WM Top 25: #25 – Michaels v. Angle, WrestleMania 21

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A phenomenal one-on-one match between two of the sport’s greatest athletes highlights the opening of this countdown. Kurt Angle is a former Olympic Gold Medalist in freestyle wrestling, having won gold back in 1996 in Atlanta. He became a professional wrestler in 1998 and took to the profession like a fish to water. He became one of pro wrestling’s greatest in a short amount of time. Shawn Michaels was also a wrestling prodigy in his own right; having started wrestling back in 1984. He worked his way up through pro wrestling’s rank and file and finally become World Champion for the first time in 1996. He became known as one of wrestling’s greatest of all time, an after he returned to the ring in 2002 after a four year absence he picked up right where he left off.

So it was a logical pairing to put one of the millennium’s best (Angle) and against one of the ‘90s’ best (Michaels.) It was decided that these in-ring greats would meet at WrestleMania 21; no titles on the line, no blood-filled feud, just a rivalry to see who was truly the best inside the ring.

The two did not disappoint in the slightest. The pair traded high-impact moves, submissions and near-falls for over twenty minutes. It was not only a battle of past versus present; it was a battle of whether Michaels could hang with this new age twenty-first century superstar. At this point in his career Michaels had become the “measuring stick” of WWE; he was the guy who could get into the ring with the company’s “next big thing” to see if they could hang, or survive in a big match environment.

Angle and Michaels put on absolute wrestling clinic. After over twenty minutes of both men leaving it all in the ring, Angle emerged victorious after making Michaels “tap out” to his ankle lock submission hold. The crowd was more than appreciative of the effort of both men. Angle left the ring, and after Michaels regained his composure and rose to his feet he received a standing ovation from the appreciative Los Angeles crowd.

The match was hailed as an instant classic, but a rematch was months in the making as both men were on different shows and touring schedules. They would finally meet in the much anticipated rematch in June 2005 when both men ended up on the RAW television show and touring schedule. Not surprisingly Michaels won the rematch, and not surprisingly the sequel didn’t hold up to its original. They had a third match in October 2005 that ended in a draw.

In the long run their rivalry didn’t really change anything or cause any serious change in WWE plans. It merely reminded fans that World Wrestling Entertainment had the ability and the talent to put on the best matches in professional wrestling available in this day and age, and WrestleMania was the greatest stage available to showcase it.

The final minutes of Michaels-Angle from WrestleMania 21

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