Kurt Angle is set to rejoin the WWE family on March 31 when he’s inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame two nights before Wrestlemania 33. It will be the first time Angle is associated with WWE in any way since he left the company in 2006.
However, before his departure, Angle spent nearly seven years as a main eventer in WWE, winning every major championship available to him. Coming out of the 1996 Olympics, where Angle won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling, he was sought after by every major professional wrestling organization.
In a recent appearance on The Statement Show, Angle said he was deciding between WCW and WWE (then WWF). It wasn’t until a conversation with a future two-time WWE Hall of Famer that Angle knew where he wanted to go.
“Before I signed with WWE, I did speak with Ric Flair and he told me flat out, he said, ‘you don’t want to come here. They’re going to ruin your career. Go to WWE. Let Vince McMahon mold you into the star that you deserve to be,'” Angle said(h/t Wrestling Inc).” And I listened to Ric, WCW went out of business, I think, the first year I started, so he was right.”
Angle made his WWE debut at Survivor Series 1999 on November 14, 1999, with a victory over Shawn Stasiak. It was only a few months before Angle was a dual champion, wielding the Intercontinental and European titles. Only a few months after that, Angle was the WWE champion, feuding with top superstars such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Triple H.
Reflecting on his numerous battles in WWE, the 48-year-old Angle says that Austin — seen by many as the face of the WWE at the time — was actually underappreciated as an actual wrestler due to the nature of his character.
“Austin was the most under-appreciated wrestler because his character was so strong, “Angle said. “People loved the character. They didn’t know that he was actually one of the best wrestlers. I learned so much from him. We didn’t even have to put matches together. He’d just tell me what to do at the time. I never had anybody do that for a whole, entire match. And Austin, for 80 percent of it, we’d have the finish planned, or the comeback and the finish planned, and the rest of it, Austin would just guide me through because, back then, I was only in the [professional wrestling] business a year or a year-and-a-half.”
Even for an established amateur wrestler the caliber of Angle, adjusting to the pomp and circumstance of the WWE was a considerable adjustment period. Despite that, Angle has received praise from his former on-screen rival Triple H for how quickly “The Wrestling Machine” picked up the intricacies of the business (via IGN).
“One of the things that always stands out for me is that I was here when Kurt was coming out of the Olympics and training. And having never done this before, he went from zero knowledge of our industry to being one of the most incredible performers in the ring in the time frame of the Attitude Era where, you know, he was in there with some of the best in the world.”
Less than two months removed from taking his place in the WWE Hall of Fame, Angle is on a mission thank those who helped him reach the heights he did — whether it be behind the scenes or in the ring.
“I was main eventing with Austin and I had no idea what I was doing! So I needed someone like him. He really helped me a lot,” Angle said.
[Featured Image by WWE]