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KURT ANGLE DISCUSSES WHETHER HE'S ACTUALLY WRESTLED FOR THE LAST TIME, AEW, VINCE MCMAHON, THREE STARS HE WISHED HE HAD WRESTLED AND MUCH MORE: COMPLETE INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

By Dave Scherer & Mike Johnson on 2020-10-09 19:59:00

On Monday 9/28, WWE Hall of Famer and Olympic Gold Medalist sat down for a conversation with PWInsider.com, discussing his health today, whether we have seen the final Kurt Angle match, new projects that are coming up including his new protein snacks company (for more details, visit www.PhysicallyFit.com), Impact Wrestling, creativity in professional wrestling and much more in an in-depth conversation.   Transcription by Billy Krotchsen.

Mike Johnson: Hey everybody, it's Mike Johnson in the audio section of PWInsiderElite.com. It is Monday, September 28, 2020 and we hope you are doing well. Dave Scherer and I are joined at this time by a legitimate Hall of Famer by any definition of the book - WWE Hall of Fame, Olympic Gold Medalist, TNA Hall of Fame, you name it, he has done it in the world of amateur wrestling, in the world of collegiate wrestling, in the world of the Olympics and the world of professional wrestling and he is still going strong - that being our guest at this time Kurt Angle, who you just saw on the WWE Network as part of the Steve Austin interview series. We're very happy to have Kurt with us for a little while today talking. So Kurt, to set the stage on this - Dave's got some questions, I have some questions, so I'm going to acquiesce to the boss and Dave's going to go first, so here we go.

Dave Scherer: Wow, that's the only time he'll ever call me 'the boss', Kurt, I'm just going say that right off the bat.

Kurt Angle: [laughs]

Dave Scherer: Usually it's like I work for him. Let's start off with how you're feeling man, it's been I guess, what, 6 months...oh no, we saw you with Matt Riddle but haven't seen you on TV a whole lot lately. How are you feeling?

Kurt Angle: I'm good, I'm good...you know, I got myself back in shape, been talking to Hollywood producers and stuff about doing some movies. I got a couple of movies coming up next year so just transitioning from wrestling to acting, and I also have my supplement company Physically Fit Nutrition that I'm sure we'll talk about later on but other than that I'm spending time with the family, it's pretty cool. I mean I haven't been home this much in gosh, you know, 25 years, so it's kind of nice being with your family every day.

Dave Scherer: Yeah, what was that transition like?  Going from being 100 miles an hour with WWE and TNA to kind of like settling back a little bit and being in charge of your own day as opposed to having your day mapped out for you by the companies?  How has it been going from going 100 miles an hour when you're working in the business to kind of being able to set your own course now that you're in control of your own days?

Kurt Angle: Well, you know, I've always had structure in my life, so I continue to have that. I don't try to sit back and rest and relax, I keep hustling, so from the minute I get up I'm doing something, whether it's rehabilitation, training, making phone calls for my business, talking to managers, producers, so I spend the whole day doing what I have to do, I take my kids to their sporting events, it's a little mixture of everything so I got a very well-balanced life [laughs].

Dave Scherer: That's good, that's the way it should be, right? You and I actually met 24...I guess it's 24 years ago now when you had your first exposure to the pro wrestling business in Philadelphia. Shane Douglas brought you into the ECW Arena on a night where there was a booking decision that was a little past the bounds of good taste. You want to tell us a little about how that was cause I'll tell you right now, I was about two or three feet away from you at the table on the stage and I watched it with my eyes and I was like "Oooh they shouldn't have done that", and then I watched your reaction and I said to the guy next to me, Bob Ryder from TNA, I said, "Stay away from an angry Olympic champion." Why don't you tell us about that night and your introduction to ECW?

Kurt Angle: Shane Douglas called me, I didn't even know who Shane was. He called me and said, "Hey Kurt, I'm Shane Douglas, I'm in ECW, I'm from Pittsburgh, from your hometown, um, we have a new wrestling company that is structured more like amateur wrestling, more like your sport than WWE and [laughs]." So he sucked me in that day, this is a new pro wrestling that was mirrored from amateur wrestling. So I thought I was going to a wrestling meet.

Dave Scherer: So your first exposure was a lie, OK so [laughs].

Kurt Angle: Yeah, yeah...so I got there, I was like holy crap, um, you know...the only match that had wrestling in it I believe was Taz and Guido, and they wanted me to, you know...they introduced them to me, I shook their hands and all that stuff. I think they did that to make me happy, to say "Hey, we're doing this for you,' but you know as the night went on, everybody kept coming out with weapons, it wasn't even wrestling, it was all gimmicks, you know - kendo sticks, chairs, ladders, crucifixes, that was the one that got me, you know, when Raven crucifixed Sandman up on the cross I was like "I need to leave [laughs]. This is not good for me." And I talked to Paul Heyman, and Paul said he didn't know about the crucifix under the ring, which I knew was, you know, I knew he was BS'ing me.

Dave Scherer: It was Paul being Paul. 

Kurt Angle: You know, the thing is, back then I didn't understand, I didn't understand pro wrestling, I didn't understand what they did in it, I thought they were, you know, pretending to be kayfabe and that it was...that they were trying to make it look real. By then they kind of came out of the closet and said "Hey, we're sports entertainment, we're not wrestling," Vince McMahon did around that time and decided, you know, bury the kayfabe thing, but I just thought, "Geez, I can't be any part of this." And you know...I don't know, ECW was running pretty hard back then, they were doing pretty well, I mean, you know, if Paul Heyman would have offered me a deal, you know, as popular as it was back then, you know, I would have possibly considered signing it, just like I did WWE's contract, but um, when that crucifix thing happened that was it - no way I was going to go there, so that's when I reapproached Vince McMahon and decided to go to WWE. 

Dave Scherer: Yeah I wanted to talk about that because at first it was 96 when you talked with Vince and at first you didn't sign, and I think it was a couple years later you did sign. What was going through your mind at first when you didn't sign and then when you decided you changed your mind and did sign?

Kurt Angle: Well I wanted to sign, my agent wouldn't let me. My agent was an NFL agent, his name is Ralph Cindrich and he repped a lot of the really big NFL athletes, so he was like, "You're not doing this crap. FOX wants you to do a sportscasting job for FOX Pittsburgh, let's get you that instead." I wanted to sign a WWE deal because it was, you know, it was a really nice deal. For me, I never had money, you know, they're giving me this multi-million dollar deal for 10 years and I thought it was a great opportunity but my agent said "No it's crap - you're real, they're fake, don't sign it," and I sat on it, and after a couple of years I turned on RAW and I was glued to the TV. I loved the entertainment, the wrestling, the athleticism, you know, Stone Cold, Rock, Triple H, Undertaker, all those guys were doing their thing and I really, really enjoyed watching The Rock and Steve Austin and I decided I'm going to go in there and try to portray those two and ironically, you know, when I signed I didn't train that long and I was on TV and my first two world titles were against both of them so you know, I went up the ladder pretty quickly. So long story short, you know, I didn't take the deal back in '96, the problem is when I took the deal in '98, the money wasn't there anymore, they gave me a $50,000 guarantee.  

Dave Scherer: Wow. 

Kurt Angle: They told me I'd have to earn it. I told them "I will earn it, don't worry about that." I told Vince I would be his top guy in a matter of two years and the rest was history. 

Dave Scherer: It sure was. A lot of people, and you've heard this I'm sure, and I have for 20 years now, the way you took to the business was, I mean, I've been covering the business...I'm almost 60 so for a lot of years, I don't remember anybody that I saw who...and when I say take the business like you did, it wasn't just that you were a great in-ring wrestler, which you know, you would figure with your background there was a good chance of that, but you became a guy that came in and jumped right all over the character aspect, and you could be funny, you could be serious as a heart attack, you could be both in the same segment. What do you think it was about, you know, your overall demeanor that made you become a guy that took the business that quickly and ascended that quickly?

Kurt Angle: You know what? I don't know how or why, it just happened, um...I can tell you this - WWE right now, the way they train the wrestlers, they get them ready, I mean NXT is a great training now, it's actually its own brand now but it's a great training ground, they give you character development, promo skills, pre-tape skills, mat skills...we didn't have that back then. We had the Dory Funk Dojo, it was 5 days a month and the rest of the month you were on your own, and that just wasn't enough for me. I did that for I think 2 or 3 months and uh, so I told WWE "I need more practice, I don't have a ring at home," so they sent me to Memphis for about 5 or 6 months and while I was in Memphis I would do an opening card match down there, then I would fly up to RAW and Smackdown and do dark matches for WWE, so I did that for probably about 4 months and then they started me on TV. The thing is, they never taught me anything with promo skills or pre-tapes or anything like that, it was just all wrestling, so I thought I was just going to be one of those guys who was on Main Event and you know, cause I was a very exceptional pro wrestler even the day I started, it just came real quick. My 3rd day I had a match and the match was pretty good, it was so good WWE was considering putting me on a pay per view that year. It was September when I had the match, the pay per view was in December, I think Steve Williams got hurt or something and they were considering using me against Stone Cold that early...

Dave Scherer: Wow. 

Kurt Angle: ..and I was like "Whoa, I'm not ready. I don't know what the hell I'm doing, I'm picking up the technique and everything, the selling and the bumping and everything but I don't know how to structure a match, I don't know how to improvise, I don't know anything", and they said, "Well just listen to your partner." So I listened to my partners the whole time, and when I became a good listener it made me a good leader, so you know I followed, followed, followed and then after a year on TV I was leading the matches, so it came really, really fast. To me it didn't seem that fast but uh, when you look back you say wow, usually you don't get to that level unless you're in it for about 6 to 8 years, so I kind of caught on, for whatever reason I don't know but it just happened. 

Dave Scherer: I think the reason was you just had the aptitude for it and back then, compared to today, you get your verbiage handed to you, you pretty much have to stay on the script, whereas, back then you got to adapt. I can think of a lot of circumstances where it certainly looked to me like, you know, the old Looney Tunes where you took a right turn at Albuquerque when you were with Austin or with Rock or whoever, where you guys could, in the ring see "Maybe we should take this from here to there." Do you think...do you wish that aspect was still in the business today, where the talent could, when they see an opening attack is, as opposed to have to stay on script? 

Kurt Angle: Yeah, you know, it's different now, you know, WWE is a publicly traded company. They've done an excellent job at uh, maintaining the wrestlers, making sure they're healthy, making sure they're drug tested, making sure they have the right food they're eating every day, the right doctors, trainers - they've got it all - it's a professional set up. They didn't have that back then, so these guys have great opportunities today and you know...the setback is they're a publicly traded company, they are marketing towards kids, and they're making more money than they ever made before, so why would they go back? They have to script everything, yes, I know that the producers need to know what they're doing throughout the whole entire match, they need to know what they're saying in their promos and pretapes, so it is overlooked quite a bit, but they still give the wrestlers a little leeway to improvise, it's not that bad, but it's definitely controlled, but you can't blame Vince McMahon for that because he's making more money than he ever made, he's catering to the kids and he has a publicly traded company that's doing really well so I understand why he did it. Have we lost a little bit of the art? Yeah, but you know, these guys get to do it, they get to practice it and perfect it at the house shows, so they're still doing it, and they know how to do it, the issue is they really can't improvise on TV.

The interview continues on Page 2!

 


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