KURT ANGLE IS “BACK HOME” AND WWE HOME VIDEO HAVE WASTED LITTLE TIME IN BRINGING US HIS “ESSENTIAL COLLECTION”. BUT DOES THE SET LIVE UP TO THAT NAME? MATTHEW ROBERTS FINDS OUT.
In a lesson for all aspiring promoters, the WWE have been quick to capitalise on the return of Kurt Angle to the promotion with this 3 disc DVD set that takes a look at 24 matches from his WWE career; they span from his debut at Survivor Series 1999 all the way up to his last days in Vince McMahon’s version of ECW in June 2006.
There is no documentary portion of this set; instead each match is preceded by a short introduction from Kurt (all conducted via one sit-down interview). Some of the comments are about his career at the time in general, others are about the match we are about to see and some are about the opponents we see him facing.
What is most striking about Disc 1 (which takes us up to King of the Ring 2001) is the memory of just how quickly Kurt shot up the card once he arrived on WWE screens full time. From that Survivor Series debut against the largely forgotten Shawn Stasiak, it was clear that Angle had something but few could have expected that within three months or so he would have grabbed European and Intercontinental Championship Gold. Neither match (against Val Venis and Chris Jericho) are brilliant but you cannot have an overview of Angle’s career without them.
Similarly, his June 2000 King of the Ring win over Rikishi is here more for the historical value than the match excellence.
A Raw match with Triple H and Chris Jericho breaks the run of PPV matches that most will remember and is a welcome change of pace before Angle’s historic WWE Championship win over The Rock from October 2000’s No Mercy. A great match and proof that within eleven months of being on WWE TV, Angle had earned the ultimate accolade the “correct” way.
Title defences against The Undertaker and Triple H follow; Angle skirts around the fact that he was booked as a traditional first time heel champion (lashings of outside interference necessary to beat the “superstars”) but does allude to the fact that he himself believed that fans would not buy him beating The Undertaker in any form of “clean” victory.
Disc one rounds off with the unforgettable No DQ match against Shane McMahon from 2001’s King of the Ring. I appear to be in the minority when it comes to Shane the wrestler. Whilst not denying his toughness, it’s very easy to “get over” when you’re allowed to do stunts that 99% of the full-time roster simply isn’t allowed to. And to hear Angle talk about the glass “spot” only certifies in my mind how stupid it was. Still, it’s a popular match and not one where I would deny the guts of either man.
Disc Two kicks off with another WWE Championship win, this time against Stone Cold Steve Austin from Unforgiven 2001, a man who Angle admits could be an intimidating opponent. We then get a couple of matches with Edge, with Angle transitioning from a man getting the rub from the superstars to giving the “lesser lights” the boost. Although well known, it’s fun to hear Angle talk about Vince playing a prank on Edge and telling him that HE was going to lose the Hair Vs Hair match they had. We don’t see that here however; we see the Steel Cage blow off match from Smackdown instead.
A match with Hulk Hogan not only shows what a worker Angle had become less than three years into his WWE stint but also has the ever shocking sight of Hogan tapping out clean. Angle uses the opportunity given by including John Cena (in that man’s WWE TV Debut) answering his open challenge to toe the party line and say how he saw from the very beginning that Cena was destined to be a superstar. Few were saying that in the early days of his WWE career.
A Triple Threat match from Vengeance 2002 against The Rock & The Undertaker is a hell of a lot of fun, and Angle puts over how great it was to work with Rey Mysterio before we see their SummerSlam 2002 match. Disc two ends by fast forwarding to 2003’s event where Angle took on Brock Lesnar. It’s nowhere near the best match that the two would have opposite each other but it’s still very good.
Disc three opens with a further effort to put John Cena over verbally (with the admission that Cena, with his rap gimmick, had finally caught on with the crowd) before an emotional Kurt talks about his love/hate relationship (firmly skewed towards the former on most occasions) with Eddie Guerrero prior to us seeing their match from SummerSlam 2004. A “Smackdown in Irag” match where Mysterio and Guerrero team up to take on Angle and the long-forgotten Luther “no relation to Roman” Reigns is hardly essential, but does again break things up and offers up something a little different.
Next it’s three matches against the man who Angle labels “the greatest performer of all-time”, Shawn Michaels. He admits that they knew that although their feud would go on, both men realised they could never top their WrestleMania 21 match (included here) but the 30 minute Iron Man match from Raw Homecoming comes very close. John Cena is added to the mix in Taboo Tuesday 2005’s triple threat match, which is put over as an “inter-generational” match between the stand out / most recognisable performers from three different WWE eras.
The final match on the set is from WWE’s limp version of ECW, as Kurt tangles with Rob Van Dam. Angle admits that he felt like a fish out of water in that company and that his move there hastened his departure from the company. That departure is handled carefully. Angle at various points in his pieces to camera admits to “issues” with drugs during his WWE career but rarely goes into the depths that we’ve seen on the recent WWE 24 documentary.
The newly recorded comments from Angle won’t offer much new to long-term WWE observers but he’s as candid as you might reasonably expect on an official WWE release and it does add context to proceedings. The matches themselves are a mixture of historically important career matches and top-notch in ring offerings. It’s never noted though that he continued having excellent matches in the decade or so he spent in “another company”. No, the TNA initials are not mentioned here…
If it’s not quite the “essential” Kurt Angle on this 3 disc set, it’s still a very good overview of what made his WWE career so special and why he is so fondly remembered by fans to this day.
Photos courtesy: Fetch, Fremantle Media, WWE
Format reviewed: DVD
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Kurt Angle – The Essential Collection which is available on DVD in the UK from Monday 31 July. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here