Arbitrary Numbers: Top # Matches That Could Have Been

Happy Labor Day, everyone.  A day that used to be a way for families to gather together and have an unexpected long weekend in the beginning of harvest time so that the dragons can scour the land for wheat.  Or something.  Whatever.  Nowadays, it is just another day and most people still work.  Including me.  What am I working on?  This article, of course.  Well, technically, I worked on this all during the last weekend.  And I didn’t work alone.  I had two wrestling friends help me out, offering their own answers.
If you couldn’t tell from reading the title, this article is about …

The Top 25 Matches that Could Have, But Didn’t Happen

Wrestling is a wide and wonderful world of heroes, villains, grudges, plots, schemes, competition, and just all sorts of things I love.  It is an amazing combination of improve theatre, sports, and soap operas.  I love it very much.  Most of the time, we are told a bunch of wonderfully compelling stories.  Sometimes, we get really crappy stories with really crappy endings.  But there is a third column in this spreadsheet: the matches that could have been.

As we look through the history of wrestling, there are always going to be matches that might have been.  Dream matches that never got the big chance or something or other.  But that’s not what Michael, Lenny, and I are talking about.  Well, for the most part.  This list here is going to be about matches that had all the makings that they could have happened, all the pieces were in the right place at the right time, but for whatever reason, they didn’t actually end up falling into place.  Between the three of us we have 25 entries for this series.  So I’m going to split it into 4 parts, each part coming out Monday or Tuesday each week, all in chronological order.  So, with all that said, here we go!

The Top  First 25 6 Matches that Could Have, But Didn’t Happen

Randy Savage v. Sid Justice @ WrestleMania VIII

JesselWhen the topic of “Matches That Could Have Been” comes up, one of the most often mentioned is Ric Flair versus Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VIII.  Long and short, they tried Flair v. Hogan at house shows, and the crowd just did not care.  The dream match could not sell.  So the higher ups at then WWF decided to switch things up, and we got Flair v. Savage and Hogan v. Sid Justice (probably better known to you readers as Sycho Sid or Sid Vicious).  People talk about Flair v. Hogan, and that’s fine … but let’s look at what ELSE we could have had in Randy Savage v. Sid Justice!

Randy Savage is one of the all-time greats.  And Sid was a young and hungry powerhouse monster wrestler.  Savage just a year prior had lost to the Ultimate Warrior, had been forced to retire, but finally reconciled with the fans and with the beautiful Miss Elizabeth.  He was not gone long, though, as he joined the announce team, and got married to Miss Elizabeth at Summerslam 1991.  Jake the Snake and the Undertaker were all about ruining Savage, though.  And you know who saved him?  Sid Justice.

Look at that face.  I love this man.

The feud continued, with Savage being attacked by Jake and being bit by a legitimate cobra and on the other side of the coin Jake and his flunky the Undertaker (not a phrase you hear very often in wrestling) toying with Sid.  Unfortunately, Sid got a legitimate injury and was out for a short while.  He was in fact the original person who was supposed to be bit by the snake in the encounter Savage had instead.  Sid returned at the Royal Rumble that year to crown the vacant championship, and he returned with a HUGE pop from the audience, even though he was supposed to be the bad guy.  You can tell the higher ups in the WWF didn’t like that, as they edited out the pop in later broadcasts, including new commentary.  He eliminated both Hogan and Savage. 

And that is where we could have seen the setup happen!  Savage feeling incredibly upset, his friend who abandoned him to injury, then eliminating him, angling to be allowed back in the ring after failing so long in his feud with Jake Roberts, that is a perfect set up.  It could have been big, and created the only new star out of the four men we are talking about in this dream match swap-de-swoo.  It could have been amazing.  Instead we got … well, two amazing matches anyway.  Just interesting to think what could have been.

Randy Savage v. Bret Hart - 1993

Michael1992 was a season of change in WWF. It was like one of those big disaster plots in a soap opera when they kill off many of the regulars. Hulk Hogan retired (no snigger in the back row), though he’d be back to win a title in 1993 before leaving again. Sid left as swiftly as he arrived. The Ultimate Warrior and Bulldog left due to steriodgate. Ric Flair was on his way out – he left in January 1993. Further down the card, Tito Santana, The Powers of Pain, Haku, Bossman, Roddy Piper, Niedhart, Hercules, Snuka and Sgt Slaughter were all gone. Ted Dibiase only had about a year left tops before injuries ended his in-ring career. The end of the Hulkamania era cast came swiftly and vigorously. Without warning we were in the New Generation.

And what the New Generation had, was a problem. You see, they were now the stalwarts of the WWF. Your Brets, Shawns, Razor Ramons, Owens. But... because they hadn’t been put over by the previous generation, they were now suddenly the stars, without having been made stars. Bret and Shawn did become big stars, but not as big as they might have been, especially for business at the time, if they’d been *made*.
Which brings me to one of the sole survivors of the Hogan era in 1993: Macho Man Randy Savage.  He could still bring it with the best of them, having torn down the show at three consecutive PPVs in 1992.  Having briefly stepped out of the limelight due to a divorce which clouded his mind from wrestling, Savage showed up in 1993 raring to go, and offered up two things he wanted to do that year in the WWF. He wanted to put over Bret Hart, and he wanted to put over Shawn Michaels. 

Vince McMahon vetoed both.

Now, imagine he hadn’t. (He really shouldn’t have vetoed it – can you imagine how much of a boost to Bret Hart’s early title run a defense on the big stage against one of the biggest names in wrestling would have been?) Bret v Savage for the belt is a big money match, possibly one of the few around in 1993 WWF. It could have been the title match at the Rumble, or Summerslam, or even... WrestleMania? One last big match, allowing Randy Savage to go out on a high, cementing the New Generation. Or, you know, we could waste his final peak years as a commentator. A decision which, though it brought some great commentary, also increased the wedge between Savage and Vince which wound up with the Macho Man leaving WWF in 1994 and never returning.

Sadly, we had to massage Hulk Hogan's ego.

Ironic gifs are hilarious.  

And for those who say  “What about Yokozuna?”, personally, I think having Yokozuna beat the man who beat Randy Savage, and then have the story being about Bret's need to topple the unbeatable giant while dealing with the Owen thing would have made Yokozuna even more. Much more than losing in 10 seconds to Hogan who’d just wrestled a twenty minute tag match!

The divergence as a result of this match is huge.  Not only would we possibly have a happier Randy Savage, who might wind up being the Babe Ruth of the WWF as Vince McMahon had hoped. We’d have a much more legitimized Bret Hart, who could then pass a much bigger rub to the folk he’d put over.

Chances of having happened – 90%
Chances of having happened due to Vince McMahon/Hulk Hogan - -20%

Bam Bam Bigelow v. The Undertaker - 1993 and 1995

MichaelThis is more of a missed opportunity than a gilded chance turned down like the previous one. In all the time Bam Bam Bigelow was tearing through the WWF (his big run in 1993, and his push to the Mania main event in 1995) in both times he flirted with a feud with The Undertaker, only to never go further with it.

In 1993, he was the new monster heel tearing through folk. He missed WrestleMania IX though.  Meanwhile, The Undertaker was stuck feuding with The Giant Gonzales. Things became more bizarre, though, by 1994/5. In 1994, Bam Bam Bigelow was one of the men who sent The Undertaker packing at the 1994 Rumble. When Undertaker returned, Bigelow was one of the main men in the Million Dollar Corporation, with whom Undertaker feuded for the entire year of 1995. So... why didn’t Bigelow and Taker face off on a big stage? Instead, they stuck Taker with IRS and King Kong Bundy. Are you telling me King Kong Bundy could have a better match with The Undertaker than Bam Bam Bigelow?

Truly graceful.

Sure, that gets rid of the Lawrence Taylor match, but meh, that never really did as much for Bam Bam as it ought to have.  There was no set timetable for this match to have happened. Its just insane to me that they had all the pieces there to have it happen (and it’d have been a hell of a match),yet never bothered to. Massive missed opportunity, in my book. 

Yoko-Owen v. Bret Hart and the British Bulldog - 1995

MichaelThis is another one in the 1995 landscape that seemed fairly obvious, and a good PPV draw, but never happened. Owen battled Bret and Bulldog throughout 1994 and 1995. First it was with Jim Neidhart, but Nattie's father proved as reliable to job stability as ever, so it became Bob Backlund. Finally, Owen won the tag titles with Yokozuna, and we get...nothing.

Absolutely nothing!  Stupid!

Actually, we don’t get nothing. We get lots more Bulldog and Bret confrontations ... at house shows. The feud between Owen and Bret was still one of the main draws in the company at this point, in a company which had very little draws.  Extending the family tag feud, now with the belts in the mix, seemed highly logical! But ... no. Instead we get entire PPVs without the Tag Champions. This includes King of the Ring and Summerslam! I mean...WHY?????

Thinking about this kind of thing with 1995 PPVs is one of my wrestling hobbies, actually. They had all the tools available for folk to be able to look back and go “Well, business sucked, but we got awesome PPV matches to enjoy now, historically” instead of going “Mabel? Really?” Oh well.

Dan Severn v. Dr. Death v. Ken Shamrock - 1998

Michael:  This is a series of matches and feuds instead of just a single triple-threat. It’s fairly simple. When Ken Shamrock debuted, his previous life as a MMA star was never hidden. When Dan Severn debuted in 1998, his past as a legit tough guy schooled in multiple martial arts was talked about at length. In fact, scarcely a week went past without the commentary talking up how Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn had never met in any ring, and that them doing so was sort of a dream match for many people.  They even had Dan Severn train Owen Hart for the Lions Den Match against Shamrock, further pushing this idea of mega superstars in multiple sports who had never faced but were starting to get in each other’s way.  And after half a year of pushing this, guess what we never got?

Oh that's right! A bloody match!

Now I’m not saying it would have been a great match.  It had a chance to suck, actually – though I quite liked Dan Severn’s working man ass-kicker of jobbers matches.  What it would have been, though, was an event. It might even have made Vince McMahon even more money with casuals who knew of both men from outside the WWF. Either way, it was built as a thing to see for far too long on WWF TV for us to not see it in the end.

Which brings me to Dr. Death Steve Williams. A chap with a similar background, and with a lengthy HOF worthy wrestling career. He got brought in to be a rival for Steve Austin, and they decided to showcase him via the infamous Brawl for All tournament. You know, the legit toughman competition WWF ran, only Ken Shamrock was banned from entering, Dan Severn was DQ’d and Steve Blackman exited on a points issue no one ever explained. Dr Death, on the basis of this being a shoot contest (!) and him being nearly 40 (!), lost by KO to Bart Gunn. (Jessel probably loves this, as its one of the biggest moments of Jim Ross hubris ever.)

Jessel: I do very much dislike good ole JR.  

Instead of trying to run a shoot contest on RAW, they could have, you know, introduced Dr Death by having him wrestle, you know, wrestling matches with the aforementioned big name MMA guys. Have him be the guy who could kill them, and thus a big threat to a Steve Austin could arrive.

Even so, with the Brawl for All, the WWF could have made lemonade out of lemons and actually done something with Bart Gunn and Dr Death afterwards. Instead, it was all swept under the carpet, and both were released soon after. Not before Gunn was embarrassed publicly at the hands of Butterbean for ruining JR’s pet project though.

Folks, its pro-wrestling. Bloody fix the results! Jeez.

Goldberg v. Hollywood Hogan II - Bash at the Beach 1998

Jessel:  On July 6th, 1998, Goldberg beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on Nitro in his hometown of Atlanta.  It was enormous, and many many people say this was the point that WCW started to die.  That match could have earned millions and millions of dollars on PPV if pushed back just 6 days, but was given away for free on TV.  It was the beginning of the end.  And I tend to agree with them.  But you know what is even crazier?  There was not a rematch at Bash at the Beach 1998, six days after.

Wouldn't that just make a little bit of sense?  No?!  WHY NOT?!

You see, they were doing this really terrible feud idea with DDP and Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman and … it was just weird and crazy and taking up all Hogan’s time.  And that is why we never saw our rematch.  And why we got the Goldberg match on TV for free.  And why WCW lost so much money, some analysts saying around $7 million!   But they just couldn’t push back the match six days.  And they couldn’t do a rematch either, instead pitting Goldberg against Mr. Perfect for absolutely no reason, just as fodder.  There was no build up, there was just Curt Henning, sacrificial lamb to eat up 4 minutes of PPV time.  Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone got 24 minutes of match, but not our new champ. 

It would have been so easy to just switch things around.  Have a quick promo, put Mr. Perfect in the tag match, take ten minutes from it because celebrities have no business being in a 24 minute long main event to a PPV, and give the world Goldberg v. Hogan II.  But much like Cena at his worst when wrestlingCena was more important than wrestling for the WWE Championship, wrestling Hogan was more important than the newly crowned champion having a real title defense.  And million and millions of dollars were flushed away.


And that's all for now.  But next week, we have so much more to talk about, like Jericho, the fall of WCW, more Sid Vicious, lots of DDP, and we get to finally hear something from Lenny!

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