In 2004, Kurt Angle was one of the elder statesmen of WWE.
A four-time WWE Heavyweight Champion with runs holding the Intercontinental Championship, the Hardcore Championship, the United States Championship, and the Tag Team Championship, Angle was one of the biggest names in the company and one of the most prominent performers in WWE too, what with his status as an Olympic gold medalist.
So, because Angle was riding high atop the WWE ranks at the time, other performers felt comfortable using him as a sounding board from which they could test ideas before they ran them up the creative ladder to Vince McMahon, including Brock Lesnar, who floated his desire to leave professional wrestling behind for a shot at the NFL.
Discussing Lesnar's… unusual choice that came right before WrestleMania XX, Angle noted on an Inside The Ropes live show that he was against the way Lesnar handled things, but in the end, it wasn't his choice to make.
“Ok, this is what happened. We were in South Africa, and Brock comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, I hate f*cking traveling. I can’t take this anymore, I can’t travel overseas all the time. I like to be home and I like to hunt and fish.’ I’m like well Brock you are a simple man. He said, ‘Listen, I think I know what I’m gonna do,’ I said ‘What are you going to do Brock?’” Lesnar said via TJR.
“He said, ‘I’m going to try out for the NFL.’ I said, ‘Why are you going to do that? You have a job with the WWE.’ He said ‘Because I hate f*cking traveling. In the NFL, you only travel 8 weeks of the year. So every weekend, you go to another city, but it’s only 8 times. The rest of the dates, I’ll be at home, fishing and hunting.’ I said, ‘Okay, so what are you going to tell Vince?'
“He said, ‘I don’t know, that’s why I am asking you.’ I said, ‘Well I would tell him after WrestleMania.’ He asked why and I said ‘Well because you’re going to have to do the f*cking job at WrestleMania if you are quitting now, and you are wrestling Goldberg. If you want to win at WrestleMania, don’t tell him until after WrestleMania.’ He goes ‘Gotcha.’
“We go back, we go straight to SmackDown. He goes up to Vince and he says, Vince, I want to try out for the NFL. I was like oh f**k man, he just f**ked himself. So, next week is WrestleMania, and what happened? Brock Lesnar did the job against Goldberg. It would have been the other way if Brock Lesnar had smartened up, but he didn’t because he is an idiot.”
Based on how far in advance WWE plans WrestleMania matches, especially in regard to top stars, Lesnar's decision to drop the ball on his exit mere days before his match with Goldberg likely didn't go over particularly well with Mr. McMahon. Fortunately, Lesnar is such a big star that it didn't impact his career all that much, as he was back in business within a few years.
Kurt Angle discusses losing house show matches as a heel.
Though Kurt Angle is largely remembered for his babyface run in WWE, there was a time when he was working heel on the WWE main roster, going from a babyface Olympic Hero to a cocky jock looking down on his challengers and his fans alike. Discussing this heel turn on his podcast, Angle noted that he really wasn't comfortable in the role but did it because he was asked to.
“It’s really uncomfortable, to be honest with you,” Angle said via 411 Mania. “I felt uncomfortable looking at it, oh man, when fans booed me. But you know what? For some reason, back then, you deserved it. Didn’t give a s**t, and it was looking sure I needed to talk to.”
Angle then noted the frequency at which he lost house show matches during that era and explained that, in the business, the babyfaces always win house show matches unless it's for a championship.
“For house shows, the babyface always wins. Unless he’s a champion, I probably shouldn’t let that happen. Letting the cat out of the bag, even though most people know that already. But no, you have to do the honors. You have to lose to the baby faces because you want to send the fans home happy.”
Fortunately for Angle, when he shows up on WWE programming now, he's widely celebrated as a babyface, even if fans still chant “you suck” along with his song; in the end, that's his legacy, and it would appear he wouldn't have it any other way.