On the first episode of The Kurt Angle Show, Kurt Angle talked about the build and match against Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania 19. Angle said he knew Vince wanted to position both of them in a program against each other and knew about it prior to Lesnar winning the 2003 Royal Rumble.
“I knew before the Rumble,” Angle said. “I knew that Vince wanted a program between Brock and I. Brock had just started like maybe 6 months prior, he was relatively new but he was kicking butt. He had a big impact on the business, he had all the tools necessary to become a hugely successful pro wrestler. He’s one of the best technical workers in the business, especially when he wants to sell for you.
“I remember a match between him and AJ Styles a couple years ago [at Survivor Series 2017], he said what about this AJ kid? I said he’s really good, if you sell for him Brock, you’ll have a 5 star match. That was the type of match I wanted to have with Brock [at WrestleMania 19]. Brock had to sell in order to make the fans believe that I could win.”
Angle also talked about the relationship between him and Brock starting off on the wrong foot. He said he started to hear from a lot of guys backstage that Brock was saying he could beat Angle in a wrestling match. That created tension between the two, but ultimately led to them becoming friends.
“Someone asked him how he’d do against me in an amateur wrestling match and Brock said I’d crush him, I’m too big for him,” Angle said. “That was like, okay we have a problem, I’m going to have to confront Brock because when the boys start talking it gets really crazy.
“It actually broke the ice between us, now we could start communicating and feel comfortable around each other. Within a couple weeks, we were traveling together. When we were doing the program together, we were traveling together, Big Show, Brock and I.”
Not only did Kurt Angle win an Olympic Gold Medal with a broken neck, he also wrestled in the main event of WrestleMania 19 with one. Angle talked about the decision to go forward with the match in 2003 and why he didn’t want to take a year off after the match. He mentioned that there were 2 options when having surgery, a surgery that could help more that would leave him out for 1 year or a surgery that would relieve the pain and leave him out for 3 months. Angle chose the 3 month surgery.
“I knew WWE would have my back but the thing is in this business, you get very few opportunities,” Angle said. “You have to prove yourself over and over again. When you’re out a year, you tend to get a little bit unconfident like you think the company is forgetting about you. That was the mistake I made, I probably should have had the first surgery, waited a year, let it heal and go from there.”
“I wanted to get back to the show as quickly as I could, that was my mindset. Especially knowing I was going to main event WrestleMania, that was a very important moment that I knew I would cherish forever. I knew this might be the only time I would main event WrestleMania and it actually was.”
The former Olympic Gold Medalist also talked about what would have happened if he would have backed out of the Mania 19 match with Lesnar. Kurt said he would have lost the belt to Lesnar on SmackDown before Mania and Lesnar would move on to face another wrestler.
“I think they were going to substitute Chris Benoit,” Angle said. “He was basically going to take my place, it bothered me. The next day I went to my neighbors house and there’s a really good kid named Johnny, he has down syndrome, a big wrestling fan. He said ‘Kurt, I’m so sad you’re not going to be wrestling Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, I wish you would.’ It stuck with me, I’m gonna call Vince and tell him I’m going to have surgery after WrestleMania, see if he goes for it.
“He said you need to get approved by your doctor and I’m sorry Kurt but we have a match that’s advertised on TV, it’s on SmackDown before WrestleMania against Brock and Brock’s going to beat you for the title. I said well, we’re going to have to change that Vince.”
Angle continued to talk about how that match vs. Lesnar still wasn’t his highest pay day of his career. He said he received the same amount of money from that match for other matches where he held the championship at Mania.
“My match with Shawn Michaels [at WrestleMania 21] was my biggest payday,” Angle said. “It was a feature match, Shawn and myself, no title on the line. It was a dream match and I think that’s why Vince paid me more. I main evented WrestleMania 19, sort of WrestleMania 20 because I was in a title match, WrestleMania 22 in a world title match but I made the same money in all 3 of those main events. Shawn’s match I made a little bit more.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Kurt Angle Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.