by Frank Lucci
Welcome to Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania moments! Rather than just create another generic Top 10 list, I will be discussing the greatest moments from WWE’s biggest show of the year and explaining why I consider them the cream of the crop. This is based on in-ring quality, storyline quality, meta quality, as well as my own unique bias. Be prepared to read about triumph, heartbreak, and above all else, some truly unique moments in this unique form of entertainment.
The Moment: Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania XIX
One thing I love in wrestling is stakes. They can either be storyline related, meta as in management believing enough in a talent, and real life stakes as in a wrestler putting their health in jeopardy. This WrestleMania moment has all three.
Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar may not be the first thing people think of as a top ‘Mania moment. Most people remember this match for the ending when Lesnar nearly ends up in a wheelchair or coffin after attempting a Shooting Star Press, but there are plenty of elements that make this perhaps one of the best championship matches in all of WrestleMania history.
This match has two of the toughest beings in the history of the business on the biggest stage of the year. Angle is the olympic gold medalist who may be the best pure athlete in WWE, if not all of wrestling. When WrestleMania 19 rolled around in 2003 the man desperately needed neck surgery, but he was also the current WWE champion at the time. What do you do if your top guy could potentially injure his neck and suffer long term health problems? If your answer was having him fight a monstrous behemoth who throws humans around the same way I make cats dance for my amusement, I owe you a coke. Lesnar was in peak condition, and considering his only other ‘Mania match of his original run was the disaster with Goldberg it really was his only big moment at the Show of Shows.
It may seem insane that this went on after Stone Cold Steve Austin’s retirement match, but at the same time it’s the title match and this was when the title meant a hell of a lot more than it does now. The video package shows Lesnar tearing people apart with triumphant music in the background. An honorable mention goes to the amazing switcheroo of Kurt trading places with his brother Eric during a SmackDown title match when everyone thought WWE would take the title off the Olympic Hero so he could undergo neck sugery. This swerve is one of the most amazing single episode storylines in SmackDown history.
The match begins and Brock looks like every bit the monster he is. It takes a lot to make an Olympian looks like some dude off the street. Tazz also gets a special mention here, as he must have used all his announcer mojo during these 20 minutes because he is on fire during this whole encounter. Afterward, his commentary became somewhat of a Botchamania joke, but here he adds a degree of technical knowledge that is sorely missing from today’s WWE.
Both men go back and forth, with Angle trying to act like a heel despite the fact that insider fans know that he is dealing with massive health issues and regular fans recognize that Brock is a sentient piece of cyborg steak. Lesnar manages to sneak behind Angle faster than Sloth from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Just when you think Angle is going to get murdered he suplexes Lesnar over his head and the bigger man flies across the ring. Part of the appeal of this match is that even though Kurt would go into experimental neck surgery soon after this event he can still go toe to toe with a man that once threw a car door dozens of feet and hit a fan from the Raw stage.
The other big appeal of the match itself is wincing and praying that Brock does not literally paralyze or murder Kurt Angle. Every suplex, every gorilla press slam, every time Kurt leaves his feet I get nervous, even though I know he ends up no worse for wear. The middle portion of this match sees Kurt working a MMA style with plenty of holds to wear down the Beast, and while it may not be the most exciting style it makes sense from a story perspective that we again see very little of today. Many times WWE wrestlers will work a limb without any logic behind it, or as a way for heels to build heat before they inevitably get taken down by the good guys. Seeing two men with an understanding of technical wrestling go at it adds so much more suspension of disbelief even without the real life injuries at play.
Things begin picking up as the two start hitting finishers and Angle Locks. Angle hits suplex after suplex, which Brock sells like a boss and Kurt pretends landing on his back and neck is a good idea. It is impossible to think of 2017 Lesnar selling these moves like he is in 2003, and then we finally get it. The Shooting Star Press of horror. I will never understand what Brock’s thought process were in this moment. Angle is three-quarters of the way across the ring, and Brock had plenty of time to move him closer. Instead, he takes a horrifying bump and the man with a broken neck must guide the concussed dinosaur into the end of the match. There is no way in hell I would trust Lesnar to give me an F-5 when he looks like he is so far out of it he’s staring into the center of the universe but that’s exactly what happened; and an expressionless Brock is awarded the WWE Championship to go with his sad cow eyes.
While most of this match has a real big fight feel, these final minutes really sum up the appeal to this match and are why it’s number seven on my list. These two put on a stupendous match despite so many factors going against them, and with all that real life danger this feels riskier than any hardcore match. Both men would have all sorts of ups and downs for the rest of their careers, but now that Kurt Angle is going into the Hall of Fame I desperately hope we get to see them shake hands once again and that more people rediscover this gem of a match.
For more of Spaceman Frank’s antics, check out Spacemanfrank.com and listen to our pro wrestling podcast, Manopera!