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5 times WrestleMania plans went awry

Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels: No strangers to WrestleMania chaos
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels: No strangers to WrestleMania chaos

WrestleMania originated in 1985, on March 31 of that year.

It was a special closed-circuit extravaganza which thrust professional wrestling into the mainstream and solidified Vince McMahon's WWE promotion as an internationally recognized wrestling promotion.

Everything slotted neatly into place for WrestleMania I, the glitz, glamor and celebrity involvement; Mr T and Muhammad Ali were two massive names who participated in the main event.

However, with the 36 WrestleMania events that have taken place to date, that has not always been the case.

Think back to WrestleMania XIV, an event that was pivotal in turning around WWE's declining fortunes. Since mid-1996, they had been battered in the weekly television ratings by Ted Turner's WCW. Headlined by former WWE stars such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and others, WCW came close to putting WWE out of business in 1997.

WWE's best weapon against the WCW juggernaut was Stone Cold Steve Austin; a character that resonated with the blue collar worker as he stood up to his boss, McMahon, and sought to win the WWE World title for the first time against hated heel, Shawn Michaels.

However, those plans were thrown into disarray when Austin suffered what was thought to be a career-ending spinal injury when he was accidentally dropped on his head by Owen Hart at SummerSlam in 1997. Months of intensive rehabilitation followed, but WrestleMania's main event was set to be Austin's first full-time singles match since the injury.

That was enough to panic WWE top brass, but the match was thrown into further doubt when Michaels suffered what would have been, at the time, a career-ending spinal injury of his own at Royal Rumble 1998, two months prior to the 'Mania' clash.

Michaels did not set foot in the ring until WrestleMania. The pair made it to the big show, but had their match occurred in 2018 and not 1998, it likely would not have been allowed to take place, given the terrible condition both men's bodies were in.

While that bout was saved, plenty of others have been planned that have not occurred for a wide variety of reasons.

This slideshow explores five such examples where a planned WrestleMania encounter had to be changed:

#5 WrestleMania XII

Planned match affected: Razor Ramon vs Goldust

Razor vs Goldust: Did not happen at Wrestlemania XII
Razor vs Goldust: Did not happen at Wrestlemania XII

Razor Ramon was originally booked to challenge Goldust for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania XII in a return match of their bout at the 1996 Royal Rumble wherein Goldust had shockingly defeated Razor to become IC Champion for the first time.

Their WrestleMania re-match was to have been a street fight with all manner of weapons and chicanery involved.

Sadly, it didn't happen.

Razor was not keen on wrestling Goldust as he was uncomfortable with the character and its overtly sexual nature. Razor was also suspended for a drug violation when WrestleMania occurred which made him ineligible to compete, regardless of his feelings towards Goldust.

Razor missed WrestleMania XII entirely.

Goldust instead competed against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in a streetfight; a match that was a debacle in all honesty as a hot start to a brutal brawl in the parking lot descended into lunacy as Goldust made an exit in his corvette pursued by Piper in a Ford Bronco.

Throughout the rest of the show, WWE interspersed footage of OJ Simpson on the run from the police in his Bronco back in 1994 and passed it off as Piper pursuing Goldust. Tasteless doesn't cover it.

The pair made it back to the ring just prior to the main event where Piper stripped Goldust down to his underwear, which was women's lingerie.

Would the Razor match have been better? Who knows? It couldn't have been any worse.

In all fairness to Razor, he had a tough guy image to keep up with. Pairing up with Goldust might not have done a world of good to his image owing to how kayfabe was such a major factor back in the day.

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#4 Wrestlemania XXVII

Planned match affected: Triple H vs Sheamus

Triple H & Sheamus: Fought at WrestleMania XXVI but not WrestleMania XXVII
Triple H & Sheamus: Fought at WrestleMania XXVI but not WrestleMania XXVII

At WrestleMania XXVI, Triple H defeated his real-life training partner, Sheamus in a heated battle.

The following month, Sheamus destroyed Triple H in a street fight, and was responsible as a part of the storyline for sidelining him for the rest of the calendar year.

The long term plan was for "The Game" to return prior to WrestleMania XXVII and exact his revenge versus the "Celtic Warrior" at the big show. However, in late 2010, when WWE were drawing up their plans for WrestleMania XXVII, they found they had no marquee matches lined up.

So, the Sheamus bout was scrapped and Triple H was pitted against The Undertaker instead. Triple H blasted Sheamus on his Raw return instead to cap off their program before he moved onto to the "Phenom."

This was a positive move. That match stole the show on the card and played into the Shawn Michaels retirement storyline from the year prior, which would culminate in an even better match between Triple H and Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVIII, the following year.

If the match did indeed go ahead as per plan, The Game would invariably have taken Sheamus to the cleaners. The fact that he took a loss at the hands of the Undertaker to make business look good shows you that Triple H is indeed the right man for the job.

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#3 WrestleMania X-8

Planned match affected: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Hollywood Hulk Hogan

Stone Cold & Hulk Hogan: Never met inside a WWE ring
Stone Cold & Hulk Hogan: Never met inside a WWE ring

When WWE's business went down in 2001, WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon panicked and brought in the forty-somethings from the NWO, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to boost ratings and pay-per-view buys.

McMahon had hoped to promote the first-ever Hogan/Stone Cold Steve Austin match at WrestleMania X-8 as the marquee headline bout.

However, he did not reckon on the real-life enmity Austin felt towards Hogan, stemming from the Hulkster and his buddies stalling Austin's burgeoning push in WCW between 1994 and 1995.

Austin, point blank, refused to work with Hogan under any circumstances. He predicted (rightly, as it turned out) that Hogan would attempt to put himself over at his expense.

McMahon was forced to employ plan B, which was The Rock versus Hogan, at the big show instead. Hogan played face, turned the crowd against Rock and set off a domino effect which forced Rock to turn heel to salvage his wrestling career.

Austin, due to his refusal to fight Hogan, found himself mired in a mid-card bout with Scott Hall. This was the first time Stone Cold had not competed in a featured WrestleMania bout since his debut at the event in 1996, where he defeated Savio Vega.

He cost himself a massive payday by refusing the Hogan match. It was a match he turned down plenty more times over the years as well, most notably between 2005-06, after Hogan challenged him on Raw, which Austin had no forewarning of.

Rock-Hogan, as it turned out was a rewarding effort. Would Austin-Hogan have been better? That's a matter of opinion I think.

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#2 WrestleMania 23

Planned match affected: John Cena vs Triple H

John Cena and Triple H: Did not occur as planned at WrestleMania 23
John Cena and Triple H: Did not occur as planned at WrestleMania 23

Triple H's WrestleMania program was altered once more, several years earlier at WrestleMania 23.

Triple H had lost to John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 22, with the plan being that Cena would lie down for Triple H the following year at WrestleMania 23.

Seems logical. However, in January 2007, the bout had to be cancelled, when Triple H tore his quadriceps muscle in a tag team bout with Shawn Michaels versus Edge and Randy Orton at the New Year's Revolution pay-per-view show.

The planned rematch was canned and Triple H's D-X buddy, Michaels, was inserted in his place.

In truth, this bout was an upgrade. Michaels went on an absolute tear as a singles star after "The Game's" injury and was runner-up in a classic Royal Rumble match, fighting and defeating the younger Edge and Orton to earn the bout with Cena in a series of rewarding bouts.

Their WrestleMania clash was something of a minor classic and their feud subtly escalated until Michaels unfortunately went down with an injury over the summer which truncated his program with Cena.

Triple H and Cena finally met one on one again, where "The Game" evened the score at Night of Champions 2008.

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#1 WrestleMania 13

Planned match affected: Shawn Michaels vs Bret "Hitman" Hart

Bret Hart (r) confronts Shawn Michaels (l) in early 1997
Bret Hart (r) confronts Shawn Michaels (l) in early 1997

WrestleMania 13 should have been the simplest event to book. With then WWE Champion Shawn Michaels having defeated Bret Hart to win gold at WrestleMania XII, the obvious headliner for the big show was Michaels returning the favor to the "Hitman."

However, back in 1997, Michaels didn't work like that. Completely unwilling to do business with Hart, who had recently signed a 20-year contract, for $1.5 million, double what champion Michaels was earning, it led to HBK developing an inferiority complex.

Michaels was further miffed when he learned that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon wanted him to drop the WWE Championship to Sycho Sid on Raw, prior to 'Mania.

The Hart bout would therefore be a non-title. Aghasting at the prospect of losing two major matches back-to-back, Michaels exaggerated a knee injury and advised McMahon that his in-ring career might be over.

Michaels therefore vacated the title, rather than losing it in the ring and had his WrestleMania match with Hart canceled.

Then, true to form, he returned to the in-ring competition, around six weeks after 'Mania' miraculously recovered.

With Michaels out of WrestleMania, Stone Cold Steve Austin was given the match with Hart instead and the pair contested one of the greatest matches of all time, in any company.

In an all-out war, the pair performed a double turn, with Hart going heel and Austin becoming the biggest babyface in wrestling history.

Michaels's exit from the Hart match in hindsight was probably the best thing to happen to WWE and Austin. Without that match, you could argue that Austin would not have become quite as big a superstar as he ultimately did.

You can't argue that what actually happened was therefore an upgrade on the original plans, even if the box office at the time was much lower than it would have been had Michaels competed.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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