Kurt Angle revealed that Vince McMahon wanted Chris Benoit to replace him against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 19, until Kurt intervened.
On his new podcast ‘The Kurt Angle Show‘, both Kurt and co-host Conrad Thompson spoke openly about Kurt’s career highs and lows. Speaking candidly on the first official episode about the run up to WrestleMania 19 in which Kurt was scheduled to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title.
Prior to Mania, Kurt unfortunately got the news that he had to have neck surgery, which would rule him out of the event. Angle explains initially that Vince McMahon immediately put plans in to place to change the Mania main event.
At first, when I came back from South Africa and I got the diagnosis from the doctor, I told Vince I’m going to have to have surgery and I’m going to have to skip WrestleMania. He said, “I’ll call you back. I have an idea. Let me talk to the writers”.
He decided that we were going to have a match before WrestleMania on SmackDown and I was going to drop the title to Brock and I believe Brock was going to go to WrestleMania and face a new opponent for the main event. I think they were going to substitute Chris Benoit, I believe. He was basically going to take my place.
It bothered me.
According to Kurt, it was a meeting with a neighbours disabled son that motivated him to postpone the surgery and face Lesnar.
The next day I went to my neighbour’s house and there’s a really good kid named Johnny. He has Down’s Syndrome. He said, ‘Kurt, I’m so sad you’re not going to be wrestling against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.’ I said, ‘Yea, it’s pretty upsetting Johnny.’ He said, ‘I wish you would.’
It stuck with me so I thought I’m going to call Vince and choose to have surgery after WrestleMania. I called him and said, ‘Why don’t we have the match at WrestleMania and I will have the surgery, but I will wait and put it off. I know my arm is atrophying but another couple weeks isn’t going to hurt, so let’s have the match.
Despite Kurt Angle’s willingness to push on through the neck injury, McMahon wasn’t willing to put one of his biggest stars at risk.
Vince said, “You need to get it approved by your doctor. I’m sorry, Kurt, but we have a match that is advertised on TV this past week on SmackDown before WrestleMania where you’re wrestling Brock and Brock is beating you for the title.” I said, ‘We are going to have to change that Vince.’
On the Smackdown prior to Mania, the match that Vince had planned did in fact go ahead – but with a slight twist. Kurt had a conversation with McMahon and they’d decided to ‘pull a switcheroo’ on Brock and have Kurt’s brother Eric take the beating which left Kurt ready for that Sunday.
Lesnar went on to beat Angle at WrestleMania 19 to start his second WWE Championship reign, but it nearly ended in disaster as it was in this match where Brock attempted the now infamous Shooting Star Press which was incredibly close to seriously injuring Brock.
Post-Mania, Kurt Angle was written off WWE TV and successfully underwent the postponed neck surgery.