Kurt Angle Reveals his First Impression of WWE Icon John Cena: “He Was Going to be a Huge Star”
In 2002, a young unidentified wrestler answered Kurt Angle’s open challenge. Inspired by Vince McMahon’s ‘ruthless aggression’ promo, John Cena stepped up the former Olympian’s challenge. What unfolded was the most energetic debut of a superstar who would become one of the greatest of all time.
John Cena shows his Ruthless Aggression
Before headlining WrestleMania and becoming a sixteen-time World Champion, John Cena was a rookie from OVW. Part of the iconic class of 2002, Cena came to the WWE with Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar and Batista, but his rise to the top was the slowest. Yet, he’s now the most iconic name from amongst that class.
On June 27th 2002, Vince McMahon welcomed Kurt Angle to the ring, fresh of his submission victory over Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring. As the crowd mocked him, Angle pulled down his wig and revealed his bald head. He then challenged any wrestler backstage to step up to him and face him, prompting a young John Cena to walk out.
Cena got his Angle’s face, prompting the Olympian to ask him, “Who in the hell are you?” Cena introduced himself and Kurt questioned him further. “What is the one quality that you possess that makes you think that you could walk out here and come to the ring, and face the very best in the business?” Cena replied, “Ruthless aggression,” before decking Angle.
Although Cena lost his debut to Angle on SmackDown, he received plaudits from many WWE superstars, including the Undertaker. Angle recalled that iconic moment on his Instagram, claiming he knew Cena would be ‘a huge star’ when he stepped into the ring with him.
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Subsequent rivalry with Angle
Two weeks after his debut, Cena teamed up with the Undertaker to face Angle and Chris Jericho. On that night, Cena pinned Jericho with a small package with Taker’s help to pick up his first win in WWE. In the next few weeks, Angle got the better of Cena, and they resumed their rivalry in October 2003, when Angle beat a heel John Cena at No Mercy.
Cena and Angle’s next big match came at No Way Out 2005, where Cena beat Angle to become #1 contender for the WWE Championship. Cena beat JBL at WrestleMania, and his reign led him to Angle once again at Survivor Series 2005. With Shawn Daivari as the special guest referee, Angle still couldn’t beat Cena for the title.
Angle and Cena would cross paths multiple times after Survivor Series, and their final meeting came at the same PPV, only twelve years later. They met in the 2017 Raw vs SmackDown men’s elimination match, where Angle hit two Angle Slams to eliminate the sixteen-time champion.
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