Professional wrestler Kurt Angle loves to talk, so when we met to discuss his role in MMA film Warrior, what followed was a sprawling conversation covering his movie work, life in TNA and WWE, his Olympic dreams, taking chances in the ring and his thoughts on Randy Orton and John Cena.
You’ll never believe how close we were to Kurt vs Randy Couture, and Kurt vs Kimbo Slice.
So, in his own words, here’s Kurt Angle on…
…his new movie, Warrior
I play a dominating character called Koba. He’s a Russian fighter, and I had to lose 30lbs for the movie because my character fights in a 185lb weight class, but I had to be a little bit bigger than the other guys because they wanted me to be more imposing.
I was really humbled that I got that part, and I was able to get three movies last year on my own, just off my name, that are in theatres this year.
Dylan Dog came out earlier this year and did pretty well. It’s a comic book movie about vampires and werewolves. I’t s really bad-ass movie, I really like it. It’s a lot like Supernatural, or actually, more like Men In Black. It’s pretty funny and a really cool action movie.
Then I did Warrior, and then there’s Beyond The Mat, where I’m a high school wrestling coach. I enjoyed that one because it was really close to home. I got to coach these wrestlers, and it’s a really great movie and tells a great story.
…trying out for the 2012 Olympics
My competitive spirit came out in me this year, and me and my nephew had a long talk, and we both agreed that we’re going to try out for the 2012 Olympic team. We’ll have had a full year to train before the first round, the US open. I’m excited. I feel good. I’m really confident. I’m healthy, thank God. That’s the one thing I was worried about, staying healthy and being ready for this, but we’ve been training our butts off. If I do it I’ll be the oldest member ever of the USA wrestling team.
The weight classes have changed since last time. My fighting weight is about 210, I weigh about 230, but it’ll come off me fast. I believe the weight class is 211, so I’ll be right where I need to be and I won’t need to cut weight or anything. I never did, I always wrestled up a weight class. In the 1996 Olympics I wrestled at 220, but I weighed 209. I was the only guy there that was underweight. I never worry about my weight because it affects your training. If you’re cutting weight, you’re not eating, you don’t have any energy to train. Rather than go down to 198, I stayed at 220 so I didn’t have to lose any weight and didn’t have to worry about it. And I was able to train a lot harder.
And that was the benefiting factor in me winning the Olympics, because I tired out my opponents; I spent most of my training conditioning, fatigue training, training so I couldn’t train any more but keep on going, because I had the energy to do it. These other guys put plastics on and starved themselves but when they roll around the mat they’re dead.
But people don’t believe I’m actually trying out for the Olympic team because of what happened when I was talking about going into MMA.
I’ve tried out five times; let me tell you what happened.
I met with the IFL, I met with Pro VFC, I met with Pride, I met with the UFC twice, and the reason I did not sign with any of them was, the three other companies weren’t paying me near what UFC was offering, so there was a money issue; then, the UFC, who I would have signed with in a second (and I passed their physical, thank God) wanted me to start just four-and-a-half weeks later. No way.
I had to do what they wanted under their terms. Me trying out for the Olympics is under my terms. I choose my weight class, how I’m gonna train, who I’m gonna train with, and that the US Open is when I’m gonna start.
It was hard because I love Dana White and I respect him a lot. The first time I met him he wouldn’t let me wrestle and fight, and I had just signed with TNA, and I didn’t want to go back to TNA and say “Hey, I’m not doing this now…” so he said “call me when you’re done wrestling”.
I called him a couple of year later – I was getting a little tired of wrestling – I said “Hey, I’m ready”, so we had another meeting and he had me do a physical, and he threw a great offer at me, but said “I need you in four and a half weeks.”
I said “I can”t do that. You’ve gotta give me 3-6 months,” but he said “I need you in four a half weeks,” so I said “Well then, we’re not going to be able to do this.”
We didn’t talk for a while, but now we’re back to being good friends.
The reason Dana White wanted me so quickly though, is because he wanted to put me in the next available PPV against Kimbo Slice.
I could have done it it four-and-a-half weeks, but I wanted to be at my best. I didn’t want to start training, almost be at my best, but not quite. No matter who it was, I knew I wanted to take them down and pound them, but I wanted to be 100% ready, I didn’t want to just train for four weeks. In fact, I couldn’t have trained for four weeks anyway. I would have trained for two weeks, and then tapered down for two weeks, to get ready. It didn’t even make sense. Two-and-a-half weeks of training? Who does that? Also, I hadn’t even trained in MMA for at least a year-and-a-half.
So, under Dana White’s terms I couldn’t do it, so I decided I wanted to try out for the Olympic team because I still want to compete. And it’s gonna be harder than the UFC. Making the team is gonna be harder than fighting in the UFC, that’s how competitive wrestling is right now. It’s at its highest peak since 1980 because of MMA. Everybody wants to wrestle because they want to be an MMA fighter.
…improving with age
I think I’m a better fighter now than when I was originally in the Olympic team. I trained five months MMA because I thought I was going to do it, then I did the movie Warrior and I did another three months of strict MMA training,
What I wanted to learn was jujitsu and striking and combine that with a great base in wrestling.
I tried kicking, I sucked at it, so I didn’t do it. If you stink at something, you don’t do it. I threw it out the window. I knew what I needed to get good at in order to be effective.
I could have fought at light heavyweight or heavyweight, I’m like Randy Couture – I hover around 225. Randy Couture was a teammate of mine in the 1996 Olympics. I actually called him last year to see if he wanted to talk to Dana White about him and I fighting, and Randy called Dana, but I guess Dana wasn’t too excited about it. I mean, me and Randy are friends, but we were excited about doing it, there was money in it and we were gonna have a good time doing it. But, Dana didn’t think it was a good idea, and I’m sure it had a lot to do with me not signing with him previously… twice.
Randy’s a good striker with great takedown skills who can ground and pound, and I knew that’s what I was going to do but my MMA career is over. I always wanted to do it, but I think going back to wrestling at the Olympics will fill that void, that ‘what if…’
I’m doing this Olympic thing under my terms. I am going to do it, I am going to follow through with it and try out. Am I going to make the team? I don’t know. Am I smarter now than I was back then? Yes. I made a lot of mistakes back then – I’m going to be a much wiser wrestler and be smarter about my training. I overtrained when I was younger, WAY overtrained. I took a lot of chances, made a lot of mistakes, my opponents capitalised on them and I had to play catch-up. Now I know what I have to do. I have to score and keep good positioning and let my opponents make the mistakes.
I’m confident that I have a chance of making the team and I’m gonna go after it and see if I can win another gold medal.
…the transition from pro to amateur wrestling
My amateur background really helped when I went into professional wrestling, but there’s nothing I can take from my experience in the WWE and TNA that will help me go back. In pro-wrestling you have to let your opponent throw you around, you have to bump to your back. In amateur wrestling you can’t go back to your back at all – that’s why a lot of amateur wrestlers, when they fight in MMA, make the mistake of turning to their stomach – and that’s when they get choked out.
It’s not like my pro-wrestling is going to suffer though, I’m only going to wrestle a few times a month.
TNA have given me a lot of time off to train, thank God. They’ve given me their blessing to go ahead and try out for the Olympics, they think it’s a great thing for them, for me, for my food company (more on that later). But I didn’t do it for the media or the publicity, I’m doing it for me.
…the TNA brand change
I love the change in brand. I went to Dixie Carter about a year ago and said “We’ve got to change some things. We’re starting to do too much talking and not enough wrestling on TV.” Also there are a lot of difficulties in our matches, because many of them didn’t have finishes – there was always a DQ or a run-in. I told her, “If you want to get the viewers watching and you want to get our numbers up, then we need great matches with great finishes.”
It was like the only time we had finishes were at the pay-per-views, they were always protecting the wrestlers by not having a finish, but in wrestling, anyone can beat anybody on any given day, so why not have finishes on TV? People want to see the finish of the match. They don’t want to see matches get DQd because someone ran in or someone used a chair. That was an issue I had, they started cleaning that up and started having finishes and ratings went up, thank God. Now we’re doing more wrestling, less talk and delivering great matches.
We are wrestling. Wrestling matters. We even changed our name to Impact Wrestling. We went the opposite way to the WWE. They said “We’re entertainment,” but the thing is, you can’t take the wrestling out of pro-wrestling because no matter what angle, what storyline, or what beef you have with your opponent, you always end up in the ring. That’s the climax – you end up in the ring at a pay-per-view.
I find it offensive when (WWE chairman & CEO) Vince McMahon makes everybody use that term. We train to wrestle. Sure it would be nice to have great actors on TV for the storylines, but wrestling has to come first. The acting comes second. You need to be able to cut a good promo, you need to be able to have a good character with charisma, you need to be able to act fairly well, but most importantly you need to be a great wrestler.
I’ve seen guys who’ve made a great living from wrestling alone, who don’t even talk… like The Undertaker. All he says is “You. Me. Summerslam.” and there you go, that’s your match. You can do all the acting and all the entertaining you want, but at the end, you’ve gotta wrestle.
I still watch it every once in a while. I caught a bit last Monday. I watch the guys that I worked with, but I really don’t know a lot of guys now. It seems that WWE has lost a lot of talent in the last two or three years. I mean Shawn Michaels and Taker have gone, HHH was out with injury, man, they had to bring The Rock back for WrestleMania.
They’re in a position where everything rests on Cena, who is maybe an above average wrestler at most – he’s not a great wrestler but he gets the job done – and Randy Orton, who is the best wrestler they have right now, bar none.
But other than them and Rey Mysterio, I’m looking round and thinking “who are these guys?” I mean, where did Sheamus come from? And who is Kofi Kingston? And who’s this kid who is using my ankle lock? I don’t even know his name. What’s his name? Swagger? Yeah, that’s him.
A relative of mine went on my Twitter and was saying stuff about it and then I got slammed about it, people were saying “It’s not even your move, Angle, it’s Shamrock’s.” But I wasn’t using that move when Shamrock was wrestling, I waited until he was retired before I started using it. I’m using it now and this kid’s over here and he’s not only using the ankle lock but he’s wearing red, white and blue!
I teased Randy Orton because he started using my finish, the Angle Slam, I said “Hey, I don’t mind you using it, but at least give it a name.” When he hits it the announcers just say “Well, he just hit that… thing.” So I said “Think of a name, Randy. If you’re gonna use my finish at least think of something you can call it.” And he said, “I’m thinking, Kurt, I’m thinking.” I don’t care if you use it, that’s cool… just… think of a finish.
So anyway, when it comes down to it, they’re hurting right now for talent. I guess Swagger and Kofi Kingston and Sheamus have picked up the slack, but I haven’t watched it in so long… the ratings aren’t what they were. I mean, they’re better than ours, and they always will be – at least for another five to ten years – but they’re such a monster company they really do need more talent.
With TNA though, look at our roster, we’ve got all the old guys like Hogan and Flair and Bischoff, but now we got the guys that WWE made a mistake of not utilising, like Mr Anderson. How do you not make that guy your top guy? He can wrestle, he can cut a promo better than anybody, and The Pope D’Angelo Dinero – that kids so frickin’ talented… and with Sting back, and me and Matt Morgan and Bully Ray. We’ve got so many great wrestlers and they’re so recognisable because they were with WWE, you just look at our roster and we’re crushing the WWE right now.
….on the Knockouts
We take pride in making our Knockouts Division about wrestling, not about looking pretty. Vince has the Divas but y’know, a lot of girls that Vince has passed up that are with us might not exactly be a perfect ten – maybe a nine – but they’re pretty enough that they look good while they’re out there but they can wrestle.
The future at TNA is wrestling, wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. I’ve signed a new three year deal with TNA. The rumour was I was going back to WWE, but that’s not happening. I’m staying here until I retire.
A lot of people say “Why don’t you go back to WrestleMania and retire there?” and that’s not a bad idea. But I look at it and think “I want to stay in TNA for the rest of my life.” I’m always going to have a job there. Either as an ambassador, talent relations, a writer, a booker, maybe office personnel, I’m always going to have a job there. Why walk away from that just to have a retirement match at WrestleMania? It is a big deal – I think WrestleMania is the grandpa of them all and it’d be a great way to go out, but it’s not worth it to me to risk my lifetime job at TNA.
…becoming an agent
When you look at a lot of the agents in wrestling, most of them never really made it to the main event level. That doesn’t mean they’re not great agents, but I think a lot of the main eventers in pro-wrestling never have to work again. The Undertaker made enough for the rest of his life, so did Shawn Michaels, so has HHH, The Rock, Stone Cold.. they all made enough, they don’t need to be agents.
But if you have a love for it like I do, I mean – I would love to be an agent, to help other wrestlers put together matches, finish it, structure it, teach them – that’s more my style. I have no shame being an agent eventually if that’s what TNA wants me to be. They’re going to pay me well to do it, but I will be a part of the company and I really believe I can help – either in front of the camera or behind it. Or you know what, in three years I might just do three PPVs a year and be an agent the rest of the time.
It’s always in the back of my mind now. I can’t get inured now. If I get any injury, my Olympic hopes are gone. I’m not worried about it from a professional wrestling standpoint, because even if I get injured – God forbid I do – I still get paid. But if I get injured and I can’t try out for the Olympics, that’s gonna hurt me more than anything, so right now, I need to wrestle smarter in that ring.
Some of the things that happened at Lockdown in April weren’t supposed to happen. When I fell on my head, that was because Jeff Jarrett was supposed to powerbomb me, but he hurt his ribs earlier and couldn’t hold me up and I just dropped and fell right on my head.
Thank God I didn’t get hurt. And of course there was the moonsault too… those things weren’t meant to happen and they’re the things I can’t do any more – not until after the Olympics. I just need to be careful and do what I do best. I don’t like the runs, I like to wrestle in the middle of the ring, I like submissions, I like wrestling. I’m not much of a spot guy. I’m just like to keep it simple and that’s worked for me.
But, every once in a while the dumbass comes out in me and I do stupid shit. I’ll never forget when I dove off the stage onto Abyss, I don’t know what I was thinking. He didn’t even know I was coming. I did flip off the stage from about 15 feet in the air. Thank God, Abyss caught me, I mean he’s a big target, but I don’t know what I was thinking when I did that.
I do this stuff every once in a while cos you get these writers on the websites saying “Angle’s too old, he doesn’t have it anymore,” so sometimes I pull something out to show them I do still have it.
I once got injured in Korea, cos TNA was subleasing me to Japan and Korea. They were making a lot of money, I don’t get paid much from that, so TNA were making their money back because they paid me such a huge figure – which I’m grateful for, I thank God every day that I get paid what I get paid. They would sublease me and then they would make money from that, usually around the $50,000 range for one match, so they’d send me over there four or five times a year. But I got dropped on my head in Korea and injured my neck so I went back to TNA and said “no more – I’m not going outside of TNA”.
They would also sublease me to independent shows, but I told them no more of that either. When you have the top guy in your company doing independent shows, it doesn’t look too good on the resume, so TNA stopped that and the last few years I haven’t done any of that and now they’re treating me like the top guy. They’ve realised that it’s not what they’re paying me, but the value of having me – my name, my branding and me as a wrestler – it’s worth more than the money they pay me.
When I got there, the company was going through growing pains. They were only doing one hour of TV and they were only doing 20 house shows a year; when I signed it went right to two hours and they were doing 125 house shows a year. So right away as soon as I signed, it went BAM and everyone was like “oh, they’re legit”. I’m not going to take all the credit, but I’ve loved seeing the growth of TNA over the last five years. It makes me feel good to be a part of it. I’m helping them to become what WWE is now, and that makes me happy.
And yeah, sometimes I’ll go to a show and there are only 1,000 people there when I’m used to 10,000 plus in WWE, but that doesn’t bother me. I think, those are 1,000 loyal fans who came to see us wrestle, so I’m gonna go out there and perform for them. Our average house show is 2,500 people, which is really good. Is it at WWE level? No. But we’ll get there. It’ll take another five years or so, but we’ll get there.
We came up with the company after finding this product over in Germany called Ultra Fiber DX which was made specifically for obese people and people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and it nearly got these people off their medication. What they would do was drink it 20 minutes before they ate meals and the fibre would expand in their stomachs – it’s an eight-layer fibre matrix, the only one of its kind. It made them feel full, so they ate less, it lowered their blood sugar, it lowered their blood pressure, it lowered their cholesterol and it made them lose fat quicker than any other product on the market.
So, we brought it over here, and my manager and his partner are the only distributors in North America, and my manager had the idea of infusing it into food. We found this chef who has this incredible gourmet Italian food company, so we had him play with it. He thought it was more like a flour than a powder, so he got pizza dough and took 65-70% of the pizza dough out – which is bad carbohydrate – and replaced it with Ultra Fiber DX, and it worked. Also, it tasted just as good, if not better. So we took a pizza which was traditionally high in fat and carbohydrate and managed to reduce both of those but at the same time increase protein and fibre.
We started using it in all different kinds of meals, and it was working. It was working in gravy, in sauces, we even made cookies that were high protein, high fibre, with no sugar in them that tasted incredible, so we based the company around Ultra Fiber DX, and called it Angle Foods. We’re in health food stores, regular grocery stores and it’ll be a worldwide company in the next year-and-a-half. Now though, we’re not just making it for obese people and people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, we’re doing it for prevention and also for performance athletes.
It’s a performance food. If someone eats four ounces of chicken with brown rice and vegetables and you add the AngleFoods gravy on top of it which tastes incredible and has the Ultra Fiber DX in it, you’ve added 15 more grams of protein and 15 grams of Ultra Fiber DX. It also regulates you – which is to say, helps you go to the bathroom properly. It’s like a high-octane fuel.
It also reduces your insulin spikes, and if you eat sugary food it will reject the food and not make your blood sugar go up – and that’s why diabetics were getting off their medication. Basically, we made a food for everybody, and now we’re getting into hospitals and schools and we’re kinda revolutionising the food industry.
For more information on Angle Foods and Ultra Fiber DX, go to www.kurtanglefoods.com