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 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.
Or maybe, there’s one final Angle Slam in a WWE ring and Angle can cap his career against a more meaningful opponent. You never know!
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.
We know about Brett Favre having a historic game after his father’s passing and Bret Hart wrestling at Survivor Series (1990) right after his brother’s death; but those deaths were natural causes. One can only imagine what it’s like to suddenly lose a family member to that cause of death and then still going out to perform for millions.
13 A Former TNA Knockout Filed A Restraining Order Against Angle
After divorcing Karen Angle, Kurt started dating TNA Knockout Rhaka Khan. The two even lived together in Angle’s home in Pennsylvania. But things started to sour and in August 2009, Angle was arrested for violating a “protection from abuse” (PFA) for allegedly stalking Khan while at a Starbucks. The two eventually reached an agreement to avoid contact with each other and the PFA charge was dropped. It might have been awkward, and somewhat difficult, for Angle and Khan to avoid each other as they were co-workers but TNA made the whole situation much "easier" by releasing Khan from her contract just weeks after the arrest. Six months later, Angle would get engaged to actress and model, Giovanna Yannotti, and the couple would eventually marry and have three kids together.
12 As A Teenager, Angle’s Father Was Killed In An Accident
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Kurt’s family, and specifically his father, David, was involved in the construction business. David often worked 12-hour shifts in order to support Kurt, his five siblings, and their mother. Unfortunately, one day David went to work and never came back. When Kurt was just 15 years old, his father fell 15 feet from his crane onto his head at a building site in Pittsburgh. David cracked his skull in three different places and broke both of his shoulders. He would then slip into a coma and would not come out of it, succumbing at the age of 55. Kurt’s mother would hold the family together but she would eventually pass away as well in 2015 after a battle with cancer.
11 Attending An ECW Taping Nearly Scarred Angle For Life
Two months after winning gold at the Olympics, Angle went to an ECW event at the request of friend and fellow Pittsburgh native, Shane Douglas. Angle gave an in-ring interview and provided guest commentary for a Taz match. Then, in the main event, Raven attached Sandman to a cross using barbed wire and, thus, crucified him with Sandman’s 7-year-old son right next to him. Obviously, this did not go over well with Paul Heyman (who forced Raven to apologize in the ring) or with Angle who was incensed that he could possibly be associated with this act. As an Olympic gold medalist, Angle was worried the imagery of the crucifixion could damage his career prospects so he threatened to sue Heyman if he was shown in the same broadcast as the stunt.
10 WWE Rejected Angle When He Tried To Rejoin Them In 2014
Angle will make his first appearance on WWE television in over 10 years at this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony. However, he would have been back with the company in 2014 if he had his way. When his contract with TNA expired in late 2014, Angle and the WWE had conversations about him returning. Angle wanted a part-time schedule but WWE only wanted him full-time and the two sides couldn’t agree upon a deal. He would then end up signing a part-time deal with TNA that ended in March 2016. Since leaving TNA, Angle has wrestled in the independents and it remains to be seen if the WWE Hall of Fame induction is a one-time deal or if Angle will compete once again in a WWE ring.
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.
It's amazing how much adversity Angle has battled throughout his life.
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.
While Angle keeps his actual gold medals at home and not around his neck when he makes his way to the ring, a lot of fans of Angle probably don't want to remember this moment.
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.
It certainly would have been interesting to see if Angle’s pro and amateur wrestling skills would have translated to MMA. Also, season 10 of TUF featured backyard brawler Kimbo Slice so we missed out on a chance to see the two of them and their opposing styles go head-to-head.
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.
Fortunately, Angle's stint in rehab was successful and he has remained sober for four years.
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.
This wasn’t his only brush with steroid allegations as in 2007 Angle’s name was found in a client database of a wellness center that was suspected of providing PEDs. Angle countered by saying he never improperly received prescriptions and everything he had taken was under the care of his doctor.
4 Injury Ended His Bid To Compete At The 2012 Olympics
Angle’s last match as an amateur wrestler came when he captured a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Games. He attempted to return to his amateur roots 16 years later in hopes of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics. However, knee and hamstring injuries forced the 43-year-old to pull out of Olympic trials and, thus, his Olympic dream was over before it even started. Angle knew that his chances to make the team against guys half his age were pretty slim but he still wanted to give it a shot. Angle was attempting to become the first American wrestler to win two medals in the freestyle event. He was also looking forward to facing eventual gold medalist, Jake Varner, in the trials but it was not to be.
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.
Just as Triple H broke up with Chyna and then “married into the WWE” by tying the knot with Stephanie McMahon; Karen Angle broke up with Kurt and “married into TNA” by hitching co-founder, Jeff Jarrett. Thus, I suppose that makes Kurt Angle the “Chyna of TNA”?
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.
After his father’s death, Angle had regarded Schultz as a father figure and credits him with preparing him for the Olympics. Angle would then go to Atlanta for the Olympic Games, win the gold medal as a heavyweight, and dedicate the victory to Schultz.
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.