How It Started vs How It Ended: Kurt Angle

How It Started

Former Olympic wrestling Gold Medalist Kurt Angle made his in-ring debut in the WWF, at 1999’s Survivor Series event. “The most celebrated, real athlete in WWF history” began his career on the right foot, picking up a win over Shawn Stasiak. Kurt managed to maintain his early success, and earned himself a shot at the European Championship, on the February 10th 2000, edition of Smackdown. On that night, Kurt Angle defeated Val Venis, earning his first championship in WWF in the process. Angle would strike gold again just two weeks later, after defeating Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship at No Way Out, and becoming the third “Euro-Continental Champion” in company history. Kurt would go on to carry both titles into Wrestlemania 2000, where he faced off against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in a two-fall Triple Threat match, with both titles on the line. On that night, Kurt was unable to retain his gold, without conceding a fall during the match. Angle lost the Intercontinental Championship on the first fall when Benoit pinned Jericho. Angle would later lose the European Championship to Jericho, after pinning Benoit. After Wrestlemania passed, Angle would continue to show off his three I’s, “Intensity, Integrity, Intelligence”, and found one of the characteristics we would all begin take a liking to, comedy. Angle began hanging around with Edge and Christian, dubbing themselves “ECK”. The trio would go on to produce numerous funny backstage, and in-ring skits or promos, feuding with Too-Cool and Rikishi in the middle of it all. Kurt Angle and Rikishi would go on to make it to the finals of the 2000 King of the Ring tournament, where Angle became the WWF King of the Ring. Kurt continued to add on to the incredible rookie year, and found himself in the main event a few months after King of the Ring. At No Mercy, Angle defeated The Rock, and earned his first WWF Championship. With the win, Angle became the first person to ever win an Olympic Gold Medal, as well as the WWF Championship. Angle held on to the belt through a Survivor Series showdown with The Undertaker, and looked strong heading into a match at Armageddon. On that night, Angle defended the WWF Championship against The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H, and Rikiski, inside Hell In A Cell, and managed to pick up a tough win after pinning The Rock once again. Kurt would hold the title through the 2001 Royal Rumble event, defeating Triple H, before squaring off with The Rock once again. The two amazing athletes faced each other at No Way Out, and Angle came up just short of retaining the title, and capping off one of the greatest debut years in company history. Angle cemented himself as a future Hall Of Famer straight out of the gate, but the fun had only just begun.

A Rabid Rivalry

Shortly before Wrestlemania 17, Angle began one of his most classic rivalries with Chris Benoit. Though the two had met in the past, things had yet to reach the level they were about to go to. At Wrestlemania, Kurt Angle faced off against Benoit, in an instant classic match. After an exciting back and fourth matchup, Angle managed to pick up a sneaky win, continuing the rivalry in the process. Both athletes moved on to Backlash, where they competed in a 30-minute Ultimate Submission match, and kicked things up another notch. After 30 minutes passed, the two work horses found themselves tied at three a piece. The match would then head into overtime, where Benoit forced Angle to submit to the Crossface, evening the feud at 1 win each. The white hot rivalry moved on to Judgement Day, where the masters of the mat hit the ring again, this time in a unique two out of three falls match. Benoit won the first fall, which was contested under “pin falls only rules”. Angle would go on to even things up in the “submission only” round, and the match headed for the third fall. The fall would be decided under ladder match rules, where Angle found assistance from Edge and Christian, and picked up the win. The two would go their separate ways for a while, until colliding again at Unforgiven 2002. Benoit walked away with the win, and moved on to No Mercy. After being forced to compete as a team by Smackdown General Manager Stephanie McMahon, Benoit and Angle moved on to the finals of the inaugural WWE Tag Team Championship tournament. On that night, the two technicians would take on the team of Edge and Rey Mysterio. Angle’s team won the match, and Kurt became a Grand Slam Champion, while all four men earned the Wrestling Observer match of the year. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit held the tag team gold until the November 7th episode of Smackdown. After competing in a two out of three falls match for the WWE Tag Team Championships against Edge and Mysterio, Angle and Benoit dropped the straps. On the following episode of Smackdown, Angle and Benoit faced off one on one, and battled to a non-contest. On February 4th, 2003, Angle and Benoit faced off in a one on one match for the final time. Kurt would go on to pick up the win, and put an end to one of the best pure wrestling rivalries of the modern era.

Kurt Angle, Wrestling Machine

“The Wrestling Machine” began another storied rivalry at the 2005 Royal Rumble event. On that night, Angle competed in the Royal Rumble, and quickly found himself tossed over the top rope by Shawn Michaels. Later in the same match, Angle returned to the ring, and eliminated the “Heartbreak Kid” from the match. The two icons of the ring traveled the “road to wrestlemania” after that, and along the way, Angle took the time to poke the bear. Angle mocked, then defeated Michaels former tag team partner Marty Jannetty, and Shawn’s former manager Sherri Martel. Kurt would then go on to defeat Michaels at Wrestlemania 21, in an inter-promotional match, via the Angle lock. The match won PWI’s match of the year award for 2005, and still stands as one of the top WWE matches of the 2000’s. Kurt and Shawn went back to their respective brands for a while, until 2005’s WWE Draft, where Angle got drafted to Raw. Kurt and Michaels competed in a match at Vengeance, with Shawn picking up the win, tying the two at one a piece. Both superstars would meet again at WWE Homecoming, this time wrestling in a 30-minute Iron Man match. Michaels and Angle wrestled to a 2-2 tie, and after the match, Michaels offered Angle the chance to settle the score, and go into overtime. Angle declined, and the two didn’t meet again, until colliding in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship, along with John Cena. The match went down at Taboo Tuesday, and Cena won. Angle and Michaels crossed paths for the final time at 2006’s New Years Revolution event, competing in an Elimination Chamber match, for the WWE Championship. During the match, Michaels eliminated Angle, and both men failed to win the match, sealing the deal on that chapter of Kurts career. Rewinding things a bit, in the midst of Angles classic matches with HBK, Kurt began a rivalry with John Cena. As everyone knows by now, Cena made his debut in a match against Angle, who won the memorable encounter. After a few random tag matches, the two competed in a one on one non-title match, at No Mercy 2003, where Angle went up 2-0 on Cena. Just two years later, Angle and Cena faced off again, this time with the WWE Championship on the line. Angle defeated John Cena at 2005’s Unforgiven event, but won the match via disqualification. Angle wrestled with Cena once again, in the previously mentioned Taboo Tuesday match, before squaring off at Survivor Series, in a special guest referee match. Angle’s then manager Daivari put on the officials shirt, and attempted to aid Angle in capturing the WWE Championship, but would end up taking a ref bump, which removed him from the match. Cena would go on to win, and the feud continued into 2006. On January 2nd, Angle defeated Cena in a non-title, first blood match, after assistance from Daivari. Angle would go on to challenge Cena in the Elimination Chamber match, before making a surprise appearance on Smackdown. On that night, Angle entered a 20-man battle royal, for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship, and won. Kurt would go on to take the title with him down the “road to wrestlemania”, where he competed in a Triple Threat match against Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio. Angle would be unable to continue his reign as Champion, after Mysterio pinned Orton to become the new champion. Shortly after that, Angle found himself drafted over to the ECW brand, where his first WWE run came to a close. Angle would be granted his release from the company on August 25, 2006, due to health reasons.

How It Ended

Kurt Angle returned to the WWE, in January of 2017, after nearly 11 years away from the company. WWE announced Kurt would be going into the WWE Hall Of Fame during Wrestlemania 33 weekend, which led to appearance from Angle at Wrestlemania 33. The returning Hardy Boyz received the biggest crowd pop that night, but another loud reaction happened when WWE fans greeted Kurt with “you suck” chants, for the first time in years. Angle appeared on Raw the next night, where Vince McMahon named Angle the new Raw General Manager. On May 29, WWE Commentator Corey Graves began acting odd, and telling Angle about some text messages he had received. Kurt panicked about what the news might be, and on July 17th’s Raw, it was announced that Jason Jordan is Angle’s son. By October 20th, the recently reunited Shield had their sights set on competing in a 5-on-3 Handicapped TLC match. Shield member Roman Reigns came down with an illness, and WWE announced Kurt Angle would take his place. Kurt made his in-ring return at the TLC event, and helped The Shield secure the victory. The next major moment in Angle’s return to WWE happened in 2018, at Wrestlemania 34. One year after coming back “home”, Angle teamed with new comer Ronda Rousey to take on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Rousey forced Stephanie to tap out to the arm bar, helping Angle score his first win at Wrestlemania since 2005. The result of the match continued a rivalry between Stephanie and Kurt, and on August 20th, McMahon sent Angle home for a “vacation”, replacing him with the newly named “Constable Corbin”. On the October 8th, 2018 episode of Raw, a number of superstars competed in a battle royal, with the hopes of qualifying for the WWE World Cup Tournament at Crown Jewel. Constable Corbin and a masked wrestler known as “The Conquistador” battled into the final 2, with the masked man picking up the win. Post-match, “The Conquistador” revealed himself to be Kurt Angle. Angle would be eliminated in the first round of the tournament by Dolph Ziggler, and didn’t hit the ring again until November 5th. On that night, Angle competed on Raw, for the first time since 2006, falling in defeat to Drew McIntyre. Angle appeared again on December 16th, this time at the TLC event, helping Braun Strowman defeat Constable Corbin. The next night on Raw, Angle assisted Chad Gable, Apollo Crews, and Bobby Roode in a no disqualification handicapped match against Corbin, aiding the trio in victory. The result meant Constable Corbin could no longer be GM of Raw, setting up a future showdown between Corbin and Angle. On March 11th, 2019, Angle announced his retirement, and selected Baron Corbin as his final opponent. Over the next few weeks, Angle went on a farewell tour, competing in matches against Apollo Crews, Chad Gable, Samoa Joe, and AJ Styles. At “The Show of Shows” Angle fell short of a victory against Corbin. The next night on Raw, Angle confronted Corbin, and found himself as the victim of an attack from the debuting Lars Sullivan. Angle didn’t appear again until an August 5th episode of Raw, which took place in his hometown. Angle served as the special guest referee for a match between Cedric Alexander and Drew McIntyre. Before the match could get started, “The Fiend” made his presence felt by taking Angle down with the Mandible Claw. Kurt disappeared from TV, and on April 15, 2020, WWE announced that Angle had been released from his contract.

How It Started

How It Ended

That’s all for Kurt Angle’s illustrious WWE career. He is definitely high on the list of greatest all around performers in company history! What are your thoughts on Kurt? Feel free to leave any of your favorite memories in the comments section, and let me know what you think! Join me here next Thursday for an all new edition of the column, where I’ll take a look at how it started and ended for “The Man That Gravity Forgot” Neville.