WWE – Kurt Angle – The Essential Collection (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 521 minutes approx.
The river Styx developed another layer of ice on its surface in January this year when the only Olympic gold medallist in pro-wrestling history buried the hatchet with Vince McSenile after a decade of animus and enmity. The announcement that Kurt Angle would be inducted into the 2017 Hall Of Fame was the latest example of bridge building between Vince and embittered ex-employees which of course means the inevitable home video cash in release won’t be far behind.
And here it is, three discs of Kurt being interviewed in what looks like a dark storeroom about his WWE career, reminiscing about some of the many matches shown here in chronological order and the various directions he and his character took over his seven-year stint with the company. A lot of this footage is included in the “Homecoming” feature currently on the WWE Network.
Since this is a career retrospective and not a full on biography it starts rather abruptly with Kurt discussing his first meeting with Vince in 1996 shortly after winning his Olympic gold medal (with a broken freakin’ neck) with a 10 year, multi-million dollar contract on the table. But Kurt turned it down, admitting to Vince that he didn’t watch pro-wrestling and thought it was a bit kooky for him.
Fast forward two year and after watching Stone Cold and The Rock, Kurt asked if the contract was still on offer which it wasn’t but Vince signed him to a new one where Kurt had to start again from the bottom, training with Dory Funk Jr and learning how to bump and sell, which he found hard. This leads us to Angle’s debut match in the WWF against Sean Stasiak at Survivor Series 1999, the most startling thing being Kurt’s youthful appearance – with hair!
Despite his “Olympic hero” status Vince booked Kurt as a heel and he got heat with the fans very quickly which Angle admits surprised him. Even at this early stage it is remarkable how confident and comfortable Angle was on the mic and in the ring. Matches with Val Venis and Chris Jericho from air next followed by Kurt’s win at the 2000 King Of The Ring against Rikishi, his ring work smoother than most at this point.
In less than a year, Angle was not just a main event player but also WWF Champion at the expense of The Rock, for who Angle has nothing but praise. In fact, Kurt is very generous with his admiration for the top guys like Cena, Austin, Jericho, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan and others, although the obligatory gushing over Triple H is hugely cringe worthy, stopping short of how he can heal the sick and feed 5000 people with a few fish and a couple of slices of bread.
Such cronyism also afforded to Shane McMahon following their classic, brutal street fight at KOTR 2001, with Kurt suggesting that despite being green, it felt like Shane had been “wrestling his entire life”. Most interesting however is a candid interview clip from after the event in 2001, with both Angle and Shane are joking about the injuries they inflicted on each other, which you can relive again in this set.
Do you know who the one opponent that intimidated Angle and made him the most nervous? Undertaker? Kane? Big Show? Nope – Austin! Not so much the matches but the comedy promos they did together! Another interesting revelation involves the hair vs. hair match against Edge which I won’t spoil here, but this segues into Kurt’s stint with the wig and wrestling headgear, that ended with his feud with Hogan.
Most of the matches in this collection are from PPVs but a few long forgotten TV matches have been dug out of the archives too, such as a triple threat on RAW in 2000 against Jericho and Triple H, a tag match from Iraq in 2004 and an ECW Title match against Rob Van Dam.
Unfortunately a lot of Angle’s best work is absent from this set as it comes from his feuds with a certain Canadian who has been excised from WWE history which is a shame as the matches were phenomenal. But there is plenty of other matches to compensate, including the series with Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero and HBK.
As we know Angle’s WWE run ended while he was part of Vince’s failed reboot of ECW, providing the only real negativity in Kurt’s comments, confessing to be a fish out of water as a technical wrestler among the cast of louche characters more at home swinging chairs and kendo sticks over headlocks. I think everyone else felt the same at the time too.
Kurt also touches on his drug issues as the main catalyst for his leaving for “another company” in 2006 leading to the decade long gap before his return to the WWE fold this year. Throughout out this interview Kurt is candid, if a little politically safe, but his humble demeanour is suffused with a lack of humility, often describing himself with the loftiest of adjectives.
Since the HOF, Angle was named GM of RAW and thus far has not been involved in any physicalities which is just as well, given his history of broken necks, the abuse on his body through his addiction, and the fact he is nearly 50 years old. But, Angle is always gunning for that last match to prove to himself and everyone else that he still has it, but is it really worth this risk?
If Kurt never wrestles again, then this selection of his matches are an excellent reflection on his legacy and his impressive body of work in the WWE, and it would be hard for him to recapture that magic today. From a pure wrestling standpoint, this is an essential release as well as a fun trip down memory lane for many of us.
It’s true, it’s damn true!
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black