No Way Out 2002.
One of the most notorious factions in Pro Wrestling history, nWo, made its debut in Vince McMahon's WWE. Weeks later, The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan met in a legit dream match in front of a wild crowd at WrestleMania 18. The arrival of nWo in WWE allowed Mr. McMahon to give us a bunch of dream matches that fans never thought they would ever get to witness.
Although The Rock vs Hogan deservingly took place at 'Mania, there have been several instances in the past when companies gave away dream matches on free television. Let's look at ten of these bouts.
(Note: Some of these matches, although regarded as dream bouts at present, were far from being fantasy matchups at the time they aired because of the Superstars not being as popular as they went on to become in the later stages of their careers)
#10 Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Ric Flair, Raw
Austin got into a feud with Ric Flair after Flair made a mistake while officiating a match between The Undertaker and Austin at Backlash 2002, and awarding the bout to Taker even though Austin's foot was on the rope.
This led to both men competing inside the squared circle on Monday Night Raw in June 2002. Austin ended up bagging a win over Flair with a thunderous Stunner. These two men had competed before in WCW.
#9 CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan, Raw
Possibly two of the biggest indie stars of all time, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan faced off in a match on an episode of Raw in January 2012, in what was a treat for the fans.
The match ended with a DQ as Chris Jericho interrupted the bout in the end, much to the crowd's dismay.
#8 Shawn Michaels vs Goldberg, Raw
Back during the Attitude Era, Goldberg was the hottest act on Nitro, while Shawn Michaels and Triple H were lighting the wrestling world on fire on Raw. Soon after Goldberg made his WWE debut in 2003 and faced Michaels in what was a dream match for many.
Unfortunately, the match ended in a DQ when Evolution's Batista decided to come out and break Goldberg's ankle to collect the $100,000 bounty put on by Triple H. A concrete decision to the match would have been preferable, and the crowd wasn't thrilled one bit with The Animal's antics that night.
#7 John Cena vs Shinsuke Nakamura, SmackDown Live
On one hand, there's John Cena, hands down the biggest WWE Superstar in the modern era. On the other hand, there's Shinsuke Nakamura, who made a name for himself in NJPW before signing with the WWE. These two athletes faced off against each other in a TV match, something that could have easily headlined in a major PPV.
Thankfully, this match ended with a clean finish as Nakamura hit Cena with a Kinshasa to bag a huge win. As if WWE giving away this match on free TV wasn't already a big deal, Nakamura winning the bout came as a shocker and fans had nothing but respect for Cena for putting him over.
#6 Undertaker vs Sting, WCW
Little do many know, but this dream match actually happened, albeit The Undertaker was nothing more than a big guy with a limited moveset at the time. Mean Mark met Sting on WCW TV on September 1, 1990. Sting successfully defended his NWA World Heavyweight Championship in this match.
Soon after, both men became larger than life characters for their respective companies, and fans clamored for these two to have a showdown, but unfortunately, they never got the same. Recently, it was rumored that Sting would come back for a match against The Undertaker somewhere down the line, but the rumors died down without anything concrete coming out.
#5 AJ Styles vs Daniel Bryan, SmackDown Live
Much like CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan, this matchup was something hardcore wrestling fans always wanted to see on a big stage. Bryan had turned into a megastar in WWE, a couple of years before Styles came to the company.
These two men met inside the squared circle on the October 30th, 2018 edition of the blue show. The ending to the match saw Styles applying a submission maneuver on Bryan and making him tap out. Both men shook hands after the match as a show of respect. The next time they met on SmackDown Live was when Bryan turned heel and won the WWE title.
#4 Hulk Hogan vs Goldberg, Nitro
Many would regard this as the biggest match in WCW history. Surprisingly, it took place on an episode of Nitro, and not on a major PPV like Starrcade. The match was announced mere days ago on Thunder, and it resulted in Goldberg defeating Hollywood Hogan to win the WCW World Heavyweight title inside a packed Georgia Dome stadium.
When fans bring up some of the most head-scratching decisions that WCW took back in the day, this moment always makes it somewhere on the top of the list. This bout could have easily headlined Starrcade and garnered a large payday to the company.
#3 The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin vs The nWo, Raw
Weeks before The Rock faced Hollywood Hogan at WrestleMania 18, he teamed up with Stone Cold Steve Austin to take on the nWo in a huge match on Raw! This was as big of a dream match as one could possibly get. Two men who helped Vince McMahon save his company from going into bankruptcy were facing three major stars who were primarily responsible for McMahon's woes during the Attitude Era.
The match ended with nWo bagging the win after Hogan laid down a Leg Drop on The Rock. After the victory, the group unleashed a beatdown on the fallen WWE stars.
#2 Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Randy Savage, Saturday Night
Years before Stone Cold Steve Austin would go on to become the biggest Superstar in the Pro-Wrestling business, he was a mid-carder at best in WCW. Randy "Macho Man" Savage was the biggest Superstar in WWE in the 1980s, after Hulk Hogan of course. The stars aligned in 1995, when both Savage and Austin were a part of WCW. On May 27th, 1995, Savage and Austin met on an edition of Saturday Night, in a contest that would be replicated countless times by fans in WWE's video games in the near future.
The Elbow Drop helped Savage pick up a win over Austin. These two men never got a chance to have a big showdown on a major PPV in WWE as Savage didn't come back to WWE after his WCW stint was over.
#1 Hulk Hogan vs Brock Lesnar, SmackDown
After WrestleMania 18 was done and dusted with, Vince McMahon realized that Hulk Hogan was still incredibly popular among the fans. He was soon made the WWE Champion when he defeated Triple H at Backlash 2002. Hogan didn't keep the belt for long though as he lost the same to Undertaker at Judgment Day in a matter of weeks.
Brock Lesnar, who was being heavily pushed at the time, met Hogan on an episode of SmackDown. A Bear Hug from Lesnar led to Hogan passing out and losing the bout as a result. This was one of the biggest wins in Brock's short career up until that point. He went on to defeat The Rock at SummerSlam in a few weeks.