In 1999 when the WWF first aired vignettes hyping his debut, Kurt Angle was promoted as the “most celebrated real athelete in WWF history”. While that statement is pretty damn funny for a number of different reasons, there was no denying how REAL Kurt Angle truly was. Before stepping into the world of “entertainment”, Kurt was a legitimate Olympic Gold Medalist, which is about as big as it gets in the world of athletes. Kurt was offered a deal in 1996 by the WWF (and by ECW), but Kurt laughed it off until he came to his senses in 1998 after watching an episode of WWF Raw is War.
In retrospect, Kurt’s story in wrestling is that, alongside guys like Bill Goldberg, Vader, and Brock Lesnar, he was one of the fastest rising stars in the history of the business. After debuting at the 1999 Survivor Series (not many stars debut on PPV), he became the first man to capture every single singles title in the company (technically Diesel did it first, but that was 2 belts to 4). This culminated with Kurt SHOCKINGLY defeating The Rock at No Mercy 2000 to become the WWF Champion. Kurt would go on to win a plethora of titles as well as the 2000 King of the Ring.
Kurt was really a jack of all trades. He was a legit “shooter” and everybody knew it and he could be one of the scariest dudes ever. But he also had tons of charisma and could do comedy as well. But the thing Kurt was best at, that earned the respect of both his piers and the fans, was his workrate. Kurt quickly learned how to have not only good matches, not only great ones, but EPIC matches. The list of great matches Kurt had just in his first year were stunning, but he really didn’t hit his stride until 2001, when he had damn-near classic contests with Triple H, The Rock, Stone Cold, and Chris Benoit, many of these were just on regular episodes of Raw. Kurt remained a solid main eventer in the WWF/WWE and capped his seemingly short, but effective Hall of Fame career with classic Wrestlemania encounters with Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero, and Shawn Michaels. In 2006, after a somewhat bizarre and controversial series of stir-ups between Kurt and the WWE management, Kurt left the company to travel to TNA. His first month there, he faced off with the incredibly hot Samoa Joe and gave TNA their biggest PPV buyrate in company history. Kurt has remained in TNA since then and gone on to win numerous titles and feud with nearly everybody on the roster.
Kurt Angle’s historic TNA debut:
Many fans to this day are waiting for the day Angle parts ways with TNA so he can make his return to the WWE and end his career the right way. Angle has teased this for years but nothing has really come of it. Angle has also teased a UFC run and Olympic return among other things. With Kurt aging rapidly and suffering from a neck that will seemingly never heal, only time will tell if we’ll ever see him back home.
Defining Match Of The WrestleMania Era: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit at Royal Rumble 2003
Kurt Angle has had more spectacular matches than nearly anybody in the modern era, but his greatest opponent would HAVE to be Chris Benoit. Angle and Benoit feuded on and off from 2001 to 2003, competing in all types of matches, including the first and only “30 Minute Ultimate Submission” match, a Cage match on Raw, a 3 Stages of Hell Ladder Match, and tons of singles matches. The one everybody points to as the career defining moment for both Kurt AND Chris was their epic encounter at the 2003 Royal Rumble for the WWE Title.