Re: The most complete wrestler ever..
Meh, Angle was never a student of the game. He's a tremendous amateur wrestler and one of the most legitimate athletes in the history of the industry, but being a tremendous WRESTLER doesn't make you a tremendous WORKER by default. Its why John Cena is a very good (sometimes excellent) worker despite being sub-par at best in terms of pure wrestling ability.
Angle isn't like a Finlay, a Terry Funk, a William Regal, an Arn Anderson etc. He didn't grow up being told the basics of the business, how to structure a match, how to plan a match to put over a young guy but not at his own expense, how and when to sell, how to convey fear/anger/desperation/pain through his facial expressions, how to time a move to get the best reaction from the fans etc. Guys like Funk etc grew up working crowds up and down the country and internationally, they know how to put over a young guy, how to heel it up and keep a crowd invested and most importantly, they know how to do all of this whilst wrestling a simple and basic style where the emphasis is on the story and substance behind the moves, each move/sequence has meaning behind it and is used to put over the match rather than be there for the sake of an impressive looking spot.
As Angle has slowly become a veteran in the business instead of the promising rookie he was in 2000/2001 his matches over time have slowly worsened, as the rookie he could be led to excellent matches by Austin and Undertaker, guys who knew how to create substance and structure to their matches but crucially knew how to work a match that highlighted all of Angle's strengths whilst hiding his limitations.
Look, Angle is a polarising force, you either love the sprint epics where its more about the counters and the nearfalls than character work, selling, build, structure or you find him largely intolerable but sometimes able to show promise. For example he was incredible against Austin at Summerslam 2001, and his matches v Taker (Smackdown 2003 and NWO 2006) are two of the best matches WWE put on this past decade. The man clearly has talent for the business, he's just never really had that pro wrestling brain where he can work smarter/slower matches and save his body whilst still putting his opponent over and connect with a crowd. Because of this his body has broken down because he really only knows one way to wrestle, and that's the sprint style featuring big transitions, counters, nearfalls and kickouts because ever since The 2003 Royal Rumble opposite Benoit he's become convinced that's the only way to pop a crowd.
There are numerous issues where his lack of psychology is evident, the fact a lot of his matches very rarely have a build/structure to them, there's a lot of moves/transitions but there's no clear build to big spots: e.g in your average Flair title defence, he'd spent the vast majority of the beginning of the match getting outwrestled, losing each lock-up/chain wrestling sequence, would bump big for every bit of his opponent's offence and would visibly sell his frustration at being outwrestled. All this would then lead to him finally gaining control, whether it was by a low blow/rake to the eyes, a big bump by his opponent or simply through Flair brilliance: the point was all the damage he took in the early spell of the match built to that one moment where he would take over and then his opponent would be the one to sell. With Angle you very rarely get that, instead you usually get some default matwork/trading of holds, before they break away into the punches/stomps/suplexes/rest hold portion of the match. With a smarter worker, usually say Regal if he was to do matwork for 3-5 minutes at the start of a match, he'd make it mean something. Usually he'd be outwrestled or constantly be unable to keep control, indeed one of his famous spots at house shows is to run almost comedy esque spots where his opponent will time and time again counter every move Regal tries and dump him on his ass. It gets the crowd involved, but crucially it adds a story to the match and serves as reason for Regal to move away from matwork and try a new method to gain control: ergo the sequences whilst crowd pleasing and visually cool mean something. They don't just suddenly decide "hey, screw the matwork, now we're gonna punch and trade suplex counters" etc.
Now this doesn't mean Angle is a bad worker, it just means me personally I prefer the Flair/Regal example, where the spots mean something in the larger context of the match and aren't just there to start the match. They tie into and develop the characters within the match and serve a larger purpose, and as I've gotten older workers who can do this on a regular basis are the guys I tend to find on the whole better. Again I'm by no means right when I say Finlay >>>>>>>> Angle, because you could easily reply that Finlay's style is slow and plodding, and Angle's is more dynamic and gets a crowd more invested. You'd have a valid argument and a lot of people would be inclined to agree with you.
So aye, a whole lot of rambling there, but essentially the problem a lot of people have with Angle is that he's a guy who can do the epic sprints and fast paced wrestling match, but there exist a lot of fans who prefer a story/character dynamic etc to dominate a wrestling match, and Angle's style whilst retaining its fans will annoy/infuriate those looking for more meaning and depth to the sequences. It doesn't make either party right in their opinion as to whether he's excellent or mediocre, its just evidence that different stylistic preferences will always divide.