The names Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle evoke memories of five-star classics, matches that stand head and shoulders above all others thanks to the tremendous and unrivaled skill of those involved. The two Superstars are widely considered by many to be the best workers of their generation, and it shows in their body of work.
Regardless of the opponent, they could be counted on to deliver the best match of the night, doing so more times than not.
In 2005, fans were treated to a dream match of sorts when it was announced that Michaels and Angle would clash at WrestleMania 21. Despite all the attention paid to surging young stars and fresh new faces such as John Cena, Batista and Edge, it was Michaels and Angle that were the buzz of the show following an instant classic that still rates highly on the all-time 'Mania match rankings.
With a match as great as the one they had in front of the fans in Hollywood, it was only natural that they would have the opportunity to follow it up with a rematch of epic proportions.
That rematch occurred on June 26, 2005 inside Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center and would more than live up to the hype.
Before we relive their monumental confrontation, let's take a trip down memory lane and see how those two industry giants got together.
The feud between Angle and Michaels started innocently enough during the 2005 Royal Rumble match. Michaels eliminated Angle, who had been on a roll, and soon found himself dumped over the top by the red, white and blue wrestling machine.
From there, Angle took to mocking Michaels, reintroducing fans to figures from HBK's past, including Sherri and Marty Jannetty. Both of those former associates suffered at the hands of the former heavyweight champion, fueling the emotion behind the impending, and hotly anticipated, match.
At WrestleMania 21, Angle pulled off what many considered an upset when he forced Michaels to tap out to the ankle lock.
The victory, one of the biggest of the Olympic gold medalist's decorated and celebrated career, provided him with bragging rights as he returned to SmackDown. So good was the contest that it was only a matter of time before the two Superstars crossed paths again, giving Michaels the opportunity to avenge the defeat.
Said opportunity presented itself in the summer of 2005 when WWE held its annual draft. Superstars jumped from show to show, creating fresh matchups and renewing rivalries fans desperately wanted to revisit.
Angle wound up being drafted to Monday Night Raw, arriving on the brand just in time to set up a huge match with Michaels at Vengeance in Las Vegas.
Michaels and Angle are master craftsman between the ropes, each knowing exactly when and where to add certain spots to pop the crowd and elicit the desired reaction. They proved it at Vengeance, putting together a match equally as great as their WrestleMania classic.
They relied heavily on reversals and near-falls to manufacture drama and did so to perfection, keeping fans on the edges of their seats.
The outcome was not necessarily in question, especially since most figured Michaels would be getting his win back, but that did not prevent the performers from sucking the fans in and taking them on an emotional roller coaster that came to a wild and bumpy conclusion courtesy of Sweet Chin Music from Michaels and a pinfall victory for the future Hall of Famer.
A superbly wrestled match and an example of two all-time greats doing what they do better than anyone else, regardless of how grandiose the stage.
Despite having such a competitive rivalry, Michaels and Angle were mostly kept apart. While that would seem like curious booking, WWE Creative ensured that their matches would be treated with the importance they so rightfully deserved.
In October 2005, WWE returned to the USA Network and did so with a special episode of Raw entitled Homecoming. On that show, Michaels and Angle attempted to end their rivalry with a 30-minute Iron Man match.
Unfortunately, that match ended in a tie, robbing fans of a definitive winner.
When Angle wound up returning to SmackDown to make up for the absence of Batista at the start of the new year, he and Michaels locked up one last time on Monday Night Raw. The match took place on January 16, 2006 and saw the Superstars wow the fans in Raleigh with another competitive contest.
It was nowhere near the quality of the previous bouts, and interference by Angle's manager Daivari ruined the end of the match, but it provided fans with closure.
Michaels won the match and the feud, and fans everywhere were much better off for having witnessed the phenomenal talents work together.