TJR WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches #28: Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WrestleMania 20

The next match on the countdown goes back to one of the longest WrestleMania events ever. It was WrestleMania 20 from Madison Square Garden in New York City. It’s a match where the WWE Title was on the line as Eddie Guerrero defended the gold against Kurt Angle.

If you’ve missed anything in the countdown so far, the WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches archives are here.

Who: Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle for the WWE Title @ WrestleMania 20

When: March 14, 2004

Where: Madison Square Garden in New York, New York

The Build

Here’s a summary from when I reviewed the match.

Eddie Guerrero was in a feud with his nephew Chavo. Angle acted like a peacemaker in that feud, but ultimately he ended up beating the hell out of Eddie on multiple occasions. In between the Chavo/Eddie feud and Eddie/Kurt, Eddie won the WWE title from Brock Lesnar in a match at No Way Out in February.

The most memorable moment in this feud came on Smackdown before WrestleMania when Eddie proclaimed he could beat then GM Paul Heyman with both hands tied behind his back. On the same show, Angle appeared “via satellite” to cut a promo. During the match, Heyman ducked out of the ring, ran up the aisle and fled while Kurt Angle shockingly came out. He took Eddie in the ring, beat the holy hell out of him while he was in handcuffs and gave us a memorable moment to head into this match with. The idea was that he didn’t respect Eddie as a former drug addict and somebody that should be considered a champion by the fans.

Angle was at his best as a heel, so I’m glad he turned before this match. Eddie was on fire as a face at this point.

What I Thought Back Then

It was a big match featuring two of my favorite guys in the company. Eddie really emerged as a breakout performer in late 2003 and when he won the WWE Title at No Way Out 2004 I was ecstatic about it. He always had good matches with Kurt Angle whether it was in tags or singles, so my anticipation level was high going into it.

Since Eddie had just won the WWE Title, the expectation was that he was going to keep the title. The feeling was that having a great match with Angle and beating him would go a long way to help Eddie’s credibility as a new WWE Champion. Since Angle had been a multiple time champion heading into this match, he was the perfect guy to put over Eddie the right way.

Here’s my full review of the match plus the analysis, which was written in 2012.

The WWE Title was up next. Loud reaction to Angle on his entrance with mostly booing, but the fans in NYC had a lot of respect for him as they should. Eddie entered in a low rider. Big ovation for the champ.

WWE Title (Smackdown): Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle

Nice mat wrestling to start, although it might have been too much since the crowd was starting to lose interest. The crowd had already seen three hours of action, so as I said before they had their moments when they were pretty quiet. Eddie knocked him down with a shoulder block and Angle bailed to the floor to regroup. Angle grabbed a front facelock. Guerrero fought out with an arm drag and applied a wrist lock. Angle hit a knee to the ribs and then applied the dreaded abdominal stretch. Eddie countered with a suplex. Then Angle got a German suplex. They fought on the apron where Angle wanted to give him a German suplex off the apron. Eddie gave him a dropkick that sent Kurt to the floor again. Eddie went up, Angle moved and Eddie crashed ribs first into the security wall. When I saw that bump I immediately thought about a bump Randy Savage would always do. Angle spent a lot of time working the midsection with suplexes and holds centering on the ribs including a nice move where he dropped Eddie rib first onto the top rope. Perfect belly to belly suplex by Angle followed by another one for two. Angle’s offense was perfect for the story they were trying to tell.

Angle went for the top rope suplex, but Eddie shoved him off and went for a Frog Splash. Angle moved out of the way, so Eddie hurt his ribs some more. It turned into a bit of a slug fest with Eddie getting some momentum. Eddie hit a back suplex for two. Angle hit a German suplex, but Eddie countered another one by countering into a rollup for two. The crowd wasn’t as loud as they would have liked, I’m sure. It was quiet for much of it. Angle went for an Angle Slam, but Eddie countered with an arm drag and a headscissors takedown. Eddie hit two suplexes, but Angle countered it into an Ankle Lock. Eddie countered it and then hit a dropkick. Eddie went up top. Angle popped up and hit his awesome pop up suplex for two. I loved that move so damn much. Another Ankle Lock attempt, but Eddie turned it into a cradle for two. German suplex by Angle again. Angle Slam countered into a DDT by Eddie was a phenomenal move. It was probably the best counter of the Angle Slam that I had ever seen because of how fluid it was. Frog Splash got only two to the shock of the crowd. Everybody thought that was it. Angle played dead and then jumped on him with another Ankle Lock. Thirty seconds later, Eddie kicked him to the floor. The crowd thought that was it. Eddie started to untie the boot while Angle was on the floor. The beauty of it was that Angle was on the floor, so he never saw Eddie untying the boot. Angle was pissed, Eddie gave an “oh shit” expression on his face and Kurt attacked with an Ankle Lock. This time Eddie kicked at Angle’s arm until he yanked off the boot. Eddie got a tight inside cradle for the win, allowing him to retain the title after 21 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Eddie Guerrero

Guerrero celebrated the win while Angle was furious about the loss.

Analysis: ****1/4 The first five minutes of the match were slow, I must say. Things picked up the moment Guerrero went rib first into the railing in a Randy Savage style bump. I liked that. It would have been nice to see Guerrero go on offense a bit more than what he did because it really came off like Guerrero wasn’t doing much. His selling was great, though, so it’s not a big gripe. It also made sense that the Frog Splash only got two since Angle wasn’t hurt that much. The finish was fun and creative. Angle was relentless in going for the Ankle Lock, Eddie sensed that so he ended up using that to his advantage by outsmarting Angle at the end leading to the boot trick and cradle for the win. This wasn’t a match full of highspots or anything like that, but it was full of good straight up wrestling from two of the best. As good as it was, I thought it had the potential to be a five-star match if it was worked a different too. Far too many rest holds for that to happen, though. Believe me I’m not complaining that much. I’m just saying I had high hopes for guys the caliber of these two. Maybe those high hopes were unrealistic on my part, but I know what they were capable of.

You can read my full recap of WrestleMania 20 right here.

What They Said

Here’s a clip from Eddie talking about the match along with comments from his mother and wife. This was from the DVD that WWE produced about his career.

Here’s a clip of Kurt talking about Eddie.

What I Think Now

I still love this match a lot. They had great chemistry together and you could tell they fun working together. It just looked easy for them because they could pull out their best stuff without worrying if the other guy could keep up.

The finish fit the characters so perfectly. Eddie was the crafty face that still wrestled like a heel. Angle was the overly aggressive, hyper athletic guy that went to put Eddie away and when he realized Eddie had taken the boot off he was furious. Eddie pinning him with the tight inside cradle was the perfect way to end it. If they went a few more minutes and had Eddie hit a Frog Splash to win that would have been fine too, but I liked it better this way.

What Happened Next

Eddie’s title reign lasted until Great American Bash in June 2004, so it was a four month reign. He dropped the WWE Title to JBL, which made a lot of people upset because it meant a short title reign for Eddie. The main reason they took it off Eddie was because he was stressed out as champion. He never won the WWE Title again although he was supposed to get it back in late 2005. Unfortunately, he passed away on November 13, 2005. I thought this was Eddie’s best WrestleMania match in his career.

Angle was on the shelf for a few months after this due to his ongoing problems with his neck. He was named the GM of Smackdown. When Angle was cleared for action, he had another match with Eddie at SummerSlam 2004, which Angle won. They had some other matches, but mostly went their separate ways after that.

Final Thoughts

This match is one of my favorites from the mid-2000s. When I watched it again today, I thought that maybe if they cut out five minutes, cut back on some of the submission holds early on and went for more nearfalls towards the end it would have been a more memorable match. Who am I to tell these guys how to have a better match, right? I know that’s a silly thought. Just saying that if they built up some other things better it would have been a more epic match.

If you like Guerrero, Angle or technical wrestling in general then give this one a watch one more time. You won’t regret it.

Rankings So Far

  1. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WrestleMania 20
  2. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania 18
  3. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair @ WrestleMania 24
  4. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch @ WrestleMania 32
  5. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WrestleMania 8
  6. Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania 6

WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches archives are here.

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