Kurt Angle is unquestionably one of the greatest superstars in wrestling history. Wrestling’s only Olympic gold medalist joined the WWE in 1999 and promptly ripped through the competition, capturing the Intercontinental, European, King of the Ring, and then capping his rookie year off by winning the world title in his original gimmick as a pompous, condescending Olympic braggart.
He went on to win six WWE world championships and another world heavyweight championship, a hardcore championship, and a WWE tag team championship in a more serious role. During that time, Angle bridged the gap from the Attitude Era to the Modern Era as he fought stars from The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and Triple H to Edge, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Batista. From there, he went to TNA and added to his resume by winning five TNA world titles, two world tag team titles, and the X Division title against the promotion’s best, including AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Sting, Christian Cage, and Bobby Roode.
Angle was in Maryland yesterday as part of the Bowie Baysox’s Legends of Wrestling event. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the past three, and, like Bret Hart and Kevin Nash before him, Angle was very gracious and willing to answer some questions after a three-hour autograph session. The old saying is “don’t meet your heroes,” but wrestling fans who grew up in the Attitude Era won’t be disappointed if they get a chance to meet their Olympic Hero.
How are you health-wise?
I got an ACL tear three months ago. My neck is 100 percent. Haven’t had a problem with it in 10 years. I had some unfortunate luck of having three injuries to my neck in a short amount of time, but as I continued wrestling, I got smarter and realized I couldn’t keep flipping off the top rope backwards.
Who reminds you of 1999 Kurt Angle?
That’s a tough one. I’d say (WWE star) Bo Dallas. He’s a young kid, but he’s really talented. He’s going to be a big star. His brother (Bray Wyatt) is going to be larger than the business. He’s going to be a movie star. Of course, he’ll be cast all the time as a biker or gang member, but he’s phenomenal.
How do you think you would have fared in MMA? Any regrets not going down that path?
At the time I signed with the WWE, it came down to dollars and cents. Back then, the UFC wasn’t dishing out a lot of money. I don’t regret going into wrestling at all, but had Dana White been around at that point, UFC would have exploded earlier, there’s no doubt I would have gone the MMA route.
What was your favorite match?
Wow. There’s so many. I’ve had 10 star matches with The Rock, (“Stone Cold”) Steve Austin, Eddy (Guerrero), (Chris) Benoit, Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, Triple H, and even in TNA with Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Bobby Roode. I’ve been fortunate to have so much chemistry with so many super-talented wrestlers. I’d say Wrestlemania 21 against Shawn Michaels or the 2003 Royal Rumble against Benoit. (WWE owner) Vince (McMahon) did something he never does and stopped the show for Benoit to get a standing ovation after the match was over.
What’s your most underrated match?
Versus Undertaker at No Way Out 2006 in Baltimore, MD. Undertaker pushed hard to make it a Wrestlemania match, but the boss (Vince McMahon) wasn’t having it. I suppose it was because he didn’t want me to lose and there was no way he wanted to have ‘Taker lose at Wrestlemania.
Who would be your ultimate Survivor Series team?
Hmmn. I’m not much of a team player, but I’d have to same my old crew Edge & Christian and then Dwayne (“The Rock”) just for the entertainment value alone. We’d be the most entertaining team in the history of wrestling.
Do you keep in touch with many of the guys?
Pat Patterson once told me that the guys you travel on the road with will be your best friends, but once you’re off the road, you won’t talk to them again, and he’s right. The relationships just kind of end. I’ll see some when we’re doing a show or something and catch up, but that’s about it. You’re brothers, family, and, in some ways, you’re in a relationship together — or more so now with all the divas — until it’s over. It’s like high school or college, though. I don’t keep up with anyone from there now.
What do you think of your Wrestlemania 19 opponent Brock Lesnar returning and winning the WWE title at this year’s Summerslam?
Brock is unbelievable. He’s very talented. Anything he does he succeeds at because everything comes easy to him. He’s quick, smart, strong — he’s got all the tools. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrestling, UFC, or football. Had he stayed with the NFL for another year, he would have been an all-pro. He’s that kind of superhuman.
You’ve fought some of the all-time greats from Hulk Hogan, Sting, The Rock, Stone Cold, HBK, Cena, Lesnar, etc. Who was the one you never got to, but wish you had?
Bret Hart. I tried to set it up, but Bret didn’t think after the stroke that he would be able to put on a Bret Hart performance. He did come back at Wrestlemania to fight Vince McMahon, but that wasn’t quite how he wanted to perform. It sucks because we were only a couple of years apart and it could have been the greatest wrestling match of all time.