“My final matches will be for the Indian fans” – Exclusive interview with Kurt Angle
When you make a list of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Kurt Angle’s name will end up in the top three, depending upon individual opinions.
While most consider the former Olympic gold medalist to be the greatest technical wrestler of all time, there is no denying the fact that Kurt Angle is one of the most decorated performers in the business. From putting on five-star matches to working with some of the greatest names the business has to offer – Kurt has done it all.
TNA’s move to Pop TV is seen as a fresh start for the organization, and a new TNA World Heavyweight champion was crowned on the first episode on Pop TV earlier today.
Kurt is one of the five wrestlers, and six performers in total to have been inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame, and has announced that he will be taking some time off after his contract with TNA expires at the end of the month.
Kurt has been one of the greatest ambassadors of the industry, and before he takes a sabbatical, I had the opportunity to talk to him exclusively for the Indian fans.
Firstly Kurt, can we get your thoughts on professional wrestling being over exposed now more than ever, mainly in the United States, and your opinion on how TNA has been dealing with the over exposure/market saturation?
Yeah, it’s tough. I mean there are a lot of wrestling companies out there. We’ve been more prone to; even though we do most of our shows in the United States, we’ve been focusing more on other countries, India and the United Kingdom in particular.
We believe that there is a stronger market out there internationally than in the United States.
It’s not so bad in the United States. It’s just that there are companies; WWE is a monster company, and then you have New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Ring of Honor (RoH), Lucha Underground and now, GFW. So there are a lot of companies out there, and it (market) is saturated a bit, but is there room for all of them? Yes, but the fans are going to watch what they want to watch.
I can say the preference right now is WWE first and TNA is in second.
It has nearly been two decades since you decided to become a professional wrestler. Looking back – throughout your storied career – is there anything you would do differently now if you had the chance?
Looking back, no, I did everything I wanted to do. I’m pretty proud with my career; I really enjoyed my career in the WWE, and I also enjoyed my career in TNA.
There were reasons – health reasons – which was why I had to leave WWE, but I really enjoyed my time there. It’s just that the workload was a little too much for me while TNA’s schedule was more of a fit for me.
So I really enjoyed it. I don’t have any regrets; I had a stellar career, so I’m very proud of it.
Kurt, being in the business for nearly two decades, what has changed over the last 20 years in the business, and what are the key takeaways for TNA through them?
What has changed? I would say mainly the fact that it has become over saturated, but I will say this – talent alone is at its highest peak.
In other words, better in a non–talent way. Eight years ago, there wouldn’t have been enough talent to fill a wrestling company. In other words, WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor, Lucha Underground, New Japan Pro Wrestling, GFW… now there seems to be a swell of talent, that’s been able to fill all these companies.
So, I believe every company has a good bit of talent, in particular – TNA and WWE. But, eight years ago, I wouldn’t have said the same thing.
I would’ve said that it was very dim and bleak; there weren’t a lot of talent and I believe that’s what hurt some of the product because there just wasn’t enough talent. So, I would say that there are a host of better wrestlers today than I’ve seen in 15 – 20 years.
When you first signed up with TNA, you were involved in a heated rivalry with Samoa Joe. Was that something you had asked for?
Oh, yeah. I love Samoa Joe. I think he’s a rare talent for his size and his ability to move so quickly. I had never seen it, especially in someone that looks like Joe. I mean, you look at Joe, and he’s a badass dude.
He is a big strong, mean-looking guy, he’s a little heavier, but to see the stuff he can do and his athleticism… when I wrestled him, he was undefeated for I believe two years, so there was a really big build up.
Samoa Joe was part of the reason why I went to TNA. Also, I saw a kid named AJ Styles – who I really wanted to work with, not to mention it would have been my only opportunity to wrestle Sting.
So, there were some talent reasons why I went to TNA, they seemed to make a lot of noise and I needed to tone down my wrestling schedule as well – from 300 days a year in WWE to cutting it in half. Going to TNA gave me the opportunity to wrestle those guys, but more so to wrestle lesser dates.
You’ve always been into a more physical style as a wrestler, and as a result, have been dealing with nagging injuries throughout your career. Can you tell us how you’ve dealt with those injuries, mainly neck problems, and if/how you had to change your in – ring style or tone it down?
You know, I have dealt with injuries throughout my career.
It has a lot to do with my wrestling style; I do have a very aggressive style. But I really can’t change who I am, so if I did tone it down, I probably would have lesser injuries, but that’s my style, and that’s the way I do it.
I’ve always been very physical, and I will continue to do what I had done. I might not do some of the crazy things I did in the past, like a back flip off the top of a cage, but for the most part, I’m not going to change my style because that’s who I am.
Can we also get your thoughts on TNA moving to Pop TV, and how TNA can benefit from the new deal?
Well, you have to keep in mind that in the last year and two months, we’ve been on three different networks – Spike, Destination America and now, Pop TV.
I think with Destination America, unfortunately, wasn’t all we thought it would be. So I think we’ll tread lightly on the latter; we’re excited and Pop TV is excited. TNA is excited to be doing business, but we’re going to have to find out if this is our true home.
We have to see how it transpires – how much can Pop TV promote us – and we’re going to have to see how the ratings do. So I think we’re going to be a little more cautious this time, but we definitely have faith in Pop.
They said they’re going to give us everything we wanted, and I just hope they can back it up, and we do as well.
Every organization has a defining year, and with the X – Division, tag team division and the knockouts division going great guns, it looked like 2010 would be that year for TNA. What did you make of the direction that the company was going in at that point?
I believe in 2010, we were doing pretty good ratings from what I remember, and it was our strongest (year) in the company – I believe it was 2009 or 2010.
I think at that time, we were emphasizing on talent alone, we were a wrestling show, and not as much storyline driven. I really do believe that’s what the fans wanted, and I do believe that they still want it now.
It is really difficult with the initial success that TNA had in the X Division and the knockouts division. It’s because nowadays, since 2010 up until today, the fans are very smart, and they want good wrestlers.
If they don’t think you’re a good wrestler, they are not really going to back you up or support you. They want the best of the best, and back then I think we delivered that. That’s probably when we had our highest ratings in history.
There is one question you’re always asked, and that is your dream opponent before you hang up your boots. Can you tell us the name of one pro wrestler you’d want to get into the ring with if you had the chance?
Ah, my dream match… you know, there are many wrestlers and I don’t want to go into a list of them or who I want to wrestle and why. But I’d just about wrestled everyone I wanted to. But having a match with somebody I haven’t wrestled yet, that’s a different story, and there are guys I want to wrestle again whom I’ve already wrestled.
But as far as a wrestler I haven’t wrestled yet, I would have to say that I would like to wrestle Drew Galloway. I really think that he is a strong talent; he’s proven himself in and out of the ring.
He’s a great wrestler, and he’s got tremendous talent in every aspect of the business. So as far as somebody that I haven’t wrestled yet, I would say Drew would be a good pick.
Somebody that I have wrestled already would be AJ Styles. I’m not sure if we can get him (laughs), as he’s not with TNA any longer. Also, I wouldn’t mind wrestling Bobby Lashley again. I got to wrestle him I think twice in my career, and lastly, I would have to say, Bobby Roode. He’s in the top two in the world right now, he’s that good.
Finally, Kurt, do you have any message for the millions of TNA and Kurt Angle fans in India? And what is next for Kurt Angle?
Right now, I’m just going to take some time off. I’ve been taking acting classes, and I signed with an agency in Hollywood, so I’m going to work on that part of my career. I’m going to take a year off from wrestling, and I just want to take it easy.
But I want to thank the fans in India; they’ve been tremendous as far as supporting and respecting me, I think they’re tremendous fans.
I get tweets from just numerous fans in India. I’ve been there a few times and I was treated with the utmost respect. And so, I just want to thank all of them, and let them know that my final matches will be for them.
You can catch TNA Impact Wrestling every Monday at 9 PM IST, exclusively on Sony SIX as TNA gets bigger and better than ever before, moving to Pop TV.