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Why did Kurt Angle leave the WWE in 2006?

Rohit Relan
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 10:38 IST
Kurt Angle spent a decade in TNA wrestling after a successful stint in WWE

Kurt Angle is back in WWE, the promotion where he began his professional wrestling career. He made his debut in 1998 after a successful amateur wrestling career which included a gold medal in the Olympics and the World Championships.

Within two years of his introduction to WWE, Angle became a world champion and feuded with top stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Rock, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. Throughout his time in WWE, Angle put up excellent matches and produced engaging content every time he entered the ring. Whether he was providing comic relief or playing the role of an American Hero, he nailed his performances with aplomb.

His career graph in the WWE always kept rising, but the unforgiving schedule of the company took a huge toll on his body. He suffered his first severe neck injury during the 1996 Olympic trials, but the same ailment kept troubling him throughout his WWE wrestling career. Angle realised that his body couldn’t cope with the WWE’s gruelling schedule and requested Vince McMahon to allow him to perform on a part-time basis.

Prior to the Brock Lesnar situation, no one in WWE had figured out how to use a part-time superstar; and moreover, Angle had spent only six years in the company which further didn’t help his case.

TNA was gaining in popularity at that time and was putting up solid content week after week. They had just negotiated a timeslot on Saturday nights with Spike TV which was later shifted to a timeslot on Thursday night because of the of the product's rising viewership. TNA was making huge strides in professional wrestling, and they managed to catch Angle’s attention.

“At that point, TNA was making some noise. It felt good to be a part of a smaller company that was getting more popular, more viewers.” Angle said in a conversation with WrestleTalk TV. He added, “I felt very good about it. I didn't have a choice. Vince McMahon wanted me to continue to go full time, and I couldn't do the full time anymore. I look at John Cena now, and I don't know how he's done it for 11 years. I did it for six and a half”.

Kurt Angle left a flourishing career at his peak just because his body couldn’t bear the pressure of professional wrestling week after week. At least that is what he said in the recent interview he had with WrestleTalk TV. Angle’s substance abuse issues are well known, and in a blog last year, Angle blamed his addictions for his departure from WWE.

“Before I knew it, I was knee-deep (more like shoulder deep) into my addiction,” Angle revealed on his website. “I was hiding it from WWE, and at that time they weren’t drug testing for medication like they do now. I then broke my neck 2 more times over the next 2 years, and the bad relationship/marriage I was in made me feel more alone than ever. I decided that I could not handle the rigorous schedule of WWE and I felt guilty about being a liability to Vince McMahon. So I asked for my release, and I swore I’d get my life together.”

Addictions were the main reason why WWE let Angle leave. In the Talk Is Jericho podcast, Angle said that Vince was always trying to help him, but he couldn’t understand anything in the state of mind that he was in. His last meeting with McMahon was bitter and the final nail in the coffin. Jericho stated that McMahon used to often say, “We can’t let an Olympic hero die on our watch”.


Kurt Angle debuted for TNA in 2006, and during his tenure, he held numerous accolades and even became the first TNA World Heavyweight Champion. The Olympian was treated like a superstar at TNA, but according to him, that was not the best part of the job.

“I was on the road all the time. To go to a company where I'd be able to set my own schedule, that was great. To be able to generate interest from fans by wrestling Samoa Joe and AJ Styles and Sting, it felt good,” Angle said.

The former Olympic hero had finally found what he was seeking, a relaxed schedule along with the opportunity to fight high-profile matches which would keep his credibility as an athlete intact. However, these weren’t the only problems Angle faced, and it turned out that he had only found peace for the time being.

The Wrestling Machine replicated the success that he found in WWE in TNA, the promotion which was considered a serious contender to WWE’s throne as the leader in professional wrestling entertainment. He became a mainstay of the promotion and a 6-time world champion, which is a record to date, but he could hardly turn his life around. In the next five years, he received four DUIs, and in 2013, he entered rehab for drug and alcohol abuse.

It was only after Angle departed from rehab that he found some control over his life. Angle has remained sober for three years now and he not only abstains from any kind of substance abuse but he has also launched the Angle Strong App which assists those who are suffering from various addictions. 

Kurt Angle has successfully defeated his demons and has returned to the WWE – the industry which gave him a platform to showcase his supreme skills. He headlined the Hall of Fame class of 2017 last month and is the current General Manager of Monday Night Raw.

Published 06 May 2017, 12:52 IST
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