(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Vengeance 2005

Kurt Angle Shawn Michaels

At WrestleMania 21, Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels had one of the best matches of all time, one of the true “dream matches” that really lived up to that status.

Even now, almost twenty years later, Angle versus Michaels is still regarded as one of the best singles matches in WWE history.

But could they do it again? Let’s 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

Angle got drafted to RAW in June 2005 and on his first appearance on that show Shawn challenged him to a WrestleMania 21 rematch. That it, simple but effective.

The match

This match originally took place on June 26, 2005. It was rated ****1/2 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.

Kurt Angle Shawn Michaels

They lock-up and Angle powers Shawn into a corner. Angle easily wrestles Shawn to the mat but Shawn gets a quick ropebreak. Shawn applies a headlock and keeps it cinched in on an Irish whip attempt. Angle powers Shawn into a corner to get a break and then gets a single-leg takedown. The crowd fires up as Angle applies another headlock. Shawn sends Angle into the ropes and Angle knocks him down with a shoulderblock. Shawn retaliates with a hiptoss and an armdrag into a grounded armlock. Angle fights up and pulls Shawn down by his hair because he knows how to be a proper heel and counters into an armlock of his own. Angle drops a knee on Shawn’s left elbow which causes Shawn to bail to ringside.

Shawn returns and hits back with stiff (right-hand) chops that send Angle to ringside. Angle returns and tries another amateur takedown but Shawn escapes the ring once again. After another tense standoff, Angle grabs Shawn’s leg and tries an ankle lock. Shawn avoids it as much as possible so Angle switches to a half crab. Shawn gets a quick ropebreak but Angle takes his time letting go.

Angle argues with the referee and that gives Shawn enough time to recover a bit. He fights back with punches and lands more hard chops. Angle reverses a corner whip but Michaels gets a boot up. Michaels goes for a second-rope diving sunset flip. Angle counters into an ankle lock. Michaels counters quickly and rolls out and clotheslines Angle out of the ring.

Shawn chops Angle at ringside but Angle hits back and teases another Angle Slam into the steel ringpost. But this time Shawn escapes and tries smashing Angle’s head into it instead. Angle elbows out and the two hit each other back-and-forth. Angle ducks a clothesline and hits a German suplex onto the commentary table!

Angle breaks the ref’s ring-out count and then covers him in the ring for a two-count. Angle starts working Shawn’s head and neck with a kneelift and a neckbreaker and then gets four consecutive two-counts. Angle locks a cravate hold against the top rope and then foot chokes him in a corner. The crowd fires up again as Angel lands big uppercuts to the point that the ref starts pulling Angle away from Shawn. A punch exchange ensues and Angle wins it and hits a huge bucklebomb but only gets a two-count.

Angle drops elbows on Shawn’s back and chest and lands a snap suplex for another two-count. He follows with a chinlock but Shawn eventually fights out and sends Angle into a corner. Angle dodges a corner charge and hits another German for yet another two-count. Angle goes for an Angle Slam. Shawn escapes via armdrag so Angle clotheslines him down. Angle goes for an avalanche belly-to-belly but Shawn fights out. Shawn goes for a diving ax handle. Angle catches him and hits an overhead belly-to-belly suplex and gets another close two-count. Sleeper hold by Angle. The crowd fires up as Shawn fights on. Shawn starts fading so Angle covers him with the sleeper still cinched in. one, two, Shawn kicks out. Angle keeps up the pressure and keeps getting into pinning predicaments but Shawn continues kicking out. Shawn fires up again, hits some elbows, and escapes the sleeper via back suplex.

Both men take time getting up and Shawn starts gaining momentum with a strike barrage. Angle reverses an Irish whip but Shawn lands a flying forearm and both guys collapse. Angle gets up slowly thinking he’s in control but Shawn kips up and is all fired up again. Shawn begins his comeback with punches, a Manhattan drop, and a clothesline. Shawn slams Angle and slowly goes to the top rope. Diving elbow drop connects. Shawn teases Sweet Chin Music…but Angle hits first with a huge clothesline. Angle goes for another Angle Slam. Shawn counters with a tornado-style DDT. One, two, Angle kicks out. Shawn covers a few more times but Angle still kicks out at two.

Shawn goes for a vertical suplex but Angle lands behind him. Angle hits one German and goes for a second but Shawn elbows out. Angle ducks a clothesline and finally lands the Angle Slam. The referee counts one…two…th – no, Shawn survives. Angle tries an ankle lock. Shawn counters with an inside cradle for a two-count.

Shawn ducks a clothesline and goes for a German of his own. Angle counters by rolling through into another ankle lock. Shawn rolls through and the momentum sends Angle into the referee. Shawn charges at Angle but Angle ducks and sends Shawn to the floor. Shawn lands badly and appears to hurt his knee. A bunch of doctors start checking on Shawn but Angle interferes and drags Shawn back into the ring. Angle fires up, ducks a SCM, and locks in another ankle lock! Shawn tries kicking him off but Angle rolls over and maintains ankle control. Shawn gets so close to the ropes when Angle pulls him back. He’s so closes to tapping, when suddenly, he manages to roll through and send Angle into a ringpost shoulder-first. Angle recovers first and rushes Shawn but Shawn hits first with Sweet Chin Music. Both men collapse.

After a long time, Shawn drapes his arm over Angle for a cover but only gets a two-count. Angle goes for a top-rope dive…but Michaels superkicks him in midair. Michaels covers. One, two, and three! Shawn beats Angle!

Winner after 26:09: Shawn Michaels


Matches like this one prove that you don’t have to go all the way back to the Attitude Era or even farther to find great matches. This was an excellent match that, while not as good as their WrestleMania match, was still impressive on its own. It was different from that first match and had more of an overt and easy story. Whereas the ‘Mania match was built on pure professionalism and an almost neutral competition between two equals, this match was more of a classic face versus heel encounter. Angle was outstanding here as the villain that had Shawn’s number and nearly had the match won on multiple occasions. And Shawn was the perfect babyface that refused to quit and fought desperately no matter what Angle threw at him.

It was well on its way to being a perfect match…until the finish.

While I appreciate these wrestlers’ attempts at a creative finish, the execution was off. As John Canton noted in his review, Angle rarely went to the top rope. His only diving move was a moonsault and not any forward dives. So when Angle climbed the turnbuckle a different way, it telegraphed what was coming. And while it made for a nice visual, it should’ve been done differently. A better finish would’ve been for Angle to miss his moonsault and for Shawn to then hit SCM right away to capitalize on Angle’s mistake. It would’ve sold the story of desperation and it would’ve given Shawn a huge moment to build up and execute his finisher perfectly.

Additionally, the ref bump was completely inconsequential in this match. As a general rule I hate ref bumps because they’re a sign of lazy booking and a lack of creativity. The ref bump is a hackneyed tool that almost always leads to interference or some sort of shenanigans. Here, the bump didn’t lead to anything, so what was the point of doing it? To create false drama that didn’t matter in the story? To pad the match’s length? It would’ve been best not to do that spot because it took the focus away from the two wrestlers without moving the story forward in any meaningful way.

Aside from those two things, though, this match was outstanding. It came across as an “epic” of sorts that was all about quick counters, deep storytelling, and solid psychology. Angle tried destroying Shawn’s leg, neck, and back to try and stop his march forward but couldn’t come up with a winning strategy. Shawn overcame incredible odds and pulled himself out from a deep and almost inescapable pit to barely survive Angle’s onslaught. While Shawn didn’t go as far on the offensive side as Angle did, he still did an incredible job of selling Angle as a big deal and generating sympathy from the audience. These two really did have excellent chemistry and it’s a shame their rubber match in October went to a draw, meaning we never learned who the best between them was.

Final Rating: ****3/4

While this isn’t on the same level as the WrestleMania 21 match, this was still tremendous. Angle and Michaels really were two of the best in modern WWE history and I strongly recommend re-watching this. It has aged very well and doesn’t really falter in any way aside from the two small issues that still can’t be ignored.

When people talk about Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle as these two incredible wrestling greats, they do so because of matches like this. It came about because of the simplest of reasons and had almost no build whatsoever. And yet, these two fought in such a competitive, exciting, and unpredictable wrestling match. Small wonder, then, that Angle’s short WWE career and Shawn’s second half are both regarded with such reverence by WWE fans.

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.