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September 23, 2001

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship

At Unforgiven in 2001, Kurt Angle was in his hometown of Pittsburgh when he regained the WWE Championship from Stone Cold Steven Austin. The road to reclaiming the most coveted prize in sports-entertainment wasn’t easy for the only Olympic Champion in WWE history, as the Wrestling Machine’s patience was tested prior to the match at Unforgiven.

At SummerSlam, Angle kicked out of three Stone Cold Stunners and seemed to have the formula for defeating the Rattlesnake. Then, in cowardly fashion, Austin opted for the easy way out: disqualify himself so he could retain his WWE Championship.

The following evening on RAW, when the champion threw himself a celebration titled “Austin Appreciation Night,” Angle crashed the party of the crew of beer swilling vagrants in the ring. He tore down the ramp in a milk truck and doused the mob of misfits with the homogenized cow juice. The sneer on Austin’s face was priceless, but anyone who knows how sadistic Austin could be knew he would take revenge.

Austin retaliated by ambushing Angle while he was involved in a match; stealing his Olympic medals and launching them into a river after Angle refused to beg and cry for them back. Those medals symbolized everything that Angle held sacred: his three I’s (Intelligence, Integrity and Intensity), as well as the effort, dedication and sacrifice it took to beat the odds and win them during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

That move by Austin brought a rage out of Angle and ended up being one of the worst choices he could have made. Angle responded by kidnapping Austin, blindfolding him and threatening to toss him off of a bridge to join Angle’s medals at the bottom of a river. The tone in Angle’s voice told Austin he wasn’t kidding. In response to Angle’s demands that Austin cry and beg for reprieve (which he did) he also demanded a rematch at Unforgiven. Again, his request was granted.

But before their showdown at the pay-per-view, the Rattlesnake tried to injure his challenger by attacking him and delivering a piledriver onto the concrete arena floor. But it wasn’t enough; nothing could stop Angle from competing. With a brace supporting his tender neck, he vowed to Austin that with his family at ringside, he would walk out of his hometown the new WWE Champion.

In the match, most of the brutality took place outside of the ring, and the beating both Superstars suffered was immense. When Austin made his way back into the ring, he took control of the match and tried to choke Angle out. It nearly worked, until the crowd erupted to give Angle a second wind. With the WWE fans behind their Olympic hero, he traded blows with Stone Cold and then delivered Austin’s signature Stone Cold Stunner. The referee counted one, two, but on the third the Rattlesnake kicked out. Then he got his second wind and delivered Angle’s signature Angle Slam, but it wasn’t enough for a pinfall.

After an attempt from the champion to finish Angle off with a Stunner, Angle countered with an Ankle Lock. The agony on Austin’s face looked as if his ankle was torn off of his foot. The Rattlesnake tried to climb to the ropes but he didn’t make it. He succumbed to the pain and submitted, giving Angle his second WWE Championship reign.

The victory prompted the Angle family to rush the ring from ringside and hoist the new champion on their shoulders. The joy of his triumph brought tears to his eyes as his brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and later the entire WWE locker room came out to congratulate their new WWE Champion.

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