A sequel to a classic wrestling match is no different than a sequel to a movie that broke box office records. Fans eagerly await its release in theaters or in this case on pay-per-view. Angle and Michaels were faced with the challenge of making it worth the wait. Unlike the movie industry where production for a second part could take years to complete, in the wrestling business part two of a wrestling match could happen the night after their initial encounter. Angle versus Michaels, the rematch, was not impromptu, but it would only take less than three months to see them re-create something special.
If you missed my review of their classic WrestleMania 21 match, here’s the link to that.
Case study: Vengeance 2005 – Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 21 Rematch)
In the beginning stages of the match, Angle aims for Michaels’ left ankle when he drops Michaels on his back with a single leg takedown. Michaels reaches for the bottom rope to nullify Angle’s attempt at the Ankle Lock. Michaels desperately kicks Angle away when Angle decides not to break the hold in a timely manner. Moments later, Michaels performs a hip toss and an arm drag on Angle before applying an armbar submission. Angle reverses with an armbar submission of his own after pulling on Michaels’ hair. Michaels scurries out of the ring after Angle drives his left knee directly into Michaels’ left arm. Michaels re-enters the ring and connects with a pair of chops to Angle’s chest. This time Angle departs the ring to regroup. Angle returns to the ring and catches Michaels with a single leg takedown, but Michaels slips away and leaves the ring. Collar-and-elbow tie-up in the center of the ring now as Angle backs Michaels into a corner. Angle pulls Michaels out of the corner by his leg and attacks his left ankle. Michaels continues to fight off Angle’s insistence to apply the Ankle Lock, which forces Angle to apply a Boston crab, instead. Michaels successfully gets his hands on the ropes, so referee Jack Doan demands Angle to break the hold. Angle, though, takes full advantage of the five count. Angle Irish whips Michaels into a corner. Michaels stuns Angle with a big boot when Angle charges at Michaels. Michaels goes for a sunset flip off the second rope, but Angle rolls through and locks in the Ankle Lock. Angle, however, is only able to keep his signature submission hold applied for a few seconds before Michaels is able to escape. Michaels clotheslines Angle over the top rope.
Analysis: Angle’s focus is to directly target Michaels’ left ankle as evident by the multiple single leg takedowns by Angle on Michaels early on. Michaels realizes he tapped out to the Ankle Lock in their first encounter at WrestleMania 21, so he urgently creates separation from Angle each time Angle bends over to grasp Michaels’ left ankle. Michaels and Angle make a conscious effort to provide consistent storytelling and meaningful correlation between both matches.
Outside the ring, Michaels smacks Angle’s chest with a couple of chops. Angle lifts Michaels in an Angle Slam position, but Michaels gets out of it. As Michaels is about to ram Angle’s head into the steel ring post, Angle elbows Michaels in the face. Angle fails to connect with a clothesline, but Michaels misses a clothesline attempt as well, which leads to Angle German suplexing Michaels onto the announce table. Angle throws Michaels back into the ring.
Analysis: The spot where Angle has Michaels up on his shoulders in an Angle Slam position is reminiscent of WrestleMania 21. I love how they were mindful of that and teased a recurrence in this match. Of course, this time Michaels was wise enough to prevent it from happening again. If you recall their previous match, Angle had Michaels in an Angle Slam position on the outside, just like in this match, except Angle proceeded to backpedal and send Michaels back first into the steel ring post. As a result, the momentum in the match would tilt in Angle’s favor.
Angle hooks Michaels’ right leg for the first cover of the matchup. Michaels kicks out at two. Angle takes down Michaels with a neckbreaker and goes for four straight pinfall attempts, but Michaels powers out of each of them. Angle chokes Michaels with the ropes and shoves his foot on Michaels’ throat. Angle stomps on Michaels several times and strikes Michaels with two European uppercuts. Michaels battles back with punches, but Angle punches back and kicks Michaels in the gut before laying out Michaels with a buckle bomb. Angle covers Michaels for a two count. Angle goes for yet another cover after slamming Michaels with a vertical suplex, but again only earns a two count on Michaels. Angle is Irish whipped into a corner by Michaels after Michaels frees himself from a headlock applied by Angle. Michaels’ left shoulder crashes into the top turnbuckle when Angle sidesteps Michaels. Angle maintains control as he German suplexes Michaels. Another cover by Angle, but Michaels raises his right shoulder for a two count. Michaels thwarts Angle’s first Angle Slam attempt of the match with an arm drag. Angle, however, recovers instantly and clotheslines Michaels. Angle again with a cover on Michaels, but Michaels stays in it. Angle sits Michaels on the top turnbuckle with the intention of executing a belly-to-belly overhead suplex. A series of body blows and forearm shots to the face from Michaels knocks Angle down to the canvas. Michaels jumps off the second rope, but is caught by Angle who delivers a belly-to-belly overhead suplex. Angle crawls into a cover for another two count.
Analysis: It’s the middle portion of the match in which the heel is in command of the offense. The babyface needs to rally otherwise the heel will dominate to victory. This is a pattern in the matches I have reviewed so far and it is not by accident, but by design. As I’ve said before, it’s a strategic approach that is done so that the crowd roots for the babyface.
Angle locks in a sleeper hold on Michaels. Angle releases it when Michaels performs a back suplex on Angle. Angle and Michaels exchange punches until Michaels gets the upper hand. Angle counters an Irish whip attempt by Michaels, but Michaels bounces off the ropes and lands a flying forearm on Angle.
Analysis: Here we go. Michaels is turning the tide. Once the babyface completes his comeback, it’s a good indication that the match is headed towards the finish.
Michaels hits an inverted atomic drop on Angle followed by a clothesline and a body slam. Michaels climbs to the top rope and comes crashing down on Angle with his signature elbow drop. As Michaels prepares to superkick Angle with Sweet Chin Music, Angle nails a clothesline on Michaels. Angle covers Michaels for a two count. Michaels plants Angle with a standing tornado DDT after Angle attempts an Angle Slam. Michaels slowly covers Angle with his right arm and keeps his right arm resting across Angle’s chest to cause multiple pinfall attempts. Angle gets his shoulder up three times before the count of three. Both men are slow to their feet. Angle reverses a vertical suplex from Michaels and instead Michaels takes a German suplex. Michaels elbows Angle in the face to avoid receiving a second German suplex. Michaels misses with a clothesline and Angle capitalizes with an Angle Slam. Angle covers Michaels to create the first true believable nearfall of the matchup. The second believable nearfall of the match is created when Michaels reveres an Ankle Lock attempt from Angle with an inside cradle. Angle misses a clothesline, but is able to stay on the attack and apply the Ankle Lock. Michaels rolls on his back which sends Angle flying and knocking down the referee in the process. Angle throws Michaels over the top rope. Michaels is immediately seen holding his leg in pain. Medical personnel check on Michaels, but Angle shoves them away and brings Michaels back into the ring.
Analysis: In hindsight, the ref bump served no purpose as far as I can tell. Angle did not target Michaels’ injured leg with a chair nor did Angle low blow Michaels at any point. It wasn’t a big distraction. It just seemed pointless.
Angle dodges Sweet Chin Music and places Michaels in the Ankle Lock. Michaels tries to kick Angle away, but Angle holds on. Michaels rolls to his back to no avail as Angle continues to hold on. Angle drags Michaels to the center of the ring when he notices Michaels inching closer to the ropes. Michaels teases tapping before countering and sending Angle shoulder first into the steel ring post. As Angle and Michaels slowly get back to a vertical base, Angle walks right into Sweet Chin Music. The referee begins to count to 10 with both men lying motionless. Michaels prevents the double countout by covering Angle with one arm. Angle lifts his right shoulder before the count of three and creates the third believable nearfall of the match. Angle climbs the turnbuckle, and as he launches himself off, he is met with Sweet Chin Music in midair. Michaels covers Angle for the pinfall victory.
Analysis: A clever finish to another entertaining, memorable match. At WrestleMania 21, Angle had the Ankle Lock on Michaels in the finishing moments of the match for an extended length of time before Michaels had no choice but to tap out. In the closing moments of this match, the same scenario transpired. The live crowd bought into the possibility of an Angle win, which is a sign of the performers successfully taking the crowd through an emotional roller coaster.
Additional Comments: The story in this match centered on Michaels’ redemption. Therefore, the booking decision to have Michaels go over at a pay-per-view titled “Vengeance” seemed appropriate. Once again they wrestled a flawless match. The duration of the match was only a minute shorter than their WrestleMania bout, which means they were given a fair amount of time to replicate their ‘Mania performance. The crowd applauded their efforts and deservedly so.
Verdict: A phenomenal follow-up to their WrestleMania 21 classic.
Final rating: ****3/4
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Kevin Pinto- firstname.lastname@example.org
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