Kurt Angle is no stranger to high-pressure situations, but a dangerous WrestleMania moment with Brock Lesnar ranks among the most stressful. Angle vs. Lesnar famously headlined WrestleMania 19 in 2003, and a poorly executed move nearly sabotaged the entire bout.
Lesnar, a heavyweight, attempted to land a Shooting Star Press off the top rope. The move requires the participant to leap forward, backflip and land on their stomach. Lesnar under-rotated and spiked himself on the end, suffering a concussion in the process. Lesnar won the match as originally intended, but he visibly struggled through the closing sequences. In a recent interview, Lesnar commended Angle for pulling him through the match but suggested that Angle should have called an audible.
“Kurt helped me through,” Lesnar previously told The Michael Kay Show. “Kurt was talking to me saying ‘Hey,’ you know? But Kurt should’ve just rolled me over and pinned me. He should’ve just said, ‘Hey, that’s enough kid.'”
Check out the full interview with Kurt Angle below.
Angle subsequently told CBS Sports that changing the finish and beating Lesnar was out of the question.
“The whole reason why I helped Brock up and tried to assist him to win the match is that my neck was broken and I couldn’t carry the title any longer,” Angle said. “I was going to have surgery the next day. So I was in a position where Brock might have broken his neck, he got knocked out, I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t hold the title another night. I had to basically wake him up and get him moving and see if he was OK and make sure that he could complete the move. It was very stressful. Those 15 seconds were one of the most stressful situations that I’ve ever been in. But Brock being the beast that he is followed through, hit the F-5 and he won the world championship.”
Lesnar, appropriately nicknamed “The Beast Incarnate,” is still main eventing WrestleManias 19 years later. The reigning WWE champion will challenge Universal titleholder Roman Reigns in a champion vs. champion match on night two of WrestleMania 38 on April 3.
“It’s been pretty amazing. What Brock Lesnar has been able to do — not just in pro-wrestling or amateur wrestling, but MMA as well — Brock is a monster,” Angle said. “The guy is so talented. Anything he touches turns to gold. The guy has all the ability in the world. To know that he is still main eventing WrestleMania 19 years later is pretty damn impressive.
Lesnar is not the only former UFC champion headlining WrestleMania 38. Ronda Rousey made her big return to WWE in January’s Royal Rumble match. Rousey has had a tumultuous relationship with WWE and MMA fans. “Rowdy” expressed frustration with how turned on her towards the end of her previous WWE run. It was a conversation with Vince McMahon that healed those wounds, Rousey explained in her YouTube series Ronda on the Road. Angle, who has mentored Rousey in the past, explained how accepting fan reactions — good or bad — comes with the territory.
“I think that Ronda didn’t understand the business quite totally,” Angle said. “The fans are going to react the way they want to react. There is really nothing you can do about it. You can navigate it to a certain extent, but you’re not going to know exactly what kind of responses you’re going to get. When you do, you have to accept those responses.
“I saw Ronda win the Rumble. She’s going to be main eventing WrestleMania with Charlotte Flair. She’s back on it. It’s pretty impressive considering she just had a baby a few months ago. The girl is a monster. She’s a thoroughbred. There’s only one Ronda Rousey and that’s for sure.”