Sunday afternoon on MSL, WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hitman” Hart joined the program for an exclusive interview. During that time, Bret was asked about who he thought should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. His answer was matter-of-fact, as he immediately mentioned three names – all having a history with Memphis Wrestling.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage, Owen Hart & Kurt Angle.
Randy Savage & Owen Hart’s history in Memphis has been well documented. But did you know that Olympic Gold Medalist & former WWE Champion Kurt Angle started his professional wrestling career in Memphis?
After winning the gold medal in heavyweight freestyle wrestling at the 1996 Summer Olympics – “with a broken freakin’ neck” – Kurt became one of only four people to ever complete a Grand Slam in amateur wrestling (Junior Nationals, NCAAs, World Championships and the Olympics). He was named the greatest shoot wrestler and one of the top 15 college wrestlers of all time by USA Wrestling.
In 1998, Kurt Angle signed a multi-year contract with World Wrestling Entertainment and was sent to Memphis Power Pro Wrestling to hone his craft. From there, the rest is history.
On July 24, 1999 in front of a live television audience & rowdy WMC-TV5 studio, Kurt Angle had the opportunity to continue his winning ways. Only this time, he wouldn’t be wrestling for Olympic gold medals. He was competing for the Memphis Power Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Championship.
Since capturing the Memphis Power Pro Championship, Kurt has gone on to have a Hall of Fame career in the WWE and Impact Wrestling (TNA). After debuting on WWE television, Kurt Angle had what has been referred to as the greatest rookie year in the history of the company. Kurt simultaneously held the European Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. A few months later he won the King of the Ring tournament. Before the year came to a close, Angle defeated The Rock for the WWE Championship.
Next week, we will take a look back at another future WWE Hall of Famer who started their wrestling career in the land of the Delta Blues.
Fun Facts: Another familiar face you’ll see in this week’s Throwback Thursday clip is none other than WWE’s Rikishi. Rikishi was also under contract with WWE and performing in Memphis under the alias JR Smooth. Angle also defeated Rikishi in the Finals of the 2000 King of the Ring.
“Throwback Thursday” is a weekly Memphis Wrestling post at MemphiSport.com.
Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and MSL. Follow him @DustinStarr.