The book 30 Years of Wrestlemania notes that after being Jimmy Snuka at 1991’s WrestleMania VII, The Undertaker started his voyage on “the most impressive run in sports entertainment, extending almost a quarter of a century.” It is hard to argue that ‘Taker has not left a remarkable legacy, especially when it comes to WrestleMania. With classic showdowns against Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Edge being amongst the most notable strings in his bow, The Undertaker will forever be synonymous with WrestleMania more than any other single character could ever wish to be. However, these – good or bad – are the matches originally pencilled in for “The Show of Shows” but whom The Undertaker never faced at WrestleMania.
#10. Kurt Angle: An American Hero
At the 2006 Royal Rumble, Kurt Angle successfully defended his newly won World Heavyweight Championship against Mark Henry. After the match, The Undertaker spooked the Olympic gold medalist, shooting lightning bolts out of his hands which collapsed the ring. Whilst this would naturally position Angle as “The Dead Man”’s ‘Mania opponent, that was not quite how things went down.
Instead, at WrestleMania XXII, Kurt Angle was defending his world title belt in a triple threat ultimately won by that year’s Royal Rumble winner Rey Mysterio whilst The Undertaker had one of his less memorable matches, defeating Mark Henry in an unremarkable casket match.
Angle stated when speaking to Power Slam magazine in 2011 that ‘Taker pitched the idea of Angle breaking the streak. However, Vince McMahon put the kibosh on the idea, not wanting ‘Taker in possession of the belt in that timeframe whilst also being hesitant to break the streak despite Undertaker’s willingness.
Instead, the two competed at No Way Out 2006 in a genuine match of the year contender, which Kurt Angle called “one of the best matches that anyone’s ever done.” In the match, Angle eked out a fluke pinfall win.
On The Kurt Angle Show podcast, Angle has gone on to state that he thinks WWE should never have ended the streak.
#9. Sting: The Icon Vs The Deadman
In terms of pro wrestling dream matches, few are bigger than the much-discussed Icon vs Icon match between Sting and The Undertaker. Here’s the clincher: it nearly happened in 2011.
In 2011, The Undertaker ended up wrestling Triple H in the duo’s second ‘Mania match in unarguably the best encounter of the night (except, Michael Cole wrestling Jerry Lawler for 13 minutes ending in a lousy DQ – now, that’s what I call wrestling gold!). Originally, however, “The Vigilante” was pitched to take on “The Phenom”.
The WWE had even started hyping a return on Raw with vignettes labelled “2-21-11.” As Sting was a free agent, many speculated the former WCW World Heavyweight champion was making his way towards the company. However, with plans falling through, the identity of the returning star was revealed to be ‘Taker.
So why did plans fall through? Although Sting has compared the idea of the mammoth match occurring with ‘Taker to a Beatles reunion, he ultimately shut it down. He commented in 2011 to the Daily Star that his reason for refusal was due to the WWE’s treatment of WCW stars: “Something in me never trusted what would happen up there, based entirely on the track record with other WCW guys and everything that went on after Vince bought WCW.”
Considering that Sting’s actual first match when entering WWE in 2015 was an overbooked loss to Triple H in which WWE’s DX triumphed over WCW’s NWO, way to prove him right!
Undertaker has since commented that the match would not have been what fans had hyped it up to be, with ‘Taker in his mid-40s and Sting in his 50s (although he is still going today in his 60s!). Maybe the plans were better on paper.
#8. Abyss Emerges From The IMPACT Zone
Like Sting, another ex-TNA star was approached to wrestle The Undertaker at one point during his streak.
With Abyss’s TNA contract expiring in 2006, the WWE reportedly had their eyes set on attracting “The Monster”. John Laurenitis, then-Head of Talent Relations, reportedly offered the man behind the persona, Chris Parks, an immediate main event push with a scheduled ‘Mania match against “The Prince of Darkness”.
Jim Ross has commented that original plans were for a debut in the 2007 Royal Rumble setting up a feud with The Undertaker, who ended up winning the Rumble.
Abyss instead decided to stay with TNA. Later reflectively remarking that he had no regrets, he stated he wanted to stay loyal to the company, themselves heating up by the mid-2000s.
#7. Hade Vansen Could Have Had It All
Who the hell is Hade Vansen, you ask? Pfft, call yourselves December 12th 2008 SmackDown fans!
Hade Vansen’s only WWE main roster appearance occurred on the December 12th 2008 edition of Friday Night SmackDown, cutting a cryptic promo in which he remarked: “Now the prophecy will be realised.” The storyline led nowhere, with Vansen released in January.
Speaking on the Developmentally Speaking podcast, Vansen revealed the original plans, including a ‘Mania match with Mark Calaway. Freddie Prinze, Jr., who was briefly on the WWE creative team, pitched an idea – allegedly nicked from Kevin Thorn – of Vansen leading an evil band of villains. Vansen recounted (as transcribed by Fightful):
“What I remember is that he was going to have me as the leader of a faction, a sort of X-Men-type bad guys. So kind of cool. You know, I’m not gonna have actual superpowers, I guess, but we have that kind of vibe. Every week, I would send one of my dudes to try and wear down The Undertaker,”
“This is how [Freddie] sold it to me. It was going to lead to The Undertaker and myself at WrestleMania. I remember thinking when he sat me down and we were at some venue somewhere. I’m just thinking he was telling me this, and I was like,’ Uh huh. Okay, buddy. This is too good to be true, but whatever. I’m along for the ride.’ Turns out, it was too good to be true.”
According to Prinze, the idea was chastised by Triple H who questioned how such a non-descript athlete could ever realistically be realistic opposition to the near-seven foot, 300-pound Undertaker. He remarked: “He looks like he cuts my grass, man!” to which Vince chuckled. Freddie recalled how “all the air went out of the room” at that moment in an embarrassing rejection of Prinze’s writing plans, in effect killing off the storyline.
Instead, that year, The Undertaker faced Shawn Michaels – a shining light on an otherwise underwhelming WrestleMania. Described by many as the greatest WrestleMania match of all time, it is hard to be angry at the changes to the match.
#6. Vladimir Kozlov was a Little To Green
In March 2023, The Undertaker reveal to BT Sports’s Ariel Helwani some of the stars Vince wanted to break Undertaker’s streak. One of the names, Edge, did face ‘Taker at ‘Mania but reportedly refused to break the streak, knowing how much of a cornerstone “The Dead Man”’s undefeated record was to “The Showcase of the Immortals”.
More bizarre was the other name he revealed: Vladimir Kozlov.
The Ukrainian-born faux Russian was pushed heavily in 2008, remaining unbeaten in singles matches for nearly 12 months and even competing for the WWE championship at Survivor Series. His biggest win came against The Undertaker on a 2009 edition of SmackDown, catching everyone off-guard with a clean pinfall victory after countering the Old School.
The Undertaker never went into the reasons why Kozlov was dropped as a potential streak-breaker but it probably had something to do with “The Moscow Mauler” being greener than a three-way between The Hulk, Kermit the Frog, and Al Green at the Green Party Conference in Gretna Green. God, that simile really got away from me there.
#5. Drew McIntyre Just Wasn’t The Chosen One
In 2010, WWE positioned Scottish signee Drew McIntyre as the future of the company, with the honour of “The Chosen One” bestowed upon him by Vince McMahon. High praise indeed but he never quite broke out of the mid-card before sinking to the regressive and lowly status of member of the Three-Man Band (3MB). Few could have known how accurate WWE was with their highly ambitious prediction for the Scotsman and even fewer could have predicted the crowning moment taking place a decade later.
Yet early plans for WrestleMania XXVI had Drew squaring off against ‘Taker.
Drew McIntyre, only 24 at the time, admits that the idea to cancel the match was wise, although he notes in his autobiography A Chosen Destiny that he never knew of the plans to face ‘Taker at the time.
McIntyre adds that he was happy enough to compete in the Money in the Bank match instead. He was originally scheduled to win until this decision was changed, apparently due to the result of McIntyre’s win being too predictable.
The Undertaker would face “Mr WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels in the end. Considering the match has been described by “HBK” as “as close as you can get” to a perfect match, it was proven to be the correct decision to have Michaels contest ‘Taker in one of the greatest rivalries in WrestleMania history (in part due to an incredibly engaging storyline).
McIntyre had a less great time, not only having the Undertaker match rejected and not winning the Money in the Bank match but also slowly sliding down the card whilst also facing personal issues, such as the cancer diagnosis of his mother and nightly drinking as attested to on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions podcast.
The two have shared a ring, doing so at Extreme Rules 2019 in a tag team encounter. Imagine telling a fan in 2010 that in 2019, The Undertaker, who was still wrestling, and the son of Sika Anoa’i would be teaming up to face Drew McIntyre and Shane McMahon.
#4. Snitsky & Heidenreich
In 2003, The Undertaker wrestled his only non-singles WrestleMania match when facing off against Big Show and A-Train in a handicap. Originally supposed to align with Nathan Jones, the Australian was dropped as “The Phenom”’s tag partner because WWE management found out he was greener than when Cee Lo Green had sex with Shrek in Green Bay, Wisconsin whilst listening to “The Green, Green Grass of Home”.
Nonetheless, in 2005, WWE again pitted ‘Taker in a tag team encounter. This time, the plan was for The Brothers of Destruction to combat the team of Gene Snitsky and Jon Heidenreich, a team united by both being charisma-less musclemen and having scarcely-used forenames.
As part of a programme between “Mean” Mark and Heidenreich, the two competed at the 2005 Royal Rumble in a casket match. During the bout, Snitsky – still fairly fresh from punting Lita’s unborn baby (oh, how we laughed!) – interfered and attacked The Undertaker until Kane evened the odds, emerging from the casket to incapacitate Snitsky, with whom he had been feuding.
The spot seemed to set up a clash between the teams which was never blown off outside of two live show encounters.
The match was apparently ditched due to The Undertaker vetoing places, using his extensive political powers to shut down the encounter. It should be noted that there was a backstage discontent too, with Bruce Prichard noting many years later how the matches between Heidenreich and ‘Taker “stunk to high heaven…if you saw [them], it would take you weeks to get that stink out of your clothes.”
Ultimately, Kane and ‘Taker would be better off in their respective matches at the event. The former “Big Evil” would wrestle “The Legend Killer” Randy Orton in a landmark match in the history of The Undertaker’s streak whilst Kane would put in an admirable showing in the inaugural Money in the Bank ladder match.
#3. Ted DiBiase, Jr. is Relegated to The Undercard
Although DiBiase and The Undertaker seemed to have minimal involvement with one another during their WWE runs, apparent plans were in place for the future leader of the DiBiase Posse to actually end the streak. Yes, really.
According to various online sources including Whatculture, TheSportster, and Den of Geek, DiBiase was indeed pitched as a potential opponent at WrestleMania XXVI in 2010.
A natural storyline could have unfolded, with the young rookie trying to beat the long-serving veteran first introduced into the WWF by his father 20 years earlier.
In the end, DiBiase only had one televised match – 2009 Royal Rumble aside – against The Undertaker during a 2009 eight-man tag on an edition of Friday Night SmackDown, therefore never even facing ‘Taker in a singles match.
DiBiase instead lost at the event in the forgettable implosion of Evolution, turning face and facing a steep decline towards the lower card.
#2. Braun Strowman: The Undertaker Didn’t Get These Hands
Fans were initially underwhelmed and unimpressed upon the debut of Braun Strowman on the main roster in late 2015. Seen as another lumbering, untrained Vince McMahon wet dream, Strowman – arriving in the company in his infamous piss trousers – did little to inspire confidence and was seen as the fourth wheel of The Wyatt Family.
Fans were thus unimpressed when WWE appeared to be building to a WrestleMania XXXII match between ‘Taker and Strowman in the face of a number of teased stand-offs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the match was allegedly pushed by Vince McMahon. According to Wrestling Observer’s Brian Alvarez, “Vince McMahon loves Braun Strowman because he’s big and so what he would like is to have Braun Strowman versus The Undertaker at WrestleMania.”
It never occurred, likely due to Undertaker simply refusing, although PWInsider has put forward cancellation as a result of fan backlash. Geno Mrosko of Cageside Seats notes: “McMahon believ[ing] he can create excitement in a match like this is baffling.”
Ironically, within a few years, fans went from being concerned that Strowman would not be able to keep up with “The Dead Man” to a complete 180 after “The Monster Among Men” became one of, if not the, most over act in the WWE.
#1. Wade Barrett: The Leader Of The Corre
There are many unanswered questions in wrestling history: who blew up Vince McMahon’s limo? Who raised the briefcase at King of the Ring 1999? And how big is Batista’s dick? All of which desperately keep me awake at night.
Another is why The Nexus helped Kane bury The Undertaker at Bragging Rights 2010. The reason? To sow the seeds for a WrestleMania match with leader Wade Barrett.
In fact, not only had the members of The Nexus attacked the ex-”American Badass” at Bragging Rights but also on the Raw 900th episode special, interrupting a never-going-to-happen match between ‘Taker and Bret Hart. The segment ended with a blackout and Barrett delivering his finishing manoeuvre, the wasteland onto ‘Taker, followed by Justin Gabriel’s 450 splash which was always depicted as a fatal world-beater during the faction’s lifetime.
The Undertaker was apparently eyeing retirement in 2011, choosing Barrett to end his streak. Barrett, supposedly, was rejected by Vince McMahon who felt that the British brawler was unsuited for the accolade.
It is true that by WrestleMania XXVII, Barrett’s stock had been flagging. In their sub-year run, The Nexus had become noticeably damaged goods. Not only had John Cena incomprehensibly conquered the faction at SummerSlam but Barrett had also lost a high-profile WWE championship match to Randy Orton.
An indicator of Barrett’s declining star power was the fact that he was now the leader of The Corre, or The Nexus Light. Instead of breaking the streak, he lost a sub-minute match to the ragtag team of Santino, Kofi Kingston, Kane, and Big Show. To quote OSW Review, state of your prospects, mate!
For better or worse, those were the intriguing names are the ones that never quite saw the light of day.
Whilst The Undertaker has now rather emphatically claimed that he is retired, who is to say that ‘Taker could not possibly accept the offer of stepping through the ropes one more time?
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