Kurt Angle is arguably the most accomplished wrestler in the history of the sport, and that’s not hyperbole. He is one of four people to complete the Grand Slam of amateur wrestling as he participated in junior nationals, the NCAA, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games. But not only did he simply participate in those events, he won each event.
Angle then made the crossover from amateur wrestling to pro wrestling and was just as adept at getting a pop (or heat) as he was in delivering a belly-to-back suplex. Angle became one of the biggest stars in WWE history in route to winning the WWE Championship four times, becoming the company’s fifth Grand Slam Champion, and being inducted into the Hall of Fame prior to WrestleMania 33.
However, there were many pitfalls during Angle’s career from untimely injuries to drug allegations to even a shocking murder in the lead-up to his Olympic debut. In some ways, the villains and brutes that he faced off inside the ring were nothing compared to the demons Angle battled out of the ring.
With Angle’s pro wrestling career culminating with his Hall of Fame enshrinement, it is time to look back at some of these challenges that Angle overcame and how they affected his work in the ring. Here are the top 15 things that Kurt Angle wants you to forget.
15 15. His Last Victory In WWE Was Against The Brooklyn Brawler
The Brooklyn Brawler is perhaps the greatest jobber in wrestling history and deserves a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame but that’s another discussion for another day. Brawler usually puts a wrestler over in their first match in WWE, not their last. However, that was the case for Angle as his last WWE victory (August 1, 2006) came against the Brooklyn Brawler! Not against Shawn Michaels or Chris Jericho or John Cena or Edge…but the Brooklyn Brawler. They say that legends never go out quite like they wanted to or how their fans wanted them to and, with all due respect to the Brawler, that’s the case in this situation.
14 14. Angle’s Sister Died Of A Heroin Overdose In 2003
On September 16, 2003 Angle had one of the greatest matches of his career: a 60 man Ironman match with Brock Lesnar on SmackDown. Even though he was defeated, Angle put on a wrestling clinic in a match that was named by PWI as the Match of the Year. However, unbeknownst to the general public, this match came just 24 hours after Angle’s older sister, Le’Anne, had died from a heroin overdose.
13 13. A Former TNA Knockout Filed A Restraining Order Against Angle
12 12. As A Teenager, Angle’s Father Was Killed In An Accident
11 11. Attending An ECW Taping Nearly Scarred Angle For Life
10 10. WWE Rejected Angle When He Tried To Rejoin Them In 2014
9 9. He Lost Feeling In His Extremities And Underwent Emergency Surgery
This is something that not only Angle wants you to forget, but something he would like to forget as well. In July 2015 Angle underwent neck surgery to remove a benign tumor. All went well with that surgery but about a week later Angle’s condition became dire. A buildup of fluid remained on his spinal cord after that first surgery which then required a second emergency operation. Angle had lost feeling in his extremities and had difficulty breathing so the doctors had to do the emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his spine. Without the surgery, we could have lost our Olympic hero. Angle was able to make a full recovery and returned to the ring just two-and-a-half months later.
8 8. Angle Lost His Olympic Gold Medal To Eugene
You all remember Eugene, right? He was billed as Eric Bischoff’s “special” nephew and he took part in the “Kurt Angle Invitational.” This invitational was a challenge that Angle made to all superstars whereas if they could last three minutes in the ring with him without tapping out, then they would “win” his gold medal. Eugene was able to last three minutes and thus, became WWE’s “Second Olympic Gold Medalist.” Angle would eventually recapture his medal in a rematch at SummerSlam but, even in kayfabe, this wasn’t one of Angle’s proudest moments.
7 7. He Failed His Medical For UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter
In 2011, at the age of 42, Angle had dreams of competing in MMA and reached out to UFC president Dana White. White, one of the creators of the highly popular show The Ultimate Fighter, offered Angle a spot on the 10th season of the show. Angle accepted the invitation and if he passed all of the medical testing then he would be on the show. Unfortunately, with all of the injuries Angle had suffered up to that point, he could not pass the tests and never appeared on the show or in a mixed-martial-arts octagon.
6 6. Angle Has 3 More DUI Arrests (4) Than He Has Olympic Gold Medals (1)
Since leaving WWE in 2006, Angle’s personal life has spiraled out of control. In 2007 he nearly hit a woman while driving, was arrested, and charged with a DUI and careless driving. Then in March 2011, he was arrested for being drunk behind the wheel, but not while actually driving and was subsequently charged with “being in control with a motor vehicle while intoxicated.” Just five months later he was again arrested for a DUI and reckless driving. He completed the Grand Slam by being arrested again in 2013 for driving while intoxicated and he would check into a rehab center later that day. All four of those arrests came in different states and it appears that they came while on the road traveling to and from TNA events.
5 5. He Was Suspended From WWE For Violating Their Wellness Policy
Contrary to popular belief for a man who wrestled with a broken freakin’ neck, Angle never failed a drug test in WWE for pain pills. He did, however, violate the Wellness Policy by failing a test for steroids which he took because his prescription for pain pills never arrived in time. He would be suspended for 30 days as a result. Shortly after returning to the ring in the summer of 2006, Angle would ask for his release due to health reasons. Angle said he felt he was cheating Vince McMahon by not being able to give his best in the ring.
4 4. Injury Ended His Bid To Compete At The 2012 Olympics
3 3. Angle Lost His Wife To His Boss
Kurt and Karen Angle were married for 10 years and have two children together. They were together from the start of his WWE career all the way through the start of his TNA career. However, the two divorced in 2008, and just a few months later, Karen was romantically linked to Jeff Jarrett who also happened to be TNA’s co-founder. This touchy situation forced TNA’s president, Dixie Carter, to put Jarrett on a leave of absence. Karen would eventually become Karen Jarrett by marrying Jeff in 2010.
2 2. Angle’s Olympic Coach, Dave Schultz, Was Murdered
If you’ve seen the 2014 movie, Foxcatcher, then you are likely familiar with the story about Schultz’s death. Schultz won a gold medal in wrestling at the 1984 Olympics and later trained many future champions and medalists including Kurt Angle. While training Angle and others in preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games, Schultz was murdered in his driveway by John du Pont. There was no known motive for the killing and du Pont was convicted but his verdict was “guilty but mentally ill.” John du Pont was sentenced to 13 to 30 years in prison and died there in 2010 from a lung disease.
1 1. Daniel F’N Puder!
During season 4 of Tough Enough, the finalists were invited by Angle to the ring during a SmackDown taping. After putting the contestants through a squat thrust competition, the winner of the challenge received the honor of having an unscripted match with Angle. The Olympic gold medalist quickly dispatched of the “winner” by breaking his ribs and making him tap out. Angle then challenged any of the other contestants and young Daniel Puder stepped up to the challenge.
Puder may have been a novice wrestler but he was also an accomplished MMA fighter and would be the eventual Tough Enough champion of that season. Puder and Angle locked up in the ring and in the midst of Angle taking Puder down to the canvas, Puder applied a kimura lock to Angle’s arm. This move puts intense pressure on the shoulder and can easily snap one’s arm. The WWE referee in the ring quickly sensed what was about to happen and before Angle could tap out, or have his arm snapped, the ref counted Puder’s shoulders down on the mat even though they clearly were not.
WWE’s only Olympic gold medalist was, obviously, irate and embarrassed and lashed out at Puder backstage. A neophyte to the squared circle had gotten the best of him, and even though he would never admit it, Angle knows it.
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