August 2, 2004
William McGuire

WWE CHAMPION KURT ANGLE v. THE UNDERTAKER
September 4th 2003
Smackdown!
Announcers: Michael Cole and Tazz
Referee: CHIODA~!

The Build-Up: At the Vengeance 2003 show two months prior to this bout, both Kurt Angle and The Undertaker experienced tremendous surges to their careers. Angle made his long-awaited return after neck surgery, and won his fourth WWE title from Brock Lesnar. The Undertaker proved his continued worth in both the kayfabe and shoot sense by defeating John Cena in a shockingly good match. The Undertaker had begun to establish himself in the same way as Stan Hansen did in 1993 AJPW: without a doubt the toughest man in the Federation... but was he still the best?

At SummerSlam, both men's hot streaks continued. Kurt Angle deflected a challenge from the now heel turned Brock Lesnar, and was (for the moment) the Undisputed top dog on SmackDown. The Undertaker defeated A-Train in a very underrated match that continued to tell the subtle story of the legendary gunfighter who every young punk shootist wants to take out.

In a Triple Threat Number One Contender's Match on the 8/28/03 edition of SmackDown, The Undertaker did what Angle had done at Vengeance: beaten both Brock Lesnar and the Big Show in DECISIVE fashion, and earned a title shot. Kurt Angle responded that very week by saying that it would be his honor to make The Undertaker tap out. Just one year earlier these roles were totally reversed, with Taker being the wily Champ who had survived HHH, and Angle the challenger to his crown.

On the night of the match, The Undertaker said that he wouldn't tap out to Angle if his ankle was broken, that the title meant too much to him. Time would tell if these words were prophetic... or wishful thinking.

The Match: Both men go their corners and wait for the bell. The dueling "TAKER" and "ANGLE" chants do a ton to give this match an epic feel. The bell rings and both men feint to their strengths. Angle fakes a single leg take down before backing off when Undertaker uses strikes to make him keep his distance. It's extremely telling of how both men operate.

Angle goes for a tie up and is thrown across the ring. They tie up again, but Angle quickly twists an arm and hooks into a front face lock. Cole points out that this will minimize the effectiveness of Taker's reach. Taker uses enough raw power to get some leverage and hook one of Angle's arms. He executes a few arm wringers and the story of the match is beginning to develop: The Undertaker has learned from his last two encounters with Kurt. He's not just going to try to OUTFIGHT Angle... he's got to try to OUTTHINK him as well.

Angle reverse the arm wringer and goes for a side headlock, which is another simple hold that makes it tough for Taker to use his fists to their fullest. Taker throws him off and casually shoulder blocks him down. Angle retreats to a corner, and at this point itís clear that heís just feeling out Taker out, and that Taker isnít the same man who fought him at Vengeance in 2002. Undertaker and Kurt do some minor chain wrestling stuff, and itís apparent that Angle is just too quick for this approach to work. The Undertaker needs to slow him down before he can play on the mat.

Undertaker uses a hip toss and a variation on a short arm scissors to continue working on the arm. Angle reverses and gets a couple quick near falls to show that heís still too quick for Taker to deal with on the mat. Angle goes for a top wristlock, but thatís just stupid because The Undertaker PLANTS HIM and goes right back to the arm. Old School, and it actually works in the context of the match. Undertaker does a better job working Angleís arm then either Angle or Lesnar would do with anything in the Iron Man match the next week.

The balance of power shifts when Angle hits two straight GermansÖ and shifts right back when Undertaker counters the third and Kurt runs full speed into a huge right hand from the Undertaker. Taker decides (in a move that echoes Angle/Benoit at X-7) to fuck this wrestling shit , and Angle is in deep shit. Some nice elbows, and then a beautiful leg drop across the apron put Angle into Takerís world. Taker nonchalantly breaks the count and then returns to the outside to continue the shitkicking. We go to a commercial break with Angle reeling on the outside and UT smiling in the ring.

Back from break, and UT is just POUNDING on Angle in the corner, and looks damn near invincible. At this point Angle really needs to get back into his element. Angle tries to stand up and brawl with Taker in a quick hope spot, but Taker kills that dead with a knee. However, Angle has regain a little momentum and catches UT with a sleeper. The advantage of course being that he can drop Taker from his vertical base, and catch a breather at the same time. Taker tries for a firemanís carry but itís blocked so he gets back to his feet. Out of nowhere, UT uses his power to suplex out of the sleeper, and begins slapping himself in the head to clear the cobwebs.

Angle reverses out of a Dragon Sleeper, and hitís a Belly to Belly. It seems that Angle doesnít really have a plan yet. Heís just doing whatever feels right and hoping that his natural ability can overcome the Undertaker. He pounds on Taker a bit in the corner, but Taker reverses an Irish whip and avalanches him in the other corner. He does it again for good measure, and follows up with a snake eyes/big boot combination. Angle avoids the leg drop that Taker uses to follow the big boot, and hooks in the Ankle lock for the first time. Taker however, counters this instantly, and as they both return to their feet Angle gets an Angle Slam for 2.

Angle pulls down the straps and signals for another, but Taker counters into a choke slam for 2. Angle reverses the Last Ride into an Ankle Lock, but Undertaker makes good on his word and counters into a Fujiwara arm bar. This isnít only a cool counter, but it recalls all the work on the arm from earlier in the match (Too bad Angle forgot all about it). Angle counters into a ďbanana splitĒ for two, and then transitions into the Ankle Lock. Angle seems remarkably unimaginative tonight, just going for the Ankle Lock again and again and again, no matter how close Taker is to the ropes or how many times Taker counters it.

Taker makes Angle pay for going to the Ankle Lock again and reverses it into a Triangle Choke. This was the move Angle used to get a draw on the Undertaker last year prior to Vengeance 2002. The use of this move in this context is a brilliant piece of history from Taker. It ALSO references the arm work Taker did early on, making it doubly awesome. Angle is in the sleeper for a while, and is only saved by getting his foot on the bottom rope as the his hand goes down the third time (Yeah, right). Taker does more selling in the two seconds following the break then Angle does in the whole match.

UT goes for a big boot, but Angle ducks and slaps on the Ankle Lock while Taker is tied up in the ropes. Ref breaks it and UT gives Angle a Stone Cold Stunner (!) over the top rope. Angle has been busted open and UT drops an elbow for two. Both men are exhausted and UT pulls Angle up by his trunks and starts hitting him in the face while keeping him up with his trunks. Angle drops Taker to his knees with some punches of his own, but runs the ropes like a moron and is big booted for his troubles. Taker sells the ankle afterwards which makes me happy.

UT signals choke slam but itís countered to an Ankle Lock. Taker gets as close to tapping as he ever will get at this point, because his ankle means a lot to himÖ BUT THE BELT MEANS MORE DAMMIT. He counters and Angle is so pissed he runs right into a choke slamÖ but that isnít how heís going to beat him. He hitís a Last Ride and Angle is DEAD. Brock Lesnar comes in with a Chair and the ref throws it out at 16:53.

****

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