Reviews

TJR Review of WWE Untold: Angle vs. HBK (WrestleMania 21)

A new episode of WWE Untold premiered on Friday on WWE Network. You can find it on demand in the Originals section. It has a runtime of 30 minutes and after I write about it, I’ll include my in-depth review of the match as well.

Here’s the synopsis on WWE Network.

Angle vs. HBK
At WrestleMania 21, two of the greatest technical wrestling artists of all time created a masterpiece. Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle reminisce about the match Angle calls the best of his career.

Let’s roll.

There were clips of Shawn Michaels having a lot of success in his career. Johnny Gargano talked about wrestlers today are molded by them. Angle talked about how Shawn was one of the best of all time and Kurt was a great amateur wrestler, so it was a great story to tell and they knew fans would buy into it. Gargano said Angle was as good as they come and that nothing else compares to Angle in that ring.

Angle said that he didn’t think there would be anything in his life that could fill the void of retiring from amateur wrestling and winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Then he added that competing at WrestleMania gave him that same feeling as when he competed in the Olympic games. Michaels said that before he was back in the WWE ring (in 2002), Angle was a guy people were talking about and he thought about Kurt as a guy that he would love to be in the ring with.

Gargano talked about Michaels’ amazing ability in the ring in 1995 and 1996 saying he was as quick as they come, he was charismatic and everything you wanted to be as a wrestler. Then Shawn hurt his back in 1998, he had back surgery and when he came back in 2002, his style changed, he evolved and he got even better. Michaels talked about how when he came back he thought he might take it easy in matches against Triple H, but they were beating the piss out of eachother out there. Michaels said he was doing his best to establish himself at a level that was unlike anybody else. Gargano said that it was like he kind of created his own Shakespearian art and they showed the WM24 clip of Michaels beating Ric Flair in his retirement match in 2008.

The Angle-Michaels Build Began at Royal Rumble 2005

Gargano talked about how Royal Rumbles can be a blueprint for what can happen at a WrestleMania and he remembered reading/hearing that there was a plan for a Michaels/Angle feud. They showed the Royal Rumble 2005 spot where Michaels eliminated Angle with a superkick, then Angle went back in, dumped Michaels out and gave him the Ankle Lock submission on the floor. Gargano said that he was over the moon, these are his guys and when they finally reacted, that flower bloomed and he was so pumped.

Michaels said that you began to try to figure out how they were going to build it since they were on different shows – Shawn on Raw and Angle on Smackdown. Michaels said that they wanted to just build to a dream match and Shawn said that it was the first time he used the phrase Mr. WrestleMania about himself. Michaels said that this whole job leads to a match, but it is technically built off emotion. If the audience can feel in tune with the competitors, the match will mean more. Michaels said if you can tie emotion into this stuff then it’s more fun to do.

Michael Cole said that so much has been said about Shawn being the best in-ring performer in WWE and he thought that bothered Kurt. Cole thought that Kurt had a chip on his shoulder, so anything Shawn could do, Kurt thought he could do it better.

They showed a clip from March 3, 2005, where Angle was going to give a hometown hero the chance to win a gold medal. A guy in a hoodie walked out, Angle thought it was Michaels, but it was not and Michaels was actually dressed as a camera guy. Michaels attacked and the fans popped huge for it. Michaels talked about how that was the kind of thing that was always going to work. Cole said it was like a stunt out of the DX days and it reminded him of the Shawn he remembered.

Cole said Angle loved being a heel. They showed a clip from Raw on March 7, 2005 with Angle saying that he won the Gold Medal in the Olympics 1996, but people were talking about Shawn Michaels that year and Angle said that it was an insult to him and all that he stood for. Cole talked about how Angle could beat up anybody, he could turn anybody into a pretzel and this was Angle telling the world what he was going to do to Michaels.

Gargano talked about the March 24, 2005 segment on Smackdown when “Sexy” Kurt Angle did his Shawn Michaels impression by walking out to the ring to the HBK theme song. Angle also had Sherri Martel with him and she was Shawn’s manager over a decade earlier. Cole said that Angle felt like he could portray that better than Shawn could. Angle put over Sherri for being great to work with and he thought it was funny and entertaining. Gargano said it furthers the story, which makes you want to see Shawn beat up Kurt. That led to the clip of Angle singing his “Sexy Kurt” song that was a mockery of the HBK theme song. It was pretty silly. Michaels thought it was hilarious. Gargano said that is what professional wrestling is. The funny thing is that Angle ended it by putting Sherri in the Ankle Lock and he said it was lot of fun. Angle noted you can’t do stuff like that (a man putting a woman in an Ankle Lock) in WWE today, which is true.

Angle vs. Michaels at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles

It was April 3, 2005 at the Staples Center in LA when Angle vs. Michaels took place. Gargano said it was his dream match. Me too. Cole said the lead up to WrestleMania was among the best they’ve ever done and when they got into the ring they completely stole the show.

Michaels talked about how Pat Patterson suggested Michaels doing a slap in the face to start the match and it worked. Angle spoke about how he remembered Michaels saying he was not scared of him and Angle wondered where that came from while adding that he felt that he had a reputation of being easy to work with. Angle feels like Michaels was just saying that to show he was a tough guy. Gargano spoke about how they stuck to the mat early on with Angle saying that it was their first meeting, so they were going to feel eachother out. Gargano said that you need to lay the story foundation that Angle is the technical wrestling mastermind. Michaels was keeping up with Angle early in the match as they showed highlights with Michaels in control.

Michaels said he was in the ring with a guy that could do everything, so he had to lengthen and broaden his “limited moveset.” Michaels talked about the short arm scissors, which they showed him doing it on Angle. Michaels said you use everything you can and if you can weave it in to make the story come alive then nothing is off the table, so set the table for where you want to go. They showed the clothesline from Michaels that sent them out of the ring. There were clips of Michaels hitting Angle with hard chops and Kurt said that they gave him more adrenaline. They showed the spot where Angle gave Michaels the Angle Slam into the ring post. Gargano spoke about how Michaels had the back surgery. Michaels spoke about how he had a five inch scar on his back from surgery and everyone knows that is real.

There were clips of Angle in full control as he worked over the back of Michaels followed by the belly to belly suplex. Gargano joked that Michaels might not like him saying that, Angle had the advantage in terms of size, speed, strength and Angle won a Gold Medal with a broken freakin’ neck. Michaels said that they had the same game plan in the match. Michaels talked about how he had the mindset that they just had to figure things out for those 20 or 30 minutes and things will go well. They showed when Michaels hit a cross body block on Angle on the floor.

The spot where Angle teased a German Suplex on the apron to the floor was shown. Angle talked about how Michaels held on, then Michaels was able to stop it and Michaels talked about how it has to be real to both guys in that moment. Angle said that Michaels gave him a low blow (referee Brian Hebner didn’t see it) and the crowd booed because they wanted the German Suplex on the floor.

There was another big spot in the match. Angle was on the announce table and he said the most impressive move was when Michaels hit a springboard dive onto him. Angle said he didn’t think Michaels would make it, but he got there and it was very stiff. Cole joked about how the table was always supposed to give way. Michaels said then people realize that hurts even more. Angle said that he needed a good one minute to get his stuff together before he could continue on with the match. Angle saw the blood coming out of his mouth, so he’s going to give these people more drama by spitting the blood out even more. Michaels said that everybody knows what this job is just like they know what a movie is and everyone is a willing participant in the emotion as well as the story. Michaels spoke about how they had to do everything they could to draw the fans more into it and be committed to doing that the whole way through. The spot was shown where Michaels went for a superkick, but Angle blocked it and slapped on the Ankle Lock.

Angle said he went up top and executed a moonsault where he went really high in the air. Gargano said Angle had the prettiest moonsault in wrestling – he didn’t know how it was possible or how he figured out he could do it. Cole said when Angle first came into WWE was around when Brock Lesnar came into WWE, so they would try to see who had the better moonsault – Cole thinks Kurt does. Angle went up top, he did the moonsault, Michaels moved and Angle said he knocked the wind out of himself. Michaels followed that with a top rope climb, but Angle hit an Olympic Slam off the top for a two count. Great nearfall. Angle trash-talked Michaels and then Michaels hit a superkick. There was a slow cover as Angle kicked out with Kurt saying very seldomly on very rare occasions does anyone kick out of it.

Angle remembered Michaels getting up, so Angle grabbed the ankle. Cole said when Angle slapped on the Ankle Lock, it looked like he would really break that ankle. Gargano said you can see that desperation and you can’t help but cheer for Michaels. Gargano said that Michaels is the quintessential underdog as they showed Angle holding onto the Ankle Lock and Michaels tapped out to give Angle the win. They didn’t mention it, but the match went 27:25 in case you’re wondering. It was the longest match at WrestleMania 21.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of8TG3hy03Q

Final Thoughts on the Match

Angle said there were a lot of great matches at WM21 and every WrestleMania, but this match was really special. Angle said when they got done, they were back in Gorilla and there must have been 50 people there giving them a standing ovation. They showed pics of Angle/Michaels with Pat Patterson and Angle with Iron Sheik. Angle said that’s when you know that you mastered the business. (They didn’t mention it, but I remember Bobby Heenan at the time saying he thought it was the greatest match he’s ever seen.)

Cole said it went on for 30 minutes and we did not want this match to end. Cole said this was not about being a champion, it was about being the best.

Angle said it was like magic. Angle said that they had never touched before in their lives and to have that type of chemistry the first time you have a match, that never happens. Angle: “It was the greatest match I ever had.”

The video noted that Michaels skipped the WWE after party and went back to his hotel room with his wife and kids. Michaels reflected on that moment with wife Rebecca and two kids as they watched Polar Express (good kids movie) and said he was living the greatest life a dude could ever live.

Michaels said as he went back to the hotel room, he would weep like a freakin’ baby that he was given this unbelievable platform. He said that his body shouldn’t have been able to do the stuff that it has done or gone that well. Michaels said he’s got his kids that are now 20 and 16 and they still think he’s pretty damn okay while his wife is still in love with him and married to him. Michaels said if you ask him, his life is freakin’ perfect and he didn’t know how that is allowed to be. Michaels got emotional and said he was just thankful for it. That was the end.

This WWE Untold episode had a run time of 30:11 on WWE Network.

Analysis: I thought this was really done. I learned a few things from Angle and Michaels talking about the match. It’s great to get the insight of legendary wrestlers like them to give us an idea of what they were thinking about certain moments and spots in the match. Johnny Gargano was perfect for it as a huge fan of both guys and he was able to talk about his feelings going into the match that a lot of us had. It really was a dream match that lived up to the hype. Even though Michael Cole didn’t call the match at WrestleMania 21 (it was Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler), he knows both wrestlers so well that he was able to provide some good perspective on the match.

I have reviewed previous episodes of WWE Untold as well that you can find in our WWE Untold section:

* Rey, Eddie and The Rumble

* Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon at King of the Ring 2001

* Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan)

* That’s Gotta Be Kane (Kane’s Debut at Badd Blood 1997)

There have been other episodes of the show, but I have not reviewed them all. Perhaps I can do some more while the world is dealing with the health crisis.

 

Here’s my full review of the match that is already on TJRWrestling in the Greatest WrestleMania Matches Ever section where I ranked this match #3 in WrestleMania history. It’s also covered in my WrestleMania 21 review right here.

Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle @ WrestleMania 21

We get the video package for the Michaels/Angle.

Michaels the face is out first. Angle the heel is next. Good reactions for both. Ross & Lawler were doing the announcing.

Michaels slaps him at the start. Angle waistlocks him all over, so Michaels grabs ropes. Headlock for Michaels on the mat. To their knees now, Angle hits a suplex, but Michaels holds on to it. Michaels has him in the headlock for a good two minutes with Angle trying to fight out. Some small Angle chants start up. To their feet now, Angle breaks it in the corner. Waistlock for Angle, Michaels takes him down with a side headlock again. Back elbow for Angle, shoulder takedown and Michaels gets him with a hip toss, then a short arm scissors on Angle’s left arm. Angle fights out, Michaels with a cradle for two, then a backslide for two and another side headlock to the mat. Five minutes in, they’re going at a slow pace, so you know they’re going to get a lot of time. In the corner, Michaels slugs away, Angle grabs his hair, punches him in the back and goes for the ankle lock. Michaels kicks out of that, then clotheslines Angle over the top to the floor. He starts clearing the Smackdown announce table. He rolls in to break the count, so Angle clubs him with forearms when he comes out. Vertical suplex for Angle countered by Michaels, then Angle sets him up for the Angle Slam and puts Michaels back first into the ringpost. Damn. Never seen that before. Sick spot.

Back in the ring, Angle hits a suplex for two. Time to work on the back. Leg scissors on the body for Angle. Michaels gets up chopping Angle into the corner. He whips him in, Michaels flips over and does his back bump, then walks right into an overhead belly to belly suplex from Angle, then a second one for two. Angle digs his right knee in the back and then pulls up on Michaels’ chin in a familiar hold. Michaels fights back some more with chops, so Angle punches him and after a Michaels slap he gets decked by a hard Angle clothesline. Angle props Michaels up on the top rope, goes for a top rope belly to belly, but Michaels shoves him off. He climbs to the top, elbow drop misses everything. Angle pulls down the straps. Angle Slam countered into an armdrag, which is always a nice spot. Angle charges in and Michaels backdrops him over the top to the floor as Angle lands on his knees, which is a smart way to take that bump. Michaels to the top, he hits a crossbody onto Angle on the floor and his knee ends up hitting Angle right in the mouth. Angle gets up, goes to suplex Michaels German suplex style through the table. Michaels hangs on to the ropes. Low blow from Michaels. The ref couldn’t see it because he was looking at their faces. Little spots like that are so smart. We’re 15 minutes into the match now. Michaels kicks Angle onto the table. With Angle laying on it, Michaels hits a springboard moonsault onto Angle. Impressive. The table did not break. Lawler mentioned that the tables have been reinforced because of all the tables that get broken at shows. Good way to save it. Still a really cool spot. They both crawl into the ring on opposite sides at the nine count, which of course was really slow. They meet in the center on their knees with both guys bleeding from the mouth. Michaels with punches, chops and the flying forearm, then the kip up. Right hands, atomic drop, clothesline and the bodyslam in the center. To the top, the elbow drop hits this time. He stumbles into the corner, warming up for the superkick. The superkick attempt is caught by Angle in the Ankle Lock. Crowd is going nuts. Michaels rolls through, but Angle holds on to it. Thirty seconds in, Michaels reaches ropes. Some of the crowd boos. Even though Angle was the heel he was still very popular because people recognized just how good he was.

Angle wants him up. Angle Slam is countered into a rollup, but now Angle rolls through for an Ankle Lock. Michaels gets a roll up, Angle kicks out, superkick caught into an Angle Slam this time. He delays a second and then covers for two. He puts the straps up, then down again and goes for his moonsault. He gets huge height on it, but Michaels rolls out of it. He nearly hit him with the top of his head. So close. Now Michaels to the top and Angle hits the running Angle Slam off the top! One…two…no! Wow. I thought that was it. So did the crowd. Amazing. He picks him up by the hair, talked a lot of trash and Michaels separates, then hits a sweet superkick, but he’s out too. They’re both out. Michaels crawls over about 20 seconds after the move, drapes an arm across and that gets 2.99999 as Angle got his shoulder up. So damn close. One of the better nearfalls you will ever see. Lawler and Ross question the speed of the Smackdown referee’s count. Michaels is stumbling, Angle is playing possum and slaps in the ankle lock again out of nowhere on Shawn’s left leg. Michaels tries to fight out with kicks not once but twice and Angle holds on. He pulls him to the center. He’s been in the hold for a good minute now. Now Angle goes down in the heel hook position. Michaels is going for ropes, fighting it and yelling at the top of his lungs. He’s close to the ropes, almost taps out. But no. Then he taps after about two minutes. Wow. Angle wins via submission. Match was 27 minutes.

Winner by submission: Kurt Angle

Post match, the crowd gives them a standing ovation and Michaels gets one of his own too.

Analysis: ***** OH HELL YEAH! Wow. This was amazing. This did live up to the hype. This did meet all expectations. This did deliver the goods the way we all hoped it would. My God. The amount of counter holds seen in this match were unreal. It was wrestling at its absolute best. Amazing stuff here. I can’t say it enough. The drama in this match was unreal. You didn’t know when it was going to end. There were so many incredible spots here. Finishers kicked out of, drama at the end, and everything you want in a match. The match time was great, the pacing was really good because it built up to the end and the last ten minutes were as good a finish to a match that you can have. Thank you Shawn. Thank you Kurt. That was an epic match.

That was my initial analysis in 2005. The rating stays the same. You could tell how emotional I was for this just by reading the play by play. This was a dream match for me. I liked the match even more when I watched it this time.

I believe it’s a match you can look at as a reason to point out why you are a fan of this business. It wasn’t a match that relied on high spots or crazy bumps to sink you in. It was a match that told a story. You saw Michaels try to ground Angle early on, slowing the pace down and keeping himself from being caught up in Angle’s arsenal of moves. Then the pace picked up with Angle hitting Michaels with everything he had. They kicked out of finishers, they did some counter wrestling that was flawless and they built to a finish that, especially for the last ten minutes, was as good as any finish I could ever remember. Wrestling doesn’t have to be about guys killing themselves going into tables and whatnot. Yeah, they did that one table spot in this match, but it wasn’t the story. The story was that neither guy would quit and the only reason Michaels quit at the end was because the pain was excruciating. They had other matches that were very good as well. This was their best, though. I’ll never get tired of watching it. It’s one of the best matches ever.

I didn’t really care that Angle won or Michaels lost. This is the kind of match where you can really say the win and the loss doesn’t matter. A lot of fans spend their time arguing about who is going to go over, then wondering why the other person didn’t go over and it’s a waste of time.

What also stands out is that I really don’t think there were two wrestlers that could have their first match together at a WrestleMania and perform as well as these two did. It’s incredible when putting it in that context. The circumstances shouldn’t have made it easy to have an amazing match, but these guys did it. I’m still in awe of it.

Thanks for reading.

John Canton

Email – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter – @johnreport

You can check out all of my WrestleMania Reviews here.