Kurt Angle is one of the best WWE in ring performers in history. If you go back and watch almost any match from his first run in WWE, the one spanning from 1999 to 2006, you will witness beautiful wrestling like you have never seen it before. Matches like Angle vs. Shawn Michaels from Wrestlemania 21, Hell in a Cell from Armageddon 2000, and Angle vs. Benoit from Royal Rumble 2003 stand out as some of the greatest matches of his career, if not of all time. But when you’re as talented as Kurt Angle, you’re bound to have some gems that are underrated, if not completely ignored all together. That is why I have decided to compile a list of five underrated OR relatively unknown matches that show how truly amazing the Olympic Gold Medalist really is.
5. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit for the WWE Championship, Royal Rumble 2003
Truthfully, I argued with myself for a very long time on if I should put this match on the list. As I mentioned earlier, this is widely regarded as one of Kurt Angle’s best matches, receiving a 4 and 3/4 star rating from Dave Meltzer (if you care about that) and averaging 9.43/10 rating on Cagematch. Not only that, but my original intention with this list was just to name some widely ignored Angle matches, and this is definitely not an ignored match in his catalog. However, I do not think this match gets the recognition it deserves as as one of the best WWE matches of ALL TIME. I understand the extenuating circumstances surrounding Chris Benoit that make it difficult for anyone, especially WWE, to talk about him. However, his actions don’t force a drop in the quality of his work, and his work with Angle is proof of that.
The chemistry between Angle and Benoit is undeniable. This match spans all of 19 minutes and 49 seconds, and there is truly not one moment I would say is missable. During my first time watching this contest, I was at the edge of my seat even though I knew who was winning. When Angle reversed the Crossface into the Ankle Lock SEAMLESSLY, my jaw dropped. This is genuinely one of the best matches I have ever seen, and I feel like nothing more I can say will do it justice.
4. Kurt Angle vs. Ric Flair, RAW 6/27/2005
There are few matches where the competitors alone speak for the potential quality of the match. This is one of those matches. When you put two of the greatest wrestlers of all time in the ring together, no matter the circumstance, it rarely turns up a bad result. This is proof of that.
At 56 years old, Ric Flair knew that he could not beat Kurt Angle cleanly. Angle was in his prime, and putting on some of the most impressive performances of his career. Angle had Flair beat in almost every important category. He was faster, stronger, and healthier than Flair could ever be at that age. However, Flair had two important advantages: experience and craftiness. Throughout his illustrious career, Flair had learned every trick in the book and when to use them, and use them he did. Despite Angle absolutely destroying him for most of the match, Flair always regained the upper hand by biting fingers, raking eyes, and even at one point, grabbing the nuts of The Olympic Gold Medalist.
This match is not the best match of either Angle or Flair’s career. However, this is an extremely fun match put on by two of the best this business has ever seen. The only negative about this match is that it makes you wonder…what would a match with Flair and Angle look like in BOTH of their primes? It could possibly be the greatest match of all time.
3. Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship, No Way Out 2006
At this time in 2006, both The Undertaker and Kurt Angle were deep into their WWE careers. Both were multi time World Champions, and had faced the best of the best when it comes to submission wrestling. Despite having multiple encounters earlier in Angle’s career, those facts are what made this match a perfect storm, and helped create one of the most underrated matches I have ever seen.
After defeating Mark Henry at Royal Rumble 2006, Kurt Angle was riding high as the World Heavyweight Champion. This ride did not last long, as after the match, The Undertaker revealed himself as Angle’s next challenger. The story for this match was easy to tell: The Undertaker was the best pure striker in WWE, and Kurt Angle was far and away the best technical wrestler. This match was a clash of styles, one that hadn’t been seen on pay-per-view in almost six years. But there was an added factor that was not an important part of any of their previous encounters: prior to this match, neither of these men had lost via tap out.
Throughout the entire match, both men fought tooth and nail to lock in a submission on the other. In fact, they both would give up surefire victories, both pinfalls and count-outs, just so they could lock a submission in on the other in an attempt to make them quit. With both the striker vs. technician story and the submission story in play, this match lived up to its potential and more, creating what I would say is a top 5 match for either man.
2. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit vs. Edge and Rey Mysterio, 2/3 Falls for the WWE Tag Team Championships, Smackdown 11/7/2002
In recent years, it has been proven that the tag team division functions better with just one championship. Both the RAW and Smackdown tag team divisions have suffered due to the brand split as it limits the amount of teams on each brand. While this may be true now, it was not back in 2002. After the inaugural brand split, Smackdown lacked a championship for their tag teams. In order to fix this issue, a tournament was started which culminated at No Mercy 2002. At that event, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit defeated Rey Mysterio and Edge to become the first WWE Tag Team Champions in what many say is one of the best tag team matches of all time. However, in the weeks following, Benoit and Angle began to grow distant, going as far as to brawl during the Halloween episode of Smackdown.
The week following their brawl, Angle and Benoit were forced to defend their WWE Tag Team Championships in a 2/3 Falls match against Mysterio and Edge. Throughout the match, Benoit and Angle’s dissension showed, becoming a focal point in the match. Mysterio and Edge of course took advantage of this fact throughout the match. Despite the dissension, Angle and Benoit were always able to gain the upper hand. The first two falls move rather quickly, which helps the pace of the match, while the third fall is where the real meat is.
This match is a match that is often forgotten about, likely due to the Benoit situation and the fact it took place on Smackdown. However, I would go as far as to say this is better than its No Mercy predecessor. The only blemish this match has is a false fall towards the end of the match that halts the pace, however that blemish is small in comparison to the classic that was put on here.
1. Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio, Summerslam 2002
Yes, this is the second match on this list where Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle have been on opposite sides. Yes, those matches are the top two matches on the list. I’m not quite sure why, but Mysterio and Angle have this undeniable chemistry together. Every match where both of them are involved end up being at least good, be it tag team or triple threat. But when they face off one on one? Magic happens. This match is one that does get a lot of praise. In fact, earlier this year, highlights from this match went viral on wrestling Twitter, receiving over 8,700 likes and 1,800 retweets. The recently released EC3 even responded to it, replying with a simple but effective, “this ruled.” And rule this match did.
The story is simple but effective. Not only was this a first time one on one meeting (although they did wrestle each other at a house show the night before), this was ground technician versus high flyer. The entire match was based around Rey Mysterio out maneuvering Angle with his speed, and Angle trying to ground Mysterio in order to kill his momentum. What makes this match even more impressive is that it told a comprehensive story in less than 10 minutes, clocking in at 9 minutes and 25 seconds.
Rarely does a match that lasts under 10 minutes accomplish what this match does. Every single second is must watch material, and I would go as far as to say this is the best less than 10 minute match I have ever seen. If you are looking for a quick but enjoyable match to watch in your free time, this is the one you need to see.