Revisiting His Final WWE Match & Post-WWE Career
Event: Vengeance. Date: June 25 2006. Opponent: Randy Orton. Result: loss via pinfall.
This was the last time Kurt Angle wrestled on WWE PPV. A few weeks later he asked for, and was granted, his release from the company. After toying with the idea of joining the UFC he decided to sign with TNA where he became a Hall of Famer and arguably their greatest ever superstar. During his decade there he put on some of the best matches of all time with the likes of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Sting and Bobby Roode. All of those “TNA guys” are now a vital part of WWE on and off the screen.
Angle believes his best performances came in the Orlando based promotion, but I’d have to disagree. Yes, Angle had some tremendous bouts in TNA, but I don’t believe they were anywhere near as good as the classics he had in WWE where he was younger and not bogged down with injuries. His battle with Stone Cold Steve Austin at SummerSlam 2001 is epic and filled with drama. Yes, the shoddy disqualification outcome hindered it slightly, but even with that it’s an incredible match. It’s a contest that also stands the test of time, as do most of Kurt’s matches, to be fair.
The Golden Kurt Angle Years
2002 was another outstanding year for the Olympic gold medalist as he helped make a star out of Edge. We all knew how talented Edge was as a performer but he just hadn’t had that defining match until he met Kurt. Their rivalry was outstanding and it can’t go understated what an impact it had on Edge’s career. Angle’s bout with Rey Mysterio from SummerSlam 2002 where he was tasked with making the WWE Universe aware of Rey’s unique wrestling style is an absolute masterpiece.
He capped off the year by becoming WWE Champion with victory over The Big Show at Armageddon. The bout wasn’t great, but it was reward for all of Angle’s hard work throughout the year.
2003 saw Angle have classic after classic again despite suffering a broken neck. Incredibly he defied doctor’s orders to compete in the main event of WrestleMania and put Brock Lesnar over knowing one wrong move could spell the end of his glittering career. Angle got through the match unscathed which is more than can be said for Lesnar, who knocked himself loopy when he botched a Shooting Star Press.
Despite requiring surgery on his broken neck, Angle was back in action just a couple of months later. He recaptured the WWE Championship from Lesnar and Big Show in a stirring Triple Threat match at Vengeance, Smackdown’s first and possibly best exclusive PPV. He became the first man in WWE history to make The Beast Incarnate tap out during his successful title defense at SummerSlam.
Angle made an habit of having classic encounters at the biggest party of the summer. Angle and Lesnar made history by competing in the first ever 60-minute Ironman match on free TV. It was an outstanding achievement from both men.
In 2004, Kurt Angle turned heel to set up a programme with WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero
at WrestleMania. Both men went on record to say how disappointed they were with that match, but I’ve watched it a few times and it’s right up there in terms of quality and genius finishes.
Eddie was often unnecessarily hard on himself, as is Angle to a certain degree. Let’s just say if Jinder Mahal had a match half as good as this one in his career I’d be truly amazed. Angle suffered another neck injury during the contest, and this one would keep him out of the ring for longer than the one before.
Angle remained on our screens as the Smackdown General Manager, before returning to full-time competition in August.
Despite being run down with a number of injuries, 2005 was quite possibly Angle’s greatest ever year as a in-ring performer. His all-time classics with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania and Vengeance were masterpieces that all aspiring wrestlers should watch to witness what can be done inside that squared circle. Angle also had a series of stellar bouts with John Cena which helped elevate the Cenation leader to main event status. Angle was on another level in 2005, and nobody could touch him.
He continued his fine form in 2006 with an absolutely tremendous match with The Undertaker at No Way Out. It’s actually criminal that this bout did not take place on a bigger stage like WrestleMania. Behind the scenes, Angle was growing restless and frustrated with his current standing in WWE, coupled with his growing list of injuries.
He was not best pleased with being moved to the ECW brand which he saw as a demotion, and rightly so. After putting Randy Orton over at Vengeance, Angle got his release from the company. What might’ve been had Angle got himself clean and stayed with WWE?
He’s already had an Hall of Fame career, but just imagine what he could’ve achieved if he had stayed. Matches with Daniel Bryan and CM Punk are all but pipedreams now, but would’ve surely happened if Angle stuck around.
The Return Home
Kurt Angle returned to WWE this past year to be inducted into their Hall of Fame. He was then named Raw General Manager, which he has done a great job at. Despite being GM, Angle has constantly asked WWE to let him wrestle again, feeling he’s still got some classic matches left in him.
Until now, WWE refused. That was until the majority of their roster was wiped out with a vital condition, leaving their TLC card completely in tatters. The Shield reunion is no more following Roman Reigns’ illness, so stepping in his place will be Kurt Angle.
WWE have suddenly changed their minds on allowing Angle to wrestle. It might be rushed, it might not make sense in the context of the story, but who cares? Angle is back in a WWE ring, and that’s all that matters.
If Angle delivers like we know we can, I’m sure WWE will make sure this isn’t the last time we see Kurt compete for the company. The rumoured WrestleMania match with Triple H looks like it may happen after all. But that’s in the future, what we know for sure is Angle is wrestling tonight for WWE for the first time in over a decade.
This is huge, and I hope WWE give him the respect that he deserves. Good luck Kurt, and stay safe. We will all be rooting for you because you’re the greatest of all time. It’s true, it’s damn true!