If you grew up during the “Attitude Era” of professional wrestling as I did, you recognize that it was the greatest period in the industry’s history (I will not be entertaining any debates on this topic). It was an era that was filled with three promotions pushing the envelope like never before with both characters and storylines that were oftentimes over the top in many aspects. Many of the elements that were prevalent during this time — hardcore violence, gratuitous sexual innuendo, and drug/alcohol use — simply can’t be utilized in the same fashion today.
If you were a fan during this era, you also dreamed of inter-promotional dream matches. The Monday Night Wars between then WWF and WCW have been dissected and written about extensively in the two decades since. It’s a period of time that will never be replicated, although many hope that the emergence of upstart AEW can help to one day see a new age of promotional rivalry.
After WWF purchased WCW in March of 2001 and the rights to ECW later that year, we would eventually get the “Invasion Angle”, which attempted to settle many of these inter-promotional scores. However, the angle fell largely flat as many of WCW’s top stars did not participate due to their guaranteed contracts from Time Warner at the time and the unwillingness to properly use ECW talent. Over time, we would get some “dream matches” like HBK vs. RVD, so compiling this list became complicated.
So what are some of the dream matches we never got? Well, I sat down to start this and came up with about seven matches, which is kind of an odd number. I then enlisted the help of wrestling aficionado, Dick The Knife (@SavesTuesday) to help fill out a dream card. What resulted was a 14-match card that would have to be split over two nights. I think the matches here would get any hardcore wrestling fan that lived through the Attitude Era all juiced up. Here’s what the night one lineup would look like:
Justin Credible vs. X-Pac
The two would go on to form the tag team, X-Factor, in 2001, but the two feuding with each other could’ve been epic. These two performers, while smaller in physical stature, they could go once the match started. It would be a fast-paced, high-flying match that would entertain the masses.
Two of the most underrated talents during this era going one-on-one would make for a great way to kick start a two night extravaganza. There would be high end acrobatics, high impact strikes and tons of action.
Jerry Lynn vs. Edge
Jerry Lynn is one of the most under-appreciated talents of the true ECW, in my opinion. He came to notoriety after a long feud with Rob Van Dam and did enjoy a brief cup of coffee with WWF after ECW’s bankruptcy in 2001. He even held the Hardcore title but was poorly utilized during his stint. Edge has become one of the most respected WWF/E wrestlers in recent memory. His early days in the late ’90s saw him as a risk-taker willing to push the envelope in matches with death-defying stunts. A match against Lynn would pit two high flyers against each other in a match that would be an all-out aerial assault.
Dudley Boys vs. New Age Outlaws
Arguably the two most aggressive, in-your-face tag teams of the Attitude Era going head-to-head would be legendary. The match itself would be a bruising affair with power moves and plenty of foreign objects, especially the tables. The highlight of the affair might be the pre-match promos. Both of these teams were known to take things right to the edge of what was socially acceptable, making censors cringe. The ability of both teams to generate “heat” would have the crowd in a frenzy. For reference, check out the Dudley’s promo at Heatwave ’98 in Dayton, OH.
These two teams were masters of tag team ring psychology. There would be tons of double teams, rule-breaking, and jawing with each other and the fans at ringside.
Triple H w/ Chyna vs. Shane Douglas w/ Francine
The Game vs. The Franchise, there is a lot to unpack here. Douglas has famously talked about his hatred for the “Kliq” of which HHH was a cornerstone during the mid-90s. In fact, Douglas felt they sabotaged his run in the WWF during 1995 that ultimately resulted in him going to ECW. It was this career-altering moment that led to the emergence of Douglas’ “Franchise” character. Some have accused The Game of ripping off The Franchise’s character, which adds another element of intrigue here. So the real-life backstory adds a level of intrigue to this match. The use of the valets with Chyna and Francine would make for an entertaining match that would be a true knockdown, drag-out affair as good ole Jim Ross would say.
This would not be an aesthetically pleasing match for people that love technical work in the ring. There would be tons of haymakers, clotheslines, and other power moves on full display. You also can’t discount the possibility of a steel chair or sledgehammer coming into play either.
Randy Savage vs. Shawn Michaels
Two performers that were really ahead of their time locking up for a match would probably steal the show. Both wrestlers were “undersized” for the heavyweight division, but they brought an element of speed, agility, and explosiveness that wasn’t common for the era. Savage famously wanted to work a two-year angle against HBK, which would ultimately end with a “passing of the torch.” However, Vince thought the Madness was done and nixed the idea. This decision was one of the driving factors that led to Savage going to WCW in 1994 and turning up the heat on the rivalry between the promotions.
In some ways, you could argue that the decision to relegate Savage to announcer duty causing his departure indirectly led to the Monday Night Wars. Savage was the huge talent that left WWF for WCW, with Hogan helping to broker the deal. With the two legends in toe, Monday Nitro would be born shortly after and the rest was history.
A Savage/HBK match would pit two of the best in-ring workers against each other with their precision sequencing and similar styles. You would be sure to see plenty of elbow drops, pile drivers, double axe handles, and more in this classic. In my view, this would be the best match of the night.
Steve Austin vs. Goldberg
In the summer of 1998, these two were the faces of their respective promotions. The two featured similar bald heads, goatees, and solid black trunks and boots. When Goldberg was in the midst of his famous undefeated streak, you couldn’t help but turn on Nitro or Raw and see fans with signs saying “Goldberg fears or Austin” or “Austin fears Goldberg”. The two being champions of their respective promotions only added fuel to the fire and got people dreaming of what would happen if they locked up in the ring.
The limitations of Goldberg once the bout started could hold the match back, but Austin’s ability to carry the match can’t be underestimated. This would be one of the most highly anticipated matches, as fans would be on the edge of their seats waiting to see who would hit their high impact and signature finisher.
Vince McMahon vs. Eric Bischoff – No Holds Barred
The main event of night one would feature a match of promoter vs. promoter. The weekly back-and-forth between the two would be the fuel to the fire for the greatest era ever. From Vince McMahon claiming that Bischoff was using Ted Turner’s deep pockets in an attempt to put his family company out of business to Bischoff spoiling taped Raw finishes on the air, the two had a notable disdain for each other during this time.
Things reached a boiling point of sorts in May of 1998 when Bischoff challenged McMahon to a match at WCW’s Slamboree PPV. McMahon would send legal correspondence multiple times leading up to the event, that Bischoff naturally read on air in a sarcastic manner claiming that Vinny Mac was scared of Easy-E.
McMahon obviously would not show to the event and Bischoff was declared the winner ceremoniously after a count-out. Bischoff famously has stated his goal was to put Vince out of business and be the number one promotion on the planet. He succeeded for a brief time as WCW famously held the upper hand in the ratings war for 83 weeks.
In the end, Vince would get the last laugh buying WCW in 2001, undercutting an effort by a Bischoff-led group. Putting these two bombastic promoters in the ring against each other is the ultimate way to end the first night of this wrestling fan’s dream scenario.