Kurt Angle is set to headline the 2017 Hall of Fame class for the WWE, and the 1996 Olympic gold medalist wants “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to induct him.
“That’s a no-brainer,” said Angle. “I had just started with WWE and had a program with Austin right after I beat Rock for the world title. I had a quick skit with Stephanie and Triple H, and then it was right on to Austin. We had some memorable feuds and some very funny segments, so he is at the top of my list.”
Angle and Austin shared remarkable chemistry together in the ring and were also legitimately compelling in their comedy skits, including Milk-O-Mania.
“Steve was one of the most giving individuals,” said Angle. “He took me in and allowed me to shine even when it was still his time. I don’t ever compare myself to Stone Cold. He is the guy who elevated wrestling to a level that nobody ever went before, but he enabled me to show my talents when he very well could have said no. He was a very giving individual, and he is one of the guys who had the biggest impact on my career.”
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Angle was officially announced as the first member of the HOF class of 2017 Monday night on Raw, and the two-time Grand Slam Champion—which is a distinction for a wrestler who wins the WWE, WWE Tag Team, Intercontinental, and European Championship—was listening closely to the crowd’s reaction.
“I’m being totally honest—I was nervous when my music played,” admitted Angle. “I didn’t know if the people would respond. Everybody went insane right when the song started, and that reminded me of the impact I had on a lot of people. I was very excited, and it actually brought a tear to my eye.”
Angle worked for the WWE from 1998 to 2006 and produced memorable storylines with Austin, Triple H, and The Rock, but many inside the wrestling cognoscenti believed that his decision to sign with TNA in 2006 cost him any chance of a WWE return.
“The WWE Universe is different from the rest of the world,” explained Angle. “Even though I was wrestling all these great matches, most WWE fans didn’t see those matches. That makes me sad, but it would be nice if WWE somehow got my TNA library, as well as AJ Styles’s, Samoa Joe’s, and Bobby Roode’s so people can see the stuff we did. Those guys will continue to have great matches, but we also had some great ones in TNA.”
Angle built his WWE career on the “Three I’s”—intensity, integrity, and intelligence—but he is thrilled to finally add a fourth to the list: induction.
“I was with my wife and my three little ones when I found out, and I had my other two kids on the phone with me, so we were all together watching in unison,” shared Angle. “It was a really cool moment with my family. My younger kids don’t know about my career, but they looked at the screen and said, ‘Daddy’s on television!’ And then my younger daughter started calling me ‘Kurt Angle,’ and I said, ‘No! I’m Dad, not Kurt Angle.’”
Angle has openly discussed his battle with addiction, and he always credited Vince McMahon as a father figure who steered him in the right direction. Although Angle revealed that he has yet to speak with McMahon, he is grateful for the chance to return home to WWE as its prodigal son.
“I have yet to speak to Vince, but I did talk with Triple H,” said Angle. “It was a great conversation. This is all about the Hall of Fame, nothing else, and I’m OK with that. WWE wanted to show their appreciation for my career there. Even though I feel it was short-lived at six-and-a-half years, I made enough of an impact that they felt I was worthy of the Hall of Fame.”
Along with the excitement over the announcement came speculatio online that Angle could have matches against Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Rusev, or even work with American Alpha against the Wyatt Family. But there are no plans for Angle to return to active competition inside a WWE ring, nor are there any discussions to be included as a pre-order exclusive for the WWE 2K18 video game.
“They didn’t want to talk about anything about the Hall of Fame, and I understood,” said Angle. “This is the priority, and I’m going to enjoy this and see where it goes from here.”
Angle credited the people who have supported him for the past two decades as a critical reason for his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.
“Without the people, I don’t know if I’d be in the Hall of Fame,” said Angle. “I really believe that had influence on the WWE. The fans spoke, and the WWE responded. The people have always been good to me, whether they loved me or hated my guts. I have a lot of fans who say, ‘Kurt, I hated you growing up, but now I think you’re one of the best of all time.’ That’s the best compliment you can get from the fans.”