Kurt Angle participated in a Q/A session during a meet and greet this past Saturday at iPlay America in Freehold, New Jersey. Although moderator Howard Finkel didn’t call on us, The Wrestling Estate was on hand to document the event. Below is the edited account of the session.
What was it like teaming with The Shield?
Kurt Angle: “One of the most popular factions of all time. They’ve done an incredible job. Ever since they’ve come up from NXT, they’ve been legendary. It was an honor for me to team up with them. Obviously, Roman Reigns was out and they needed somebody to fill the spot. Mr. McMahon decided that Kurt Angle would fill that spot. It was awesome, I had a lot of fun that night. I didn’t have to do much. If you saw me walk out, you kind of saw the fan boy smile on my face. (laughs)”
How do you feel that they don’t let Daniel Bryan wrestle but they let you wrestle, just because of his neck injury?
Angle: “No, it’s not Daniel Bryan’s neck. No, it’s concussions. That’s a serious thing today. You obviously see in the NFL there are a lot of lawsuits being thrown back and forth. It’s a very dangerous thing. I talked to Daniel personally. I passed the physical. I haven’t had an issue with my neck in 12 years. I did break it four times in two years back between 2004 and 2006, but I’ve been fine since. You have a protocol you need to follow. The physical entails a certain amount of things and the most important is the concussion test.
Daniel couldn’t pass it. He had 10 concussions that he knows of. That’s huge liability. Can Daniel eventually wrestle? I think he can, but it comes down to him passing the concussion test. I know in time your brain heals, so we don’t know how much damage has been done thus far. Is there a possibility of him wrestling? Maybe, I hope so. I feel bad that he took it personally that I was able to wrestle. He wasn’t mad or upset; he just couldn’t understand how they passed me but not him. But they were two different things.
If I had a dream match that I wanted, it would be against Daniel Bryan. He’s awesome.”
What’s one thing about your career that you would change if you could do it all over again?
Angle: “Well, you know, I was really hard on the company when I had my painkiller addiction. I wanted to keep wrestling and I kept injuring my neck, and I kept rushing back. Back then, your own doctor cleared you to wrestle for WWE. So I would talk my doctor into clearing me early even when I wasn’t healed enough to go. Now WWE has doctors that you have to go through to be cleared.
I would break my neck, have surgery and rush back to get back in action. Six months later, I broke it again. And then six months later I broke it again. That fueled my painkiller addiction. So if I go back to the first time I broke my neck in 2003, I would take a long time off to get healed and ready. That’s my only regret. I put my family through a lot of pain. I also put Vince McMahon through a lot of pain. I was a hard kid to deal with back then. I would do anything he told me to in the ring, but outside the ring, I was erratic.
In the long run, I’m back now. I’ve been clean and sober for five years. (applause)”
How did you win your medal with your neck hurt?
Angle: “Good question. (laughs) I actually broke my neck one other time. I was wrestling in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open. I got thrown on my head. I knew right away something was wrong, but I had to keep wrestling that day. Thank God I won both matches. I was in excruciating pain. I went back home and got an x-ray and MRI. Four different vertebrae were broken and two discs were sticking directly into my spinal cord. I couldn’t find a doctor that would clear me to wrestle for the Olympics.
I finally found a doctor that would help me out. He gave me healing agents for my neck. It was a non-steroid because obviously you can’t take steroids wrestling in the Olympics. I was in a lot of pain so I couldn’t really train. Before each match, I would get Novocain shots in my neck so I couldn’t feel anything. It worked really well. It made me forget about my neck just for that 10-minute period of time when I wrestled. I don’t know how I did it, but I knew that nothing was going to keep me from at least trying. I knew if I had to wait another four years I wasn’t guaranteed to make the Olympic team. That was my time and I wasn’t going to let anything take it away from me.
I give a lot of credit to my doctors. Every match I wrestled was very close. I didn’t dominate like I thought I would. But with a broken freaking neck (laughs) I was very happy with my performance.”
How did it feel when Jason Jordan was replaced on the Raw team?
Angle: “Well, I wasn’t happy about it. When you have Triple H on your team, though he’s really hard to deal with, he’s one of the best ever. Honestly, I don’t know if we would have won without Triple H. Obviously, Triple H wanted to win himself, but that’s typical Triple H. It was tough, I mean, Jason is my son and I want to help him the most I can.
I can’t believe I’m saying this. (laughs) You know this was a big prank that Vince had. I looked at him like you’re serious? When did I get her pregnant, in college? And she was black? The joke is on me but honestly, I’m not going to lie to you, I really hope that this storyline turns into a match with Jason.
Whether you like his character or not, you can’t deny that he is right now one of the top three best wrestlers in the company. (jeers) Watch him perform, watch him perform. He’s up there with AJ Styles. He has a different style, but you will see Jason Jordan as world champion eventually. I know that people can’t stand him right now and I’m not sure if it’s because he’s my son, but his performance in the ring, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
How did you feel when Jason Jordan got injured by Braun Strowman?
Angle: “First of all, Jason got injured by Bray Wyatt and Braun just added to it. But there’s nothing I can do about it. What am I going to do to Braun? (laughs) Braun is one of a kind. I actually told Braun this last week. If he stays healthy, he can be up there eventually, in years’ time, with Undertaker as one of the best big men in the business. You have to remember that this guy wasn’t an athlete-athlete. He was a Strongman competitor. It’s hard to believe that he’s as athletic and has the psychology like I’ve never seen a big man have since Undertaker. I give him a lot of credit for being able to pick up the business so quickly. I know Vince McMahon loves him. He’s special. Hopefully he’ll be with the company for years to come. He can have a good match with anybody.”
Getting away from the kayfabe questions, do you have any fans that you consider stalkers?
Angle: “I don’t know of any stalkers. I’ve had a few of them pretend to be celebrities and want me to follow them on Twitter. Then I do and I find out they’re not really the celebrities they said they were. (laughs) I think it’s more disturbing to pretend to be somebody that you’re not. That probably ticks me off more than anything.
One in particular said ‘hey, I’m this guy. I want to bring my son to an event. Can you get me tickets?’ I said yeah, I’m looking forward to meeting you. I followed your career my whole life. You’ll have to pick them up at will call. He said ‘well, I’m going to give you a different name.’ C’mon man. (laughs) I just spent a month talking to you on Twitter. That to me is a stalker.”
Why did you stop wrestling and become manager mostly?
Angle: “I left WWE in 2006 and went to IMPACT Wrestling for about 11 years. I was there until 2016 and then I took off. I did do a few matches on the independent circuit, one was against Rey Mysterio. I wrestled Cody Rhodes three times. I wrestled Del Rio, who I have to tell you, the kid is phenomenal. A great ring general, he’s really good. He’s better than you think. I also wrestled a couple up and comers just to stay fresh for when WWE called me.
I was trying to get back since 2013, but Vince McMahon wasn’t real happy with my drug problem. I had to prove to him that I could stay clean for a lengthy period of time. I guess it took four years (laughs) to stay clean. I’m 49 years old (applause) and I’ve had five broken necks, so Vince McMahon wasn’t going to bring me right back to wrestle. He wanted to see if I could pass the drug test, if I could pass the physical, if I could stay clean.
He brought me in just for the Hall of Fame. Then a month later, he asked me to be an ambassador for the company and then I started doing appearances. Then a month later he wanted me to be the GM of RAW. I did that for the past six months and then he asked me to wrestle. He wanted to ease me back into the company.
Will I be wrestling more on then off in the future? Probably. It just took a little bit of time, and I don’t blame the company for doing what they did. I would have done the same thing. I’m glad Vince McMahon did that because I did want to prove to him that I could do what I’ve done for the past year. I think they’re going to put me in different programs with different athletes at different periods of time. At my age, I’m happy to do that. I don’t expect to be wrestling like Seth Rollins or AJ Styles where they’re wrestling four or five days a week. I’ve done that, you know? With the injuries and doing that, that’s the reason I left the company in the first place.”
I heard when you first came to WWE you told Vince McMahon that you’re not going to lose any matches because you’re an Olympic gold medalist. Vince never called you back after that and then you guys worked something out. We hear stories about superstar not wanting to lose matches and walking out. Is any of that true?
Angle: “You have to understand when I met with Vince after the Olympics, I had never watched pro wrestling. So I didn’t have an ego, I was just a damn good wrestler that never lost. (applause) I hadn’t lost for four years so when I met him, I was like I’m the real deal, can’t lose. He was like, okay, see you later. I will say this. Are there some egos? Yes, not a lot. They’re usually the guys or girls who never played a sport in their life. They don’t understand winning and losing. There aren’t really that many egos in the business. I haven’t met anyone that said I’m not going to lose to you. I’ve heard there are stories, but I guarantee that they weren’t athletes before entering the business. For most of the talents in WWE, it’s not about winning and losing. It’s about the quality of match. I’d say 99% of them have the right idea.
I started watching after I met with Vince and these wrestlers looked like incredible athletes. I became a huge fan of Stone Cold Steve Austin. He was the reason I called WWE back up in the end of 1998. I said listen, I want to be that guy. (laughs) For him, it wasn’t about winning or losing. If he was going to lose, there had to be a good reason. I understood that. Steve didn’t have an ego – he wouldn’t have a problem losing to the right guy. He was always right about that.
Another guy that didn’t have a problem losing was The Rock. He always did business. Shawn Michaels, I remember at WrestleMania 21 (applause) Vince didn’t have a winner. He left it up to us. Shawn said ‘well, you know, you win because you’re going to have a program with Dave Batista next so I want you to look good in this match.” I was like, wow. He didn’t have to do that. I thought that was really cool of Shawn.”
Do you have any funny stories from behind the scenes working with Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin?
Angle: “No (laughs). The crazy thing about that is because I broke my neck, that whole faction never had a chance. I wish we could have done it for a few years. I didn’t really get to know Shelton and Charlie that well. The faction only lasted six months. It was horrible. It really sucks because we could have done a great job with Team Angle.
They were both incredible and I take part of the blame for them not growing the way they could have as wrestlers. I know Shelton kind of broke out and got a little bit bigger than Charlie, but they should have had much better careers and I take part of the blame for that.”