Brock Lesnar’s Top Ten Greatest WWE Matches

Pure adrenaline, personified.

In 2002, the WWE introduced the world to one of the greatest pure athletes sport entertainment has ever seen. Size. Speed. Strength. Brock Lesnar was the total package and his abilities in the ring shocked and surprised as he went on to become the youngest WWE Champion ever at the age of 25 in his rookie year.

Since then, Brock Lesnar has become the only man in history to become the NCAA Division I, WWE, and UFC Heavyweight Champion. Fewer men have made a larger impact on the wrestling world despite having such a short stint in the industry. Lesnar’s original run with WWE only lasted from early 2002 until 2004. His last appearance was at WrestleMania XX.

Still in that time the Wisconsin native had some of the WWE’s greatest matches of the new millennium. No one made such an impact in just two short years, but in the beginning of 2004 Lesnar left the WWE.

After a short venture into professional football, Brock Lesnar set his sights on MMA. He remains the single most successful professional wrestler turned MMA fighter ever when he defeated Randy Couture to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion.

However, to the surprise of many, Lesnar retired from MMA in 2012 and after an eight year absence returned to the WWE the night after WrestleMania XXVIII. Since that day, Brock has been used strictly as a special attraction performer. Even though the number of matches he has had since he returned can be numbered on two hands, several of them still stand among his best.

Let’s see which feats of athletic prowess number among the “Beast Incarnates” best.

HONORABLE MENTION:

BROCK LESNAR VS. REY MYSTERIO (WWE SMACKDOWN!, DECEMBER 2003)

This was a match, on Rey Mysterio’s birthday, for Brock Lesnar’s WWE Championship.

Lesnar was in the middle of what would be his last reign as WWE Champion before leaving for almost a decade.

“The Next Big Thing” had many notably well received matches on WWE Smackdown! It really makes one realize just how vital Lesnar was to that show’s success during the 2002 and 2003 time period.

This match followed a simple, but effective, formula of playing-up Mysterio’s speed against Lesnar’s strength. Lesnar would use his power to man-handle Rey and in turn he would use his speed to wear out the WWE Champion and catch him off guard.

The  San Diego crowd was really into the match as it was one of Mysterio’s first opportunities being taken seriously in a main event setting.

Rey Mysterio’s speed was not enough to wear out the well-conditioned champion. Lesnar retained his title via submission.

Also considered:

  • Brock Lesnar vs. Hulk Hogan (Smackdown!; August 2002): How many people can you name who have defeated “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan without the aid of some sort of dusty finish? This match makes the honorable mention more for it’s spectacle factor than actual wrestling. The young Lesnar was made to look like a destructive monster against Hogan, and pinned the six-time WWE Champion completely clean.
  • Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show (Judgment Day 2003): Leave it to someone as athletic and physically talented as Brock Lesnar to carry Big Show to one of his most entertaining matches ever. Trust me, there were no arm-drags in this match, but it is way better than what we typically get out of Big Show these days.
  • Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H (Extreme Rules 2013): Only a Steel Cage match could make a Lesnar and Triple H match interesting to me. After very sluggish encounters at SummerSlam 2012 and WrestleMania XXIX, these two beasts had a very NWA-esqe Steel Cage match that would have made Harley Race proud. It was traditional. It was a brawl. It was as good of a match you could hope for between two guys like this.

10. BROCK LESNAR VS. JOHN CENA (EXTREME RULES 2012)

After spending over eight years away from the company that gave him his start, Brock Lesnar returned to the WWE the night after WrestleMania XXVIII.

Lesnar returned bigger and better than ever after having become a household name in the mixed martial arts most notorious promotion; Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Of course the first man he ran into was the face of WWE for the better part of the last decade, John Cena.

This was a big money feud and the match was set up to be a huge deal for the WWE, but there was one problem. Creatively speaking, both men really needed a strong victory here for different reasons.

John Cena had just suffered one of the biggest defeats in his career at the hands of The Rock, and Lesnar needed to be reestablished as the dominate monster he was being billed as. So the company had sort of painted themselves into a corner in which they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.

On top of this they made the match an Extreme Rules match which further cornered the company into having to have one of  the men lose despite neither man really needing to. Despite this, the match was insane.

Within moments of the opening bell Lesnar opened up Cena’s forehead after several forearm shots.

The former UFC Champion was largely the aggressor in this contest, but despite that John Cena managed to defeat the freshly returned, Lesnar. It took an Attitude Adjustment onto the steel steps to finally silence Lesnar for just him for even just three seconds.

Many argued it was the wrong call to have Lesnar lose without issue in his first big money match back in the WWE, but regardless the man looked so dominate against the WWE’s franchise player in his first match back.

Lesnar and Cena would go on to have even more high stakes matches in the WWE in 2014.

9. BROCK LESNAR & CHRIS BENOIT VS. TEAM ANGLE (NO WAY OUT 2003)

For this match, I make a few exceptions to my “rules”. It was Brock Lesnar teaming with former number one contender to the WWE Championship, Chris Benoit, taking on current WWE Champion, Kurt Angle, and his associates Team Angle, made up of fresh-faced Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. How much more wrestling talent could you fit in a single ring?

Originally, Edge was supposed to be the tag team partner of both Lesnar and Benoit, but due to injury Edge had to be written out of the match. He would not return until after WrestleMania XX over a year later.

The match was a beautiful display of athleticism, but due to the chaotic nature of a Handicap Tag Team match, managed to be more erratic than polished. This made it feel more like a really entertaining Monday Night Raw main event rather than something you would typically see on a Pay-Per-View.

I’m not sure whether that is a positive or a negative, because the action in this match is just so entertaining.

This match was sandwiched between two amazing WWE Championship matches, having occurred a month after Angle and Benoit’s classic Royal Rumble match, and month before Lesnar’s career defining moment at WrestleMania.

I feel as if Benoit and Team Angle were very much the extras in this match despite doing much of the work. This was very much a match to give fans a preview of Brock Lesnar versus Kurt Angle without having the two interact too much before the main event of the biggest show of the year.

Benoit would secure the victory despite them being a man down, but it would be the young amateur wrestler from OVW who would go on to win the WWE Championship the following month

8. BROCK LESNAR VS. KURT ANGLE (WRESTLEMANIA XIX)

As of writing, this still remains the career defining moment in the professional wrestling career of Brock Lesnar. In all honestly, it probably always will be.

Brock Lesnar, still in his mid-20s, was being groomed to carry the WWE for the next two decades. However, not long after this it seemed as if Lesnar had grown bitter of all the time he was spending traveling and the grind got too him so much that he opted to not resign after his contract expired.

In 2003, Lesnar was still in the mindset that he was going to be the one the WWE would build around for the next decade. Brock was beginning to catch on as a babyface, and in the early months of 2003 was especially over with the crowd. While this wouldn’t last long, Lesnar was extremely well liked by fans during his pursuit of WWE Champion, Kurt Angle.

Angle walked into Safeco Field in Seattle completely beat up after spending the past four years on the road, full-time. He needed time off and surgery and, as the story goes, was advised by doctors to not wait until after WrestleMania XIX to get it.

The main event of WrestleMania XIX was made up by a talented, but severely banged up, Kurt Angle and an extremely nervous and inexperienced Brock Lesnar.

Much of this “real life” back-story was largely discussed in one of WWE’s early movie projects, The Mania of WrestleMania, which documented the days leading into the nineteenth WrestleMania event.

Famously, near the end of the encounter, the challenger ascended to the top rope. Brock attempted a Shooting Star Press, a move he did sometimes during his OVW-days, but missed the WWE Champion. The Royal Rumble winner was stunned and Angle had to almost make Lesnar kick out to cover up the faux pa.

In the end, almost as if his body turned on autopilot, Lesnar rose to his feet and hit a final F-5 and won the WWE Championship.

7. BROCK LESNAR VS. EDGE (REBELLION 2002)

If you want to talk about polar opposite career paths in the wrestling business here is a prime example.

During the post Attitude Era, Edge began slowly climbing his way up the card through many injuries and setbacks. Brock Lesnar, on the other hand, went from wrestling at Ohio Valley Wrestling to dark matches to becoming the WWE  Champion within a matter of months.

Technically, this was a Handicap match which pitted the WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman battling Edge across the pond. However, Heyman’s involvement was for storyline purposes only. It added an interesting element in that it was almost a bigger handicap for Lesnar, as he could potentially lose his title without even getting pinned.

While not as “high profile” or significantly important to Lesnar’s career as many of the other contests we are taking about today, this was a great display of athleticism by two men who went on to become hugely important to the next decade of WWE history.

Edge, a popular up-and-coming babyface at the time on WWE Smackdown!, was getting one of his first opportunities to main event a Pay-Per-View event and one of his first shots at a World Championship. This was one of those matches that made the viewer suspend disbelief every time Edge nearly pinned the champion. Going into a well executed contest that pits and obvious main event talent with a middle of the card performer makes you want to believe in the underdog.

That’s what these two men did. It was seemingly obvious Lesnar would defeat the still rising star, Edge. Yet, they made you believe that Edge could somehow overcome Heyman’s pet monster and realize his childhood dream.

He actually very nearly defeated the rookie WWE Champion, but had the match snatched from him after Lesnar utilized a steel chair to retain his title.

It would be another some four years before Edge would finally complete his journey and become the WWE Champion.

6. BROCK LESNAR VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (NO WAY OUT 2004)

By 2004 rumors began circulating that Lesnar was over the WWE’s rigorous traveling schedule and was not looking to resign with the company. As such, the WWE needed to pass the torch to someone new who could be the babyface that fans paid to see when they came to taping of WWE Smackdown!

World traveled veteran, Eddie Guerrero, was chosen as the man who would unseat Lesnar as WWE Champion. Guerrero had wrestled in almost every major promotion in the Americas and had overcame the clutches of addiction. Charismatic, versatile in the ring, and (now) reliable, Eddie Guerrero was being set up for the biggest moment of his professional career.

Guerrero was so good because he could tell so many stories in the ring depending on who he wrestled. He was big enough that he could play the over-powering aggressor in a match with someone like Rey Mysterio, but agile an petite enough to play the evasive wily underdog in a match with someone like the WWE Champion Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar used Guerrero as a rag doll for much of the contest, but “Latino Heat” managed to ground the champion enough to keep him at bay. It would be Raw’s Goldberg that would turn the tide as the former WCW Champion stormed the ring and speared the “Next Big Thing.”

The challenger then landed a DDT onto the title and a Frog Splash to win his first and only WWE Championship.

Goldberg, who was also set to make his departure from the WWE according to the rumor mill at the time, was in attendance to start building towards their “dream match” of sorts at WrestleMania XX. It didn’t turn out that way.

However, Guerrero’s title win on this night turned out to be the greatest match Brock Lesnar never won. He’d his final WWE appearance less than two months later.

5. BROCK LESNAR VS. CM PUNK (SUMMERSLAM 2013)

It was billed as “The Best vs. The Beast.”

This is without question the greatest match Brock Lesnar has had since returning to the WWE after an eight year absence. It was also the last time we saw CM Punk go all out on Pay-Per-View before he went AWOL in early 2014.

On paper, this looks like a total miss-match of styles and characters. However, due to both men having strong ties to the on-air character of Paul Heyman it makes perfect sense to have these two tell a story together.

The punishment that Lesnar dealt out to the much smaller CM Punk was unreal. He looked so dominate against Punk for a majority of this encounter. Only by utilizing the No Disqualification stipulation was Punk able to keep up pace with his former associate’s biggest client.

Punk turned out to be the perfect opponent to really re-establish Lesnar’s physical dominance over the WWE roster. His matches with John Cena and Triple H were a much more even playing field when it came to size and strength, but Punk had to utilize a different strategy as he knew he could not match muscle with the former UFC Champion.

His ability to outwit Lesnar was the only thing that gave him a fighting chance, but  eventually his split focus on both his opponent and Paul Heyman caught up with him.

While Punk seemingly had The Beast defeated a time or two during this contest his urge to go after Paul Heyman proved to be his downfall. The distraction of the loud mouthed manager was all the edge Lesnar needed to decimate  the more tactical “Straight Edge” superstar.

Even still, the former WWE Champion looked like a badass in defeat for hanging in the ring with a man 50+ pounds more than him. Both men came out looking better than going in. That is a pretty rare thing in all actuality.

CM Punk would later get his just revenge against Paul Heyman, but only after Lesnar struck the first blow here at SummerSlam.

4. BROCK LESNAR VS. THE ROCK (SUMMERSLAM 2002)

This is the third match from the underrated SummerSlam 2002 card to make its way to the Pro Wrestling Countdown. That might be a record.

Speaking of records, not many men can say they won the biggest title in their company during their first year on the WWE roster. That is just another accolade we can add to Lesnar’s list of accomplishments.

At the age of only 25, Brock Lesnar unseated The Rock to become the youngest WWE Champion in history. A record that still stands to this day.

A lot of credit has to go to The Rock for  really guiding this match and helping Lesnar in his first ever Pay-Per-View main event match. You can clearly see that it was Paul Heyman and The Rock who really guided this match’s narrative.

Lesnar was still very much a freight train who was running through opponents in television matches in a matter of minutes. A main event match for the WWE Championship on a huge event like SummerSlam was a different kind of match for him at this point of time.

The WWE Champion and his challenger gave a very entertaining main event that somehow managed to not be completely overshadowed by the notorious Street Fight between Triple H and a returning Shawn Michaels that took place earlier in the night.

Despite his veteran instincts, The Rock would succumb to the F-5 and lose his record seventh WWE Championship to the newcomer from Wisconsin. This match really established Lesnar as the monster he had been booked as up to this point. It would be only the first notable victory of many to come for the NCAA Division I champion.

While Lesnar still had so much to learn in the ring and about the storytelling elements of a wrestling match, it can’t  be denied that he was a damn quick learner. Even still so new to the business Lesnar, and the people around him, knew how to acquiescent his positives and hide the negatives.

The fact of the matter was, by 2002 the company knew “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was hitting a breaking point both physically and mentally and could  see that The Rock was on his way to bigger and better things. So what do they do? Create a new star. That is all they could do.

It made all the sense in the world, whether Lesnar was ready for this huge push or not the WWE needed a new franchise player and this was their first attempt. I have to say, if put in the same position I might have banked on Lesnar as well.

Little did they know, Brock’s career path would have other things in store.

3. BROCK LESNAR VS. CHRIS BENOIT (WWE SMACKDOWN!, DECEMBER 2003)

I often discuss a television match as being “forgotten, overlooked, or a hidden gem,” but this match from the tail end of Smackdown’s greatest era ever is probably the epitome of all of those.

Chris Benoit had defeated John Cena to become the number one contender at the top of this edition of WWE Smackdown!

Lesnar was doing a storyline in which he was seeking to become the “greatest” WWE Champion of all time by defending his title against many different challengers. This match was made out to be a big deal and honestly I would have shilled out money to watch a contest of this caliber on Pay-Per-View. With the brand extension in effect it meant fewer events for each brand and as such the shows had to do more to keep viewers hooked.

As Benoit was wrestling his second match of the night, Lesnar spent much of the contest in firm control of the smaller and more weary challenger. Benoit’s story of fighting from underneath and trying to outsmart and out-wrestle the WWE Champion is what built the suspense in this main event.

It was a concept that would be reused for Benoit the following year at both the 2004 Royal Rumble and WrestleMania XX.

Matches like this certainly did make for compelling reasons to actually tune in. It’s just a damn shame these two couldn’t have had more one-on-one matches together or even a longer storyline. This was one of their only notable singles matches ever televised.

These two had great chemistry. Lesnar has always gelled so well with more technically sound mat grapples, and Benoit was one of the masters of that craft.

In the early months of 2004 Smackdown’s brilliant roster took many blows. Brock Lesnar left the company. Chris Benoit and Edge were both drafted to Monday Night Raw.

Later that year Eddie Guerrero would go on to drop the WWE Championship to JBL which would eventually lead to him headlining some of the worst received WWE Pay-Per-Views of all time.

2. BROCK LESNAR VS. THE UNDERTAKER (NO MERCY 2002)

Over a decade before they stood in New Orleans’s Superdome at WrestleMania XXX, these two wagged war in a battle of “new school versus old school” inside of the dreaded Hell in a Cell.

I think this would qualify as probably the most overlooked and least talked about Hell in a Cell matches ever.

It didn’t quite make the list on Undertaker’s Pro Wrestling Countdown, but it serves as one of Lesnar’s most important victories. If you can stand toe-to-toe with Undertaker and come out the other end still intact, you have something.

The great thing about this match is that both men came out looking like cutthroat badasses. Lesnar, for overcoming a mainstay WWE performer for over a decade. Undertaker, for having a match with a dominate, young, and hungry new WWE Champion even with a broken hand.

It was the perfect story for these two to tell together.

Both men looked strong at different points in the contest, but Lesnar spent a slight majority of the time seemingly in control of the match. This was beneficial in establishing him as a strong WWE Champion and leader of WWE’s “Blue Brand” while it was still in its infancy as a individual product.

Lesnar’s rise in 2002  all the way up until he decided not to resign with the wrestling juggernaut was spent building him up as  the next face of the company. Someone who could pick up were Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin left off.

The Undertaker has rarely lost without some sort of dusty finish in which he is screwed out of the victory, but Lesnar remains the man with probably more high profile victories over The Undertaker than anyone else alive.

Lesnar has always been very much the Bane to Undertaker’s Batman.

After his strong victory over “Big Evil” Lesnar’s next  rival would be someone else’s whose athletic ability has long been the subject of praise here….

1. BROCK LESNAR VS. KURT ANGLE (WWE SMACKDOWN!, SEPTEMBER 2003)

What a difference only a few months can make. This match is just about the complete inverse of their more famous main event match at WrestleMania XIX.

If you’re discussing the year 2003 in WWE history your conversation should start and end with Kurt Angle versus Brock Lesnar.

This was a marathon exhibit demonstrating just why Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar were two of WWE’s most gifted mat wrestlers ever.

On a forgotten television match on WWE Smackdown! Angle and Lesnar managed to have a 60-Minute Iron Man Match that would surpass the quality of even Bret Hart versus Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII.

It was a modern take on the Iron Man match, and one that saw both Lesnar and Angle in the reverse roles that we saw at WrestleMania XIX earlier in the year.

Angle had become the fan favorite and Lesnar had become the Vince McMahon-corporate endorsed heel.

The amount of huge maneuvers used in this match to try and simply get another point on the board border ridiculous. Angle and Lesnar were aiming for the fences every moment of this match and it made for a very tense atmosphere.

Lesnar, the challenger, spent much of the match leading the WWE Champion. If Angle had 2 points, Lesnar had 3 or 4 so really the champion was the one who spent much of this match battling from underneath, which is a great spin on the normality of the challenger being the underdog and one who has to work harder to secure the victory.

In the final moments, Brock lead the match with a score of 5 to Angles 4. The champion locked in his Angle Lock on a downed Lesnar, but the clock expired with Lesnar grimacing through the pain. Despite being the chief aggressor at the end of the match, Angle lost his WWE Championship.

I thought this was a terrifically unique ending to a title match. One which still makes Lesnar look like the better man, but also makes the former champion, Angle, look damn good in the process. This is without question one of the best matches ever contested for the WWE Championship.

It also stands as Brock Lesnar’s finest performance with a man I’d consider his best opponent.

Kurt Angle’s Top Ten WWE & TNA Matches

While the comparisons to amateur wrestling and professional wrestling seem obvious very few men have been able to make the transition to professional wrestling in the modern era.

Kurt Angle is the total package. He has athletic ability, intestinal fortitude, and is probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining men considering his background. No matter if he was main evening WrestleMania or opening match, Kurt Angle made sure his performance was remembered over all others.

While the last few years have been somewhat uneventful in his career there is no doubt in my mind that there is no one who has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time as Kurt Angle.

The Olympic gold medalist has won every title there is in the WWE and TNA and will no doubt be looked back on as one of the greatest professional wrestles of the early 21st century.

In his nearly 15 year career, half with WWE and half with TNA, he has had some of the best matches in both companies history so deciding on only ten was absolutely agonizing. There are only a select few men I enjoy watching in the squared circle more than Angle and many of those men will also be talked about today.

So without further adieu I present my tribute to a man with integrity, a man with intelligence, and a man with unmatched intensity. Oh it’s true – it’s (damn) true.

HONORABLE MENTION:

KURT ANGLE VS. SHANE MCMAHON (KING OF THE RING 2001)

Leave it to Kurt Angle to get a five star match out of a man who is not even a professionally trained wrestler. Shane McMahon might legitimately be certifiable. The spots he did in matches during the early 2000s were just bat shit crazy.

Angle and McMahon had a really intense street fight that worked to the benefit of the son of the WWE owner, and showed off what the traditional wrestler, Kurt Angle, could do outside of his element.

This matches claim to fame is obviously the spot when Kurt Angle attempts to throw “The Prodigal Son” through the King of the Ring’s glass displays.

Twice he bell-to-back supplexed him into the glass only for him to fall on his head. Angle, ever determined, muscled Shane ‘O Mac through the spots and then had to wheel his delirious opponent back to the ring on a piece of portable storage.

I mean it was almost as if Angle was wrestling a rag doll.

Shane managed to finish the match and even get some offense in near the end, but an Angle Slam off of the top turnbuckle sealed his fate and allowed Kurt Angle to get a measure of revenge against the owner of the newly emerging Alliance.

10. KURT ANGLE VS. AJ STYLES (HARD JUSTICE 2008)

This was the rematch to their first encounter at Slammiversary 2008 in which Angle was seeking revenge for Styles marrying his former wife, Karen Angle.

When Kurt Angle entered TNA in the late summer of 2006 I was beyond ecstatic. I immediately wrote a short list in my head of opponents I wanted him to meet. At the very top of list was AJ Styles.

The flashy high flying style from AJ really mixed well the seemingly endless variants of supplexs in Angle’s arsenal.

Since 2006 Styles and Angle have been opponents many times over, been in an alliance together at least twice, and even won the TNA Tag Team Championship together.

However, when they meet in the ring you can expect nothing but the best match of the night. Watch any match they’ve had and you’ll understand.

In the end this Last Man Standing match ended the same way their match at Slammiversary ended, with “The Phenomenal One” once again standing over a broken Kurt Angle.

The following TNA iMPACT! AJ Styles would even win Kurt Angle’s Olympic gold medal before Angle finally got his final redemption over Styles and his (storyline at the time) ex-wife later on. The two have a very storied history now and may once again find themselves on the same side of the ring when Kurt Angle returns.

9. KURT ANGLE VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (WRESTLEMANIA XX)

The interesting thing about Kurt Angle is that when he has one great match with an opponent he seems to continue to have many more.

With almost every opponent on this edition of the Countdown I could probably name two to three other great matches Angle had with them.

However, when it comes to Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle one clearly stands above the rest and that is their match at the 20th Anniversary of WrestleMania.

This match was a heel Kurt Angle spouting nonsense about how he had to give the fans a WWE Champion that they could be proud of. He brought up Eddie’s drug and alcohol addiction and his runs in with the police in an attempt to slander him.

Guerrero and Angle have a really good mat based encounter and add in Guerrero’s catch-catch-can reversals and you get a perfect WWE Championship match.

Guerrero sneaked out the victory by loosening the laces of his boot and luring Angle into applying the Angle Lock.

One he did so, Guerrero slipped out leaving the Olympic gold medalist holding his boot in bewilderment. Angle then unwisely charged Guerrero who rolled him up and used the ropes to get a quick three count.

Guerrero lied and cheated to defeat Kurt Angle and stole the match on the grandest stage of them all. it was a perfect ending to one of Guerrero’s best matches. Often the best matches someone has are when they are putting someone else over.

Angle certainly did a wonderful job of giving Eddie Guerrero his most notable moment.

8. KURT ANGLE & CHRIS BENOIT VS. REY MYSTERIO & EDGE (NO MERCY 2002)

To put it frankly this has to be among the greatest Tag Team matches in WWE history.

I can scarcely think of a Tag Team match that’d I’d be more okay with main eventing a Pay-Per-View event. This honestly could have closed No Mercy and I doubt anyone would have complained.

Few titles active in the WWE have had as good of a start as the WWE Tag Team Championship which was crowned to the winning team of this match.

Kurt Angle, with his reluctant partner Chris Benoit, took on the babyface pairing of Rey Mysterio and Edge in the finals of a tournament to decide the newly christened belts.

2002 was truly a great year in the WWE from an in-ring perspective.

WWE was enjoying the fruits of their monopoly and the influx of ECW and WCW talent had bloated the roster so much that McMahon and his team separated their brands.

In 2002 and 2003 WWE Smackdown! truly enjoyed the better roster. This is a prime example.

While these Edge was really the only tag team specialist every one in this match used some wonderful tag team maneuvers with their partners.

The rivals, Angle and Benoit, eked out the victory and became the first ever WWE Tag Team Champions. If you hate the state of the tag team division now go back and watch every detail of this match.

7. KURT ANGLE VS. JEFF JARRETT (LOCKDOWN 2011)

Art always finds a funny way to mimic reality.

I have no problem admitting that I think Jeff Jarrett is a complete joke. He is a great storyteller and has a wonderful understanding of the professional wrestling business, but his thinking he was a star that could stand among the likes of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair is ridiculous.

However, it would be unfair of me to slight this awesome Steel Cage match and many of his other very entertaining performances.

This rivalry is very similar to the Edge-Matt Hardy-Lita saga from 2005.

TNA turned a real life situation between Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle and spun it into a storyline. Kurt and Karen Angle did in fact get a real divorce in late 2008 and she did go on to marry Jeff Jarrett in 2010.

So in the early months of 2011 this feud was drummed up due to the fact that most of the iMPACT wrestling fans already knew about it, and the company thought it would make for good television.

So= they went ahead and made a really personal, and somewhat uncomfortable, storyline about it. It was not the best told story, but the matches these two had were better than I would have ever imagined.

Honestly though, Kurt Angle gave Jeff Jarrett the best matches of his career and I think this Steel Cage match might actually be the single greatest match of his career.

Steel Cage matches are perfect for really personal rivalries like this and I’m glad I got to watch this live.

Near the end Angle, at 42, moonsaulted off of the top of the cage and missed Jarret. I thought his career might have been over after that. It looked so nasty.

Angle fought back, but his ex-wife would be the deciding factor in this match and allowed “Double J” to escape the cage. Angle would get the last laugh months later when he defeated Jarrett and “sent him to Mexico.”

6. KURT ANGLE VS. SAMOA JOE (TURNING POINT 2006)

Kurt Angle deserves the distinction of having the greatest debut in TNA history. Not only that, but his first feud/opponent might also be one of his greatest.

There MMA style bout at Lockdown 2008 is often pointed at as their best encounter, but as time has passed I think their original series of matches aged much better. None more so, than their second encounter at Turning Point 2006.

A month earlier Kurt Angle had his first ever match in TNA at Genesis 2006.

A match in which he handed Samoa Joe his first ever pin fall loss in TNA after over a year+ of being undefeated.

Angle, having just debuted, was really able to act both like a heel and fan favorite in this match. This made it interesting as he was able to low blow and use a chair against Joe, but somehow not come off like “the bad guy.”

This match was really the Angle Lock versus the Coquina Clutch.

It was great seeing all the reversals and counters. Just seeing Angle in a new environment with new opponents really revitalized his career for the next couple of years (even though it is now stale again).

I still maintain that nothing he has done in TNA has eclipsed the excitement and hype around his first series of matches with Samoa Joe.

This is how I like to remember TNA. Before Hogan. Before Bischoff. Just the best of the independent scene meeting the most unappreciated of the WWE. It was a formula that worked. In 2006 and 2007 it was the perfect mix of both worlds. Joe vs. Angle really captured that essence.

5. KURT ANGLE VS. THE UNDERTAKER (NO WAY OUT 2006)

Its no secret. This is one of my favorite matches of all time. Being a huge Undertaker and Kurt Angle fan, this is my Holy Grail.

The action in this match speaks for itself. I honestly think it is one of the few matches I could enjoy with no commentary from anyone.

There was no in depth storyline in this feud. It was just Undertaker wanting Angle’s World Heavyweight Championship. Simple. The match these two created was off the charts awesome. Kurt Angle controlled the pace of much of the match and dominated Undertaker in the offensive.

It is such a rare thing to see Undertaker play defense for such a majority of the contest, but it made for an unpredictably exciting 25 minutes.

The ending was perfect when it could have been disastrous to the match.

Angle reversed Undertaker’s gogoplata into a pinning combination. Angle won and looked like a badass for defeating “The Phenom” without burying the challenger by making him tap out after a long match where he played defense to the World Heavyweight Champion.

Many have speculated that this was, and should have been, Smackdown’s main event for WrestleMania 22.

Truth be told, I’m glad it was the main event of No Way Out instead. It truly shined bright on this smaller card and it might have just suffered terrible time restrictions on the latter WrestleMania show.

To me, this was Undertaker’s greatest non-gimmick match. He managed to put on one of the best matches of his career even when the bright lights of WrestleMania were not on.

As much as I love “The Deadman,” we all know that he cannot have great matches with just anyone, but when the right guy comes along he can absolutely put on match of the night no problem. Angle always brought out the work horse in Undertaker.

They had many good matches, but to me this was their bets collaboration.

4. KURT ANGLE VS. STEVE AUSTIN (SUMMERSLAM 2001)

Anytime I hear Jim Ross utter the words “slobber knocker” this is the match that immediately pops into my head.

Like the last match we discussed this is a personal favorite of mine. This is one of SummerSlam’s best main events and felt worthy of being a WrestleMania main event if I am being honest.

This match occurred during one of my most loathed story arcs in WWE history. The Invasion.

In saying that, some of the matches that occurred during this nearly endless story arc are amazing. The main event of SummerSlam 2001 probably being the greatest of all of them. It was a sloppy mess of a match, but Austin and Angle made their odd mixing of styles work and the end results is really entertaining.

Austin and Angle really more or less had a brawl rather than a match, but it looked so bad ass. To me, this might even be better than the main event of WrestleMania X-Seven which had occurred several months earlier.

The only knock I can give this match is the overbooked ending in which multiple referees are knocked out and an “Alliance” referee screws Kurt Angle out of the WWE Championship.

It was all a vehicle to make Austin the most hated man in the WWE, but now out of context the ending is too much. Even with the crap ending, this match just barely misses the top three.

3. KURT ANGLE VS. BROCK LESNAR (WWE SMACKDOWN!, SEPTEMBER 2003)

Where Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart missed the mark, Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle set the president for all future Iron Man matches to come.

I went back-and-forth on whether I wanted to give the third spot to this match or their more notable match at WrestleMania XIX.

Finally, I settled with their Iron Man match from WWE Smackdown! later that year. This may not be a popular decision, but for me it feels like the right one.

At SummerSlam, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar had a second match which Angle won, but not before Lesnar enlisted the help of Mr. McMahon effectively turning him heel. So going into this rubber match both men had switched roles.

Not only is this one of Kurt Angle’s greatest matches, but it might be the greatest match in WWE Smackdown! history.

It was a one hour-Broadway, the WWE Championship changed hands, and it was a match between two of the most talented and over guys in the WWE at the time.

Stuff like this is what made the Thursday night show the “A Show” during it’s 2002-2003 run.

This also marked one of the last major one-on-one matches between the two men who spent most of 2003 feuding.

I have to say, after fantastic matches at WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and elsewhere, this match on Smackdown! was the perfect ending to one of the most back-and-forth rivalries in the WWE Championship’s history.

Brock Lesnar regained the title after Angle could not secure a fifth fall to tie the two men at five falls each. If he had he would have kept the WWE Championship.

Angle had the Angle Lock on Lesnar’s foot, but “The Next Big Thing” held on long enough for the time limit to expire and take the WWE Championship off of Kurt Angle for the second time in a year.

This would be the beginning of Brock Lesnar’s final reign as WWE Champion before an eight year exile to football and mixed martial arts.

I may regret not selecting their WrestleMania match, but like an good trilogy the final act is always the most well received.

2. KURT ANGLE VS. CHRIS BENOIT (ROYAL RUMBLE 2003)

There WrestleMania X-Seven match and their Steel Cage match from WWE Raw came to mind, but those honestly pale in comparison to Benoit and Angle’s clash at the 2003 Royal Rumble.

This match is a visual and audible example of why Benoit and Angle were in a league of their own during their WWE runs. They did what so many other men could not. They made mat wrestling entertaining.

To me this looked like WWE seeing how the crowd would react to “The Rapid Wolverine” in the main event. I don’t think management was disappointed.

They both wrestled a nearly perfect match for over 20 minutes. Supplexs of every kind, chops, submissions, and more unique counters than I could possibly name. This might be one of my personal favorite WWE Championship matches of all time.

What made these two so good was their pride. They both took so much pride in delivering the best match their worn down bodies could afford. I have so much respect for them for their efforts on this night.

Angle won after slipping out of the Crippler Crossface and locking in the Angle Lock for the final time. Benoit had no choice, but to submit to the champion.

After the match the Boston crowd gave Chris Benoit, the man who lost, a standing ovation as he stood in the center of the ring. Something which is almost unheard of in this day and age of professional wrestling.

A year later Chris Benoit would be the first man to enter the 2004 Royal Rumble – and the last to leave.

1. KURT ANGLE VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA 21)

We’d hate to be predictable, but in this case we were backed into a corner with nowhere to run.

“What is your dream match?” is the question wrestling fans often ask one another.

Angle and Michaels would not have sprung to my mind, but after watching this match live I think the meaning of “dream match” was forever redefined for me.

Some professional wrestlers just step into the ring and can make anyone of the roster look a million times better than they actually are. Angle and Michaels were two of those guys.

So even though they were wrestling for the very first time, their immeasurable skill at match-making allowed them to deliver one of the most revered WrestleMania matches of the modern era.

I suppose I need to point out that this is the third time Shawn Michaels has given someone their number one match on the Pro Wrestling Countdown.

Chris Jericho and The Undertaker being the previous two. I don’t want this to take anything away from the other three men. I think it is just proof that when you put two men who are some of the best at what they do, amazing things happen.

Kurt Angle forced Shawn Michaels to submit to his Angle Lock to end the match.

This finish followed an incredible 25+ minutes of chain wrestling, reversals, moonsaults, and near falls. They would go on to have two more matches of equal quality, but nothing could recapture the magic that these two created at under the lights of Hollywood and WrestleMania.

To me, was the closest WWE has ever come to replicating something like Flair/Steamboat. Bar none this is simply one of the best one-on-one matches I have ever seen.

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