Case study: No Way Out 2006, Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker (World Heavyweight Championship match)
Undertaker goes on the attack as soon as the bell rings. Undertaker, however, misses on a running big boot attempt as Angle rolls out of the way. Angle ducks a clothesline from Undertaker and locks his arms around Undertaker’s waist to deliver a German suplex. Undertaker uses his strength to reach the ropes and create separation. Angle slowly releases his grip on the Undertaker, but shoves Undertaker in the process. Undertaker chases Angle, but Angle scurries out of the ring. Angle reenters the ring. Undertaker applies a side headlock on Angle. Angle shoves Undertaker into the ropes, but Undertaker shoulder tackles Angle. Undertaker covers Angle and earns a one count. Undertaker rams Angle’s left arm into the top turnbuckle and lifts Angle by his left arm. Undertaker lands a leg drop on Angle’s left arm. As Undertaker goes for Old School, Angle fights out of it with a series of punches. Angle attempts to Irish whip Undertaker, but Undertaker bends Angle’s left arm. This time, Undertaker successfully hits Old School on Angle. Angle recovers quickly though and charges at Undertaker, but Undertaker face plants Angle. Undertaker connects with Snake Eyes. Angle again avoids a big boot from Undertaker and drops Undertaker with a German suplex. Undertaker reverses an Irish whip from Angle into an Irish whip of his own, sending Angle into the corner. Undertaker lands a running high knee on Angle. Undertaker fails to connect with a big boot for the third time in the match when Angle sidesteps him. Angle shoves Undertaker off the apron causing Undertaker to bounce off the barricade.
Analysis: The story being told is one of strength versus speed. Angle is able to avoid some of Undertaker’s offense by being nimble in the ring. Of course, Undertaker asserts his power most noticeably when hoisting Angle over his head and balancing Angle with Angle’s left arm. On a side note, it’s rare to see Undertaker perform a running single leg high knee these days. So, it felt fresh watching it here.
Angle drives Undertaker’s head straight into the steel steps. Angle tries an aerial move off the apron, but Undertaker catches Angle in midair and sends Angle spine first into the steel ring post. Undertaker performs his signature apron leg drop on Angle. Both men return to the ring. Undertaker covers Angle. Angle raises his right shoulder for a two count. Undertaker signals for chokeslam and grabs Angle by the throat. Angle kicks Undertaker’s left knee repeatedly to avoid Undertaker’s chokeslam. Undertaker knocks Angle down with a right hand. Angle eludes a clothesline from Undertaker and brings Undertaker down with a chop block. Angle slams Undertaker’s left leg into the steel ring post multiple times. Angle wraps Undertaker’s legs around the ring post and performs a figure-four leglock. Angle positions Undertaker’s left leg on the bottom rope and twice drops all of his weight onto Undertaker’s left leg. On Angle’s third try, Undertaker uses his right leg to launch Angle over the top rope. Angle, however, hangs on and stomps Undertaker’s left knee. Angle uppercuts Undertaker before Undertaker tosses Angle over the second rope.
Analysis: I believe the idea was for Angle to actually go over the top rope when Undertaker used his right leg to deter Angle from dropping all of his weight onto Undertaker’s left leg. For whatever reason, Angle was unable to follow through with the planned spot which led to some improvisation on Angle and Undertaker’s part. The brilliance of it all was how seamless they were in pulling an audible to the point where the botch was almost unnoticeable. Bravo to both men on cleaning it up. This situation served as an example of why Angle and Undertaker are considered elite performers.
Undertaker places Angle on the apron as he attempts his signature leg drop once more. Angle catches Undertaker’s right leg and applies the Ankle Lock outside the ring. Angle momentarily returns to the ring to reset referee Nick Patrick’s 10 count. Angle reapplies the Ankle Lock, but this time on Undertaker’s injured left leg. Angle throws Undertaker back into the ring. Angle tackles Undertaker, but Undertaker catches Angle in a triangle choke. Angle reaches the ropes with his legs to force a rope break. Undertaker and Angle battle outside the ring. Undertaker launches Angle into a steel chair and into ring announcer Tony Chimel. Undertaker briefly returns to the ring to prevent a countout. As Undertaker approaches Angle, Angle slams Undertaker through the Spanish announce table with an Angle Slam. Angle returns to the ring. Nick Patrick begins to count to 10. Undertaker does not return to the ring before the count of 10, but Angle convinces Nick Patrick not to countout Undertaker. Angle insists on beating Undertaker via pinfall. Angle leaves the ring and strikes Undertaker in the face. Angle attempts to Irish whip Undertaker, but Undertaker reverses and sends Angle crashing into the steel steps. Undertaker throws Angle back into the ring. Undertaker climbs to the top turnbuckle. Angle recovers and attempts to superplex Undertaker. Undertaker blocks Angle’s attempt with a headbutt that drops Angle to the canvas. Angle quickly gets back to his feet and performs a belly-to-belly suplex on Undertaker off the top rope. Angle hooks Undertaker’s right leg for a cover. Undertaker lifts his right shoulder for a two count. Undertaker drops Angle with a big boot. Undertaker goes for a chokeslam, but Angle reverses into an Ankle Lock. Undertaker fights out of it by applying a triangle choke, but Angle counters and reapplies the Ankle Lock. Undertaker rolls through to break the hold. Undertaker chokeslams Angle and covers Angle. Angle kicks out at two.
Analysis: Angle opting not to win via countout showed his desire to defeat Undertaker decisively. Angle also represented himself as a fighting champion with his actions. Undertaker and Angle delivered a superb sequence from the moment Angle reversed Undertaker’s chokeslam into the Ankle Lock all the way through to when Undertaker chokeslammed Angle. Sequences lead to believable nearfalls and the same applied in this case when Undertaker chokeslammed Angle. The crowd bought into the nearfall despite the fact that a chokeslam from Undertaker is used more often as a signature move than a match ending maneuver as a result of a well executed sequence.
Undertaker positions Angle for a Last Ride, but Angle counters into an Ankle Lock. Undertaker kicks away at Angle to break the hold. Angle ducks a clothesline from Undertaker and Angle Slams Undertaker. Angle hooks Undertaker’s right leg. Undertaker raises his shoulder at the count of two. Angle pulls his straps down at the same time that Undertaker sits up. Both men exchange haymakers. Undertaker Irish whips Angle into the ropes and lifts him for a Tombstone Piledriver. Angle reverses and places Undertaker on the receiving end of a Tombstone Piledriver. Undertaker, however, counters and repositions Angle in place for a Tombstone Piledriver. Angle slips out and applies the Ankle Lock on Undertaker. Angle wraps both of his legs around Undertaker’s left leg to firmly apply the Ankle Lock. Undertaker uses his right leg to break the hold. Angle connects with a second Angle Slam. As Angle goes for a cover, Undertaker applies a triangle choke. Angle looks to be passed out as the referee begins to raise Angle’s left arm three times. Angle responds after the referee raises his arm a third time. Angle flips into a bridging roll up to pin Undertaker and retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
Analysis: An unexpected finish to an amazing match. The roll up finish is often times undesirable especially when it occurs in a championship match. It makes the outcome come off fluky and inconclusive. I believe it was booked as such to protect both superstars heading into the biggest show of the year, WrestleMania. Angle would go on to defend the World Title in a triple threat match against Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio while Undertaker placed his undefeated WrestleMania streak on the line versus Mark Henry.
Additional comments: This matchup deserved to be reserved for WrestleMania 22. All these years later, my opinion remains the same. A missed opportunity by WWE to feature a convincing challenger to Undertaker’s undefeated streak. Angle had earned an impressive victory over Michaels at the previous year’s WrestleMania. What better opponent for Undertaker than someone who had just defeated “Mr. WrestleMania.” Nonetheless, if you haven’t watched this match, do yourself a favor and do so. It can certainly be classified as a hidden gem given its placement on a secondary pay-per-view.
Verdict: A matchup worthy of headlining WrestleMania.
Final rating: **** (out of five)
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