Kurt Angle — who is just under two weeks away from being a Hall of Famer — is a 12-time world champion … but only six of those reigns came during his time in WWE (where he held the World Heavyweight Championship and “WCW Championship” once each, and the WWE/Undisputed Championship four times). Fans have always wondered what would have happened if Angle had not left to go to TNA, and as it turns out, they’re not the only ones.
In a recent interview with Fox Sports, Angle talked about just barely missing the window that would have kept him around in WWE for a very long time. He believes he could have taken advantage of part-time contracts if he hadn’t left when he did, and maybe he would have blown right by both John Cena and Ric Flair for the record of world championship reigns.
” … Would I put myself in the history books as the greatest wrestler of all time? Yes. But not ‘WWE Superstar’. I was only there six and a half years. I also had a pro career in TNA for 11. You can’t combine them together unless you’re talking from a non-WWE standpoint. And the WWE is the monster, it’s everything. The longer you’re in there and the more successful you are, the more accolades you should have. I wasn’t John Cena, I couldn’t stay on top for 14 years. I tried. Very few individuals could do that.
“I’ll give you an example: Who I think is the greatest of all time is – but he just wasn’t there enough – was Stone Cold Steve Austin. He had a great run for five years, but he was also out a year of that. So his top babyface run was about five years, but he was out with a neck injury for a year. Nobody can sustain it like John Cena has, and consistency is definitely a key when you’re talking about the greatest of all time.
“Did I have consistency after WWE? Yes, but I had to go to another company and have a much-reduced schedule in order to do it.
[ … ]
“Now back in 2006, they weren’t handing out part-time contracts at the time. I mean, I wish they would have, but they weren’t. Very few wrestlers had them, like a Shawn Michaels or an Undertaker, so it wasn’t an option back then.
What’s crazy is two years after I left, they started doing that. It was like ‘damnit! I just missed it by two years.’ I would have stayed in WWE. I went to rehab back in 2006 and I got myself straight, took Vince McMahon’s advice, and I would have stayed. I wanted to stay, I just knew I couldn’t do that schedule. At the time, unfortunately, it wasn’t an option to be a part-timer, and I do understand it, because I was only in the business at that point for six and a half years. Part-timers usually have to put in that 20 or so years. So I understood that, but two or three years later they started doing that. It kind of sucked [laughs]. I missed that moment where I could have stayed, and I could have been a 25-time World Champion!”
Angle’s likely joking around with “25” as the number he’s throwing around. But it’s not hard to imagine how much more robust his resume would be — or how present he would have been in fans’ minds as far as the “greatest of all time” conversation — if he had been able to remain in WWE on a reduced schedule.