Kurt Angle owes his entire pro wrestling career to Ric Flair -- telling TMZ Sports it was the Nature Boy who talked him into signing with WWE instead of WCW.
Angle was at a WWE 2K18 party over the weekend when we asked if he had a message for the wrestling icon, who's recovering from a medical emergency.
"I learned a lot from Ric Flair," Angle said ... "He's the guy that pushed me to go to WWE instead of the WCW."
"I was ready to do a deal with WCW and he said, 'No, go to WWE cause Vince McMahon will know what to do with you.'"
What's interesting ... Flair was actually with the WCW at the time he counseled Angle.
Angle went on to become a WWE Hall of Famer -- and explains why it might not have happened without Flair.