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The History Of WWE & Kurt Angle

Liam DunneJune 25th, 2016Blog0 Comments »

This article was inspired by a thread on Reddit by bruiserbrody45

Kurt Angle is a unique persona in the sports entertainment world. He is the only Olympic Gold Medallist in the history of the industry. He had a celebrity status before even coming into the WWE (WWF at the time). It’s comparable to somebody like Tom Daly joining WWE, just less water and, potentially, less clothing than a swim team.

After winning his gold medal at the Olympics, he was contacted by the WWF and offered a contract to wrestle for them. However Kurt turned them down, as quoted from the WWE Documentary “The Mania of WrestleMania”

“They were fake, and what I did was real. I was better then that”

Later that year, he was approached by Shane Douglas, who was also from Pittsburgh, to attend a recording of the ECW show “High Incident”. Kurt gave professional wrestling a try, but not in the ring. Instead he did an interview and guest commentary, however this was the same controversial show that featured Sandman crucifying Raven using barbed wire. Kurt walked out on the event, stating he didn’t want to be associated with the company as he feared for what could happen to his career forthgoing. Kurt even threatened to use legal action on Paul Heyman if any of the footage he shot or was a part of would be broadcast.

After watching pro wrestling for a little bit, and falling in love with the way the WWF put on their shows, he eventually signed with the company in late 1998 and debuted a year later.

Angle took to the WWF like a duck to water. He could be considered one of their greatest characters, Angle could switch between a goofy comedy character with a small cowboy hat on talking about a pair of milk jugs and how great they feel, to becoming the wrestling machine, who said little but did a lot (ironically in the WWE’s “revival” of ECW). He was versatile and could make anything he was given to look easy, and put over any star he was in the ring with, be it a veteran like The Undertaker to newbies like little John Cena.

As well as this, Kurt’s patriotic gimmick, with the red, white and blue singlet and his all American looks couldn’t have come at a better time for the company. Kurt’s true momentum and main event matches came in 2001, around the time of the September 11th Attacks. Kurt became a patriotic symbol for the company, and a matter of week after the tragedy, the Championship was put around Angle’s waist, to remind everybody to keep their hopes high and be proud of their country.

The WWF/E invested a lot of time into the persona of Kurt Angle. He even became the general manager of SmackDown at one point, and was the main player on both SmackDown, RAW and ECW during the first brand split years.

So where did it all go wrong?

Kurt Angle and WWE’s falling out can be attributed to one major event in the pro wrestling world, that is still discussed to this day. The death of Eddie Guerrero.

Eddie’s death, whilst unprofessionally being used to push storylines and, more specifically, Rey Mysterio (Chavo who?). It also opened the company’s eyes to the drug problem that infested their industry. After all, taking bumps 5-6 nights a weeks on a hard mat takes its toll on the body, and these were the days were a concussion just meant you got knocked a little loopy and that was all. Working hurt was a badge of honour for a pro wrestler. But subsequently, a lot of wrestlers not only used, but were addicted to, pain killers. One of these people was Kurt Angle.

Kurt already had a history with pain killing drugs. He likes to remind people that he won at the Olympics with a “broken freakin’ neck”, which is true to an extent (they were two fractures as opposed to clean breaks, but still painful). However, in order to get ready and prepared for the event, Kurt would inject painkillers straight into his neck. During this time, Kurt became addicted Vicodin. Whilst he eventually shook the addiction off, it would always be easy for him to go back into those habits.

In mid 2006, Kurt Angle’s WWE appearances became less and less frequent, until he was eventually granted an early release from the company. This shocked a lot of people simply because Kurt was one of their biggest stars, and one of the last remnants of the Attitude Era, along with the likes of Edge, Triple H and Undertaker.

When WWE broke the news, they released this on their website:

“Due to personal issues, Kurt Angle has been granted an early release from his contract. WWE looks forward to establishing a new relationship with Kurt in the near future.”

Whilst there was little news at the time as to why this was, speculation ran rampant that some form of falling out had happened between the star and the company. Naturally the company, realising the gravity of this news, decided to post their own interview that they did with Kurt as he left the company.

“My body is so beat up and run down, I can’t even think straight,” Kurt Angle tells WWE.com in an exclusive interview Saturday concerning his early release from his contract with World Wrestling Entertainment. Angle and WWE officials mutually agreed to end Angle’s relationship with the company on Friday.

Angle’s business manager David Hawk claims, “Kurt’s in a tremendous amount of pain, he’s used prescription medication to deal with it. Kurt has come to the conclusion that unless he can get in the ring without the use of pain medication then he doesn’t need to be in there. He realizes he was just endangering himself and his opponents.”

But Angle says WWE Chairman Vince McMahon told him the door is always open. “Vince says when I’m ready, if I’m ever ready, to come back just sign on the dotted line. I’ll tell you if I do return I’m going back to my roots, training on the mat like my amateur days. Longevity is the key.”

This isn’t the full interview, but instead, a few snippets that feature the most important aspects of where things started to really break down. Reading it, we can see that WWE really left the door open for Kurt. This can be further evidenced by an interview from Vince McMahon on Kurt Angle leaving the company, a very rare thing for Vince to even do:

“It’s unfortunate that Kurt was released, and it’s really unfortunate for the WWE fans who, for a while at least, won’t see Angle in action,” the Chairman told WWE.com. “(Angle) is a consummate professional; obviously he’s a great athlete, and he’s the only Olympic Gold Medalist in WWE history. Not to have Kurt with us is really unfortunate all the way around…but circumstances were such that Kurt should have been, and was, granted his release.”

“Kurt only knows 100-percent; he is not one of those guys who can go out and compete at an 85-percent level. He just cannot do that; he’s a thoroughbred. He has to go as fast, and as great, and as strong as he possibly can; that’s the only way Kurt Angle knows.”

“WWE would certainly welcome Kurt back with open arms,” the Chairman affirmed. “I think Kurt has some issues he has to face, as we all do from time to time. We all have our demons, and as human beings, it is important for us to overcome them and become better human beings, athletes and business people.”

Whilst this could be considered a legitimate agreement between the two sides, of just letting Kurt go for a while to sort out his personal demons, and to return stronger and better, or if this was a firing and WWE going out of their way to help Kurt save face in the aftermath of his dismissal, the truth could also be somewhere in the middle. After all, this was what the WWE posted on their site, and, naturally, they wouldn’t want bad press surrounding this issue.

“Insiders” however, offer a very different perspective on the event:

Kurt Angle was making $1 million per year. Chris Masters just returned to Raw after a stint in rehab for pain pill issues. Joey Mercury is now in the outpatient part of his rehab stint. Neither was fired and then rehired. Why would WWE release Kurt Angle, who is ten times the star of either Mercury or Masters, when doing so would allow him to go to TNA or Japan or wherever else in 90 days? Why would Kurt Angle willingly walk away from so much money if he didn’t have to?

The reality is that this was not a mutual agreement. According to WWE sources, Angle and Hawk met with WWE on Friday and Angle, who just returned from a 30-day suspension for pain pill issues, was basically told he needed to get help immediately. He refused and was subsequently fired. The decision was made, for whatever reason, to publish all the WWE.com articles in an attempt to help him save face in the situation.

According to sources in WWE, Angle is heavily addicted to painkillers and a walking wreck. While he has serious neck and back issues dating back to the Olympics and exasperated by his intense pro style, I’m told the recent claims that he pulled his groin and tore an ab muscle are a work. It is said that he has showed up at events messed up worse than Shawn Michaels or Brian Pillman at their peaks. Others have said he’s the worst anyone has ever seen. Worse than the physical issues are the mental issues. Besides dealing with a body that won’t do what he wants it to do anymore, he’s also going through a divorce with his wife Karen, mother of his 3-year-old daughter Kira and currently pregnant with his first son.

From this, it seems that WWE was highly concerned for Kurt Angle. Eddie Guerrero’s death was tragic, but from a company stand point it was terrible PR. Here was a guy in the prime of his life, 38 years old, and he drops down dead with little or no warning of anything being wrong with him health wise. WWE tried to turn it around (although having Randy Orton say Eddie was in hell was beyond a slight mistake), and make Eddie into a saint like figure. They saw a potential similar situation with Kurt, and wanted to do anything they could to stop it. Not to take anything away from Eddie here, he was a legend and fantastic in the ring, but Kurt Angle was a bigger celebrity, he had a celebrity status before even joining pro wrestling. To have somebody at Kurt Angle’s level to potentially die on WWE’s watch would have dragged the company’s name through the mud and would take years to re-establish itself as a legitimate entertainment company and not a haven for drug addicts who wish to die young.

Angle’s behaviour in the final weeks prior to his firing was said to be incredibly worrisome, from dozens and dozens of text messages sent to creative every day to major paranoia to massive mood swings backstage. WWE at one point had to hire handlers to get him to buildings since he was unable to do so on his own. There were people who looked the other way for awhile since as bad as he was outside the ring he was fine once the bell rang. But then, during an ECW show, he dropped RVD on his head and nearly hurt him seriously. There were times when he had to be taken through airports in a wheelchair. And two separate WWE sources stated very explicitly that their belief was that he had serious mental health issues. Everything finally came to a head in that Friday afternoon meeting four weeks ago, and WWE fired him.

This is why the WWE went out of their way to help Kurt. He was asked to go to rehab to get over his addiction (on WWE’s money), with guarantee pay checks on top of that. The problem was, Kurt didn’t think he had a problem, he believed that WWE was overreacting in the wake of Eddie’s death which happened only months prior. When the two sides hit a stalemate, the only option was to release Kurt. However, the company did not want to end things on bad terms, and wanted the Olympian to return whenever it was convenient for him, no matter how long it took for him to over come his addiction. They went out of their way to make this look mutual and just that Kurt needed time to rest and get over some of his injurys.

With Kurt now being a free agent, and still addicted to pain killers, TNA reached out and, within only 2 months of his release from WWE, he signed with TNA. Whilst it was obvious the reasons why he signed with the company, the major one being less work days for still good money, many people speculate that the major reason was because TNA didn’t have a drug testing policy, which allowed Kurt to continue his addicition.

This is where things really took a turn for the worst though. After the announcement of his signing, Kurt did an interview with TNA:

“Being with TNA feels like I have finally found my home. I had fun in WWE at certain times, but I was never really happy. Now being a part of TNA, I know I have a purpose. I feel like I am part of history, part of a company that is not only on the rise – not only going to be the number-one watched wrestling show in the world within a short period of time – but TNA gives me an opportunity to spread my wings. This company has no limits to where it can go. The sky is the limit and the main reason is because they brought the ‘real’ back into wrestling and that is a perfect fit for the greatest wrestler in USA Olympic history. I have room to grow here and to help TNA grow. Working for these caring and very giving employers of TNA makes me feel like I have a purpose and that the sky is the limit. I don’t feel trapped or held back like I did the first six years in my tenure with the other company. They held me back. Now, our wonderful audience will see the real Kurt Angle doing what I love to do real wrestling – and that’s what puts a smile on my face each time I come to work. I even smile when I think about it. TNA will be the most watched television show on cable television. It’s only a matter of time. Now, I get the opportunity and privilege of being a part of it. Thank you TNA for saving my career, my life and my desire to do what I love. I will be here in some capacity for the rest of my life. That’s real — that’s damn real.”

Only a matter of weeks after his dismissal from the WWE, Kurt signs with their major competitor at the time, insults the company and their product and goes on to say that TNA saved his life. This was all after the multiple articles and even tributes from other WWE stars going out of their way to help Kurt save face in this awful time in his life, and this is how he responds. Whilst it is highly likely that he either said what TNA wanted to hear, or it was changed to make TNA sound good (after all, it was a written article published on TNA’s site, who’s to say Kurt even said these things?), it was no doubt a slap in the face to WWE and Vince McMahon. Kurt (or possibly TNA) pretty much burnt the bridges to WWE.

Whilst Kurt has been vocal about ending his career in Vince’s house, it’s remain to be seen whether this will eventually happen. The glorious thing about pro wrestling is that the unexpected can happen. Nobody ever thought Brock Lesnar would go back to WWE after the two had a court battle in the mid 2000s. Sting was a WCW guy through and through, showed no signs of wanted to be in WWE and they got him. Bruno Sammartino and Ultimate Warrior were both very critical over the WWE and had massive falling outs only to eventually return with Hall of Fame inductions. Heck 10 years ago disgruntled WWE wrestlers went to TNA to find their voice, but now it’s the other way round, with the likes of Samoa Joe, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode in NXT, and AJ Styles on the main roster with 2 high profile pay-per-view main events behind him.

Will Kurt return? Who knows, but anything is a possibility.

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