Kurt Angle is one of the greatest superstars to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots. Between WWF/WWE, Japan, and TNA, Angle has won 13 world championships and 21 total championships. He is the only professional wrestler in history to have won the WWE Championship, WWE's World Heavyweight Championship, the WCW Championship, the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Wrestling Observer historian, Dave Meltzer, lists Angle as an all-time top five superstar. But who would be at the top of Kurt Angle's list of all-time greats?
Now, back home in the WWE, the new Monday Night RAW General Manager recently appeared on Chris Jericho’s Talk Is Jericho podcast to discuss some of his greatest opponents and his own “top three.” Angle has a plethora of first person experience to make such a choice. The WWE Grand Slam Champion has been in legendary battles with Stone Cold, The Rock, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
Considering his resume, the Olympic hero makes three very bold choices for his top three. One will likely come as no surprise to anyone, considering the Hall of Famer's resume and place in WWE history. The second feels like a more of sentimental pick, but it is another WWE Hall of Famer whose career was cut tragically short.
It's the third and final pick of Angle's all-time top three that the WWE may not be too comfortable with.
One of Angle's top three also happens to be one of his favorite opponents. It's damn true, Eddie Guerrero and Angle brought out the best in each other during their matches in the mid 2000s, but Angle says it was Eddie's early matches that makes him one of the all-time greats.
“I think Eddie was in his prime in WCW and the reason I say that is because he got in a car accident,” Angle said. “That car accident did two things for him. It really inhibited what he could do after that. In other words, he had limits. He could still do a lot, but not like he used to. I used to watch him in WCW and be like, ‘wow, this kid’s incredible.’ But he almost couldn’t walk again after that accident, so yeah, Eddie was banged up when I wrestled him.”
“As good as he was in 2004, 2005, he had to be 10-times better back then,” Angle recalled. “That’s mind-blowing. I mean, he could have been the absolute greatest of all time because when I wrestled him, he was still in that top three we were talking about, so Eddie had it all. He was so entertaining, but he also had all the technique. He was such a great wrestler and he got it. He got finishes. He knew how to structure them.”
Angle and Guerrero got into a real-life backstage fight after some professional differences boiled over. The story goes that Guerrero attempted a double-leg take down on the Olympic gold medalist, but Angle defended it with a front face lock and they were quickly pulled apart. Angle recalled that after Guerrero had confronted him several times, Angle shoved him away from him to see what Guerrero would do.
“He didn’t do anything, so I shoved him again and he double-legs me. I mean, you could’ve sucker punched me, but he double-legs me,” he recalled. “And I’m like, ‘he did not just try to double-leg an Olympic gold medalist, so I laid the hips into him and then I started choking him out nice and slow.”
Angle said he wanted to make amends with Guerrero right away, but Guerrero told him he “wasn’t ready to be sorry,” which made Angle want to “kick his butt.” They almost got into it again in the locker room, but Angle says JBL pulled them apart. He says the next week Guerrero apologized to him, and they were “like brothers.”
Another wrestler Kurt lists in his top three favorite in-ring performers is Shawn Michaels.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I wish I would have wrestled Ric Flair in his prime and Bret Hart in his prime,” Angle said. “I did [wrestle Shawn Michaels], so I have to say Shawn Michaels is the best.” Kurt recalled that he and Michaels didn’t rehearse anything for their acclaimed WrestleMania 21 match, because “yeah, [Michaels] is that good.”
Angle defeated HBK in an absolute classic at WrestleMania 21. For an event main evented by Cena and Batista winning their first world championships, Angle and Michaels absolutely stole the show, with Mr. WrestleMania getting a standing ovation after tapping out to the ankle lock.
Angle made a controversial choice for his all-time top three when he named Chris Benoit as possibly the greatest of all time.
“I’m sorry, but he has got to be in the top three of all time,” Angle said of Benoit. “I mean, you can’t deny that. Even Bret Hart will tell you that.” Angle added that the things Benoit did in 2007 are inexcusable, but in the ring he was “possibly the greatest of all time.”
Benoit has not been mentioned on WWE TV since the three hour Raw show on June 25 that was a tribute to his life and career, featuring his past matches, segments from the Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story DVD, and comments from wrestlers and announcers. The following day WWE learned details that Benoit had murdered his wife and son on June 22, 2007, and hanged himself two days later. Research suggests depression and brain damage from numerous concussions are likely contributing factors leading to the crime.
In a 2009 interview with WWE Magazine, Vince McMahon discussed Benoit's legacy saying "it's not right to pretend he didn't exist. It's one thing to include him as part of a historical perspective, which I believe is okay, and it's another thing to promote him, which is not okay. The situation is very similar to that of O.J. Simpson despite his controversy, O.J. was still a part of the NFL scene. You can't deny that he existed."