Angle spoke about the original plan Vince McMahon had for him, a quick squash match on SmackDown so that Kurt could take some time off for surgery as he’d broken his neck, again! But Angle convinced McMahon to let the pair wrestle at the ‘grandest stage of them all’, WrestleMania 19.
The match was going well, until the near-300-pounder Brock climbed the turnbuckle to hit the Shooting Star Press – a move he had been executing during his matches in the developmental promotion Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). While in mid-air, Lesnar failed to rotate his 6’3″ body all the way around, causing him to land squarely on his head and neck. Kurt was stunned:
The first thing I thought when he landed on his head, I said, ‘Shit! I’m gonna have to hold the title for another month.’ The reason why I lost to him, I was supposed to have a good title run for a while and I broke my neck again and I had to have surgery.
Vince McMahon, he wanted me to drop the title to Brock the week before on SmackDown and just get crushed. Just an F5, 1-2-3 pin. Brock would just pin me real quick and I called Vince and I said, ‘Listen let me wrestle.’ And he said, ‘Well, we gotta have a doctor clear you’.
Despite getting rocked, Lesnar managed to pull off a third F5 in the match and defeat Angle for the title (as planned). But in Kurt’s mind, he was just praying that Brock was able to continue after the devastating botch.
“With Brock, I thought, ‘God, he’s not gonna be able to get up.’ I covered him for a pin and I’m like, ‘Please kick out, you have to kick out, Brock. Please don’t get pinned.’ I didn’t want to keep the title. He kicked out and I said, ‘Can you get up?’
He said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Well try to get up.’ I actually pulled him up, I got him up and I said, ‘Can you F5 me right now?’ He said yes and he got me up, F5’ed me and that was it.
On the Smackdown after Mania, General Manager Stephanie McMahon announced that Kurt Angle had suffered a pulled hamstring and a neck injury (while Lesnar suffered multiple concussions), this announcement allowed Kurt time to heal and recuperate.
On April 11, 2003, Angle underwent neck surgery to repair nerve and spinal damage, calcium buildup, bone spurs, and intervertebral disc problems. Rather than have the afflicted discs removed and his vertebrae fused together, Angle opted for a less conventional surgery where they removed only the spurs and selected portions of the discs. The alternative surgery reduced Angle’s rehabilitation time from one year to three months.
Lesnar, never attempted the move again after WrestleMania XIX. His style became even more grounded, and it remains unlikely that we’ll ever see a Lesnar Shooting Star Press ever again.