On the latest episode of The Kurt Angle Show Podcast, Kurt Angle talked about being invited to ECW in 1996 after winning the Olympic Gold Medal about signing with the promotion. Angle said Shane Douglas called him through a mutual friend and told him ECW was more like amateur wrestling than WWE was and that the company was a perfect fit for him. ECW and Heyman also added a match with Taz on the show to try and showcase their “amateur wrestling” style of wrestling to Kurt to pursue him to sign.
“He called me and said ‘Hey, we have this company that is more geared toward your type of wrestling, Olympic wrestling, than pro wrestling. It’s called ECW’,“ Angle said. “He’s telling me this looks more like Olympic wrestling than pro wrestling. ‘Okay cool, you guys are starting a pro amateur wrestling league?’ [Douglas said] ‘No, no, it’s pro wrestling but it looks more like amateur wrestling.’
“That’s why they put the Taz match in their just to make me happy. Shane asked me to be a part of the ECW show, it was in Philadelphia and they were going to pay me a good amount of money so I decided I was going to do it. I was excited because I thought it was more geared toward amateur wrestling.”
Angle continued to talk about showing up in ECW and seeing the locker room. He said as soon as he walked in and saw the wrestlers, he knew something was up.
“When I get there, I’m meeting the boys and they are tattooed up, long hair, got their gear on, torn jeans,” Angle said. “Raven’s holding a chair, Sandman’s holding a kendo stick and someone else is holding a ladder and I’m like this is supposed to be amateur wrestling? This is worse than the WWE. It was a very eye opening experience to be a part of the show and what happened during the show was just crazy.”
On the show, The Sandman was involved in an angle with Raven at the end of the show where he was “crucified”. Angle talked about ECW doing the crucifixion angle while he was at the show and explained that he told Paul Heyman if they aired the show with him on it, he’d sue him and the company.
“You have to understand I’m a Catholic Christian kid from Pittsburgh,” Angle said. “To see the crucifixion was really offensive. I didn’t understand the storytelling of pro wrestling and how you want to get the wow factor. Surprise people, get them excited, get them pissed off, a lot of emotion is in pro wrestling. Back then, I didn’t get all of that, I didn’t understand it. When I saw it I was like oh my god, it’s someone portraying Jesus on a cross and I can’t believe I’m here.
“I was really upset, I went to Paul Heyman and said ‘Hey, I can’t be on the same show as this, you can’t air this show with me on it and if you do, you’re going to hear from my attorney.’ Paul said ‘I didn’t even know it was going to happen.’ I was like okay, he’s the promoter, it’s the main event and he doesn’t know if this is going to happen. He’s full of s--t.
“I love Paul, he’s a great guy, but he basically lied to me and I understand why, just trying to take the heat off of himself. I won that battle but it definitely scared me away from pro wrestling. That was my introduction to pro wrestling.”
After two years of sitting on the fence about pro wrestling after his experience with ECW, Angle called WWE and received a tryout with the company. Angle talked about becoming the quickest wrestler ever to sign a contract with the company after his tryout. He said within an hour of training, Jim Ross showed up with a contract for him to sign worth $52,000 a year, the highest paid developmental contract ever at that time.
“I was only there for an hour,” Angle said. “I was picking up on everything so quickly that the first day JR came over to the warehouse and offered me a contract the same day that I started. It wasn’t the next day or the third day, it was that day. I was doing something right. That was the fastest signing or try-out by anybody in the history of pro wrestling. That made me very confident that I was onto something and was in the right place in my life.”
Angle explained how he was able to get a contract after an hour of training to be a pro wrestler for the first time in his life. He said his goal was to do everything they asked and sell for every move and not do anything offensively.
“I took the approach that I’m going to learn this defensive approach, not going to be aggressive, slow down and let them do what they want to me,” Angle said. “I’m going to bump and I’m going to sell, I’m not going to do anything offensive. Nothing offense, everything defense. I think they noticed that I turned that switch off in my head and was able to pick up the technique needed to sell and take bumps.
“I just decided I was learning something new. I had to forget everything I had learned in amateur wrestling because all the rules are the complete opposite of pro wrestling. You show no emotion in amateur wrestling, you don’t show your opponent that you’re scared, angry, upset or excited. They’re not telling a story, they’re trying to get the match over with as quickly as possible. The system is different, and I was getting that because I turned off my instincts and decided this is something new and it worked.”
Angle noted how much pain he was in after his first day training. He said the pain you experience from bumping for moves is something the human body isn’t supposed to experience.
“The first hundred bumps I took hurt like a son of a b---h,” Angle said. “I didn’t want to attack the mat, it’s just what I was taught and I didn’t want to disappoint them but I was terrified. I didn’t like bumping, nobody likes bumping, you get used to it, you get a feel for it eventually but your body isn’t set up to take thousands of bumps. That’s not what the human body was meant to do. I was doing what I was told and I did it pretty good.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Kurt Angle Show Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.