Kurt Angle rose to fame by winning a Gold Medal in the heavyweight (90-100 kg; 198-220 lb) weight class at the 1996 Olympic Games, in Atlanta, Georgia, defeating Abbad Jadidi of Iran, by officials' decision after the competitors wrestled to an eight minute, one-one draw. The bout saw Jadidi earn a point after 2 minutes, 46 seconds, by turning Angle, and Angle earning a point of his own with a takedown after 3 minutes, 11 seconds. Months before the match, Angle had fractured two cervical vertebrae, herniated two discs and pulled four muscles in training. He spent five months in rehabilitation, and was not 100% healed by the time he competed. For the rest of his professional career, Kurt Angle proclaimed that he was able to win a Gold Medal with a "broken freakin' neck," proving that even when he was not at 100%, he was still better than anybody in the world. Which is true. (It's damn true.)
In Autumn 1996, Kurt Angle was approached by Extreme Championship Wrestling about making an appearance. On October 26, 1996, Angle agreed to make a guest appearance. During the evening, Raven "crucified" the Sandman. Angle left disgusted and threatened to sue ECW owner Paul Heyman if his image were shown on television in the same broadcast as footage of the stunt. As a result, Raven returned to the ring and "apologized" to anybody who was offended later that evening.
At the 1998 Survivor Series, Kurt Angle made his WWF debut, defeating Shawn Stasiak with the Olympic Slam. Angle played a too-good-for-his-own-good character, who went around telling people about his three I's: Intensity, Integrity, and Intelligence (not unlike Hulkamania's three commandments). Angle also wore replicas of his Gold Medals whenever he was not competing (the originals were stolen the first time he wore them; fortunately, they were quickly recovered). Due to his arrogance and cheesier-than-all-get-out grin and demeanor, the fans - who, at the time, worshipped such anti-hero characters as Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock - began to boo Angle, despite greatly respecting his abilities as an athlete. Angle remained undefeated until the Royal Rumble, when he submitted to former ECW Champion Tazz.
In February 2000, Angle obtained both the Intercontinental Championship and the European Championship and dubbed himself the Euro-Continental Champion. He competed in a triple-threat, two-fall match at WrestleMania 2000 against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit for both titles. In the first fall, Jericho pinned Benoit to win the European title. In the second fall, Benoit pinned Jericho to win his Intercontinental championship; thus Angle lost two titles in the same match without getting pinned or submitting.
Angle went on to win the 2000 King of the Ring tournament before entering into a love triangle with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. After losing to HHH at Unforgiven, he began pursuing the WWF Championship. He finally won the championship from The Rock at No Mercy, thanks in part to Rikishi. Angle held the WWF Title until 2001 No Way Out when he lost it back to The Rock.
When the WCW Invasion began, Angle was firmly on the WWF's side, at least until the WWF Invasion, where Austin hit Angle with a Stone Cold Stunner in the Inaugural Brawl (main event) match, effectively joining the WCW/ECW Alliance. Kurt defeated reigning WCW Champion Booker T on the July 24, 2001, episode of Smackdown!, to become the first person to win the WCW title since the WWF purchased WCW. He lost the belt back to Booker on the following episode of Raw. Angle then won the WWF Hardcore Championship from Rob Van Dam on September 10, but lost it back to him later that night. At Unforgiven, Angle beat Austin to win his second WWF Championship in an emotional victory coming weeks after the 9/11 tragedy. Angle's family celebrated with him in the ring, and the WWF locker room emptied out to celebrate their championship coming back to their side. However, Austin defeated Angle for the WWF Championship again on the October 8th edition of Raw. Later that month, Angle claimed to have joined the Alliance by swerving Vince McMahon and helping Shane McMahon get the victory over his father. Angle defeated Rhyno for the United States Championship on October 22, but lost it to Edge on November 12. At the 2001 Survivor Series, Angle revealed himself to be a WWF-aligned mole, brought in to take down the Alliance.
Kurt Angle participated in a four-man mini-tournament to determine the first-ever Undisputed WWF Champion at Vengeance 2001, his birthday. Unfortunately, Angle lost his first-round match to Steve Austin (Chris Jericho became the eventual winner).
In the inaugural WWE Draft, Angle was put on Smackdown!. Shortly after, Edge began goading the crowd into reminding Angle, "You Suck!" And thus, the "You Suck" chant during Angle's entrance theme was born.
At Judgment Day 2002, Edge and Angle competed in a hair-versus-hair match, which saw Edge shave Angle's head bald. For a few weeks, Angle wore a silly wig and mocked bald people, including Hulk Hogan. At King of the Ring 2002, Angle made Hogan tap out with the Ankle Lock, which was the first time Hogan submitted as a babyface.
In the fall of 2002, the WWE Tag Team Championship was introduced in an eight-team tournament, and the unlikely team of Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit were the first champions. However, their reign was short-lived, and they dropped the titles to Edge and Rey Mysterio. At Armageddon 2002, Angle won his third WWF Championship by defeating Big Show with some assistance from Brock Lesnar. During this reign as champion, Angle introduced us to Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, collectively Team Angle. Team Angle were managed by Paul Heyman, and while Haas and Benjamin won the WWE Tag Team Championships, Angle feuded with Lesnar over the WWE Championship, eventually losing the title to Lesnar at Wrestlemania XIX.
On April 11, 2003, Angle underwent neck surgery performed by Dr. Hai-Dong Jho to repair nerve and spinal damage, calcium buildup, bone spurs, and intervertebral disc problems. Rather than have Dr. Jho remove the afflicted discs and fuse his vertebrae together, Angle opted for a less conventional surgery where Jho removed only the spurs and selected portions of the discs. The alternative surgery reduced Angle's rehabilitation time from one year to three months.
Angle returned in June to much fanfare, and at the July pay-per-view, Angle defeated Brock Lesnar and Big Show for his fourth WWE Championship. Just shy of two months later, however, Lesnar overcame Angle in an Iron Man Match to regain the title.
At WrestleMania XX, Angle challenged Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Championship but he came up short against Latino Heat. Due to Angle's neck injury returning (or being chokeslammed by Big Show, depending on if you believe TV or not), Angle was made the new General Manager for Smackdown!, often overplaying his injuries by coming down on crutches or in a wheelchair. By July 2004, Vince McMahon was not impressed with Angle's time as GM, and he was soon fired from that position.
At the 2005 Royal Rumble, stuff started up with Shawn Michaels. They fought at WrestleMania 21 with a rematch at Vengeance, as well as an Iron Man match on the WWE Homecoming to celebrate WWE's return to the USA Network. Angle won the first match, HBK won the second match, and the third match was a draw. Their fourth match occurred on RAW in Janaury 2006, the first Monday after Kurt Angle won the World Heavyweight Championship for Smackdown and Shawn pinned him in their last one-on-one match.
Between their matches, Angle introduced the Kurt Angle Invitational, where he would allow local wrestlers to compete against him. He offered up his Olympic Gold Medals to whomever could defeat him. Finally, in July 2005, Angle was defeated by Eugene Dinsmore, Eric Bischoff's gimmicked nephew. The two met in a rematch at SummerSlam 2005, where Angle made Eugene tap out to the Ankle Lock.
In 2006, Paul Heyman drafted Angle to the new ECW. At One Night Stand, Angle issued an open challenge, which was answered by "The Legend Killer" Randy Orton. Angle defeated Orton with relative ease, but Orton overcame Angle at Vengeance.
In August 2006, Angle was released from his WWE contract, citing "personal issues." Both sides have given conflicting reports as to why exactly Angle was released, but both stories involve Angle becoming addicted to painkillers and needing time off to rehab (the conflict was whether WWE refused to give him time-off or if Angle refused to take time-off).
Angle showed up and made TNA better or worse depending on your point of view.