(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31305371/?contentId=31305371&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlemania )
Shawn Michaels vs Kurt Angle is one of my all-time favourite matches. It had all the elements in place: dream match, WrestleMania match, entertaining feud, and two of the greatest workers in the industry going one on one for the first time. It was a match I had hoped for ever since Shawn Michaels returned to the business. To say I was hyped about it was an understatement. Frequently, high levels of hype result in a disappointment. This did not result in disappointment, but in something exceeding my very high expectations.
Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle were kept apart during the first brand split. HBK was on Raw, Angle was on Smackdown. However, their paths eventually crossed at the Royal Rumble 2005 (if memory serves, they had a backstage segment together at Survivor Series 2004 which made me salivate with anticipation). Michaels eliminated Angle. Angle wasn’t too happy about that, so returned, eliminated Michaels and battered him. A match between them was set for WrestleMania 21. The feud along the way was simple but enganging entertainment. Angle believed he could do everything better than HBK, including singing HBK’s entrance music with a twist. Yes, ‘Sexy Kurt’ still brings a smile to my face today. Former HBK associates such as Sensational Sherry and Marty Jannetty.
Angle and Michaels are two wrestlers that could drag a good match out of the worst wrestler, which is one sign of greatness. However, sometimes two great wrestlers have awful chemistry together. That’s what I feared might happen. Those fears proved unfounded. Right from the beginning, I knew I was witnessing something special. HBK turned the tables on Angle by wrestling, instead of using his flashy moves. Angle was continuously frustrated by HBK’s headlocks. It took Angle a cheap shot to take control of the match. Angle worked on HBK’s notoriously bad back after executing an Angle Slam into a ring post. The two greats took us from a slow burner into a blistering battle. The final five minutes are amongst the most tense and exciting in wrestling history (after watching it again and again, I still grip the edge of my seat during the final moments!).
In-ring psychology, storytelling, big spots, two in-ring greats, a gripping finish…this match had it all and more. There’s nothing negative I can say about this match, and I’ve watched it plenty of times. It’s a work of art (like another of HBK’s ‘Mania matches…). I’ve always thought it was overlooked because of the rest of the WrestleMania 21 card. It was a night for the ‘next’ generation of stars to arise. Batista and John Cena each won their first World Championships. Edge won the Money in the Bank match. But a match between two veterans stole the show. Michaels and Angle pushed each other to the limit, and in the process gave us a match that should at least be in the top ten matches in the 100 Best Matches…List.
VERDICT: 10/10. Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels was a dream match that didn’t turn into a nightmare. It turned into a work of art. One of my favourite matches of all time.
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s Best 100 Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!
Click here for my review of #15 John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules, WWE Extreme Rules 2012)