With Impact Wrestling making it's way through Chicago tomorrow afternoon, Kurt Angle is still making waves in the Sports Entertainment business. The Olympic Gold Medal winner is still going strong since 1996, and still says has a few years left in the "wrestling tank".
With the IOC possibly dropping wrestling for the 2020 Olympics, what are your feelings on why the sport is being looked at as being removed?
A lot of wrestlers wrestle to represent their country. That’s their lifelong dream. I think when the news came out, it was more shocking and embarrassing. I don’t think anybody expected for wrestling to be thrown out. The IOC doesn’t seem to care anymore about the sport. FILA the world’s governing body of wrestling which is located in Switzerland, had a President that rubbed people the wrong way. He wasn’t a politician or a smooth talker and with the world the way it is today politics is the main thing.
With the new President he knows nothing about the sport, but he knows how to talk, he knows 8 languages and knows how to get things rolling.
It seems the IOC is either about money or politics. Either somebody threw a lot of money at them to drop the sport or other issues arose to get rid of wrestling.
If the IOC does not keep Olympics around, do you think this will affect the future of the sport and possibly the transition for wrestlers to the sport of MMA?
I believe no matter what wrestling is going to be strong in the United States. I think we are number 3 right now in terms of participation. Wrestling isn’t a club sport like judo or tae-kwon-do. Wrestling in the United States has a structure and that’s why it’s quite successful. I believe it will always be strong. If there isn’t Olympic wrestling, schools might say we are going to drop the program because of that decision.
I know Dana White said that wrestling doesn’t draw ratings. That’s kind of crapping on your own product. A lot of his fighters are wrestlers. He should have been a little been more supportive instead of bashing it. I think what he said was a little premature because he will continue to get fighters that come from a wrestling background.
With MMA, do you think it will ever become an Olympic sport?
Absolutely not. It’s just way too graphic for the IOC and viewers who are watching. They will need head gear and shin guards and you will not be able to punch on the ground. Dana White thinks wrestling doesn’t draw ratings, if MMA was introduced to the Olympics it would be the lowest rated sport. It would be a watered down version of what MMA truly is.
I just think Dana chose the wrong words and could have been a little more supportive. It’s more up to FILA and how to keep wrestling in the Olympics. They are going to have to meet again and hopefully a resolution comes out that keeps the sport around.
Sports entertainment has always been a part of your career and with the rapid rise of MMA, did you ever think of switching professions?
If the UFC was a big as it was now before I started pro wrestling I would have gone the MMA route. They contacted me in 1996 and offered me a contract. But it wasn’t a lot of money comparing it to the amount of fights they wanted. So I went to professional wrestling and was happy I did. Then I considered I wanted to go back to MMA but we just couldn’t decide on the starting times and quit wrestling. I just signed a deal with TNA and didn’t want to back on my promise. I met with Dana on the issue and he was very respectful.
I came back in 2009, I did the UFC physical and met with Dana again. He offered me another amazing contract. This time he wanted me to do the Ultimate Fighter facing off against Kimbo Slice. I said I couldn’t do it for free so I told him I wanted to get paid for the show. I wanted to do the show plus a six fight contract. I just didn’t think 4 weeks was enough time to get back into the swing of training. So I declined and stayed with Impact Wrestling.
You have been a well-known name for plenty of years through wrestling. The “You Suck” chants were popular when you were in the WWE. What was your reaction the first time the crowd starting singing that along with your theme music?
It was amazing that my character evolved so much, that is became one of the most popular characters. The fans only responds when they care. Even when I was a baby face the fans still chanted that; I kind of miss it. It’s kind of amazing when you hear the entire crowd chanting that no matter if you are a good or bad guy.
The milk truck incident was another popular segment from your time in the WWE, with a nod to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s beer truck spot. How much input did you have on the creative side of bringing down the milk truck to the ring?
It was amazing time. I was a year and a half into a program with Stone Cold, who at the time was one of the hottest characters in the WWE. It was just a perfect fit and the writers came up with the great idea. That was one of the best moments on Monday Night Raw. The “milk” I shot through the hose was really food coloring and water but the milk I drank was the real thing. I caught a red-eye flight that night and everybody on the plane smelled the milk on my shoes. It wasn’t a happy flight for the other people on the plane. I just kept my mouth shut.
Impact Wrestling is slowly becoming a more main stream show to the general audience. With the WWE always being the focal point how do you feel Impact Wrestling will be in 5 years and be comparable to the top company in professional wrestling?
It continues to grow no doubt worldwide. We are on the road for good and we are taking little steps to improve the overall product. I believe in 5 years if things are done right we could be competing with the monster (WWE). They have amazing programming and Vince McMahon has done wonders for his product. I have been in Impact Wrestling for 7 years and I thought by now we would be up in the ratings. I believe that’s going to take a little more time.
You have said repeatedly that you want to retire from the ring in 3 years. Is that something that you still want to hold yourself to?
I might be involved in some way but not in the ring. I might have a part time schedule where I do some selected shows, which I can handle. If I decide to do that I won’t announce my retirement.
But I’m going to give TNA the next 3 years of my absolute best and see what happens.