The end of a wrestler’s career is always hard in many ways. It is sad to see one of your favorites lace up their boots for the last time, however, it is also difficult to see their match quality dwindle. Ric Flair is an amazing example. His retirement tour resulted in a lot of “Career Threatening” matches that were often difficult to watch, as the quality didn’t match what the Nature Boy had put forward throughout his illustrious career. Kurt Angle is no exception. It is no secret that Kurt is hurting, that he has lost a step in his speed and has to adapt his game in many ways. While I was excited to see him meet up on WWE TV with the likes of Samoa Joe and AJ Styles, I knew it wouldn’t match the quality of their matches in TNA. That being said, we all know that Kurt has One More Match in him, and that he and Baron Corbin will put on a memorable display at Wrestlemania this Sunday.
Instead of remembering his matches from his ‘farewell tour’ I have scoured the internet and WWE Network for what I believe are his Top Five matches of all time. Of course, with all lists, there are some Honorable Mentions, as I had to narrow this down to five.
· Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho – WWE Wrestlemania 2000
· Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe – TNA Lockdown 2008
· Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles – Slammiversary 2008
· Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles vs. Matt Morgan vs. Hernandez vs. Sting -TNA No Surrender 2009
· Kurt Angle vs. Desmond Wolfe – TNA Turning Point 2009
#5: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania 21
A friend of mine once referred to this match as “a match that nobody asked for, but that we are all thankful for.” Looking at both of these superstars’ resume before the match, it was certainly a dream match. While Wrestlemania 21 is most notable for the coronation of John Cena and Batista, as well as the first Money in the Bank match, I would argue that it was the Wrestlemania that truly defined and made Shawn Michaels “Mr. Wrestlemania,” and a lot of credit goes to the unbelievable work that Kurt Angle did with him.
#4: Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe – TNA Genesis 2006
At this point, I had only dabbled in TNA, borrowing a few taped weekly PPVs from a friend. When I saw Kurt Angle signed, I started to Cross The Line and watch Impact weekly. What got me even more involved was that he was almost instantaneously with Samoa Joe. In this case, I had just finished watching a DVD of Samoa Joe matches a friend let me borrow, so I was beyond exciting. This match did not disappoint at all, and only set the table for what would end up being a two year long off and on feud between these mega stars. Kurt was at the top of his game at this point, and Joe was showing that he belonged.
#3: Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero – Wrestlemania 20
Bruce Pritchard recently said on his podcast that this match was one of the greatest Wrestlemania matches of all time. I certainly put it up there myself. When this happened, I was sure that Kurt was going to beat Eddie, as while I thought Eddie was a star he seemed to be a transitional champion. Boy was I wrong! This match was fast paced and had me on the edge of my seat. It also has one of the most memorable finishes of any match. For those who haven’t seen it, Kurt continuously put Eddie in the Ankle Lock. Throughout the match, Eddie kept untying his shoe. The commentators sold this, saying that it was to “relieve the swelling” brought on by the Ankle Lock. Eventually, Kurt locked him in the hold again, only for Eddie to wiggle out of his shoe and was able to roll up Angle for the victory. Just like Shawn Michaels was “Mr.Wrestlemania” before his match, but Kurt solidified it; Eddie Guerrero was a star before Wrestlemania XX, but his match with Kurt Angle solidified him as a major player in the WWE.
#2: Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon – King of the Ring 2001
This match will always find its way to my Top Ten lists. What is funny, is this Street Fight does not match the style of wrestling that I usually am all about. This match was personal, as Kurt was screwed out of the King of the Ring by McMahon earlier in the night. In fact, this was now Kurt’s THIRD match of the night. There were a lot of fun spots in this one, none more memorable than Kurt suplexing McMahon through the plate glass stage, followed by throwing him back out. These two put on such a physical display, and put on a match that ultimately stole the show on what was typically a throwaway Pay Per View in many viewers eyes.
#1: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble 2003
This match gets bonus points because I was there, however it will always be not only my favorite Kurt Angle match, but also my favorite Chris Benoit match. Before this night, I didn’t appreciate the technical style of wrestling. To me, it wasn’t as flashy as some of the other matches out there. These two, however, put on a display that to me can’t be touched. It was completely back and forth the entire time. Both superstars nailed the German Suplex chains WAY before Suplex City was a thing. Nobody could make Chris Benoit’s Crippler’s Crossface look more fluid than Kurt Angle did. While at the time it was pretty much set in stone that it would be Kurt vs. Lesnar at Wrestlemania, there was a lot of doubt in the mind of the live crowd. Many thought Kurt might drop it to Benoit, however, ultimately Angle made the Rabid Wolverine tap out to the Ankle Lock. Angle, even though he was a heel at the time, got a standing ovation, as did Benoit.
If you haven’t seen these matches, I highly recommend that you take the time to check out the WWE Network, YouTube, GWN, or wherever you need to. Kurt Angle is a once in a lifetime wrestler, and while his matches right now might not be the perfect technical masterpieces that we remember, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.