Hulk Hogan versus Ric Flair often gets referred to as the match WWE never took advantage of in the year both men were under contract with Vince McMahon. This is correct...kind of.
Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair's first high-profile, pay-per-view match was the first match Hogan had in WCW, which took place 18 years ago this week. WCW Bash at the Beach is the event in which the Atlanta-based promotion aired the match fans never had seen—most fans, that is.
The reality is WWE actually did consider Hogan versus Flair for a feud. When Flair signed with Vince McMahon in the fall of 1991, the two marquee names squared off on several non-televised events, often called "house shows."
According to what J.J. Dillon wrote in his autobiography about the period in time when he was one of Vince McMahon's right-hand executives dealing with the talent roster, he says McMahon wasn't happy with how the matches came off at events. Dillon explained the numbers and reaction weren't strong enough for McMahon to feel the match would draw as well as once thought. McMahon reportedly felt the match was five years too late.
To my knowledge, the only televised version of this match in a WWE ring was on December 29th in 1991, when the two had a match in Madison Square Garden—but the event only aired on the MSG Network.
Looking at all the factors, I disagree with Vince McMahon's decision. I don't think you can make a decision to pass on a monumental match based strictly on financial numbers of non-televised events geared towards the local markets.
Flair and Hogan, with the build and storytelling leading up to WrestleMania 8, would have worked. For the past 10 years, Vince had been competing against the territories in the National Wrestling Alliance.
Ric Flair was the guy for the NWA. Hulk Hogan was once an NWA guy competing in the AWA promotion in the mid-west . Vince bought Hogan in the early 80s and used Hogan as top draw to take his WWE show national. Highlight that story with months of build, and the match will sell out the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.
In many ways, this would have been McMahon manufacturing the same type of story that would be manufactured on him with great success in 1996 by his competition.
When Ric Flair came to work for McMahon, he was called “The Real World Champion.”
Straight in the door from the NWA, McMahon could have manufactured and profited off of an invasion-type angle with Flair. The story could have been Flair was coming to prove that McMahon's talent was second-rate compared to the NWA's talent spread across the country's territories. Who else would Flair go after, and who else would stand up for WWE than Hulk Hogan?
This same premise was used in 1996, with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, when they arrived in WCW. It was booked as an invasion angle that Hall and Nash were being sent by WWE to start a war with WCW. Obviously, they were all under WCW contract, and with Hogan revealed as their third man, the New World Order was formed.
So this week in history in 1994, it was the match that finally got placed on a big stage. Hogan would make his WCW debut and first meet the guy who was WCW's top name in Ric Flair. The two would battle for several months on pay-per-view.
So after revisiting this historical situation, what other matches has WWE missed out on?