Just months after becoming an American hero by winning the Olympic Gold medal in amateur wrestling, he was scouted by Paul Heyman to wrestle for Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Shane Douglas convinced Kurt Angle to come to an ECW show in October 1996, but he was driven out of the business for two years after due to one of the most shocking angles of all time.
Shane Douglas Convinced Kurt Angle To Join ECW
Kurt Angle was persuaded to join ECW by his friend Shane Douglas, who himself was a former ECW Champion.
He convinced Angle that ECW was more similar to Olympic wrestling than the pro-wrestling that was making waves in the WWF.
Obviously, anybody aware of the hardcore matches that made ECW what it is today, that simply was not true.
Although they did have more technical-style matches with stars like Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit, it was a far cry from the amateur wrestling where Angle became an Olympic champion.
Speaking on an episode of The Kurt Angle Show, WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle said about being convinced to join ECW.
“We’re [Shane Douglas and Kurt Angle] good friends. Back then, he knew a friend of mine and got my number from a mutual friend. He called me and said,
‘Hey, we have this company that’s more geared toward your type of wrestling – your Olympic wrestling – than pro wrestling. It’s called ECW.’ He’s telling me this looks more like Olympic wrestling than pro wrestling. I was like, ‘So you’re starting a pro amateur wrestling league?’
He’s like no, it’s pro wrestling, but looks more like amateur wrestling. That’s why they put the Taz match in there just to make me happy – him and Guido did amateur wrestling at the show I went to.
Angle revealed that the amateur wrestling style was what drew him to signing with ECW, as well as the bumper pay that Paul Heyman offered him.
However, once he got to the arena, he noted the long-haired, tattooed up wrestlers with chairs and other weapons, to which Angle figured out that this was “worse than WWE”.
“Shane asked me to be a part of it, and they were gonna pay me a good amount of money. I was excited because I thought it was geared more towards amateur wrestling.
When I get there meeting the boys, they’re all tattooed up with long hair and got their gear on with torn jeans. Raven is holding a chair and Sandman is holding a kendo stick and someone else is holding a ladder. I’m like this is supposed to be amateur wrestling?
This is worse than WWE. It was a very eye-opening experience to be a part of the show and what happened during the show was crazy.”
However, the one-and-only ECW show that Kurt Angle attended (until he was drafted to the rebooted brand in 2006) was one of the most controversial shows in the company’s history.
Kurt Angle Quit ECW
On the show, The Sandman defended his ECW World Heavyweight Championship against 2 Cold Scorpio but after the match, Raven’s Nest, which included The Sandman’s wife and son, came out and attacked the champion.
He was then tied to a wooden cross and a crown made of barbed wire was put on his head, mimicking the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Angle explained that, as a proud Christian, he did appreciate the crucifix being used in that way, finding it “offensive”. He threatened Paul Heyman with legal action if footage of him was used, and spent two more years out of the business before signing for the WWE.
“You’ve got to understand that I’m a Christian kid from Pittsburgh, and to see the crucifixion, was really offensive.
I do want to say this because I do want to get it off my chest – I didn’t understand the storytelling of pro wrestling and how you want to get the ‘wow’ factor. Surprise people and get them excited or pissed off. A lot of emotion is involved in pro wrestling in telling a story.
I didn’t get all that and I didn’t understand it. When I saw it, I was like this is a crucifixion. It’s someone portraying Jesus on a cross, and I can’t believe I’m here. I was really upset.”
Kurt Angle would steer clear of pro-wrestling until 1998, when he signed for Vince McMahon’s WWF.
In the company, he became one of the fastest rising stars the business had ever seen.
By the year 2000, he had won the WWE Championship and went on to become a key player for the company in the Monday Night Wars.
Kurt Angle was drafted to ECW, after WWE bought the company and integrated it into their TV show, in 2006, although was released from the company shortly after making the move.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.