WrestleMania 10 in 10: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 21

We’re five days out from WrestleMania XXX, and NZPWI is counting down the 10 best matches from the last 10 years of the showcase of the immortals.

We’re covering 10 different matches featuring 13 different superstars held at seven different WrestleManias over the past decade. Will your favourite make the list?

The fifth greatest match of the last 10 years was contested between two of the greatest wrestlers of the decade, and of their generation. Unlike a lot of the other matches on the WrestleMania 21 card, this one was simply about who was the better man.

Join us as we reminisce over Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels, the first match of their trilogy, that set the standard for WWE in 2005.

NZPWI’s 10 BEST WRESTLEMANIA MATCHES OF THE LAST 10 YEARS
#5: KURT ANGLE VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA 21)

140402_anglemichaelsMost matches are sold on a premise, some sort of added attraction – a title or winning streak on the line, a heated grudge between two rivals, an added stipulation altering the match or the future for its participants – but this bout needed just two names: Angle and Michaels.

Of course, there was a feud heading into WrestleMania 21. Michaels had eliminated Kurt Angle from the 2005 Royal Rumble match, and Angle had returned the favour within minutes. The two would then appear on Raw and SmackDown to antagonise each other over the coming weeks, back in an era when the brand split actually meant something. But they didn’t have to. This contest was already sold as soon as their names were put on the marquee.

The question was simple: Who was the best wrestler of their generation? Both men had an equally valid claim.

“I won a gold medal, and all people were talking to me about that year was a guy by the name of Shawn Michaels gliding down from the rafters and putting on a wrestling clinic,” Angle told Michaels. “That ate me up, Shawn.”

The two had never crossed paths before 2005, but had staked a claim to being the best in the business at various points since 1996.

Angle’s gold medal win put him among an elite group in the amateur ranks, and helped his transition to professional wrestling in 2000, where he would go on to hold the WWE and WCW Championships.

Michaels was taken out of action with a back injury by 1998, but returned to the ring in 2002 and began to deliver what many were calling the best performances of his career, including a World Heavyweight Championship win.

When the bell finally sounded and both men stood across the ring from one another at WrestleMania 21 the Staples Center crowd was salivating.

The match began slow, with Michaels playing Angle’s own game and applying a headlock, grounding the Olympian. Things would then build and build, with Angle finally breaking out of Michaels’ technique and moving the bout out of the ring.

Michaels delivered a moonsault from the middle rope to the commentary table, which did not budge, and the two returned to the ring to trade the Angle Slam and the Sweet Chin Music.

Eventually Angle dropped the straps of his singlet and locked Michaels in an ankle lock. After almost a full minute in the hold, Michaels tapped out to give Angle the win.

Angle walked out of Los Angeles with the win that night, but the match only added to Michaels legacy as “Mr WrestleMania”.

The two would meet in two rematches later in the year, trying to recapture the magic they had shared that on the grandest stage of them all. Michaels won a rematch at Vengeance and the two wrestled to a time-limit draw in a 30-minute ironman match on Raw, leaving the question as to who was the best still open for debate.

#10: MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH (WRESTLEMANIA 21)
#9: EDGE VS. UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)
#8: TRIPLE H VS. UNDERTAKER (WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII)
#7: RIC FLAIR VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)
#6: CHRIS JERICHO VS. CM PUNK (WRESTLEMANIA XXVI)