New WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle did an AMA on Reddit recently, and was asked about being John Cena's opponent in Cena's first WWE match on SmackDown back in 2002.
He had some fond memories:
“I really liked John. I talked to him and I had heard from some promoters out west that he had everything that it took to be a top tier guy. He had the look, he could wrestle. He was a little robotic in the beginning. You know, he didn’t have the magic touch. He wasn’t one of those guys where everything looked solid. His punches were a little weak at the beginning and I’m not sure if they even got better. I watch Cena now and he has had consistently some of the best matches in the last seven or eight years. He has seriously outgrown some of the, I guess, the theory that he can’t work. He can work. He can wrestle.
“But, at the beginning, I was told that this guy had it all. When I wrestled him, did I think he was going to be as big as he was? No. But I also didn’t know that he had such an incredible business mind. Literally, three months in from when he started, he was meeting with Vince McMahon on different merchandise ideas. He came up with that belt, the spinning belt. He just had, he was prepared. I have never seen anybody who came to the company be more prepared than John Cena. He was set from a wrestling standpoint, from a character standpoint, from a business standpoint, and when he started doing the rapper thing, he just took off. And rightfully so. He was one of the most prepared individuals I had ever seen.
“About the match, I just wanted to teach John a lesson. I literally tried to get him tired in that match. If you ever watch it, it’s twelve minutes of non-stop movement. I made him hustle. I made him earn the respect that he deserves, and he knows it. But he didn’t get tired! He’s one of the few guys that kept up with me in that ring. I tested him and he passed with flying colors! (laughs)”
Angle will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on March 31st, and John Cena is one of the rumored names who might be Angle's inductor.