Kane vs. X-Pac: WrestleMania 2000
“I had this big idea where Kane and I would have a Barbed Wire Cage Match with big ol’ explosives. They weren’t really feeling it. One day, they tried to do some explosion thing to test it out and they were like, “Nah, it’s not gonna work.” And next thing you know we’re in a tag match, opening up the card, which I was thankful for, just to be on WrestleMania. But it was just not as hot of a match. Looking back, I tried to stretch out the rivalry with Kane way too long, but I loved it. He was great to wrestle against and he was my favorite partner, too.” — SEAN WALTMAN (X-PAC)
“I broke my hand leading into WrestleMania. I did the flying clothesline off the top rope and just landed on my hand and had a spiral fracture in one of my metacarpals. That threw the whole thing off. I kept on wrestling afterwards, but I couldn’t really perform that well, because I only had one hand. I was absolutely disappointed it didn’t happen, because it was a big match and we had history. It was going to be the culmination and it just didn’t happen.
“X-Pac and I complemented each other. He was one of my favorite tag team partners. I really like big guy-small guy matches. I know a lot of people want to see two big guys, but I like the big guy-small guy stuff because you really see a contrast of styles and that’s what we had. We weren’t even a team for that long, but people think we were a tag team for years. That was when people saw a different side of Kane than they’d ever seen before. People realized I’m not just a monster. I had emotions and feelings. And it was Sean who was able to bring that out. Yeah, he was one of my favorites.” — KANE
Mankind vs. Vader: WrestleMania 13
“I know there was a plan for Vader and I to wrestle each other and take advantage of the real-life event that had cost me my right ear 20 years ago, because WCW opted not to capitalize. I was in the one line of business where losing an ear is not necessarily a bad thing, and yet they couldn’t find a way to take advantage of that. I think it was intentional, because I think that the idea that me cutting an emotional interview about the loss of my ear would have overshadowed what was supposed to be on the top of the card.
“1997 ended up being me and Vader vs. Davey Boy [Smith] & Owen [Hart]. That was my first WrestleMania, and I was really hurting with sciatic nerve pain. I just laid in my bed for four days and I was lucky I could even make it. I thought I was going to be done, because I was having a lot of trouble. This was from August ’96 through spring of ’97. I had a lot of difficulty getting around. Luckily, I was fortunate that a tour of the Middle East was cancelled. I was able to get two weeks off and the incredibly agonizing pain went away. I was always with some degree of discomfort, but the type of pain that made me think I couldn’t go on anymore went away for several years.” — MICK FOLEY
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Hollywood Hogan: WrestleMania X8
When Hulk Hogan returned to WWE under the black and white colors of the nWo in 2002, fans began to salivate at the thought of The Immortal One finally clashing with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Each competitor represented distinct eras in the historic timeline of WWE — Hogan as the driving force behind WWE’s 1980s pop culture boom and Austin as the brash mouthpiece of the uncensored Attitude Era. They were the two most important Superstars of WWE’s two most important periods and it was a clear match made in heaven. But it never happened.
“He was open to having a match, me not so much,” Austin said on a recent episode of WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross’s podcast. “I thought the styles would clash. I didn’t think it would be that great of a match." With The Texas Rattlesnake unwilling to agree to the bout, The Hulkster ended up facing off against The Rock in a now legendary encounter at WrestleMania X8. But that bout, billed as Icon vs. Icon, could have easily featured The Texas Rattlesnake instead.
“I guarantee you, if my head had been at a little different place, then by all rights, a [match] should have happened,” Austin told JR. “Physically and mentally where I was at, I could go. I think Hogan probably would have been a step or two behind that. That wasn’t acceptable to me, and I didn’t want to slow myself down. I say that with all due respect to Hulk Hogan, because he had a hellacious run. That was my thought process back in the day. I didn’t think we could deliver.”