WWE CvC: Kurt Angle vs. HBK at Wrestlemania 21 Is the Greatest Match of All TIme
For the CvC competition here on Bleacher Report, I, PS Singh, and the other contestants have been tasked with writing about what we feel is the greatest wrestling match of all time. In order to do this, we must first get some perspective. That is, we must know what we are looking for, what really makes a professional wrestling match great.
For some, it's the story behind the match that makes it great. Others believe that it's the setting and stage of the match and that factors like the crowd and the hype should count the most. Others still, believe in judging a match solely on its quality.
I find that all of these factors must be taken into account. If a match does great in two of these aspects but fails with the third, I don't believe it can be taken seriously as a contender for the GOAT.
For example, Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania 3 had the perfect setting, an immense amount of buildup and featured two of the most famous wrestlers of all time. But none of those things change the fact that the match itself was really not very good.
Likewise, I'm sure there have been hundreds of matches down in the independent wrestling tours that were technical clinics.
Some of them might have even had great storylines behind them. But the fact that they were contested in a crappy little arena in front of about 20 people immediately disqualifies them all as contenders as well.
With the three categories in mind, I set off on my intellectual journey to find a match that truly deserved to be called the best. Although I found many that excelled in all three categories, I knew that I could only pick one. The one ended up being the bout between "The Heartbreak Kid," Shawn Michaels, and "The Wrestling Machine," Kurt Angle, at Wrestlemania 21.
Now, most of you may be wondering why, of all the classic matches in history, this one deserves to be the the greatest of all time. So, let's go back to the categories:
The story behind this match can be described as a straightforward, simple and effective feud over who deserved to be called the best wrestler in the world. It started off rather simply. Michaels eliminated Angle from the Royal Rumble. Angle came back later on and eliminated Michaels, and then beat the hell out of him.
Angle opened the can of worms the next Monday night on Raw, saying that his issue with Michaels went back all the way to 1996, a pivotal year for both men. Angle talked about how he won an Olympic Gold Medal (with a broken neck), but everyone was talking about Shawn Michaels winning a classic Iron Man Match at that year's Wrestlemania.
He talked about how it ate him up that Michaels was considered the best of their generation and he wasn't.
Michaels would then offer the challenge—a match with Angle on the grandest stage of them all, which Angle accepted.
In the weeks leading to the show, the jealousy card continued to be played, and the rivalry became more personal when Angle targeted Michaels' old friends, Marty Jannetty and Sensational Sherri, both of whom fell victim to the Ankle lock.
Michaels also continued to look strong. By the time Wrestlemania arrived, it could have been either man's night.
The two greatest wrestlers in WWE at the time, facing off on the biggest pro wrestling event of the year at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, in front of an live audience of over 20,000 screaming fans and a TV audience of millions, called by the Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (when he was great).
There are few better settings I can think of for a match of this caliber.
The match itself was nothing short of outstanding. For nearly 30 minutes, the two men waged absolute war, throwing every last thing they had at each other.
The match started off with a blatant slap, followed great display of technical wrestling by Michaels, surprising many, who expected Angle to have an advantage in that area. Michaels was able to trap Angle in a side headlock for the first several minutes of the match, despite Angle trying to escape several times.
Eventually, Angle managed to escape the headlock, but the match remained strictly technical for the next few minutes, which Michaels surprisingly dominated.
The match then spilled outside the ring, where Michaels set up by announcing table, only to suffer a devastating Angle Slam into the ring post. And just like that, Kurt Angle was in total control.
Angle dominated the "Heartbreak Kid" for the next few minutes, brutalizing Michaels back with the suplexes he's famous for and some great submission maneuvers. Michaels struggled to regained control. He went for the elbow drop off the top rope, only to crash and burn.
Angle seemed ready to end the match. He went for the Angle Slam, but Michaels shockingly reversed it and then back-dropped his adversary to the outside.
Michaels then went high-risk again, this time succeeding in hitting the diving crossbody on the outside.
Angle then tried to hit Michaels with a German Suplex off the apron, through the table, only to be low-blowed unbeknown to the referee.
HBK then nailed Angle with a springboard off the ropes, onto the table. They somehow made it back to the ring, where Michaels took control once again.
Michaels struck the Olympic Gold Medalist with the elbow drop, and went for Sweet Chin Music, only to be caught by Angle and trapped in the lethal Ankle Lock.
Somehow, Michaels managed to make it to the ropes, only for Angle to try to hit the Angle Slam once again. HBK however, would not be caught so easily. He flipped Angle into a pin, which was countered into an Ankle Lock, which was countered into another roll-up, which Angle kicked out of.
Michaels immediately tried to follow with Sweet Chin Music, which Angle caught once again and followed with a picture-perfect Angle slam.
This time, Michaels was just barely able to kick out, which enraged Angle to the point that he went to the top rope, attempted a moonsault and missed. Michaels then went to the top and tried for a Moonsault of his own, only to be hit with an Angle Slam off the top rope.
It was apparent that Angle had the match won. He went for the cover.. 1.. 2... What?!
You could feel shock emanating from everyone. How could Michaels possibly have kicked out of that?
But as shocked as we all were, we could not rival Kurt Angle. Angle demanded that Michaels give up, but instead, the "Heartbreak Kid" nailed him with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels then crawled into the cover, but Angle was able to kick out, showing his own amazing resolve.
MIchaels struggled to get to his feet and did, but was quickly taken down by Angle and put in the Ankle lock yet again. Michaels struggled. He reached for the ropes. He performed every counter to the Ankle lock there was, but Angle simply refused to let go, instead grapevining Michaels' leg in the middle of the ring.
For another minute, Michaels struggled to make it to the ropes, but his efforts proved to be in vain. Finally, the "Heartbreak Kid." Shawn Michaels, tapped out.
Like I said before, there are many matches that can be considered viable candidates for this title. But I mean it when I say that what Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels did at Wrestlemania 21 in the Staples Center is more deserving than any of them.
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