TNA Impact Wrestling Hall of Famer and current World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle recently spoke to the U.K.'s Mirror.
We spoke midway through the UK tour in 2014. At the time you were nursing a knee injury and a picture emerged of you backstage in a wheelchair. Today you’re the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Did you ever think you might struggle to return to the ring?
With my training I knew I would come back, I just didn’t know how quickly. A lot of times with ACL surgery it can take at least a year, but I was back within nine months. I was doing okay, I just had to take it easy when I first got back in there. I bounce back from injury, I’ve had my share of them. It’s been tough, but having injury isn’t always a bad thing because it makes you work harder, you keep that work ethic. I think the guys that have been injured understand how much work ethic you need to make it back 100% and it only makes you a better athlete.
On June 28th at Slammiversary you’re scheduled to face Ethan Carter III for your heavyweight title, which takes us full circle back to the UK tour in 2014, when he took credit for injuring you. It’s a match that has a great backstory to it.
Yeah, that’s one of the matches I was really looking forward to coming back and doing. I didn’t know what creative had in store for EC3, but I knew that he was going to win the world heavyweight title this year. The writing was on the wall, he was the guy that you wanted to put that title on, so it was a matter of time. I just didn’t know how they were going to get there. So I feel very blessed to at least be a part of that, because whether or not I beat or lose to EC3 in this match, I believe in this programme somewhere along the line he’s going to win the title. So what better way to win the title than beat Kurt Angle? I think that’s a great move on the company’s part and it’s also great for me because I get the chance to wrestle EC3, and it’s also great for me because I will probably be the one most likely to end his undefeated streak, so there are many things in that storyline that can be a lot of fun for both of us.
You mentioned how TNA keeps evolving and reinventing itself, which is crucial for any wrestling company to thrive. What do you make of the addition of the Smashing Pumpkins’ singer Billy Corgan to the creative team?
You know what I got very limited access to Billy but when I did he really took, he adapted quickly, almost like he has been around this for a long time. We did some segments that he produced, promo segments and such, he took control of The Doll House, which you will see a lot of things change in the future with The Doll House, that are really cool. He’s added a lot of depth to the company, I like him, I think he’s going to be very good for TNA. I think it was a great move by TNA, a smart move, to sign him and I think he’s well in tune with what the audience want to see. He brings a different flavour to the table, no doubt about that. We’ve been so drawn into just hiring former wrestlers and former office from WWE and former WCW talent, and not going outside the box. Well we went outside the box with Billy and I think it’s working out. He did an incredible job, he produced a promo segment of EC3 and myself, which we’ll see in the next few weeks, which was hilarious. You’re really going to be entertained, he really stepped up. So those are the kind of things we can get from Billy.
Last year you openly discussed your plan to finish your contract with TNA in September and re-sign with WWE to finish out your career. Can you clear up what happened there?
You know what, when it came down to it, I talked to both companies and it was an easy decision. From every perspective, from amount of dates, to the amount of money, to the amount of interest, it wasn’t a hard decision – TNA trumped the WWE. And for whatever reason, maybe the WWE didn’t think I could still go, maybe they just wanted to start grooming younger talent, although they’ve obviously hired Sting, brought in Batista and brought guys back like Jericho… I don’t know the full story, it could be anything, but when it came down to it I had my options open. I never said I was going to leave TNA and I never said I wouldn’t go back to WWE, but when I looked at the best scenario for me, hands down it was TNA. It wasn’t something I had to sit down and think about for hours, the writing was on the wall. It was TNA for one more year.
It’s been reported in some quarters that you didn’t want to work a full-time schedule. It’s also been suggested it was a case of personal differences between you and Triple H, after you approached Vince McMahon rather than him. Is that true?
I don’t think so, I don’t think that Triple H and I have any problems with each other, I’ve always liked him. He’s always treated me with respect and I’ve always treated him the same. No, I don’t think it was that. There was a point when my manager talked to them and I believe they did say ‘he would have to wrestle full-time’. That is not an option for me, not at this point in my career. So, whether that was part of it, honestly I just don’t think they had that much interest in signing Kurt Angle at that point. For whatever reason, it could have been my mishaps in my past, it could have been that they didn’t think I was healthy enough to go – and obviously I am – but we never got a full answer of why they couldn’t give me what I wanted. And it wasn’t just what I wanted, it was a reduced schedule, but there was no option.
Dixie Carter gave me exactly what I wanted and it wasn’t a hard decision. I wasn’t upset, I was excited about signing another year with TNA. I think they did an incredible job this year. They had to refocus, they had to re-group, they had some issues in the past, and I think they’ve done an incredible job of making their way back. Are they back to what they were? No. But they’re on their way and they’re doing so many good things right now that make me excited about being part of the company.