Today I conclude my series on feuds by asking the question that all wrestling fans ask themselves at one point or another; what if? Listed below are some blockbuster feuds that never actually happened. This is total fantasy booking so to reign myself back to the world of reality I am only considering feuds that actually could have happened, i.e. wrestlers who were/are active around the same time. In no particular order here is my top 5.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan
Possibly the biggest professional wrestling match never to take place. If you ask any person who has no interest in wrestling to name a wrestler then here are the top two answers (although there is a case for The Rock being #2). The man that helped transform WWE in 1980s vs. the man that did likewise in the 1990s.
In 2002 WWE could have easily booked this ultimate dream match at Wrestlemania 18. Moreover, if you believe the rumours circulating at the time, there were plans to present this match at ‘Mania. However the match didn’t happen. The Rock landed the match with Hogan, leaving Austin to battle Scott Hall. Why did WWE not present this dream match? Well, apparently it’s as simple as neither man wanted to lose. In today’s WWE there is no way plans would be derailed for this reason, but in 2002 the company had an embarrassing amount of talent to call upon. Hogan wouldn’t play ball with Austin, so rather than waste time, money and effort trying to persuade one of them to lose (while time to hype the match ticked away) WWE simply called upon their other mega star The Rock.
But what if Austin/Hogan did go ahead? Who would have won? Who would have played the babyface role? Would we have gotten Hollywood Hogan or The Hulkster? Because Hogan vs. The Rock was so well executed I find it hard to look passed that formula. However Austin is a different animal to The Rock. Austin commands and receives the upmost respect from the WWE fans, so there is no way they would have turned on him like they did The Rock. For this reason I feel the only way this match could have happened, and probably the most fitting way too, would have been for both men to enter as babyfaces. Fans would cheer who they want to cheer, but for dynamics of the match Austin’s character is probably more suited towards heelishness, much like when Shawn Michael’s played heel for a night in his matches with The Hulkster
As for a winner? Austin all day long. It would be contradictory otherwise. During the attitude era WWE took such pleasure in boasting about their younger, more athletic performers that it would look pretty stupid if one of WCWs “dinosaurs” returned years later and beat the man that was at the forefront of WWE at this time. With that said, it was pretty stupid that the ancient Hogan managed to beat the even younger and even more athletic Rock in the dream match that did take place.
Bret The Hitman Hart vs. Macho Man Randy Savage
Ok, these two have met several times and even had a short feud in WCW. However, there feud in WCW was when both men were very much over the hill and their WWE meetings are from a time when Savage vastly out ranked The Hitman.
Something I would have loved to have seen is a feud between these two just as The Hitman was breaking into the top tier of WWE. Rather ironically The Hitman seemed to enter the title picture just as Savage left it. Savage defeated Ric Flair for the gold at Wrestlemania 8 and defended it against The Ultimate Warrior at Summerslam 92, which was of course headlined by Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog for the IC title. Hart lost this match and the title only to capture the WWE title a couple of months later. Hart captured the gold from Flair, who had defeated Savage for it a few weeks earlier. After the conclusion of his feud with Flair I would have loved Savage to re-enter the title picture to challenge and ultimately turn heel on The Hitman to set up a Wrestlemania 9 main event. However, Vince had other ideas. Savage was seen as over the hill while younger, fresher performers were brought in to work with Hart. The Hitman went on to become WWE’s apex superstar (once Hogan was out of the way at least) while Savage had to make do with a commentator role and occasional match with Crush until he left for WCW.
Had Vince not been so keen to introduce younger talent (which on the whole he was right to do) he may have seen that Savage still had plenty millage left in him, and a run with The Hitman would have made 1993 far more interesting.
Sting vs. The Undertaker
One of wrestling’s biggest ‘what ifs’; what if Sting had joined WWE? As soon as you start thinking about that you immediately contemplate a match between him and The Undertaker. For a lot of people this match holds some sort of dark, goth appeal. That’s fair enough, but I would have loved this match even if Sting had his bleach blond hair and colourful tights. More than any other this match would have optimised WWE vs. WCW.
After learning the ropes in WCW, Mean Mark made his way to WWE where he was repackaged as The Undertaker. From this point on Mark Calaway was a one company man. This guy has been under a WWE contract for 22 years! He never left for WCW and has never allowed a contract to expire.
Sting followed a similar path, only in a different promotion. He too cut his teeth in the lower leagues but unlike Taker never worked for “the enemy”. Sting entered WCW/JCP in 1987 and remained there until WCW closed its doors in March 2001. I associate Ric Flair with the World Heavyweight Title but when I think WCW I think Sting.
These two have had such similar careers by achieving success early and remaining at that level for their entire career. Both have undergone metamorphosis at various points and both have predominately played the role of fan favourite. There are exceptions; Sting walked the tweener tight rope in 1997 and Taker embraced the dark side in late 98/99.
The spectacle of match between these two cannot be denied, the entrances alone would be worth the pay per view fee. As for the match quality, it is rather odd that although both men are a similar age they both hit their peeks at different times. Sting has followed a more conventional path with most of his best work performed in the early 90’s. The Undertaker on the other hand was pretty rubbish back then; he was still in his robotic cartoon phase. He has matured with age with his last 4 Wrestlemania matches rightly regarded as classics and the 2 before that (against Batista and Edge) are right up there too.
This more than any other match on this list would provide the ultimate “I was there” story, but alas nobody will ever tell that story.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Goldberg
The ultimate attitude era showdown! In 1998 Goldberg was the man in WCW, while Stone Cold was the undisputed king of WWE. Both men were at their peak at the same time, although in terms of between the ropes wrestling Austin had already peaked by this point. Had both men worked for the same company then I’m sure this match would have been an epic encounter. Although, if both men were contracted to the same company would their careers have taken them along the same path? Would Vince McMahon have had the same faith in Goldberg to continue his slow burning push for months on end? Vince is well known for not showing a great deal of patience, especially when needs must, and in late 1997 WWE needed something to happen urgently. Moreover WWE favoured well-seasoned workers at this time, something Goldberg was not when he debuted in WCW. With that said, he was booked in a way that disguised this short coming beautifully. What if Austin worked for WCW? Well he did for several years and had clearly reached as far as he was allowed to reach in the company. It is therefore unlikely that Austin would have succeeded in WCW and Goldberg would likely never have become the mega star he was if Vince were pulling the strings, making a clash between these two at their peak pure fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Goldberg would have been great in WWE had he jumped shipped at his peak. However WCW was perfect for him to grow as performer. He hovered under the radar for months, something he could not have managed in WWE in 97/98.
Fast forward a few years and we missed a possible showdown between the two by a day! Austin wrestled his last match at Wrestlemania 19 while Goldberg made his WWE debut on Raw the following night. Had Austin’s body allowed it then Wrestlemania 20 would surely have played host to this epic showdown. As it was Stone Cold refereed Goldberg’s match with Brock Lesnar at ‘Mania 20, but at least he got to deliver a stunner. This remains the closest thing to a match between the two hottest wrestlers from one of wrestling’s hottest eras.
As for who would have won a possible match? That’s a tricky one because both men would probably have insisted upon going over. If they wrestled a match at Wrestlemania 20 then I imagine Austin would have gone over. However, if this fantasy match were to have happened in 1998 then there is absolutely no way I could pick a winner.
Jeff Hardy vs. John Cena
Unlike the other feuds on this list, here we have one that could yet happen, although I wouldn’t count on it. First we have a man that is held in such high regard by the fans that he has spent almost his entire career as a babyface and could comfortably see it out as a premier good guy, and we also have John Cena.
If Jeff Hardy were to return to WWE in 2013 then I would absolutely love this match to feature at Wrestlemania 30. It would be the ultimate battle of the babyfaces and in Hardy we have one of the few top stars that Cena has yet to face in a high profile match. But would WWE ever promote such a match? Well, they have before, on Raw in the summer of 2008. The two clashed for the opportunity to face Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. Cena won a close back and forth contest where both men were obviously presented as babyfaces, albeit Cena as the babyface most people boo. A one-off match between two top babyfaces is fine because fans can just sit back and enjoy the occasion, but would WWE be willing to present a higher profile match between the two with more at stake? My guess would be no unfortunately.
When Jeff Hardy stays out of trouble and features on TV regularly he is the only wrestler in WWE or TNA that can even come close to John Cena’s level of popularity with casual fans (i.e. kids). John Cena has faced a massively popular CM Punk before, but that was more like the kids’ favourite vs. the adult’s favourite, similar story with his match against The Rock. If Jeff Hardy were to face Super Cena the audience would be harder to split because they both operate in the same market, albeit Hardy as the superior worker also holds a certain level of respect with older fans too. One of them would have to turn heel, otherwise the reception to their programme and dynamic between the two would be very confused indeed. Jeff Hardy is no Rock on the microphone. They would not be able to rely solely on some verbal jousting to construct a story. A match like this would require weeks, if not months of hype, and if both men remained as firm babyfaces then WWE would have to be very creative and careful with their interactions. This seems like too much effort for the present day WWE because no matter how interesting a programme between these two could be, the bottom line is WWE would not make a big enough profit from a Hardy/Cena feud because they both appeal to the same market. Financially they are as well just booking them against separate opponents. Ever wondered why Rey Mysterio has never worked a programme with Cena?
However, this article is hypothetical so how would a match between the two pan out? Surely Hardy would win. The Charismatic Enigma is a clear fit as underdog challenger, as he is in many of his matches. John Cena stepping over underdogs has been done before, none as popular as Jeff Hardy though. How would younger fans react if Cena defeated their other hero, Jeff Hardy? If Hardy wins it’s an underdog victory and the two shake hands, well done to Jeff. If Cena wins it is a clear sign of dominance which tells kids that Cena is number one and Hardy isn’t as good. This match would be similar to Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate warrior at Wrestlemania 6. A Cena win would obviously damage Hardy but it could also turn even more fans against Cena. A Hardy win would see nobody lose because Cena is at a level where nothing can hurt him. Can you imagine if Hogan had won at Wrestlemania 6? It was a match that he didn’t need to win but Warrior did, the same could be said of a Cena/Hardy encounter.