Remembering the war that was Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon at King of The Ring, 20 years later

Angle paid heavy price for his heyday, Shane earned his stripes

Kurt Angle — with a broken tailbone — suplexes Shane McMahon through a pane of glass.
Kurt Angle — with a broken tailbone — suplexes Shane McMahon through a pane of glass.
Screenshot: WWE

Kurt Angle says he’s in pain every day.

As reported by Wrestlinginc.com, Angle recently participated in a Q&A with AdFreeShows.com and discussed his current condition.

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“I’m in extreme pain all day long,” Angle said. “I do maintenance on my body all day. I do my neck traction. I have a thing called the Iron Neck, where it trains your neck. I have anti-gravity machine rollers. I stretch. I do a lot of weight training.

“I work on my body a good 2-3 hours a day. I have to. I’m so banged up now. I sacrificed a lot of my body in professional wrestling and amateur wrestling. I have to blame both sports, not just one. I’m paying for it now, but I’m managing it.”

Well, part of that is probably because of matches like the one we saw 20 years ago today.

By this point at King of the Ring, the 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist had been wrestling on the WWE’s main roster for less than two years following his in-ring debut at the 1999 Survivor Series. Despite already having won the Intercontinental, European, and WWE World Championships, Angle hadn’t yet really cemented himself in a hardcore way. By this time, he demonstrated himself to be talented, adaptable, worthy, and captivating — along with having the three I’s — but before June 24, 2001, he’d never had a match quite like the one with Shane McMahon, Vince’s son. It was a match that arguably made both of their in-ring careers.

Let’s begin by pointing out that not only was this the co-main event of the Continental Airlines Arena showcase — an evening where Booker T made his WWE debut by ambushing Stone Cold Steve Austin during a title defense as part of the ongoing WCW invasion storyline — it was Angle’s third match of the night. Angle had been competing in King of the Ring leading up to the Shane match, and already worked through the tournament’s semifinals and finals before the street fight with the younger McMahon. Angle won in the KOTR semifinal round against Christian, which came second on the eight-match card and went on for over eight minutes, then, three matches later, he lost the KOTR final to Edge, a contest that clocked in at just over 10 minutes.

Let’s start with this: The street fight with McMahon went on for 26 minutes.

Though Angle was bleeding almost from the outset as he started suplexing the hell out of McMahon in the ring — it looked as if Shane had tagged him in the nose with a wayward jab — the most memorable moments primarily occurred outside the ring, highlighted by high-risk moves that cause viewers to recoil even two decades later. The first of the noteworthy activities outside the ring was McMahon incorporating a kendo stick to whoop Angle’s ass, which he did successfully for a period of time. Their struggle led to McMahon getting creative, and/or violent, depending on your view, by bringing in multiple trash cans, a lid, a sign, and another item we’ll get to later. Needless to say, Angle ate much of this, until McMahon attempted a shooting-star press on top of a crushed trash can sitting on Angle’s chest. He missed, but it was a beautiful miss.

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The most momentous portion of the match, however, took place up the ramp at the event’s stage. Right before that, though, Angle cracked his tailbone after a bad bump onto concrete from a Shane-O suplex.

An already-wounded Angle brought McMahon up to the top of the stage, where there was (legitimate) King of the Ring-branded glass included in the setup, where competitors would walk as they were entering or leaving the ring. Angle wrapped up McMahon and attempted a belly-to-belly overhead suplex to throw him through the glass. But Angle, again with a broken tailbone, could not summon enough force to toss McMahon. The glass didn’t break, and McMahon landed on his head.

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Welp, let’s do it again!

That worked, and the glass shattered (though Stone Cold did not enter). There was another pane to the left of where the now broken one was, so you guessed it: Another belly-to-belly! Angle tried, it didn’t budge, and he even semi-caught the bloodied McMahon, breaking his fall so that he wouldn’t get a broken freakin’ neck. A pro’s pro. They could have called it a day right there, and probably should have, but McMahon demanded he go through the glass a second time. Gassed and calling an audible on the play, Angle simply picked McMahon up, grabbed him by the back of the head, and threw him face-first through the second pane of glass.

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But now, how was a badly injured Angle going to bring McMahon back into the ring? Angle, bloodied everywhere, including a badly cut arm, used a nearby box with wheels, tossed McMahon’s nearly lifeless body onto it, and wheeled him down into the ring to cover him. Of course, McMahon kicked out in the squared circle. On we go.

He not only kicked out, but fought back, slapping Angle with a trash can lid multiple times and even stealing his move, the Angle Slam, and covered him, but it was not enough for the victory. Angle eventually placed McMahon onto the top rope and brought in that mysterious other item McMahon had earlier pulled out from under the ring: a thin piece of lumber. The Angle Slam alone wasn’t good enough; instead, Angle used the lumber, placed on top of the turnbuckle corner, as a launching pad to Angle Slam McMahon halfway across the ring, which finally ended the battle.

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Stone Cold has a podcast called The Broken Skull Sessions, which is part of the WWE Network and currently streams on Peacock. Last September, Austin spoke to Angle for well over an hour and they rewatched the match together, where Angle revealed a few lesser-known truths. Among them, which 411 Mania located, Angle said the glass had been reinforced so it wouldn’t break due to the pyro being used at the event. Angle and McMahon didn’t know ahead of time, which probably would’ve been useful. And, according to the Olympian, both men were in the hospital that night.

From there, Angle embarked on a legendary five-year-run, including money feuds with Stone Cold, Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, and John Cena, among others, before leaving the company. He eventually returned for one final WWE run in 2017 and was inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame. Angle retired from in-ring competition following WrestleMania 35 in 2019.

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As for McMahon, he went on to have other wars with guys like Kane, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Randy Orton. At now 51 years old, with grey hair, he’s still taking bumps like this, which is from this year’s WrestleMania from less than three months ago.

Now you understand why Angle is in pain, don’t you?