Who Was Better: Bret Hart or Kurt Angle?
by, 06-30-2012 at 01:17 PM (11831 Views)
It’s been over two months since the last edition of ‘Who was better?’ so a couple of quick points. Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for the fact that the last edition had over 10,000 views and almost 60 comments. I made this blog series with the intention of creating debate, so the more people leaving comments, the better.
Secondly I should announce the winner of the last edition, which was between The Undertaker and Sting.
The winner with a monster 40 votes was ‘The Demon of Death Valley’ The Undertaker, who dominated Sting’s 8 votes.
In this edition of ‘Who was better?’ we’re looking at two technical, mat-based, submission specialists who outmanoeuvred legends on their way to the top. Both were King of the Ring winners, multiple-time WWE Champions and Royal Rumble winners.
But who was better: Bret Hart or Kurt Angle?
One of the legends of the nineties, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart brought a new class of wrestling to the WWE Championship. During a decade at the top-level he battled the likes of The Undertaker, Yokozuna and British Bulldog as well as propelling Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels and his brother, Owen Hart, to the main event.
A star of the WWE at a time when the company was at its weakest, ‘The Hitman’ was a main-eventer for a company in transition. The megastars of the previous decade, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, stepped back from the limelight and towards WCW and the supposed heir to Hogan’s crown, The Ultimate Warrior, failed to deliver as he struggled against his personal demons. It was then left to Hart to carry the company on his back. It should be noted that this was before Shawn Michaels made the step up to the top level.
He also signalled a transition from the powerhouse wrestling of old to a slower-paced, submission based style. He showed that you didn’t have to be a 300-pound steroid monster to hold the attention of the crowd and that was reflected in the quality of his matches. For over a decade he was the standard bearer of exceptional wrestling mixed with good storytelling and was arguably Mr WrestleMania before Shawn Michaels.
In my opinion his top ten matches in no particular order were:
- Vs British Bulldog – Summerslam 1992
- Vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 12
- Vs Undertaker – One Night Only 1997
- Vs Roddy Piper – WrestleMania 8
- Vs Stone Cold – WrestleMania 13
- Vs Owen Hart – WrestleMania 10
- Vs Mr Perfect – King of the Ring 1993
- Vs Diesel – Survivor Series 1995
- Vs Chris Benoit – Nitro 1999
- Vs Mr Perfect – Summerslam 1991
Like many of the best performers Hart had the ability to take a lower calibre of wrestler to a great match and the higher calibre of wrestler to an excellent match.
One of Hart’s rare weaknesses was his confidence and charisma on the mic. It was quite a contrast to see his on-screen confrontations with his rival, Shawn Michaels, and while the DX-bound Michaels was able to adapt to the adult-nature of the ‘Attitude Era’, Hart always seemed uncomfortable with the new brand of wrestling. He represented an older-style of mat-based wrestling that seemed old-fashioned compared come the turn of the century.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that although Bret was a brilliant as solo performer, his roots in WWE we firmly entrenched in the tag team system. As one half of the Hart Foundation, along with Jim Neidhart, he was part of the original revolution of tag team wrestling. The Foundation, as well as The Rockers and the Nasty Boys (when they were young and talented) were huge reasons that tag wrestling in the WWE changed from two wrestlers being in a team, to partners working as a team, in unison.
In conclusion it is difficult to think of better wrestlers during the nineties. Aside from Shawn Michaels, there have been few other wrestlers who could consistently perform at the level that Hart executed.
Debuting at a time when ‘Attitude’ was at its peak and when charisma was the primary tool in being successful in the WWE, Kurt Angle immediately stood out. His three I’s (Intelligence, Integrity and Intensity) and all-American hero persona made him a pure-comedy heel.
Over the next six years the gold medallist became a Euro-Continental Champion, a Tag Team Champion, a World Heavyweight Champion, a WWE Champion, a Royal Rumble and KOTR winner and wrestled every main eventer, from Hogan to The Rock, Austin to Taker and from Lesnar to Triple H. He not only faced them but created many classic moments and memorable matches with them.
By 2006 he was at his absolute peak and he went on to join TNA and work on making more moments. His matches with Samoa Joe, including the incredible MMA-style match, elevated the TNA original to new levels and made him a deserved champion, the same way he had done with ‘The Next Big Thing’ years before.
What was most impressive about Angle during his early years in the WWE was his ability to deliver a great comedy promo and suddenly transform into an intense predator in the ring. His promos with Edge and Christian, a heel Stone Cold and John Cena were hilarious and unfortunately that side of his personality is something that he’d lost by the end of the decade.
As an in-ring performer Angle had everything. He had unrivalled athleticism (he perfected the moonsault), devastating submission skills (compare his ankle lock to Swagger’s version), a great mix of power and technical moves and a brilliant use of reversals. Although I tend to say this about every great wrestler, Angle lifted others to the top level, perhaps better than any other (remember how good Cena looked on his debut?). Deservedly he was voted the wrestler of the decade by the Wrestling Observer.
In my opinion his best ten matches in no particular order were:
- Vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 21
- Vs Undertaker – No Way Out 2006
- Vs Brock Lesnar – WrestleMania 19
- Vs Samoa Joe – Lockdown 2008
- Vs Stone Cold – Summerslam 2001
- Vs Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble 2003
- Vs The Rock – No Way Out 2001
- Vs Samoa Joe – Genesis 2006
- With Chris Benoit Vs Rey Mysterio and Edge – No Mercy 2002
- Vs Mr Anderson – Lockdown 2010
(I’ll point out that I’ve never seen much of TNA so I couldn’t say too much about that stage of his career, but I have watched these chosen TNA matches on YouTube to see how good they are)
In conclusion perhaps the greatest compliment I could pay Angle is that I see him as possessing the same technical and submission skills as Hart but also having the athleticism and intensity of Michaels. He is the perfect blend of that old-school mat-based wrestling and the modern, faster-paced mix of power and skill.
Now it is up to you to decide.
Who was better: Kurt Angle or Bret Hart?
Please leave your votes and comments below.