By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on WrestleMania Recall, I will be ranking my top 31 favorite matches in WWE WrestleMania history. A new installment will be posted every day in the month of March, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Thursday, March 31st, mere days before WrestleMania 32. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
Is it just me or is WrestleMania 19 extremely underrated? After a series of stinkers from WrestleMania 13 through WrestleMania 2000 (my personal opinion, people), The Show of Shows returned to its former glory with WrestleMania 17 in 2001, arguably the most epic installment of all-time. It was followed up by a solid WrestleMania 18 and then WrestleMania 19, and despite a surprisingly low buyrate, the four hours were a ton of fun.
The card featured three outstanding marquee matches: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (in what would be Austin's final wrestling match), Hulk Hogan vs. Mr. McMahon, and Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho also occurred, but that was on the undercard and I'll be discussing that more in detail later in the series. Triple H defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Booker T, but that bout was less-than-stellar and told a poor story. Angle vs. Lesnar, on the other hand, was everything a championship should be on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
Brock Lesnar pretty much owned the year of 2002. Within a matter of months, he arrived on Raw, won the King of the Ring crown, and defeated The Rock in decisive fashion at SummerSlam to clinch his first WWE Championship. He went undefeated until Survivor Series where he suffered his first loss at the hands of Big Show and it was there that Lesnar's road to redemption officially began. In his absence from the title picture, Kurt Angle captured the gold at Armageddon and bested all comers for his championship. Meanwhile, Lesnar won the 2003 Royal Rumble match and earned himself a title opportunity versus Angle in the main event of WrestleMania 19.
The best part about the matchup was that the two had yet to touch prior to their encounter at the event. Lesnar had run through a majority of the roster with the exception of the Olympic Gold Medalist, and in order to win his second WWE title, he had to go through the measuring stick for success on SmackDown. Additionally, Angle went rogue on the WWE Universe shortly before the bout, setting up Lesnar as the next big babyface in WWE.
Had this match taken place today, it likely would not have headlined WrestleMania, simply because of how stacked the rest of the card was. That was a time when winning the Rumble match still had value and guaranteed the victor a main event slot at WrestleMania, and this matchup was definitely deserving of that honor. Almost exactly one year removed from his main roster debut, Lesnar was ready to solidify himself as "The Next Big Thing" by knocking off Angle for the WWE Championship.
One of the many reasons why I love this match was because it was essentially everything you could ask for in a pure wrestling match. Both guys had wrestling backgrounds and therefore it was no surprise they found such excellent chemistry with each other. Angle, ever the ultimate heel, turned the crowd against him in Seattle as they rallied behind the beast. Hold for hold, blow for blow, the two were very much equally matched.
Sadly, the match is remembered for Lesnar's botched Shooting Star Press, and boy, did it look ugly. You have to give it to him for attempting to have his "WrestleMania moment" and he did hit it successfully several times before in developmental, but according to Lesnar, it was someone else's (John Laurinaitis?) idea for him to go for it. At any rate, that backfired for Brock, who still managed to power through with an F5 on Angle to secure the win and the prestigious prize. Lesnar earned Angle's respect that historic evening, and they earned their spot on my list of my top 31 favorite WrestleMania matches.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #30: Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 30"