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Kurt Angle is Great But Could Have Been Greater

On Sunday night at the TNA Slammiversary pay-per-view, Kurt Angle was introduced as the second inductee to the TNA Hall of Fame.  There’s no doubt that Angle deserves the honor and is,  quite honestly, one of the all-time greatest in-ring performers in the history of professional wrestling.

But I couldn’t help thinking about something when it comes to his career: how much greater would it be if he never left the WWE?

While Angle signed with the WWE in October 1998, he didn’t make his official debut until November 14, 1999 when he defeated Shawn Stasiak at the Survivor Series PPV.  He left the company on August 25, 2006 after working out his release.  So, his time there was roughly 6 years and 9 months, filled with great memories of him having matches against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Steve Austin and even Shane McMahon among many others.

Several weeks after his time with WWE, he signed on with TNA and made his debut on October 9, 2006 when he confronted Samoa Joe in the middle of the ring on Impact.  So, Angle has now been with the company for 6 years and 8 months.

That’s right – Kurt Angle has almost been with TNA for as long as his entire career with WWE.

I still remember being in the Impact Zone at the No Surrender PPV back in 2006 when everyone was waiting for the big announcement TNA was going to make.  This one was sealed up tight with only a handful of people in on what it would be.  (I even knew someone who was in the know and tried every trick I knew all night long to get out of him but he wouldn’t budge.)

Right before the show went off the air, the video played showing that the former WWE World Champion had jumped ship, making him the biggest signing in TNA history at the time.

The building exploded.  The online wrestling community went berserk.

TNA got a bonafide blue chipper even though he was already beaten and battered, going through the grind of the WWE for the past six years and was physically and emotionally beaten down.

Who cares because he was Kurt Angle, one of the biggest stars in all of wrestling at the time as he was leaving the big pond to make a splash in TNA.

How big has that splash been though?  Sure, he’s been a big deal in TNA.  He’s had plenty of very good matches in the company especially with AJ Styles.

But how many great matches can you point out at a moments notice?  How many memorable moments had he truly has with TNA?

Of course, his debut was fantastic, confronting Samoa Joe and giving him a head butt right between the eyes.

And their match at the 2006 Lockdown PPV was incredible with them meshing an amazing mixture of wrestling and MMA moves in a match that some thought may bring about a stylistic  change to wrestling.

In TNA, Angle has been very good but not overly memorable.  And it’s not because he isn’t good because he has been.  Part of that is because the company hasn’t blown up since his arrival or anyone else’s for that matter.

It seems like every week the company does the same rating as it always does or in the same ballpark.  Some shows are fine, some are not but nothing that really sticks out in the long run.

And Angle has been caught up in this.  He’s in TNA and they’re the #2 wrestling company.  There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just a fact.

But with WWE – the #1 wrestling company in the world – Angle was a big deal.

A really big deal.

He has classic matches like at WrestleMania 21 – a beautiful symphony of wrestling – of WrestleMania 19 where he and Brock Lesnar almost killed themselves in an incredible athletic display.  And there’s others.

Most wrestling fans ever remember the funny Kurt Angle on television and his back and forth with Edge and Christian, Commissioner Mick Foley and even wearing a cowboy hat in conversations with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.  And there are plenty more moments.

Moments that easily come to mind, all from his WWE days.  Mind you, that was at the beginning and peak of his career (which came about very quickly) and was on wrestling biggest stage in the WWE.  So, yes, there is an advantage there.

But with TNA, you don’t have that many specific moments that stand out involving Angle.  Some of that is because it is TNA, a smaller stage than WWE.  Some of that is because Angle – while still very good – has been past his prime and really beaten up.  That’s fair.  You can also make the argument that TNA hasn’t done a good enough job of creating those type of moments for Angle.

Which leads me back to the original question: what if Kurt Angle had never left the WWE?  What if he was just given a break and allowed to freshen the batteries and continue to be a part of the machine?

Like I said, no one disputes how good, even great, Angle has been during his career.  But he would be even greater if he had never left WWE.  There would be more discussion of him being one of the greatest of all-time, a sure-fire WWE Hall of Famer.

He would be on a different level, one of the elite in the pantheon of wrestling greats.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

About Brian Fritz

Brian Fritz
Brian is the owner and editor-in-chief of Between The Ropes. He has also covered wrestling and MMA for The Orlando Sentinel and AOL Fanhouse and currently is a contributor for Sporting News. You can email Brian at btrfritz@gmail.com.


  1. Avatar
    Steven of Jacksonville Fl


    Great article but I hated how true it was. Angle should have been as big as Cena, maybe bigger but I remember his last year there in WWE. They put him in ECW and from what I remember werent doing much with him, so I understood when he jumped ship. Actually I think Angles decision to go TNA was a great one, hes just been there for too long. He was the hottest thing those first couple of months he was in TNA.

    If he had just returned to the Fed after his first year in TNA maybe we would have something to talk about in the WWE Universe. The question is, is it too late? I dont think so.

    – Steven from Jacksonville, Florida

  2. Avatar

    I enjoyed the article as well, but I don’t agree with the overall premise. Whether or not Angle was doing his thing in the E is irrelevant; he’s made everyone he’s in the ring with look great and he’s had some of the best matches in the last 20 years (of all time, really). As for great moments, I think the people who saw them will remember them as great and there are plenty of them not mentioned in this article (the match he had with Kaz comes to mind for me). TNA as a whole has been spotty for a long time, but Angle has been consistently great and that he’s been able to do so is part of what makes him one of the all time greats.

    • Avatar
      Steven of Jacksonville, Fl


      I am sad to say I missed those great Angle moments in TNA. I just couldn’t sit through the show especially once Hogan came in. I watched his debut and from then on, I caught a little this and a little that. TNA is called the #2 show but it mine as well not be on TV as far as I’m concerned.

      Id like to make a general note in saying that ever since Hogan and Bischoff came in, TNA has been awful. Orlando Jordan & his lotion being their first real mistake.

      – Steven of Jacksonville, Fl

      P.S. Thank you Fritz for mentioning Angles Wrestlemania 21 match HBK. Definetly one of my top 5 favorites. Everytime I watch it, I jump at the 2-Counts.

  3. Avatar

    By Kurt’s own admittance, had he stayed in WWE at that time, he’d probably be dead. The heavy schedule + his pain pill addiction was leading him to an early grave. Kurt has become a better and smarter worker in the years since 2006, he’s matured as a performer much like Shawn Michaels did, partly because physically, they both had to change their style to say at the top. Where Angle has chosen to ply his trade is irrelevant, he’s given classic matches to Joe, AJ, Sting, Jarrett, Anderson, Abyss and others. He won the Observer worker of the decade, half of which was spent in TNA. I think it’s both short-sighted and pretty disrespectful to say he would have been more highly regarded had he stayed in NY, especially when his peers consider him the premier worker of his or maybe any other generation, and after all the money and the miles, that’s what counts.

  4. Avatar

    Kurt did what was right for Kurt. We lost out.

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