FLASHBACK: KURT ANGLE INTERVIEW (JANUARY 2014)
TO MARK THE release of The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2, I am posting a series of interviews on powerslamonline.co.uk this week that were originally published in Power Slam, but have not been included in The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2 (or The Power Slam Interviews Volume 1).
Should you enjoy the interviews I am uploading here, I’m confident you would appreciate The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2, which contains more than 20 vintage PS interviews — each of which comes with a new introduction — along with five previously unpublished interviews and other original content. More information about the book, which is available from Amazon, iBooks and Kobo, can be found here: www.powerslamonline.co.uk/updates/285/The-Power-Slam-Interviews-Volume-2-Now-Available.htm
THIS INTERVIEW WITH Kurt Angle was conducted by Neil Docking on January 28, 2014, and originally published in Issue 233 of Power Slam.
At the time of the interview, Angle was in Manchester, England for TNA’s Maximum Impact VI Tour. The transatlantic excursion each January had been the high point on TNA’s calendar, ever since the organisation staged its first major arena tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland in January 2009. TNA’s house show at London’s Wembley Arena on January 24, 2009 still holds the promotion’s live attendance record (8,100). That is unlikely to be broken for the next decade or two.
Though Kurt would continue to wrestle in TNA for two more years, it was evident when he spoke with Mr. Docking that he knew his tenure was drawing to a close: Angle, then 45, was looking ahead to life after TNA and pro wrestling.
As well as his future, Angle talked about his painkiller addiction and stay in rehab the previous year, and his TNA Hall Of Fame induction that never was at Bound For Glory 2013. What a peculiar turn of events that was.
In addition, Angle reflected on his unsuccessful Olympic comeback in 2012, Hulk Hogan’s relationship with TNA and impending return to WWE, and the recent departure from TNA of longtime headliners A.J. Styles and Sting. Kurt passed comment also on TNA’s rising stars, his remaining goals in the company and much more.
As you know, Angle was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame last night at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. That might have had a bearing on my decision to republish this interview here today.
The January 2014 Angle interview begins now . . .
TODAY, YOU ARE in Manchester, England for TNA’s Maximum Impact VI Tour, which includes Impact Wrestling tapings and the recording of pre-taped pay-per-views. You’ve appeared on previous TNA tours of the U.K. and Ireland, going back to the first major arena tour in 2009. It’s always a big week for TNA.
“This is going to be the first time that we do pay-per-views outside of the U.S., so it’s a milestone for TNA. We have a great line-up, and the boys are going to put on the best performances they possibly can. These are the best crowds that we’ll see all year long, so everybody will be up for the challenge.
“I will be a part of the tour, to what degree I don’t know yet. I know I’m being inducted into the TNA Hall Of Fame. I do have knee surgery coming up after the tour: it’s not real serious, but it does need to be done. We wanted to wait until after the tour [before I had the operation]. We wanted to give the fans over here everything we could. If I’d had the surgery, I wouldn’t have been able to come, so I pushed it back until after the tour.”
You mentioned your TNA Hall Of Fame induction, which is now set for February 1 at London’s Wembley Arena. Can you tell us why you weren’t inducted over Bound For Glory 2013 weekend, as advertised?
“It had to do with everything that happened last year: me going away for a little bit, going into rehab. It just wasn’t the right timing, and they wanted to push it back and have me get back in the line-up, mix it up a little bit, and have some good matches first.
“We kind of made it part of the story line, not totally because the Hall Of Fame is actually a real thing and you don’t want to dabble too much with [it] . . . But, at the same time, it was best to wait. We decided if we’re not going to do it at our biggest pay-per-view, we might as well do it at our biggest event here in England.”
Are you going to accept the HOF induction this time? Many people were confused and disappointed when you declined the induction during the October 20, 2013 BFG pay-per-view in San Diego, California, the night after TNA had held a Hall Of Fame Banquet in your honour at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley hotel.
“Yes. I don’t think they can push it back again. At the Hall Of Fame dinner, there were people who said, ‘Hey, I don’t understand why I came here, if you didn’t accept the award.’
“You’re going to have some disappointment [when that happens], but, in the long run, it was for the best.”
In a previous interview with Power Slam on June 2, 2011, you told us that you had started training for the 2012 Olympics in London. “It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of willpower,” you conceded. In April 2012, just over a week before the Olympic wrestling trials, you announced that you were pulling out, due to hamstring and knee injuries. Talk us through what happened.
“What I found out was, training the way you need to train for the Olympics at 43 is a lot different to when you are in your mid-20s. I didn’t realise the toll it would take on my body. When you’re training eight-to-10 hours a day, even with TNA and Dixie Carter giving me time off to train, my body just wasn’t recuperating quick enough. If I couldn’t train that way, there was no way I was going to tryout. Every time I would get into the training and feel pretty good, something else would happen.
“I had injuries to my knee, hamstring, to my Achilles tendon. And, you know, I went to the doctor and I said, ‘What’s going on with me?’
“And he said, ‘Kurt, you’re 43, and when you get over 40, things start to go.’
“I said, ‘I don’t feel that age.’
“And he said, ‘Well, your body has taken a lot of punishment, so stick with the pro wrestling and think about what you’re doing with the Olympic wrestling because you’re fit for pro wrestling, but Olympic wrestling might be too much for you right now.’
“He was right.”
Did you find that difficult to come to terms with?
“It was very difficult. I can get in a wrestling ring and I can go all night long pro wrestling. But as far as Olympic wrestling [goes], the training you need to do to prepare is so gruelling — I mean, I believe it to be more intense than MMA training, which I’ve done too. And, rightfully so: you are talking about the Olympics, the biggest sporting event of all time. I learned the hard way, but that’s okay: I have an Olympic gold medal.”
You gave it a shot.
“It is what it is. I tried.”
You’re still very passionate about amateur wrestling, obviously. You were the spokesman for TNA’s Save Olympic Wrestling campaign after the International Olympic Committee announced last February that it would drop wrestling as a core Olympic sport, following the 2016 Games, to make way for what it believed was a more popular and relevant sport. In September 2013, following an outpouring of support for wrestling, the IOC reconsidered its decision and reinstated wrestling as a core Olympic sport for the 2020 Games.
“I think the whole amateur wrestling community was shocked by that move. We didn’t really think it was going to get dropped; we thought it was more of a scare. But what amateur wrestling needs to understand is we do need to abide by what the International Olympic Committee says and, when they ask us to do something, we need to do it. It’s just like anybody that has a boss: you need to answer to your boss, and we didn’t for years. I think it was to wake us up and make us realise that when they request something, we need to abide by what they say. They attempted to drop wrestling but, thank God, by popular demand, it got voted back in.”
You entered rehab in August 2013 after you had been arrested for DWI in Decatur, Texas. Neither you nor TNA made any secret of this. You acknowledged it on Twitter after your arrest, and Dixie Carter mentioned on Impact Wrestling later that month that you had been in a “rehabilitation facility” for two weeks.
“It was something I needed to do. I needed to get to the root of my problems, so I did.”
I believe it was your first trip to rehab. For how long were you there?
WWE paid for your treatment, not TNA. WWE covers drug and alcohol rehabilitation costs for all of its former contractors.
“I had to call the WWE, and they put me in a great rehabilitation programme at St. Joseph Institute for Addiction in Pennsylvania. It was great. I needed the detox. It wasn’t really an alcohol problem: it was more pain medication and other anti-anxiety medication I’d been taking for 10 years. And no matter if it was doctor prescribed, which it was, it was something I needed to get off because I was making very, very stupid decisions. So, with that medication, you mix it with some alcohol and just do stupid stuff. I realised I needed to get clean and to live my life clean.”
How are you doing now?
“I’ve been clean for six months. I feel good, I feel a lot better than I did. I’m spending more time with my family and my kids: it’s been a second chance at life. My recovery is going really well. I don’t miss it. I don’t miss the pills, I don’t miss the alcohol: I like living clean. It’s great. That’s how I lived my whole life until 10 years ago, and I never had problems, regardless if I had injuries or not. That’s how it all started. But when it comes down to it, you don’t really need that medication, if you don’t really want it.”
Your abstinence from alcohol was written into the Aces & Eights funeral segment on the November 28, 2013 episode of Impact Wrestling: Samoa Joe declined to pass you a bottle of lager as he distributed the contents of a six-pack to others in attendance at the service, which included Mr. Anderson, Mike Tenay and Eric Young. You had a chuckle about that.
“Yeah. It’s not something I’m going to hide. It’s something, if anything, that I should be proud of, and realise if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
Looking back, how do you feel you fared in TNA last year before your absence?
“Last year? I really didn’t have a good year. The writing for me wasn’t there: I was kind of thrown by the wayside, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t really speak up but, when I came back after I went away, I realised the best thing for me to do, the best thing for me and the company, was for me to speak my mind. I’m not going to say the reasons they didn’t utilise me, but I believe it had to be with people that were in charge of creative at the time. It’s in the past, I have no hard feelings, but now they’re utilising me in feature attractions, which is what I wanted in the first place, so I’m happy, and everything is going well right now.
“The matches I’ve had with Bobby Roode have been great. I’ve wrestled Austin Aries and Magnus. All I want to do now is keep having the best matches I can.”
You did have terrific matches with Roode from October through to the January 23, 2014 episode of Impact when you finally defeated him on television in a cage match.
“Bobby Roode, besides A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe, is the guy I think I’ve had the best chemistry with. He is phenomenal. I don’t think people realise how good he really is. Right now, I could put him in the top three [of the] best in the world today. He’s well-versed, he covers all corners, from an entertainment aspect to wrestling to technique to character, whatever it is. He can cut a great promo. I rate him in the top three of any company today.”
TNA made the decision to reform the Main Event Mafia in June 2013: its members were Sting, Samoa Joe, Magnus, Quinton Jackson and yourself. While the MEM 2013 did provide Magnus with a platform on which he could grow, it didn’t do much for the other members.
“It was a little deluded and not exactly the same thing. It could never be the same as the original — not that the original became a household name or anything — but it was special.
“[The first Main Event Mafia from 2008-2009] had former World champions. We had guys that were big names with other companies and, forming it together with Sting and myself and Booker T, Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner, it was a one-of-a-kind Mafia. And it’s hard to duplicate that.”
Your TNA contract expires in September, by which point you will have been a TNA regular for eight years. What would you like to do in September, given the choice?
“It will be eight years in September. I haven’t thought about it too much yet. Everything is going well with TNA, and I’m happy with that, but I still want to keep my options open.
“As long as I’m happy, then I don’t plan on going anywhere. But, you know, it’s been a long time, and I need to go back and reflect on what I’ve done here in TNA, and what I did in WWE, and decide from there.”
Would you like to return to WWE? It will be eight years this summer since you last wrestled for that company.
“Sure. Everything has to be right. Like I said, as long as I’m happy here, I’m okay here. But some day, it’s going to happen eventually, somewhere down the line.”
Did you speak to anyone in WWE when your previous TNA contracts came up for renewal?
“The previous time, no. I knew I was going to sign with TNA, and I did. I don’t plan on talking to anybody there, not [when I’m] under contract. You can’t do that, that’s a big no, and I respect how TNA handles that.
“Professionalism is important. Dixie Carter has been really good to me, and I have to respect what she says.”
Why do you think WWE wasn’t interested in hiring you in 2011?
“It’s not about them approaching me; it’s about when do I approach them? That’s how the business works. I didn’t try to, and that’s okay. That was my decision.”
If you were to return to WWE, who would you like to face? In 2011, you told us you were once considered to be the man to end The Undertaker’s WrestleMania Streak.
“I don’t think that Streak will ever end. Undertaker is who he is: he’s a legend, and I think it would be very difficult for WWE to end that Streak. It would have to be with good reason. I believe the chances are he will go down in history as the only undefeated star at WrestleMania.”
If you were to join WWE, would you be interested in renewing your rivalry with Brock Lesnar, perhaps? Or is the idea of locking horns with Daniel Bryan and C.M. Punk appealing — assuming Punk returns to WWE?
“Yes. I think you’ve named the three: Brock, Daniel and Punk. But, you know, I never really had that five-star match with Triple H. When I first started, when I wrestled him, I wasn’t very good. I could only be as good as what he could carry me to, so wrestling Triple H another time would definitely be an honour and a privilege, especially being where I am in my career and with what he has done. When I faced him [in 2000], it really helped both me and Stephanie [McMahon], because we were both relatively new. I think Triple H really carried the torch in that one.”
You said earlier that you require knee surgery. That aside, how would you describe your general health at the age of 45?
“I can still go. I’m working smarter, but I’m working just as intense as I’ve always worked. I don’t have a problem with my health, thank God. So as long as I feel that way, I’m going to keep wrestling. It’s not really about the money any more: it’s about putting on the best matches I can for TNA, and going out there and doing what I love to do, which is to perform.”
When you do retire, would you like to continue working in the wrestling business in some capacity?
“Yes, I think so. I think somewhere along the line, maybe five years from now, I’d definitely like to teach younger talent. I really have a passion for it and, when you love doing something, you want to continue doing it.”
I must quiz you about Hulk Hogan. As you know, he left TNA in October 2013 after a near-four-year run. What do you think he brought to TNA?
“I think Hulk Hogan has a great mind for the business. I think that he made a lot of good decisions while at TNA, but it’s not that the decisions were solely up to him, so a lot of the decisions that he made at Impact Wrestling didn’t exactly transpire because there were other people in creative. I think he will help anywhere, whether it’s at TNA or WWE.”
Hogan’s WWE return is imminent. He will participate in WrestleMania XXX.
“Is he going to get physical at WrestleMania? I’d say most likely. I just hope to God he’s physically ready. He’s a tough guy, so he’ll get it done somehow — he always does.
“But having him depart from TNA, it was sad. I think he had great intentions. A lot of people would tell you that. Some people would say he didn’t, but I believe he did.”
TNA has jettisoned a lot of talent and staff since June 2013. The people in charge have been forced to make some difficult decisions in order to cut losses and try to safeguard the company’s future. A.J. Styles left in December, and Sting made his final TNA appearance less than two weeks ago. You must have been sorry to see them go. Styles and Sting had been members of the TNA roster for even longer than you.
“Yeah. A.J. and Sting were both cornerstones of the company. But, you know, you have to look at where we’re going and where we’re heading. Those guys were heavily needed, no doubt. But, at the same time, we’re looking at growing younger talent, we’re looking to bring in younger talent, we’re going to have a couple of surprises over here in England and Scotland, as far as new talent coming in.
“Everything is a business decision. Sometimes, you make the right decision, sometimes you don’t. We will find out . . . You have to take chances here and there, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
I understand that Jeff Jarrett is at least talking about launching his own wrestling company. Can you shed any light on that?
“I don’t know a lot about what Jeff Jarrett is doing; I don’t really talk to him about it.”
Do you think there’s room for another wrestling organisation with a budget?
“It’s going to be tough when you have three companies involved. I remember when wrestling was at its highest peak [in the late 1990s], there were three companies involved, so there is room. But whether it stays on the scene or not is solely up to Jeff and the people he brings in and the decisions he makes. If that’s what he’s going to do, then more power to him . . . Jeff does know how to start a company. He has experience with that.”
On a lighter note, you travelled to Los Angeles, California for One Direction’s 1D Day in November to promote the band’s album Midnight Memories. As we wrote in Power Slam last year, you looked like you were “having a whale of a time”.
“I had a blast with One Direction. You know, it’s funny. You can go out there and make fun of yourself and, when you can do that and have fun with it and have someone like Liam Payne beat you in the middle of the ring, it only helps you because people know you have a good sense of humour. [Pro wrestling is] a hard-core brand of entertainment but, at the same time, we like to have fun with it.”
You appeared in the movie Warrior in 2011, and had a small role in the Michael Bay film Pain & Gain last year in which you fought Dwayne Johnson’s character. Do you intend to pursue more acting roles?
“That’s my plan after wrestling: I want to parlay into movies. I’m talking to an agency. I haven’t had an agency up until now, and I’ve been pretty lucky getting the movies I have done. Having an agency behind you always helps.”
I believe your company Angle Foods is no more.
“I’m just running my supplement company now, Barndad Nutrition. Angle Foods was starting to do well, but it needed an infusion of a few million dollars to keep it running. I knew it was time to get out. The hard part was getting out when it started to get good.”
You’ve amassed an impressive body of work in TNA against Samoa Joe, A.J. Styles, Mr. Anderson, Abyss, Desmond Wolfe/Nigel McGuinness and Bobby Roode. Who else have you enjoyed wrestling?
“A lot of the reason why I came to TNA was because of Samoa Joe and A.J. Styles. Obviously, I don’t think I ever would have had the opportunity to wrestle Sting, if I didn’t come to TNA. So with those talents, it was worth coming down. Then you throw Nigel McGuinness in, ‘The Pope’, who I had some great matches with, then Mr. Anderson . . .
“As a pro wrestler, when you want to be the best, you’re always looking for the best talent to go against, and it seemed like TNA had a lot of great talent that came through.”
Just when you think Kurt Angle has done it all in TNA, there’s a change at the top and a fresh scenario presents itself: Angle vs. World champion Magnus. Does the prospect of such a series excite you?
“Yes. I think Magnus is a great wrestler: I think he really has matured over the past five years. He’s great on the stick, he’s great in the ring, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a very young talent. It’s guys like that who will keep the company standing in the future. I would love to do that programme.”
Who else is on the Angle radar screen?
“Right now, I would love to revive Samoa Joe. I would love to revive James Storm, and see how far they can take it. I think those two are amazing talents. They might not be new [to TNA], but they also have not hit the tip of the iceberg of what their potential is.
“I would love to work more with Austin Aries, and also Ethan Carter III. I think his character is amazing. I think with that character, as long as he can back it up with the wrestling, he’s going to be something big.”
Any other goals for 2014?
“Just to keep doing what I do. I’m the best at what I do, and I want to continue to have the best matches. If I can do that, then I’ll be happy.”