Editorial Columns

Kurt Angle Retrospective – The Impact Years and His Return to WWE

In our final instalment, Jack Irene talks about Kurt Angle’s TNA run and his return to WWE.

He had proved he had the pedigree for professional wrestling, but just how would Kurt Angle cope with life outside of the WWE?

On September 24, 2006, TNA closed out their No Surrender PPV event with an announcement that would change the landscape of the entire wrestling business. In the biggest jump since the WCW days, it was announced that the company had signed Kurt Angle. They go off the air and the Impact Zone explodes with excitement, in reaction to their unbelievable acquisition. Less than a month later, Angle would show up in Orlando, to take part in one of the most iconic moments in Impact history, headbutting Samoa Joe. He would go on to serve as the special enforcer for the main event of Bound For Glory and win his debut match against Abyss before embarking in a feud that would live on for the rest of his career.

At Genesis of 2006, Samoa Joe would tap out to Kurt Angle, ending his undefeated streak in what was billed as the “Dream Match of The Decade”. The event received around 60,000 buys, still recognized as the highest watched PPV in company history. Wrestling fans were captured by such a notable star coming to TNA to lock it up in some fantasy booker dream matches. He defeated Joe once more at the next PPV, leading to his first world title opportunity against former WWE colleague, Christian Cage. Angle was defeated in this clash, but would finally reach the gold at Slammiversary in a King of the Mountain ladder match. He was crowned the first TNA World Heavyweight Champion following the controversy surrounding the NWA Championship which was recognized as the top TNA accomplishment.

At Victory Road, Samoa Joe won the TNA Tag Team Titles as an individual in a convoluted match concept, pitting Angle to team with his enemy to go against the reigning champs, Team 3D. This led to a Winner Take All match at Hard Justice, forcing Angle to put his TNA and IWGP Heavyweight Title up for grabs in exchange for a chance at Samoa Joe’s X-Division and Tag Team Titles. Angle was victorious, becoming the second Triple Crown champion in company history in less than a year. After losing four of his five straps, he would main event Bound For Glory against Sting in a losing effort, only to win it back eleven days later.

Now looking for assistance, Angle would steal Christian Cage’s partners Tomko and A.J. Styles. They would assist him in defeating their former leader however couldn’t perform the same task at Lockdown, where Kurt Angle was defeated by Samoa Joe for the first time. This event raked in around 55,000 buys, just under their very first match and ranking second all-time.

Angle would take time off for a neck injury but would return to enter another eternal rivalry, with former partner A.J. Styles. They would have classic matches including a wild Last Man Standing match at Hard Justice and a ladder match on Impact for his prestigious gold medal, where Jeff Jarrett would cost him, causing a feud between the two. Angle would lose to him at Bound For Glory, leading to the formation of the most prolific group in TNA history.

On the first HD episode of Impact, Kurt Angle revealed an alliance of former world champions in Booker T, Kevin Nash, Sting, and Scott Steiner. The group would run rampant throughout the company with Angle at the helm. He would end 2008 with a classic Falls Count Anywhere match against Abyss and earning a rematch with Jeff Jarrett against Rhino. In May of 2009, Angle lost his position as The Godfather of The Main Event Mafia to Sting. He bounced back by capturing the World Title for his fourth reign, due to help from longtime foe Samoa Joe, who joined shortly after.

After losing his title to A.J. Styles, Angle would work with some fresh faces in Matt Morgan and Desmond Wolfe, delivering spectacular matches with both. He was placed back in the title picture with Hulk Hogan becoming in charge, where he would lose to A.J. Styles due to Ric Flair costing him at Genesis of 2010. He did meet another fresh face in Mr. Anderson who was in a similar position as Angle was in 2006. They would have several matches, culminating in quite possibly the best of his career in a steel cage war at Lockdown.

Angle advanced to a couple of matches with Jeff Hardy, where neither could reach a decisive finish over one another. This caused a match at the infamous 10.10.10 Bound For Glory, where Kurt swore to retire if he had lost, against Hardy and Anderson. Hardy would reveal himself as “They”, siding with Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan to form Immortal. Of course, this was not the end of his career, as he would return a few months later for his second feud with Jeff Jarrett.

Things got heated when the real-life divorce between Angle and his wife Karen and her new relationship with Jeff Jarrett was revealed. The two would go to war in a series of matches and unique angles including a destroyed vow renewal, a mixed tag match with Chyna, and an Ultra Male Rules Steel Cage match. Angle defeated Jarrett in a Parking Lot Brawl forcing Jarrett to move to Mexico where he would be unable to see Kurt’s children who he had used to get into his head.

Kurt Angle earned his fifth title reign against Sting at Hardcore Justice 2011, with assistance from a steel chair, turning him heel. He would defend the belt successfully against Bobby Roode in his third Bound For Glory main event but would lose it on the following episode of Impact Wrestling to Roode’s partner, James Storm. He would recapture gold in 2012, only this time in a tag team with AJ Styles feuding with Bad Influence. The dream team would put on great matches left and right before evolving into a feud between the two revolving around the Aces & Eights stable. Angle questioned Styles’ allegiance and defeated him at Slammiversary 2013, the same night he was announced as the second inductee into the TNA Hall of Fame. A match against MMA superstar Rampage Jackson was teased before Angle entered rehab for drug and alcohol use.

Angle returned from hiatus to defeat Bobby Roode at Bound For Glory. His first major feud in 2014 was against the undefeated Ethan Carter III who he was scheduled to face at Lockdown but was sidelined due to ACL surgery. The Hall of Famer would now work as an on-screen authority figure until his contract expired. Angle sought employment from the WWE who at the time was not interested in him for unknown reasons, causing him to sign a new short term deal with TNA.

Angle would return to the ring with his new contract, winning the TNA World Heavyweight Championship for a record sixth time in one of his first matches back. He would defeat Lashley in a highly anticipated battle in London, England which is regarded as one of the most notable matches in his tenure with the company. His reign finally ended on July 1 at Bell To Bell when his old rival, EC3 gained his first World Championship. With Angle’s contract coming up, he wanted to push the next generation, starting with the new champion. Wanting to end his run with TNA on a high note, Angle agreed to work a “Farewell Tour” running into TNA’s annual UK loop.

Kurt Angle’s Farewell Tour kicked off with Drew Galloway avenging his loss from a few weeks prior in a barnburner, where Angle would uncharacteristically tap out. Angle then picked up a win against Bobby Roode, in remembrance of all of their outstanding bouts together. His handpicked tour culminated with a big fight against Lashley, where he was pinned and attacked after the match, giving Lashley the push and momentum he needed to embark on another legendary title run.

With Angle finally leaving TNA, it was time for him to work in a new environment, or perhaps a familiar one. After working a brief independent run, Angle would be announced as an inductee to the WWE Hall of Fame. A few months later, he was appointed as RAW General Manager, marking his first WWE television appearance in more than ten years. This role did not include in-ring competition, however, that did not keep Angle from the drama.

In May of 2017, Corey Graves became aware of a scandal involving the new Hall of Famer. Angle revealed to the public that he had a son a woman from his college days. That child was none other than WWE Superstar Jason Jordan. This was planned to get Jordan over, eventually going toe-to-toe with his “father” however injuries to the chosen son seemed to put a halt on those plans, quietly ending the storyline.

At TLC 2017, The Shield was set to reunite in a big handicap match, but with Roman Reigns becoming unable to compete, Kurt Angle was given the call. Wrestling in his first match back with the company, Angle worked with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to defeat The Miz, Braun Strowman, Kane, Cesaro, and Sheamus. We even got the beautiful sight of Kurt Angle donning full Shield gear. After signing Ronda Rousey to her RAW contract, Angle would book himself to team with her against Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon at Wrestlemania 34. Following the event, Angle would be given a “constable” in Baron Corbin

On August 20, Angle would take a vacation leaving Corbin in full command, only to make a surprise return as The Conquistador weeks later, winning a battle royal. He would then make his RAW wrestling return against former TNA rival, Drew McIntyre, tapping out to him once more in the same exact building. Constable Corbin was stripped of all authority after being defeated by Braun Strowman at TLC, leaving Angle in charge. Corbin would make sure that this would not be the last time Angle would have to deal with him

In March of 2019, Kurt Angle announced his WWE Farewell Tour, in a similar format to his TNA Farewell Tour, where he would face young talent and old rivals on a weekly basis, culminating in marquee match as the grand finale. With names like John Cena and The Undertaker being thrown around for Angle’s retirement match, it was revealed that Baron Corbin would actually be getting the position. Fans are outraged, demanding a more fitting opponent, however, WWE has yet to make any changes to the planned bout. Meanwhile, Angle picked up wins over Apollo Crews, Chad Gable, and Samoa Joe while also appearing with AJ Styles and Rey Mysterio one last time.

Kurt Angle will arguably always be most known for his WWE career, where he got his start and perfected his craft, placing him among the top wrestlers of all time. However, Angle has stated that he feels his TNA career may have surpassed his WWE career, working with athletes like Samoa Joe and AJ Styles. After all, Angle did spend ten consecutive years in the company, gaining nearly every title, main eventing countless pay-per-views, and performing some of the most critically acclaimed matches of his career. As stated earlier, many will think of Angle was a “WWE guy” but others will forever have memories watching the headbutt to Samoa Joe, hearing “Gold Medal” from Dale Oliver, and witnessing ten years worth of classic rivalries and performances that will never be matched by anyone in the business ever again.

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