A few weeks ago, Kurt Angle stated that this WrestleMania would be his last as, after 21 years of professional wrestling, the Olympic gold medalist announced his retirement from the industry after WrestleMania 35. Angle’s announcement didn’t come as too much of a surprise as years of neck problems have slowed down the former 22-time champion in his recent run with WWE. After leaving the company in 2006, Angle returned 11 years later for his final run with WWE. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017 and wrestled 21 matches in the last three years. And now, at 50 years old, Angle is ready to hang up his boots after an incredibly stellar career, about half of which occurred outside the confines of WWE.
In the midst of what is being called “Kurt Angle’s Freakin’ Farewell Tour,” Dave Meltzer noted that Angle is choosing the opponents he wants to wrestle on his way out. On Monday night, that opponent was Samoa Joe, one of Angle’s former TNA rivals but someone he had never faced in a WWE ring. On Tuesday night, it’s the same story, as Angle faces another old stomping partner in AJ Styles. Having wrestled some 100 matches either against or alongside each other during their time in TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, Angle and Styles, who have never wrestled against or alongside each other in WWE, last met in 2013 at TNA Basebrawl. But their journey goes back well beyond that, seven years to be exact when Angle defeated Styles, Abyss, Christian Cage (WWE’s Christian), Rhino, Samoa Joe and Sting in a six-man, no rules, no morals, no mercy match.
When Angle first came into TNA in 2006, his biggest rival was Samoa Joe. Angle debuted to confront Joe, who had in the storyline, stolen the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Jeff Jarrett and refused to give it back. At Genesis later that year, Angle defeated Joe, ending his 18-month undefeated streak with the company. Joe and Angle continued to feud into the next year with Joe picking up the victory at Turning Point and Angle emerging victorious at Final Resolution, where he won an iron man match to determine the new #1 contender to Christian Cage’s world title. In the midst of this feud, Angle and Styles had their first of 38 career singles matches (house shows included) on January 15, on an episode of iMPACT.
Angle and Styles found themselves fighting for the same prize, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, soon after as both took part in Gauntlet for the Gold, which was won by Joe and the 10-man tag team Lethal Lockdown steel cage match, which was won by Angle’s team but specifically Sting, who got the pinfall and an opportunity at the title as a result. With a new championship introduced, the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, Angle defeated Cage and Sting to become the first-ever champion. His reign lasted just one day, however, as due to an unclear and controversial finish, the result was overturned, and the title returned to its vacant status.
The two would briefly form an alliance in 2008 with the Angle Alliance, as the two – alongside Tyson Tomko – would battle the allied trio of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Samoa Joe. But during the storyline, Angle had to take time off due to his neck injuries. He made his return to save Styles from a beatdown from The Dudley Boyz, Booker T and Tomko, only to turn on Styles and join in himself, leading to a showdown at Slammiversary that year.
This heel turn lead to the formation of the Main Event Mafia, Angle’s new stable that included Sting, Booker T, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner, Christian Cage, Samoa Joe and Traci Brooks. The Main Event Mafia would tangle with Styles for the rest of the year and into 2009, when Styles would defeat Angle for the IMPACT World title at No Surrender.
Angle would eventually turn face once again and leave the Main Event Mafia, once again regaining Styles’ trust, with the two partnering up once again. At Slammiversary X in 2012, the duo would capture the TNA World Tag Team Championships. Shortly after losing the titles, Styles would finally depart IMPACT for New Japan and ultimately, the WWE, leading to this special moment tonight on SmackDown Live.
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