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.
It's weird for match that occurred long before I started watching wrestling to rank this high on my list of favorite WrestleMania matches, but if you have ever had the pleasure of seeing this classic contest from WrestleMania 21, no explanation is needed. That event, to me, marked an all-new era in WWE, an era that featured the rise of several fresh faces including John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, Edge and others. But in the midst of the youth movement, two men remained cornerstones of the company: Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle.
You might be saying to yourself, "Wait, Michaels and Angle had never gone on-on-one prior to WrestleMania 21?" It's crazy to think about, but in actuality, when would they have faced off? Angle debuted in WWE in November 1999, a year and half after Michaels was put on the shelf indefinitely with a back injury. By the time The Heartbreak Kid returned to the ring in the summer of 2002, Angle was already a part of the SmackDown brand and the two remained on separate shows for the next three years.
Coming off his loss of the WWE Championship in late 2004, Angle was hungrier than ever to regain the gold going into 2005. But once he entered the Royal Rumble match, he was quickly eliminated by Michaels. The startled Angle soon resurfaced in the Rumble and took out Michaels, kicking off their highly enjoyable feud going into WrestleMania season that featured a short-lived reunion of The Rockers, Angle injuring Marty Jannetty and Sensational Sherri, and reciting Michaels' entrance theme with his own unique lyrics.
Their rivalry went far beyond their entertaining antics, however, as Angle mentioned how when he won his first Olympic Gold Medal in 1996, the only thing people were talking about was the kid who descended from the ceiling at a little event called WrestleMania 12 and won the WWE Championship in the main event against Bret Hart. Angle's jealousy of HBK ran deep, and now, he was determined to prove his superiority over Mr. WrestleMania by beating him on the grandest stage of them all.
At the time, Michaels represented Raw and Angle represented SmackDown, but brand supremacy was the last thing on the minds of both competitors in this battle. It was merely a matter of who was better, and this one match at WWE's biggest show of the year would decide that once and for all. No gold was up for grabs (championship or Olympic), nothing was. Although the night closed out with back-to-back world championship matches and title changes, the night belonged to these two iconic wrestlers.
Needless to say, Michaels is referred to as Mr. WrestleMania for a reason, a nickname he earned following many remarkable matches at the showcase of the immortals. His epic encounter with Angle was no different as he went to great lengths to put him away and score the victory, including connecting with a high crossbody off the top rope and onto Angle on the outside. Once they returned to the ring, they ditched the chain wrestling and immediately started digging down deep within for the most powerful moves in their respective arsenals.
One of my favorite reversals in the match came when Michaels went for the Sweet Chin Music only for Angle to catch his foot and turn it into an Ankle Lock of his own. HBK was able to get out of it in addition to kicking out of two Angle Slams, one coming from the top rope! But for everything that Angle was (including an arrogant ass), he was resilient. He looked to execute a picture perfect moonsault only to come up short, though it wasn't long after that he reversed another Sweet Chin Music into an Ankle Lock for the tap-out victory.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #4: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 26"