Every year, when the discussion about ‘big returns’ to the WWE comes up, there’s one name that fans cry for in unison. Sure, fans of the ‘sports entertainment’ style may long for Goldberg, and fans of actual in-ring work and pipebombs wait for the day C.M. Punk makes his much-awaited return; but fans of every era, every style of pro wrestling, from every part of the world – want to see Kurt Angle enter the squared circle and have a Wrestlemania match.
And even at the advanced age of 47, everyone knows, without a doubt, that he can still deliver a 5 star main event. We all know this man. We all love this icon. This is a tribute to an all time legend.
Kurt Steven Angle was born on 9th December 1968 and was involved with amateur wrestling from the age of 7. Not only did he garner accolade after accolade in wrestling, but he was also an accomplished football player and an All-State linebacker. In 1987, he was the Pennsylvania State Wrestling Champion, and in 1988, he became the USA International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles Junior World Freestyle champion.
Winning was second nature to this man, who kept garnering accolade after accolade, and in 1996, he won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics with a broken neck. He was soon approached by the WWE, but he turned down the opportunity. In a lot of ways, his association with professional wrestling began on a sour note, because after attending ECW’s ‘High Incident’ event, and witnessing the infamous crucifiction of Raven; this devout Christian left the building appalled.
However, as luck would have it, in 1998, Kurt Angle signed an 8-year contract with the World Wrestling Federation. As many have admitted over time, no one made the transition from amateur wrestling to professional wrestling as seamlessly as the Olympic gold medallist did. He was a natural, and in 1999, made his televised in-ring debut against Shawn Stasiak.
The crowd, unfamiliar with his mat-based approach, greeted him with a shower of boos. The same crowd would endow him with a barrage of cheers after his 3 classic Wrestlemania matches in the mid-2000s (against Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero and Shawn Michaels). With his catchphrase of ‘Intensity. Integrity. Intelligence’, Angle’s ascent to the top began with gusto. Soon enough, he became the King of the Ring, after defeating Rikishi and the WWF Champion, after defeating The Rock.
Few doubt his in-ring prowess. His match against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 21 is considered by many to be the greatest match of all time. When it comes to technical wrestling, he has few peers. Little wonder then that his series of matches with Benoit, his Iron-Man match with Lesnar on Smackdown, and his classic with Rey Mysterio at Summerslam 2002 are talked about even today.
And of course, Angle could definitely mix it up, and deliver the goods. One of his most memorable matches was the classic encounter with Shane McMahon at King of the Ring in 2001, where he slammed Vince McMahon’s heir through multiple glass doors.
Indeed, one of his greatest accomplishments has been making legends like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Undertaker, Lesnar, Shawn Michaels, Orton, and Sting tap out to his signature lock. Much like his Olympic/Angle slam and patented Ankle Lock, he also made the moonsault his own – sometimes taking breakneck risks. Indeed, when the straps came off, we knew Angle meant business.