411’s Top 30 WrestleMania Matches of All Time: #26 - Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle (WM 20)
Posted by Larry Csonka on 03.11.2014
411 continues its Countdown to WrestleMania 30 by heading back to WrestleMania 20 and the clash between Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle…
Welcome back to 411Mania, and welcome to 411's official countdown to WrestleMania 30! Every year, the 411 staff comes together in some way to bring you, the fine readers of our site, a special countdown to WrestleMania. In past years we have done special countdown columns, ranking the shows, rating them overall, discussing special aspects of the big event, and even columns that have served as odes to the matches and moments that are etched into our minds.
To some fans, WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year, and the way that WWE has transformed the event into a near weeklong party, it may as well be a holiday to the fans that love our special brand of entertainment. Call it sport or call it a specially designed male soap opera, we love it and we love to talk about what makes things special. WrestleMania is an institution, and this year, as the WWE gets prepared to put on their 30th WrestleMania event, we decided to go big. Starting on March 7th, and running all the way to April 5th, 411 will present the top 30 matches in WrestleMania history.
Each writer on the 411 staff was given the opportunity to nominate 30 matches of their choosing. #1 on their list received 30 points, #2 received 29 points, and so on and so forth. Writers were asked to base their lists on both match quality and historical significance to create their nominations. The final list was created, and there was a ton of competition for the top spot. In fact, the voting was so tight that the top FOUR matches were separated by a mere 16-points.
Each day we will present a match from the list, which will include a full recap of the match from the 411 archives (from Scott Slimmer, JD Dunn, and Robert Leighty Jr.) as well as thoughts from the writers. Thank you for reading, and we hope that you enjoy our presentation…
#26 – From WrestleMania 20 - WWE Heavyweight Championship: Eddy Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle
Big "Eddy!" chants from the NY crowd. Angle sets out with a front chancery. Eddy reverses, but Angle reverses that to a headlock. Crowd is split at this point. The first five minutes or so is filled with superb counter wrestling and psychology. Eddy shoulder blocks Angle to the outside. Back in, they hit the mat with some faux amateur stuff. Angle tries a suplex off a front facelock, but Eddy counters to a backdrop. Eddy arm drags him down into an armbar. Angle counters with a knee to the midsection to take over. Eddy counters an abdominal stretch to the Triple Verticals, but Angle counters THAT to the Rolling Germans. Eddy elbows away from Angle. Angle tries to backdrop suplex him over the top, but Eddy lands on the apron. Angle tries to German Suplex him off the apron! Eddy hangs on and elbows Angle to the floor. Eddy comes off the top, but Angle ducks out of the way, sending Eddy into the crowd barrier. Back inside, Angle targets Eddy's midsection with a body scissors. Eddy elbows out but gets hung up on the ropes. Angle goes back to a reverse bear hug. Eddy gets out of it but runs into a belly-to-belly. Angle catches Eddy going up and goes for the Super Belly-to-Belly. Eddy shoves him off the ropes and comes off with the frog splash. IT MISSES! Angle stalks Eddy, pasting him with rights. Eddy gets fired up and delivers a backdrop suplex. Angle slips over a vertical suplex and counters to a German suplex. Eddy counters a second to a Forward Rolling Cradle for two. Angle pops up and goes for the Angle slam, but Eddy counters to an armdrag. Eddy gets a head scissors and the Triple Verticals. Angle counters to the ankle lock. Eddy pushes out of it and dropkicks Angle in the face. Eddy goes up, but Angle pops up and throws him off the top rope! ONE, TWO, THR-NO! Angle grabs an other ankle lock, but Eddy reverses to ANOTHER Forward Rolling Cradle for two. Angle drops him with a German Suplex and goes for the Angle slam. Eddy counters to a TORNADO DDT! FROGSPLASH! ONE, TWO, THRE-NO!!! Angle rolled the shoulder! Eddy tries to pull Angle's prone body up, but Angle was just playing possum. He sweeps Eddy's legs and counters to the ankle lock. Eddy rolls forward, sending Angle to the outside. Eddy unties his boot and begs off. Angle goes for the kill with the ankle lock, but the boot FLIES OFF! Angle charges recklessly right into a perfect Guerrero small package. ONE, TWO, THREE! Eddy successfully defends his title at 21:32.
- By JD Dunn
Jack Stevenson: Hey gang are you all ready for my controversial wrestling opinion? Brace yourselves, it is high in controversy! I don't think Kurt Angle is all that good. I mean, he's not all that bad either, he's an entertaining character and has had plenty of solid matches, but in his career he has helped popularise a tedious and self-destructive style of endless finisher kick-outs as the only form of in ring drama, like Michael Bay but with less tricks up his sleeves. No matter the story or the match style, Kurt Angle is taking the first train to oh my god he kicked out of the Angle Slam but only at 2.9999999 how surprising-ville. It's ruined his body and it's convinced a surprising amount of people that he's some kind of in ring pioneer and I don't like it.
It's not surprising, then, that this is comfortably my favorite Kurt Angle match. It's also always been my favorite match from the Wrestlemania 20 card, even before the Benoit tragedies. Heck, it's one of my favorite matches full stop. I miss Eddie Guerrero. This is arguably his crowning achievement, a marvelous bout on the grandest stage of them all, radically different from any other WWE Championship match that year, and an absolute Eddie Guerrero match if there ever was one. It's creative, likeable, and totally fearless. It takes its time, moving at the pace it wants to. It doesn't build to an infuriating frenzy of disconnected near falls; Eddie falls victim to the Ankle Lock a couple of times, and his patented frog splash only gets two, but other than that, nothing. Its finish, with Eddie loosening his boot and then kicking it off as Angle tries to clamp another Ankle Lock on, leaving Kurt confused and primed for a sneaky inside cradle, is total genius, arguably one of the best bits of Eddie Guerrero cheating there ever was. There are intricate counters and superb, fluid sequences that go places you don't expect them to. It's not powered by bravado and noise, its brilliance is in its understated nature; in short, it's everything your usual Kurt Angle match isn't.
That understated nature, as well as the fact its position three quarters of the way through an exhausting, marathon card which was headlined by the more instantly impactful Benoit/Michaels/Triple H triple threat, and their under whelming rematch at Summerslam 2004, means this gets a lot less nostalgic praise than it deserves. I kind of like that though, I like the idea that there are still matches that took place ten years ago on the biggest stage in the world, yet still might surprise new viewers to this day. And this does surprise you, you watch it and you don't realize how captivated you are till it finishes. It's magnificent.
Ryan Byers: I'm going to have to be perfectly honest and say that, when we on the 411mania staff cast our votes that lead to the creation of this list, Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle from Wrestlemania XX was not on my ballot. However, when the results of the voting came in and I saw that this match qualified, I gave it some more thought and concluded that I could understand why the staff collectively decided to rank it. With performers who were at the level that Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero were at in 2004, as long as they were given a decently long block of time, they would have to have tried to have a bad match . . . and this particular encounter was far from bad. It was a near-perfect combination of Angle's "mat work early, big highspots late" formula and Guerrero's style, which many people confuse with lucha libre but actually borrows far more from his time in the junior heavyweight division of New Japan Pro Wrestling in the 1990s. On top of that, it has what I would have to call the most creative finish in Wrestlemania history and the pinnacle of Eddie's lovable trickster character based around lying, cheating, and stealing, as he unlaced his boot, used that to slip out of the Olympic medalist's signature ankle lock, and then cradled Angle while simultaneously hooking his own feet around the bottom rope in order to score the pinfall. Of course, as great as it was at the time, this match also has an unfortunate dark side. It was one of the two matches that set up the show-closing visual of Wrestlemania XX as long-time close personal friends and internet darlings Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero held their WWE and World Heavyweight Championship belts aloft and embraced only eighteen months before Guerrero's untimely death from cardiac failure and slightly more than three years before Chris Benoit, regardless of the cause, perpetrated one of the most heinous acts ever perpetrated by somebody associated with the professional wrestling industry. Unfortunately, even the ending to Kurt Angle's story isn't a happy one, as he was forced to depart WWE in 2006, reportedly due to substance abuse and other health issues, at which point he faded in to relative obscurity almost immediately aside from a handful of noteworthy appearances in Japan working for Antonio Inoki. His career has yet to recover, and it's beginning to look like it never will. All of this leaves the match as a bittersweet one. Taken purely as a professional wrestling match without context, it is excellent, and it features two favorites of hardcore fans being given an opportunity to work near the top of the card. Yet, at the same time, its only real historical legacy is as essentially the beginning of the end of both men's careers, and it also ties in to the tragedy of Chris Benoit.