Recently, upcoming WWE Hall Of Famer Kurt Angle participated in a Reddit AMA (which you can read at this link). In it, he was asked about his WrestleMania XIX match with Brock Lesnar. It was here that I learnt about what the original plan for the match was going to be in the first place – a “TIL moment”, if you will.
This made me start thinking, with WrestleMania on the horizon, and so many rumoured matches, such as John Cena vs Samoa Joe, being called off to make way for new plans, just how different could have previous WrestleMania events been? As it turns out… very different.
Entire career paths could have been changed from a much earlier point. We could have seen much different people in the main event scene today if these plans went ahead. And the entire course of the WrestleMania franchise could have been hindered if these went ahead, falling flat on its face. It’s fascinating to have looked out at parallel universe versions of previous shows, and scoff at how they nearly became reality.
With this in mind, we shall start off by looking at the very match that Kurt Angle explained in his AMA: Brock Lesnar vs. Chris Benoit at WrestleMania XIX.
Going back to early 2003, Kurt Angle was not in fantastic physical shape. The years of working heavy-duty matches after sustaining a neck injury back at the Olympics in 1996, not to mention it being a pre-wellness policy era, created a concoction of pain for the then-WWE Champion. In fact, Kurt’s neck was in such poor shape heading into the show of shows that he wasn’t even sure he’d make it to the match, let alone put on a main-event-worthy contest.
It was at this point that Angle went to Vince McMahon, and opened up about the sheer pain he was in. Whilst we like to paint McMahon has a heartless businessman, he clearly saw that if Kurt Angle, the hard worker that he is, is saying he is in too much pain to go through with the match, that it must be serious. McMahon and Angle came up with the idea of Kurt dropping the WWE Championship to Brock Lesnar in the main event of SmackDown!, a few days before WrestleMania was scheduled to happen. Not just that, but to beat Angle in 30 seconds.
The details become thin from here, but it’s assumed that Kurt would have taken a sabbatical from the company for an entire year, to get surgery and heal up. This would set up a storyline of Angle claiming that Lesnar injured him, starting a feud between the two in preparation for WrestleMania 20, turning Lesnar back into a heel in the process. From here, Chris Benoit would enter the picture in some form. Kurt never went into detail about how Benoit would replace him in the match – there could have been the traditional battle royal to determine the new #1 contender, or it could have been a single-night tournament.
Here’s another idea to consider: a few months prior, Angle and Benoit were a tag team – not a cohesive one, mind you (think Sheamus and Cesaro), but they were still the inaugural WWE Tag Team Champions. The two went their separate ways eventually, so that Kurt could form “Team Angle”, but with the idea of Kurt’s injury at the hands of Lesnar, Benoit could have become the babyface of the feud, and confronted Lesnar about the way he recklessly destroyed the Olympian.
Whilst it seems fairly doubtful that Benoit would have gone over Lesnar at WrestleMania XIX, the two only ever faced off once in their careers, and that wouldn’t be for another 9 months, in December of 2003. It would also be doubtful that the two would main event the show, given the short amount of build the match would have. The eventual main event of the show would have, conceivably, been given to Austin and The Rock, seeing as it was Austin’s (unannounced) retirement bout.
So what changed this plan, and gave way to the match we eventually saw? It was Kurt Angle’s neighbour:
I was over at my neighbour’s house about two days before that SmackDown match where I was supposed to drop the title to Brock, which was a week before Mania. A good friend of mine who has Down’s Syndrome came up to me and said, “I heard that you are not wrestling!” He started crying. He said, “I heard you are not wrestling Brock at WrestleMania,” and he held up a DirectTV cover that had Brock and I facing off, and the kid made me cry.
In a bit of a twist to this entire story, it turns out this was actually plan B, and the match we saw at WrestleMania XIX was, in fact, Plan C. Kurt added that creative’s original idea was to have Kurt retain the championship in the main event, and go onto have a lengthy reign as the SmackDown! brand’s biggest heel.
What do you think? Would you have rather seen Benoit vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania? Or what about Kurt coming out on top like originally planned? Let us know in the comments below!