(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon – WWE King of the Ring 2001

shane-mcmahon-kurt-angle-wwe king of the ring 2001

For over twenty years, the general opinion on this match has been “it has no right to be this good.” It’s pretty obvious as to why: one of the men involved, Shane, was not a trained wrestler. He just so happened to be the boss’s son and I guess he wanted to experience the excitement (and pain) of being a wrestler firsthand. On the flipside, there’s a clear reason why this match was and still is so good: Kurt Angle, arguably the quickest learner in pro wrestling history.

If anyone could pull a great match out of a man as out of his depth as Shane, it was Angle. But did he really drag such a great match out of Shane? Or was this just another example of a match’s shock value causing fans to overrate its overall quality? Read on to find out.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

Kurt Angle won the 2000 KOTR tournament and thus was a favorite to either reach the finals here or win again. Angle worked triple duty on this show, having beaten Christian in the tournament semi-finals and then losing to Edge in the finals. Angle lost due to interference from Shane, with whom Angle had been feuding for a month or so. Shane interrupted Angle’s celebration after regaining his Olympic gold medals from Chris Benoit and later Angle attacked Shane. Shane retaliated and attacked Angle not long afterward, thus setting up a singles match between the two.

The match

This match originally took place on June 24th, 2001. It was rated **** by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and ****1/2 by TJR’s John Canton.

This is a street fight with no rules except that a fall must be decided in the ring. Angle immediately double legs Shane. Angle was so angry he threw his precious gold medal on the floor as he entered. Angle lands some more takedowns and maintains waist control even as Shane tries countering or rolling out. Angle follows with a back suplex and plenty of kneelifts, but he goes for one knee to many as Shane catches his leg, avoids some punches, and lands a dragon screw leg whip. Shane follows with an armdrag and a sweep, and then bails to the floor after showboating with some amateur control.

Angle assumes an amateur wrestling position and braces for Shane to come in. there’s blood dripping down his head, likely from one of Shane’s punches, but Angle doesn’t care. Shane cautiously approaches and grabs Angle but Angle quickly wrestles into a dominant position and rains hammer fists on him. Angle follows with a gutwrench suplex and then an Irish whip fake-out into a belly-to-belly suplex. Still unsatisfied, Angle lands a second belly-to-belly, followed by some forearms to Shane’s head and some amateur wrestling rolling. Angle trash-talks Shane and goes back to the braced amateur position. Shane teases going for another wrestling lock but surprises everyone with a stiff kick to Angle’s ribs. Shane hits back with a back elbow and some clotheslines but Angle ducks a third clothesline and lands another amateur takedown. Shane escapes a waistlock by running around and dumping Angle to the floor.

Angle chases Shane around the ring until Shane lands an ax handle off the barricade. Shane hides behind the commentators and the referee, for some reason, makes Angle back away as he approaches. That distraction allows Shane to leap over JR and Heyman and hit a flying clothesline. Then Shane pulls out a kendo stick from under the ring. Shane gets some nasty shots in on Angle but Angle rushes Shane into the ringpost. Angle charges for a clothesline but Shane sidesteps. Angle hits the post hard and then Shane clotheslines Angle (and himself) over the barricade. Angle tries a sleeper from over the barricade but Shane escapes and pulls Angle over. Shane goes after Angle’s ribs with some punches and some armdrags into the barricade. Then Shane tackles Angle, sending him into the steel ringsteps. He tosses Angle into the ring and covers but Angle doesn’t just kick out at two; he bridges out at two. Three times in a row.

Shane drops an elbow on Angle’s chest and then pulls out some weapons from under the ring. He whacks Angle’s back and head with a metal sign and covers for a two-count and regains control. He lands some kneelifts and tries hitting an enzuigiri as Shane catches his leg but Shane ducks and locks in an ankle lock. Angle kicks free with his other leg but his newfound slowness allows Shane to block a corner charge and hit a float-over DDT. Shane follows with a sharpshooter. Angle touches the ropes but Shane pulls him back so Angle whacks Shane with the kendo stick to break the hold.

Shane leapfrogs and ducks to dodge some kendo stick shots and lands some jabs for another two-count. then he smashes Angle with a garbage can, hitting Angle’s head and abdomen. But instead of hitting Angle again, Shane places the can on Angle and ascends a turnbuckle. Shooting star press…misses Angle but not the trash can. Angle crawls over for a cover but Shane kicks out.

Angle dumps Shane to the floor and smashes him into the barricade. Angle goes for a suplex on the ramp but Shane blocks and lands a reverse suplex of his own. Angle hits with a nasty thud and cracks his tailbone. That move was improvised by Angle on the spot and he regretted it immediately. There was only a thin layer of carpet over the steel entrance ramp, so Angle landed ass-first on an unforgiving surface. I have no idea how Angle’s even getting up, much less continuing this match.

Anyway, the brawling continues up the entrance ramp until smashes Shane’s head into a piece of the entrance set. Angle staggers around in excruciating pain as he approaches the top of the stage.

And now for this match’s most famous moment.

Angle pulls Shane up as he stands in front of a glass wall with the letter KOR written on it. Belly-to-belly suplex! The wall doesn’t break. Shane falls head-first onto the concrete with a DISGUSTING thud! HOLY F**K!

Amazingly, Shane gets up seconds later, only for Angle to land a second belly-to-belly. This time the glass shatters. Angle even cuts his shoulder on some of the glass. Damn, this is nuts! But Angle’s not done. He goes in from the other side and lands another belly-to-belly onto another KOR wall and it too doesn’t break. But this time Angle breaks Shane’s fall so that Shane doesn’t break his neck or worse. Some fans chant “one more time” and Angle obliges them but the wall still doesn’t break so Angle just tosses Shane through it face-first. Angle goes for a cover but it has to be in the ring (for some reason) but he barely has the strength to drag Shane over so he grabs some stage equipment with wheels and uses it as a cart. All of this, I must emphasize, is being done by a man with a cracked tailbone. Angle drags Shane’s carcass into the ring and covers. One…two…thr – no, Shane kicks out.

Angle goes to hit Shane’s head with a garbage can lid but Shane hits first with a low blow. Shane hits Angle with the lid and then lands an Angle Slam on Angle for a two-count. Shane tries blocking an ankle lock but Angle counters with a catapult toss into a corner. Angle grabs a wooden board that Shane brought in earlier and whacks Shane’s back with it. Then he sets it up in a corner to create a platform…and lands a top-rope Angle Slam! Angle crawls over for a cover. One…two…three! Angle wins the match! JR: “Mercifully…My God, it’s over!”

Winner after 25:58: Kurt Angle

Post-match, two referees help Angle to the back since he can’t walk on just his own power. Meanwhile, two other refs have to basically carry Shane to the back because he has barely moved since the finish. Shane gets a loud ovation as his music plays, and then he lets go of the refs as he reaches the stage. He tries to leave by his own power but he staggers and still needs the refs to guide him to the back.


Astonishingly great match. As I said in the intro, this match shouldn’t’ve been so good but it was. It surpassed all expectations. Shane was untrained yet he took an incredible beating. The match was entertaining as hell simply because it was so absurd. Logically speaking, Angle should’ve mopped the floor with Shane without any trouble. But this match threw logic out the window in favor of mayhem and carnage. On one hand, the match had some absurd moments, especially when Shane was on offense. On the other hand, there was something oddly captivating about seeing this non-wrestler not only hold his own against Angle but also keep enduring incredible punishment and pushing himself to the extreme. Even after two decades, this match’s reputation is well-deserved and it still holds up very well.

Both men were out of their element here. Angle wasn’t fresh after wrestling two matches earlier and he wasn’t really known for competing in hardcore-style matches. As for Shane, he was at a much bigger disadvantage because he simply wasn’t a trained wrestler. What experience he had up to this point he got through limited help and training camps, and most of his matches up to this point were filled with smoke and mirrors and had plenty of gimmicks. In other words, this was a top-tier wrestler competing at maybe 70-75% against a noob who was at 100% but was outclassed in every way imaginable. And since Shane had a lot more experience wrestling in hardcore brawls, there was actually a level playing field here. The idea was that Shane had zero chance of winning because he had no solution for Angle’s technical skill or tenacity. So the big selling point of this match was seeing how crazy Shane would get to try and survive.

And boy, did he ever live up to that reputation.

Shane set a new standard for non-wrestlers wrestling in WWE. He had very limited skill in wrestling moves, so he used smoke and mirrors to make himself look better. He used tons of weapons to wear Angle down and stiffed Angle early on. Angle got busted open but he continued the match anyways (because he actually has guts) and the blood actually made for an interesting visual. Shane actually did some damage to Angle and showed that he wasn’t made of paper. But Angle didn’t obliterate Shane right then and there; he toyed with Shane and relished in showing his superiority on the mat. but that arrogance cost Angle because Shane used a bunch of weapons to turn the match back into his favor. Then Shane decided to show off his craziness even more with an SSP that missed Angle but hit the garbage can. And once the brawling up the entrance ramp began, the viewers were in for something special, for better or worse.

Angle and Shane bled for their craft, and both men endured incredible pain and still kept going. Angle’s spontaneous decision to call an audible with the suplex on the ramp caused him to crack his tailbone. As I said earlier, it was incredible that he not only stood up after that but continued moving and hitting wrestling moves as if he wasn’t in pain at all. Call it passion or call an adrenaline rush; Angle was able to fight through immense pain to continue what was supposed to do.

As for Shane, he survived one of the most sickening bumps I’ve ever heard in wrestling. Throughout this match reviews series, I’ve seen some of the most insane, murderous, and psychotic landings in history. I’ve seen some guys get dropped on their heads and necks in ways that make it look like it’s a miracle that those wrestlers were even alive afterwards. But only once before in the history of this series has there been a bump so insane that it gave off such a loud THUD. And this one was worse. Shane fell head-first onto concrete from a good 2-3 feet in the air. The sound of his head hitting concrete was loud; it was one of those sickening moments where you think “how is he still moving”? But that wasn’t all; Angle threw Shane into the glass panes a few more times, and because they weren’t breaking the first time Angle had to repeat those spots over and over. it didn’t matter that these were technically ‘botches’; Angle showed more brutality by going all in with throwing Shane through panes of glass. He was so determined to win that he wouldn’t abandon those spots, no matter how many times he had to throw Shane’s nearly-lifeless body through them.

Then there was the ending which ended up really overcoming a few minutes of dead air. There was this long time of dead air between Shane’s last flight through the glass and Angle bringing him to the ring. it was slow and uneventful, mainly because both men were seriously hurt for real. But to end the match on the highest note possible, Angle endured even more punishment to his already cracked tailbone and executed a top-rope Angle Slam that probably hurt him more than it hurt Shane. This is one of those moments that proves that pro wrestling isn’t a job for everyone; you MUST have not only natural toughness but a willingness to risk permanent damage and long-term consequences for a few fleeting moments of excitement and success.

Final Rating: ****1/4

Shane McMahon with Kurt Angle in Ankle Lock

This is absolutely a must-watch match. Angle took a guy with no formal training or experience and dragged a classic out of him. Both Angle and Shane deserve tons of credit for exceeding expectations by putting their bodies through incredible danger and pain.

This is definitely the best match in Shane’s career by a wide margin. He has had so many bad matches and been overrated for so many years. But the way I see it, Shane had been trying to relive and copy what he did in this match with Angle, only to fail every time.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.