WWE nearly booked The Rock vs Sting as a huge match at Wrestlemania – but the legendary failure of the Invasion put a stop to the dream match between icons.
After the absolute failure to build new stars during the Invasion of WCW/ECW of 2001, WWE were struggling. With their biggest competition out of business, they failed to build up new stars on the levels of Steve Austin. Once they had exhausted the use of WCW legends like Hulk Hogan, Goldberg and Kevin Nash, they had no more dream matches to book their biggest stars up against at their huge shows.
WWE knew this when they tried to sign Sting after the fall of WCW. Sting had been one of the biggest stars in the business as the face of WCW. He was a multi-time world champion and had legendary matches against the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Goldberg.
However, he was also the one man that Vince McMahon simply could not get. He had a guaranteed contract for at least a year and a half years post-WCW, and he was content to sit at home and collect his millions. Once that was over, he declined to join WWE, instead joining upstart promotion WWA and eventually TNA.
Sting was reluctant to join WWE, seeing as how they booked fellow WCW alumni like Booker T and DDP and made them look like idiots. As a veteran of the Monday Night Wars, he knew the tribalism in wrestling and knew Vince would see him simply as “Mr WCW” and not “The Icon” Sting.
The Rock vs Sting
While still would eventually sign with WWE in 2014, they tried to sign him multiple times before that. The most interesting was in 2005, when WWE sought the Stinger’s signature in a bid to make Wrestlemania 21 one of the biggest in history.
They were two years removed from Stone Cold Steve Austin‘s retirement, and with the failure of the Invasion angle were looking for new stars. Still unsure as to the reasons for Vince to bring Sting in, WWE had a plan to entice the legendary Stinger to WWE – A high profile match with one of the top stars in WWE history.
The Rock vs Sting. It would be one of the biggest matches in history. The Rock had last wrestled the year prior at Wrestlemania XX, and would actually not wrestle again for another seven years. However, The Rock knew he could get a great match out of Sting, with a similar outlook to the Hulk Hogan vs Sting match.
Despite Sting talking with Vince McMahon to try and hash out a deal, it never came to be. Sting himself explained his reason in an interview why he turned down the chance to wrestle in the WWE after the Invasion. He stated that he “Spoke to Vince, he was nice” but that the way he treated other WCW wrestlers was the reason he turned down the deal.
Jim Ross on trying to sign Sting
The head of talent relations at the time was legendary commentator Jim Ross. JR currently works on commentary for AEW, but at the time was one of the higher ups in WWE and responsible for hiring and firing various wrestlers.
On his podcast “Grillin JR“, Ross discussed about how WWE tried to hire Sting and set up a blockbuster Wrestlemania match against the legendary The Rock at Wrestlemania 21.
“Look, we were trying to recruit Sting, Conrad, ever since WCW closed their doors. And then subsequently when he finally got all his money from Time-Warner that he was owed. We knew he’d be healthy, he’d be refreshed, and he’d have a full bank account. He should be a happy guy. And we only wanted him for a part-time role at best to maximize the investment, and to not overuse an asset that had more matches in him than he had left.” Jim Ross said.
“So yeah, we were always talking about bringing him in. Why not? But Rock and Sting would have been cool as hell. And Rock — look, the thing about this, and I may have mentioned this before. It’s worth reiterating as far as bookers are concerned. Bookers find out that the top talents who are gonna draw the money and put an ass every 18 inches know exactly who they can and cannot work well with.”
“Meaning that a great attraction like The Rock fighting another great attraction like Sting at the biggest event of the year like WrestleMania for the first time ever is money. Here’s the key though. Rock knew in his heart that he could get a match out of Sting, who had been dormant for quite a while, without any problem. Full confidence. And I believe that too. So anyhow, yeah it was a topic we talked about.”
Other dream matches
There are more dream matches that never happened in the WWE, involving the Rock and Sting. Sting vs the Undertaker is the biggest dream match that never happened in WWE history. Why Sting vs Undertaker never happened will never be truly known, but Sting gave his thoughts in an interview in the past.
Other matches include a number of matches The Rock requested for Wrestlemania 21. The Rock, on his way out the business, requested to wrestle either Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton or a final match for “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Savage hadn’t wrestled in WWE for over ten years and it would have been a fine retirement match for one of the all time greats.
Sting vs Steve Austin was also rumoured to take place at Wrestlemania 19.