Kurt Angle and Daniel Puder – The Infamous Shoot Incident

In 2004, WWE Tough Enough returned but in a new format away from MTV. In an unscripted moment, Kurt Angle fractured the ribs of one of the finalists and subsequently challenged the rest of the contestants to step up. Daniel Puder answered the call.

Had referee Jimmy Koderas let things continue, things would not have ended well for the Olympic hero.

On November 4th, 2004, WWE Tough Enough contestant Daniel Puder stepped up to Olympic gold medalist and wrestling legend Kurt Angle.
On November 4th, 2004, WWE Tough Enough contestant Daniel Puder stepped up to Olympic gold medalist and wrestling legend Kurt Angle.

Daniel Puder and the Time Things Got Tough Enough For Kurt Angle

It all went down on November 4th, 2004, on an episode of SmackDown. During the show, season four finalists of WWE Tough Enough were challenged to a squat thrust competition, which contestant Chris Nawrocki ultimately won. His prize? An unexpected, off-the-cuff match against Olympic gold medalist and grappling legend Kurt Angle.

As you’d assume, Angle made pretty quick work of Nawrocki, legitimately fracturing his ribs and awarding him a one-way paid ticket to the ER.

When 2004 WWE Tough Enough contestant Chris Nawrocki won the right to face Kurt Angle, it resulted in fractured ribs and a visit to the hospital until 4 am.
When 2004 WWE Tough Enough contestant Chris Nawrocki won the right to face Kurt Angle, it resulted in fractured ribs and a visit to the hospital until 4 am. [Photos: WWE Network]
All jacked up, Kurt then extended the challenge to the others, and Daniel Puder took him up on it.

 

After a quick face-off in the ring, the two locked up. Soon, Puder had Kurt Angle in a Kimura Lock.

Daniel had gained the full position and could have sent Angle into surgery if he wanted. This was obviously not how anyone expected things to go, so veteran referee Jimmy Korderas quickly counted to three, even though Puder bridged out at two.

It was supposed to be a one-count, like in amateur wrestling, but Korderas counted to three in the scramble.

All Jimmy Korderas knew was he had to get out of the segment quickly and get Daniel Puder off WWE’s most prized wrestlers: Kurt Angle.

It was such an unexpected moment, and it’s still talked about today.

Referee Jimmy Korderas on the Kurt Angle and Daniel Puder Incident

In a recent interview on UnSKripted with Sportskeeda’s Dr. Chris Featherstone, Jimmy Korderas was asked about this incident and what happened afterward backstage.

“When we got to the back,” Korderas explained, “I got to Gorilla Position (the area directly behind the curtain where WWE officials including Vince McMahon produce the show), and [Gerald] Brisco didn’t say anything to me. He just looked up and gave me a little bit of a thumbs up.”

Korderas continued, “I [then] ran into Fit Finlay, and Fit Finlay said, ‘Did they tell you to count?’ I said, ‘No, I just did it.’ He replied, ‘Well, good job!'”

As it turns out, Kurt Angle was reportedly less than happy about what transpired.

Daniel Puder Gives His Take on What Happened

In a recent interview with Chris Van Vliet, Daniel Puder opened up about the incident with Kurt Angle.

“Here’s the thing – people have grudges. At the end of the day, I don’t hate anybody. Did I make an opportunity for what was given? Sure. Did I follow the rules? Yes. Did they say no striking? Yes.”

Puder continued, “If anybody’s real enough and authentic, they’re going to tell you what really happened. At the end of the day, I’ve never had a problem with [Kurt Angle], per se.”

Referee Jimmy Korderas (far right) counts as Daniel Puder locks Kurt Angle in a Kimura Lock.
Referee Jimmy Korderas (far right) counts as Daniel Puder locks Kurt Angle in a Kimura Lock. [Photo: WWE Network]
When season four of WWE Tough Enough concluded, and Daniel Puder won, Kurt Angle approached Puder in private.

 

“[Kurt] came up and congratulated me after I won,” revealed Puder. “He knows I put in the work; he knows that. Everybody saw.

“Even after I won Tough Enough, I was going out and building the ring. I was doing things to be a part of the organization, and some people perhaps didn’t like me in the position, but at the end of the day, the people in my life know they can depend on it. And the people that doubt things like that, maybe they don’t depend on themselves.”

Kurt Angle on Puder “The Pud”

On the flip side, here’s what Kurt Angle had to say about this in an interview that dates back to 2008:

“I was in a very awkward situation. At that point, I couldn’t do five pushups. I was in really, really bad shape. My neck was really bad, and Vince asked me to do this. He wanted me to wrestle all of them.

“I wasn’t worried about Puder. Actually, Puder’s a pud. Man, he was the last guy — I was more worried about the two big guys. The one guy that looked like Jeremy Shockey and the big black kid.

“I weighed about 207. My body was deteriorating, my neck was killing me, and the first kid I wrestled [Nawrocki] – I got him in a front headlock and took him over. When I did, I jammed my head into the canvas, and both my arms went completely numb, and I pinned the kid. I didn’t want to do anymore, but I opened up my mouth and said, ‘Who else wants some?’ and nobody would raise their hand.

“Then fans started looking over at them, so Puder was like, ‘I’ll do it,’ you know? I said, “Come on in!”

“I was like, I can’t believe I’m doing this because I can’t even feel my arms right now.

“So, we get in there, and [the referees] start it, and I take a half-a**ed shot because I’m scared to death of my neck. [Puder] backed down, and the fans cheered.

“I was like, jeez, I barely even attacked him. Every time I attacked him, he would back into the corner. The more it went on, the more my hands started, like, I couldn’t even close them.

“I ended up getting him. I had him in a single leg, and I went to go to a double leg, and he grabbed the rope. He grabbed the rope, and I reached around my back to get him off the rope, and that’s when he got me in the armbar.

“Now, I had him. All I had to do – and I would never do it because I don’t want to hurt any of the guys – but I could have thrown him right on his head because both of his hands were locked. All I had to do was go backwards and throw him right on his head.

“Instead, I brought him in the middle of the ring – and you can see it on video – I drop to my knee, and I drop him nice and easy on his back.

“Now [Puder] starts cranking, and the whole thing was, it wasn’t supposed to be an ultimate fighting contest. It was a wrestling match, but there was supposed to be submission. He was a moron. He put his back on the mat, and it wasn’t supposed to be a one, two, three count. It was only supposed to be a one-count.”

Kurt Angle would go on from there, and you can hear the full quote in the embedded video below:

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the interview above was conducted during what wasn’t the best time in Kurt Angle’s life. You can hear it in his voice. He’s a different man from the one who spoke the above quote.

Aftermath

If you ask Daniel Puder, Kurt Angle is still angry. The $1,000,000 Tough Enough winner went into it during a May 2020 interview with Hannibal TV.

“Kurt’s still pissed off. I tried to take him out to lunch. Poor guy, I was gonna talk smack the whole time. He said, ‘No way.’ I even told him I’d buy lunch. So, at the end of the day, I’d take him to the strip club next to where he met his wife.”

These two have never been shy about trading barbs with each other, that’s for sure. They almost traded real shots in UFC!

Puder spoke about the possibility of a mixed martial arts match-up with Angle in that same interview with Chris Van Vliet.

“I never got a contract on that one. There were minor discussions, but I never talked to – did I talk to Dana [White] about that? I think I might have. I think somebody might have talked to me. I don’t think I had a conversation with Dana. I think [Kurt] had a conversation with Dana about it.”

Puder continued, “I would have taken the fight, but at the end of the day, if he’s taken that much Vicodin that he says he takes in another interview, I don’t think he would pass a drug test.”

Again, not afraid to trade barbs.

These two will probably never fully put this behind them. It’s been almost two decades, and it’s still a topic worth writing about for a website that deals in pro wrestling nostalgia.

Kurt Angle had been built up over the years in front of our very eyes basically as a terminator. He won a gold medal with a broken freakin’ neck! He was the only “real” athlete in WWE. All of this played into the shock of the moment with Daniel Puder.

We saw a virtual nobody come in and get the better of one of the greatest to ever step into the squared circle. It was all real. The moment has followed Daniel Puder since then.

It’s widely believed to be why Puder got the business end a beating in the early part of the 2005 Royal Rumble.

Whether or not that’s true is irrelevant. All that matters is that on November 4th, 2004, a wrestling legend unfolded on an episode of SmackDown.

Would it have happened if Kurt Angle was in his prime? Maybe, maybe not, but it happened when it happened.

Daniel Puder got the better of Kurt Angle.

Watch How It All Unfolded Between Kurt Angle and Daniel Puder:

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Joseph Finnegan is a longtime contributor here at Pro Wrestling Stories. He is a published author and produced screenwriter, who has earned a BFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. He also currently works in the business as a producer/director at a northern New Jersey-based independent wrestling company called Pro Wrestling Magic. You can see their content at the YouTube link below. Joseph's contact info can be found on his portfolio website linked above.