By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Steve Austin © vs Kurt Angle 9/23/01
WWF Championship Match
I have spent time in the past talking about how quickly certain people adapted to professional wrestling. Brock Lesnar was always a perfect example as he rocketed up the card to defeat the Rock at Summerslam within his first year with the company. In the same breath as Lesnar, you would have to talk about Kurt Angle. Though possessing a stellar amateur background, nothing guaranteed that Angle would become the star that he eventually would be. However, few people were born with as natural a charisma as that which Angle possessed and an aptitude for the game that was frightening in its intuitive nature.
Lurking for longer in the mid-card than Lesnar did, Angle had a fun run as Euro-Continental before runs with the WWF Title and the WCW World Heavyweight Title. In the middle of the Invasion angle, it would become Kurt that was to take the fight to the Alliance, now fronted by a heel Steve Austin. At Summerslam, three Stone Cold Stunners weren’t enough to take Angle down, forcing Austin to attack the referees to cause a disqualification and protect the gold. This wasn’t going to keep Angle at bay. Following iconic moments such as the milk bath that Angle would give the Alliance the night after Summerslam and threatening to throw Austin into a river in Toronto, Angle would be granted his rematch.
The match would start on the rampway as Angle met Austin before he could reach the ring and began to pummel him without remorse, both inside and out of the ring. In the early moments, Austin would be tentative with a potential Stunner opportunity, whilst also getting taken down with a Thesz Press by Angle. Clearly, Austin was spooked by the challenge that the Olympic gold medallist represented. Angle was clearly fired up for his shot at the title, gaining a two count off of a superplex as he had all the offense in the earliest exchanges. Austin would have such limited success that he would seek to leave the ring with his belt, only to be jumped from behind and beaten some more at the top of the aisle before being carried back to the squared circle.
Angle’s desire to hurt Austin would cost him as time spent trying to pick up the mats at ringside allowed the champion to attack him from behind. However, Austin was having no luck as an attempted piledriver was reversed and saw him crash onto the concrete floor. Angle made his second mistake in looking for his own piledriver; the same reversal being repeated and Angle hitting hard. To further press home his advantage, Austin would use the suplex position to dump Angle three times stomach first on the announce table.
With the match finally in the ring, Austin continued his beatdown as the blood poured down his face from a laceration above the eye. Any attempts by Angle to fight back were cut off by the veteran, with some time spent in a chinlock aiming to wear down the challenger. A schoolboy roll-up would earn Angle a two count, whilst a small package seconds later saw Austin also gain a nearfall.
Multiple rolling German suplexes brought Angle back into the match, further compounded by a reversal of an Austin back superplex. However, a spinebuster and a low blow by Austin would have Angle reeling and rolling to the floor. Unlike Summerslam, Austin’s decision to manhandle Earl Hebner didn’t play into his favour as it allowed Angle to land a low blow as both men struggled to gain any sense of momentum.
After trading each other’s’ finishers – Angle’s Stunner a lot prettier than Austin’s Angle slam – for nearfalls, an Austin piledriver would target Angle’s injured neck (historically and from an Austin assault the previous week). Sensing victory, Austin would go for the Stunner, but Angle grabbed the leg and turned it into the Angle lock. Fighting valiantly to reach the ropes, Austin would eventually have no choice but to tap out.
Unfortunately for Angle, this was a brief run with the belt. Two Raws later, Austin would retain the title with the help of William Regal, with the Commissioner turning heel in the process. Whatever the length of reign, it doesn’t detract from an excellent title match that further cemented Angle as one of the best in the business at that time.