Ring Rust Radio had TNA and WWE legend KURT ANGLE on the show this week, and it was a great episode with plenty of exclusive content. They talked about TNA Impact Wrestling, his current contract status, the WWE, his knee injury and much more!
Donald Wood: Impact Wrestling recently made the jump from Thursday to Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV. What are your thoughts on the move for the company’s flagship show and what it could mean for the future of the TNA on SpikeTV?
Kurt Angle: Well I believe it’s a positive step both for TNA and for Spike. You obviously want to keep ratings higher or get a high rating so Wednesday is always a good night. Thursdays you’re obviously up against football, also I believe WWE Smackdown might be moving to Thursday. There are a lot of people that like to watch both programs. I think it was a smart move both on Spikes part and TNA.
Mike Chiari: Over the past couple months you’ve been acting as the on-screen Director of Wrestling Operations for TNA while healing from your injury. What are some of the challenges that come with serving in an authoritative role rather than being an in-ring performer, and is this something you’d be interested in doing more of when you’re no longer an active competitor?
Kurt Angle: Oh without a doubt. I love the business and I caught on very quickly in every aspect of the in-ring work to mic work to the psychology. I really enjoy and have a passion for it. I thought I would never have a passion for it like I do considering I come from Olympic wrestling but for some reason I was bred to do it and I really enjoy my role right now. It gives you a broader perspective of what’s going on in the company, what’s the best situation for the company, and what wrestlers need to be pushed a little harder. You can’t push ’em all at once so it’s very difficult, you have to be very selective. John Gaburick, who is the head of our talent relations and head of production and everything else, asked me to help out with the situation and not only be on camera but also behind the scenes helping out any way I can. I do enjoy it and I do see a future in that when I retire.
Brandon Galvin: On Jim Ross’ podcast and in other interviews, you’ve spoken in great detail about your start in professional wrestling. You instantly became one of the top wrestlers in the business. Could you share with us what you attribute your evolution as a performer to and what it means to you to be considered one of the best to ever step in the ring?
Kurt Angle: Well I never considered myself one of the best ever. It had a lot to do with that I had a lot of success and I caught on very quickly. Within two years I was calling my own matches. That just doesn’t happen in the business. It’s way too difficult of a business to have somebody that’s two years green basically carrying the match, putting the match together, and structuring it. I did and the reason I did was because I was not a good leader. I forgot everything I had ever learned my whole life about Olympic wrestling and I decided that I was going to have the wrestlers in the ring teach me: The Undertakers, HHHs, Rocks, and Stone Colds. I listened and I was a very good listener. I listened to everything they did and why they did it. I studied the business but never watched a day of wrestling before I started. Now I watch tapes all the time especially of matches from the 70’s and 80’s to get ideas and to get a good grasp of psychology. I was a very good listener and because I became a very good listener I stepped into the leader part where I could be a good leader. Within three years, I was probably one of the best wrestlers in the business at that time. Overall, you can’t be one of the greatest of all time within three years. Now that I’m fifteen years in the business I would consider myself in the top 20. There are so many great wrestlers like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, HHH, and Stone Cold who never gets credit for being a wrestler. He was incredibly gifted as a wrestler but his character was just so strong that people didn’t care about his wrestling. There are so many great wrestlers in the business; even Undertaker. I was very blessed to be in the ring with those guys and I learned a lot from them.
Donald Wood: We mentioned your knee injury earlier. You underwent ACL surgery in May. Can you talk about how the recovery process has been, where you’re at physically and when fans can expect you back in the ring?
Kurt Angle: When I had the surgery I knew I had a torn ACL but the doctors told me I didn’t really have to have surgery. I’ve been wrestling on it for five years without an ACL so I might as well keep going. At this particular time last year it started limiting me and I can’t be a limited wrestler when I’m in the ring, I have to be able to go 110%. So because of the shifting in my knee it made me nervous and made me feel like my knee was going to blow out at any time. So I opted to have the ACL surgery so I could go back to the way I was. The recovery process was longer than I expected. I was expecting to be back in the ring by October which would have been five and a half months. That’s not possible. This is a very, very slow and steady process. I’d say I’ll be back in the ring by December or January and that’s rushing it. I want to be ready. I don’t want to just go in there and have to nurse my knee I want to be a 110 % so I can do what I do.
Mike Chiari: Having spent eight years in WWE and now eight years in TNA you’ve had two extremely successful and unique halves of a professional wrestling career to this point. If you had to identify yourself either solely as a WWE guy or a TNA guy in terms of what you’ve accomplished, which would you label yourself and why?
Kurt Angle: What I would label myself? You know you always go back to where you started. I don’t think you can label Sting as a TNA guy. He’s a WCW guy and even Sting in WWE now will always be remembered as a WCW guy. So I can’t say I’m a TNA guy obviously. WWE is where I started and Vince McMahon made me who I am and gave me the opportunity but I’ve had a better career in TNA. Now a lot of WWE fans might not believe that or they may have never seen me wrestle in TNA but the matches I’ve had in TNA were actually better than the matches I had in WWE. That’s a hard thing to say, but the matches I’ve had with Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and the different matches with different wrestlers like Sting, Jeff Jarrett, Desmond Wolf, Mr. Anderson, and Bobby Roode. I would say I was probably more consistent in TNA although I was always known to have the best matches and be a very consistent wrestler in WWE. I think it’s because the older I got the more I improved, the more I mastered the craft, the more I was able to let myself do what I do and have more confidence. The reason the second part of my career was better than the first was because of that.
Brandon Galvin: A lot has been said by other wrestlers recently about the state of the industry. How do you feel about the current state of the industry compared to when you entered?
Kurt Angle: Well ya know I think that we are at a time now where we need to go back. Let’s just say the WWE Attitude Era – what made it so successful? There were so many great wrestlers that were at the top. Stone Cold, the Rock, Undertaker, HHH, Kane, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, nobody was banking on one wrestler. For instance, Hulk Hogan in the late 80’s it was just Hulk Hogan. John Cena for the past 6, 7 years, it was just John Cena, I believe that the reason they had so much success is they didn’t bank on one wrestler. They had so many great wrestlers and they all shared time in the main events. That’s what we need to do in pro wrestling. To make it better, to add so more flavor to it, so it’s not the same person all the time. I think both companies are on the right track, for WWE and TNA I think you are gonna see a lot more improvement in the future.
Donald Wood: Let’s talk about Olympic wrestling. You fought for its reinstatement as an Olympic event and the IOC has ensured it will be part of the 2020 Games. As one of the greatest wrestlers in Team USA history, what does wrestling mean to the Olympics and do you think the focus on the sport will help build an even stronger American wrestling program moving forward?
Kurt Angle: Ya know it was shocking to everybody that wrestles, especially with the other sports that were considered in being dropped. Wrestling isn’t just an Olympic pastime, it’s as old as the Olympics, it’s the oldest sport in the world. There just is a lot of things that needed to be adjusted in the U.S.O.C. or I should say F.I.L.A., the World Governing Body of Wrestling. They always march to the beat of a different drum and they didn’t want to go to the meetings. The I.O.C. weren’t very cooperative, they did their own thing, and I think they did tick off a few people. They also have been changing the rules every four years. So even if you’re not an avid wrestling fan and you’re watching the Olympics on TV, and you remember four years ago you are wondering, “What’s going on? Why did this guy score a point? I don’t understand?” It’s very difficult to explain it when every four years you keep changing the rules. What the I.O.C. has considered with F.I.L.A. is to keep it consistent. I’ll give you an example: It used to be three-three minute periods, then it was three-two minute periods. Then it was just one five minute period, and then it was two-three minute periods again. Now its two rounds, now were into rounds. I don’t understand that if you win the first and second round there won’t be a third. You could score ten points in the first round and lose by one point in the second round it would go to the third round even though you were leading by ten points in the match. It’s just confusing to even tell you and but it’s even more confusing to watch. What they need to do is simplify it and to keep it that way and also to involve women. I believe that they are adding more women’s weight classes. They obviously brought women to the Olympics a few Olympics back and now they are adding more women’s weight classes but at the same time they are pulling back from the men’s weight classes and that’s gonna hurt a little bit. When I was there, there was ten men’s weight classes now I believe there are seven and they want to drop it to six. That’s gonna be very difficult to make the Olympic team. It’s difficult as it was and it was almost impossible back then when I wrestled now it’s even more impossible.
Mike Chiari: You previously said on Jim Ross’ podcast that your TNA contract expires on September 21, which is now less than two weeks away. At that point, you seemed open to exploring all options whether that’s re-signing with TNA or perhaps returning to WWE. Now that decision time is kind of on the horizon, where do things stand currently for you and what direction do you envision yourself going in?
Kurt Angle: Well right now I’m not at liberty to say where I’m going but I will tell you I’m going to do the right thing for me and my family. I am in the process of structuring a deal and I do have a company in mind. I haven’t said yes because I want to make it a public thing with the company and myself. I can’t really say who it is or where I’m going but I can tell you it’s going to happen in the next two weeks before my contract is even up. I won’t be wrestling until January but there will be a signing in the next couple of weeks.
Brandon Galvin: You’ve had so many incredible matches and feuds over the course of your career in both WWE and TNA, but if you had to choose one guy as your greatest all-time rival who would that be and why?
Kurt Angle: Well ya know a lot of people don’t get to see many of them. I wish I could’ve had a little more with Shawn Michaels. We had an amazing chemistry but we only had a few matches. The one I really, really meshed with very well was Chris Benoit. It’s hard for me to say that but it’s the truth. We were so equally matched with the intensity and the moves that we had and just our abilities, it was a downright war every time we wrestled. If you watch those matches, especially the match in Boston from Royal Rumble in 2003 there was maybe one punch the whole match. it was wrestling and submission trade off. That’s how you tell a story. When you can do that and you’re not running the ropes the whole time and throwing punches and doing high spots and you can wrestle in the middle of the ring and you have the fans in the palm of your hands that is magic. That’s what makes wrestling so great. When you can do that you know you’re one of the best.