Kurt Angle stated in an interview with Chris Van Vliet that the first time WWE offered him a contract in 1996, he rejected the offer. It wasn't until he began watching WWE regularly that he wanted another opportunity to join the company.
"WWE contacted me back in 1996," Angle stated. "It wasn't until late 1998, that I started watching WWE every week. I was watching The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Undertaker, Triple H, but my biggest inspiration was Austin. I really liked watching him perform. These guys were really athletic. I'm watching them perform these stunts, and I'm like, wow, these guys are world-class athletes. So, I called WWE back and was like can I get that guarantee contract back? They said no, but I could try out."
After Angle successfully made it into the WWE, there were rumors that Angle would become the first Undisputed Champion in 2001. However, it was Chris Jericho who became the Undisputed Champion. Angle verifies that the rumor was true. However, he was glad that Jericho was the one to shine back then.
"Vince McMahon came to me two weeks prior and said 'We're going to give you the strap again. You're going to be the Undisputed Champion,'" Angle began. "I thought that was pretty cool, considering that the pool was Chris Jericho, The Rock, and Austin. Those three are the best of all time. I knew going into it, I was going to win.
"Five days before (the event), Vince gives me a call and says 'I really want to give it to Jericho. I really think he could benefit from it.' I agreed. If anybody needs it and can run with it, it would be Chris Jericho. I was very honored that Vince had enough respect for me to tell me about the switch. For Jericho, it benefitted him. It put him in that title picture and main event. Chris was always up there. He was such an important factor in the company because he could make anyone look good. He was one of our supported assets. I have more respect for him today than I ever did before. I can't believe the things he can do now."
Jericho went on to defeat "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock on the same night at the Vengeance pay-per-view in December of 2001 to become the first-ever WWE Undisputed Champion. He held the title for three months before losing it to Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania X8.
To view Angle's full interview with Chris Van Vliet, click here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chris Van Vliet with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.