The WWE announced the first member of the 2017 Hall of Fame class this week and it’s none other than Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle. The only gold medal winning wrestler to ever compete in sports entertainment not only competed but excelled right away. During the legendary Attitude Era the company was looking for new stars and Angle became one of the top guys.
Kurt is one of America’s most decorated amateur wrestlers. He was a 3-time All American and 2-time National Champion at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. After graduating he won the 1995 World Freestyle Championship and went on to win the Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Angle famously won gold with a broken neck, something he would not let you forget throughout his wrestling career.
After his Olympic run Kurt made his first appearance in pro wrestling in late 1996. He made his storyline debut in 1999 in the WWE. Positioned as an Olympic hero one would think that Angle would have been a classic red, white and blue babyface but in the crazy Attitude Era that made him a heel. Angle adapted to the role and had one of the most successful rookie years ever in the WWF. Angle won both the European and Intercontinental titles, along with King of the Ring and the WWF title from 1999-2000.
In a WWE where The Rock, Stone Cold and Triple H were at the top of the heap, Angle emerged and more than held his own. He also helped lead a new crop of stars that was ascending to the main event like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero. One of Kurt’s biggest feuds came when another hot shot rookie with a strong amateur background came into the company. Brock Lesnar had a big rookie year himself in 2002 and both him and Angle ended up the Smackdown roster after the brand split.
Brock and Angle had some classic matches that culminated with classic Iron Match on Smackdown. The first Iron Match that the company had on live network television. Angle was a top tier star in the WWE until 2006. Then he made his way to the up and coming TNA. Angle is the biggest star to leave the WWE for TNA and left while he was one of the company’s biggest draws. Soon as he got to Impact he made an immediate splash against Samoa Joe. He went on to have some classic matches against Joe and AJ Styles. Like in the WWE, Angle won every title that the company had to offer. Also while in TNA he won the IWGP title while the company had some cross promotional events with New Japan.
Angle finishes his wrestling career as a 13 time world champion (6 – WWE, 6-TNA, 1-IWGP), and is definitely deserving of this Hall of Fame induction by the WWE. He is the greatest wrestler who ever made the transition from Olympic style competition to sports entertainment. In 2016 Angle was recognized for his achievements in the world of amateur wrestling by in induction into the International Sports Hall of Fame. The WWE is lucky to have him back in the family.
Keith B. Holt
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