Kurt Angle reflects on John Cena's debut match in 2002.
Kurt Angle was tasked with wrestling John Cena, a relative unknown, on an episode of SmackDown in June of 2002. In hindsight, Kurt Angle was tasked with initiating one of the WWE's biggest stars of all time into the fold. Tonight on Monday Night Raw, John Cena will return to WWE to celebrate 20 years passing since his debut.
Speaking with TV Insider, Kurt Angle reflected on that day in 2002 and what he said the John Cena after their first match.
"I liked what they had him do. I thought his response to me and the whole 'Ruthless Aggression' response was perfect. He had that written all over him. It was a good idea for them to basically start that whole era with John Cena. I remember him saying those two words and slapping me in the face like he wasn’t scared of anybody. I think that gave him a lot of traction to become a bigger superstar," Kurt said. "I could have a match with a broomstick. That was what a lot of the wrestlers would say about me. I guess they knew Cena would have a guaranteed great match with me because it was me. Cena did step up. There was a point in time in that match where I kept on him. I stayed with him. I wanted to test him to see if he had the conditioning to stay with me. And he did. He kept up with me the whole time. We went hard for 12 minutes. We didn’t have any pause. It was high throttle the whole time. He proved to me he was a very well-conditioned athlete."
Following the match, they had a brief interaction backstage.
"All I said was, 'You stepped up tonight. It was a great match.' He said, 'Thank you, Mr. Angle, for working with me. I really do appreciate it' He was very respectful. I knew this kid was very special from the first time I got in the ring and after I got done wrestling him, I knew he would be a huge star down the road," Kurt said.
Through the years, John and Kurt Angle would work with one another on several occasions and Kurt Angle says that John Cena will go down in history as one of the biggest stars of all time.
“[John will be remembered as] the most successful WWE superstar of all time. He has won 16 world titles, and they are all WWE world titles. Nobody else has done that. John was able to accomplish that. I wouldn’t say he is the greatest wrestler of all time. There are a lot of great technicians. John was the most successful,” Kurt said.
John Cena recently reflected on his debut and says that he should have done a better job of embodying Ruthless Aggression. Learn more here.