While Kurt Angle’s career began in the no-nonsense world of amateur wrestling, the skills he acquired there led him to professional wrestling and, ultimately, earned him a place in the George Tragos/Lou Thesz National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Jim Ross, who initially signed Angle to WWE, said Angle’s addition to the Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame “is the ultimate no-brainer.”

“He was and is still dominant and was born to be a wrestler,” Ross said via email.

Angle will be honored at the Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame weekend in July in Waterloo, Iowa. The hall of fame also is tied to the Dan Gable Museum.

Kurt Angle in the WWE in 2000, gold medal around his neck.

Angle joins others who made the leap from one version of the sport to another and have been honored by the organization. The 1996 Olympic gold medalist said it seems like a lot of the shooters who “made the jump” to the pros being inducted into the hall of fame shows that “amateur wrestling is a great avenue to get to pro wrestling.” Rick and Scott Steiner, Bob Geigel and Baron Von Raschke are among the amateurs who have been inducted to the hall of fame over the years.

Angle said he would “love” to see professional wrestling go back to what it was when Thesz and Tragos were active.

“I think there’s a lot to learn about hookers like Thesz and Tragos that could be very marketable today,” Angle said. “If we had wrestlers like that, I believe it could still happen.”

Ross said the former WWE champion brought the legitimacy of amateur wrestling to the professional ranks. Angle grew as a professional wrestler and entertaining — from how to tell a story in the squared circle to verbal skills and comedic timing.

“Kurt’s biggest contribution to the business of professional wrestling is that he brought a much-needed authenticity and realism to the presentation as well as being a natural-born entertainer,” Ross said. “He made the smoothest transition from amateur wrestler to pro wrestler as anyone that I ever saw in my 40-year career.”

Dan Gable said when he thinks of Angle, he thinks of him first as a collegiate wrestler, though he “wasn’t really a massive heavyweight.”

“It was his skills and his talent and his maneuverability… and obviously that’s what gave him the chance to be a very good wrestler, along with you need a really strong mind as well,” Gable said. “He had quite a reputation, and he upheld that.”

Angle also did not discount Gable’s own achievements on the mat. Gable is a 1972 Olympic gold medalist, three-time All American and three-time USA freestyle national champion, among other accolades, and he has coached 12 Hawkeye Olympians and been at the helm for 15 NCAA titles during his tenure at the University of Iowa.

“(His wrestling accomplishments are) pretty much overseen because of his coaching ability,” Angle said. “He’s a better coach than a wrestler, and that’s scary.”

Kurt Angle signs autographs in 2007. Photo by Bob Kapur

After winning the Olympic gold medal for freestyle wrestling in 1996, Angle went into sportscasting for a year, which he said was “just a transitional period.”

“When you get a great offer… to be on TV and broadcast sports, you don’t turn it down,” Angle said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have any rehearsal time, and I was put in there as a weekend sports anchor and it was a very humbling beginning.”

He said it took four to five months to adjust. But what he truly wanted was “to be some form of athlete” and get into acting. And then pro wrestling happened, where he is able to perform and play a character. But not to discount his acting ambitions, Angle has roughly 12 movies to his name, including parts in Sharknado 2: The Second One and River of Darkness.

“The pro wrestling was a great avenue to getting out there and expose myself and play some form of character,” Angle said.

Throughout his time in the squared circle, Angle has had multiple injuries — most recently a knee injury — but said he has “been able to work through them.” Angle just had neck surgery to remove a benign tumor on Tuesday, just days before the hall of fame weekend.

“I feel very blessed to have the career I’ve had in 15 years. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work. (There have been) a lot of ups and downs, it’s been a crazy roller coaster ride. In the long term, I’m really happy with my career and very proud of it.”

The Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame weekend will be held July 9-11. A special recognition ceremony for Angle will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, July 10 (and he is unable to be there at Saturday’s induction for Greg “The Great Wojo” Wojciechowski and Jim Londos). All-access pass holders and banquet ticket holders can attend the ceremony. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit this link.