2017 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Kurt Angle recently participated in a Reddit Q&A to promote his new addiction recovery app, AngleStrong, and to look back at his wrestling career. Below are some highlights:
When you faced John Cena in his debut match in 2002 what were your thoughts on him? Just an average new guy or did you see him becoming as big as he has?
"I really liked John. I talked to him and I had heard from some promoters out west that he had everything that it took to be a top tier guy. He had the look, he could wrestle. He was a little robotic in the beginning. You know, he didn't have the magic touch. He wasn't one of those guys where everything looked solid. His punches were a little weak at the beginning and I'm not sure if they even got better.
"I watch Cena now and he has had consistently some of the best matches in the last seven or eight years. He has seriously outgrown some of the, I guess, the theory that he can't work. He can work. He can wrestle.
"But, at the beginning, I was told that this guy had it all. When I wrestled him, did I think he was going to be as big as he was? No. But I also didn't know that he had such an incredible business mind. Literally, three months in from when he started, he was meeting with Vince McMahon on different merchandise ideas. He came up with that belt, the spinning belt. He just had, he was prepared. I have never seen anybody who came to the company be more prepared than John Cena. He was set from a wrestling standpoint, from a character standpoint, from a business standpoint, and when he started doing the rapper thing, he just took off. And rightfully so. He was one of the most prepared individuals I had ever seen.
"About the match, I just wanted to teach John a lesson. I literally tried to get him tired in that match. If you ever watch it, it's twelve minutes of non-stop movement. I made him hustle. I made him earn the respect that he deserves, and he knows it. But he didn't get tired! He's one of the few guys that kept up with me in that ring. I tested him and he passed with flying colors! (laughs)"
Is there any truth to the story that your match on the Smackdown before Wrestlemania 19, in which your brother acted as a decoy to beat Brock Lesnar, was done deliberately to throw dirtsheets off the scent that your neck injury was too severe to compete at WM19, and there was to be a last minute change to Brock vs. Chris Benoit?
"My match with Chris Benoit... the only reason why that's not my favorite match of all time is because it always has an asterisk next to it. Most of my best matches were with Chris Benoit! So, you're taking away all that history I had with him. I get it, but gosh dang! How are you ever going to place Kurt Angle in the history books as one of the best of all times but you can't really count Chris Benoit's matches?
"That match in 2003, I never had a better match than that. I literally, when that match was over, I had Triple H, who probably knows more about the business than anyone I know, he walked up to me, he never does this, he walked up and he said, "Kurt," because he know I structured the match and that I put it together. I was only in the business at this point for only three-and-a-half years. I was very new to it, but I structured that thing and I put a lot of work behind it. And he said, "Kurt, you just raised the bar for all of us."
"For him to say, "Listen, you just took the reins. You're the man and we all need to follow your example." I thought that was a huge compliment.
"As far as Brock Lesnar, what happened was I hurt my neck at No Way Out a month before Wrestlemania wrestling Brock. I backed out of Mania, unfortunately. So, Vince McMahon asked me, "Hey, can you do a thirty-second match on Smackdown so we can get that title off of you?" I believe he was going to go with Brock versus Benoit. So he said, "We'll do that the week before Mania. You will just have to take one bump, the F-5, and go ahead and get your surgery."
"Now, I want you to also understand this would never happen today. Not with WWE's Wellness Policy, not with their drug policy. That kind of stuff back then, that's not happening anymore. If there's something wrong with anybody's neck and it's broken, WWE is not going to let you wrestle. So a lot of things have changed for the better.
"I was over at my neighbors 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.
"At the moment, I literally called Vince right then. I said, "Listen, let me go at Mania. I can do this. Have Brock and I go out and do it. I'll drop the belt to Brock." I wasn't supposed to lose the title to Brock. I was supposed to continue to be the champion, but because of my neck injury, I was going to drop it to Brock. I talked to Vince into having the match.
"So, the whole rumor, I'm sure it was true. I was supposed to lose to Brock at the Smackdown before Mania and then was going to go in as champion at Wrestlemania and probably face Chris Benoit. I'm sure that's where they were going to go. But, thank God Vince listened to me. He said, "Okay. You take care of yourself in this match because I don't want anything bad to happen to you."
"I said, "Don't worry about anything, Vince. I'll get through it and I'll have the surgery afterward." So that's what we did."
Did the Undertaker ever talked to you about giving you the honor of ending his streak? ,also my favorite match of all time is you vs undertaker at No way out 2006,thoughts on that match?
"That's my favorite match. The only reason why I don't make it number one is because it wasn't Wrestlemania! (laughs)
"It had everything. I just never thought, well, I knew I could have that Wrestlemania type of match with the Undertaker, but I didn't know we were going to have that type of chemistry. You're talking about a giant versus a world class olympic gold medalist, a world class athlete. Usually, it doesn't work out that well! I mean, we were doing everything from, you know, finish moves to suplexes to submission trade-offs. That match had everything in it.
"If it was at Wrestlemania, it could have gone down in history as the greatest of all time, but it was not a Wrestlemania match, so it will never be ranked up there. Unfortunately, No Way Out is usually the lowest pay-per-view buy of the year. Probably because it is pre-Wrestlemania.
"Undertaker did go to me in January of that year and said, "Listen, I think we should talk to Vince. I know you're champion. I know they don't want to go with me as champion, so I'm willing to lose if we have to. I never had that Wrestlemania match that I wanted and I know that I can have it with you."
"He encouraged me to talk with Vince. It was never thought of. Vince never thought of it. As a matter of fact, Vince shot it down right away! But it was an idea Undertaker had. It wasn't an idea I had. It wasn't an idea Vince was thinking of doing. Vince McMahon didn't want it and it was an idea that got shot down. That conversation was very quick, very brief. (laughs)
"Fortunately, Undertaker did have those Wrestlemania Moment matches afterward, so I was really happy for him that he had that."
You can read the full AMA at Reddit by clicking here.