Kurt Angle is back in action
That’s right, folks: it’s official. Kurt Angle will return to WWE in-ring action for the first time in more than a decade – well, sort of – he’ll be doing it virtually through the magic of WWE 2K18, the latest installment of WWE’s flagship video game series. Following in the footsteps of wrestling legends like Bill Goldberg, Sting, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (?) as a pre-order bonus exclusive, we personally can’t wait to play with Kurt. And no, not in that way.
A legitimate athlete who is perhaps best known for having won an Olympic gold medal with a “broken freakin' neck”, Kurt Angle is undoubtedly one of the hardest men on the planet. He’s also quite possibly the only man who considers it a compliment to receive ear-deafening chants of "You Suck!" Bearing the former in mind, Esquire decided it best not to put the latter to the test as we participated in a question and answer session with the Wrestling Machine to find out his thoughts on a variety of different topics. Sweats instead of suits? Oh, it's true. It's damn true.
On the chances of seeing him back in a (non-virtual) wrestling ring:
"Well right now I'm just concentrating on my behind-the-scenes role as General Manager. I haven’t even had a physical yet and I don't expect I will have one until they [the WWE] have some more detail of what they want me to do down the line. But is there a possibility? Yeah, there is a definite possibility! I think it’s more than likely it will happen. I don't know if it has to do with this new story line that's going on right now, but I'm sure that it will happen eventually. I still haven’t taken a physical though so I'm not going to get my hopes up until I do that."
On the perfect way to end his career:
"My main aim would just be to contribute and wrestle some of the younger guys. There's a lot of great talent right now and I'd love to be able to mix it up with them. I would also imagine that, being who I am, I'd get a pretty high profile match at Wrestlemania if I did wrestle again. And yeah, I think everybody wants a title-run. I'm 48 years old - I'm still in great shape, I can still go pretty hard in the ring, but then again there are other talents out there that need the title more than I do. Don’t get me wrong it would be a lot of fun if I did get a title run, but at the same time as long as I'm contributing and helping out the company I'd be happy with that."
On his favourite match of all-time:
"The one that always stands out for me wasn’t actually a Wrestlemania match – although we wanted it to be one – and that would be my match against The Undertaker at ‘No Way Out’ in 2006. I honestly think that match could have been the best match of my career. Of course, working with a guy like The Undertaker made it a lot easier but it had everything you wanted in a wrestling match. Not a lot of punches thrown. It was just a really good old-school style wrestling match that went over 30 minutes. And that doesn't happen very often unless you're at Wrestlemania.”
On his perfect opponent from the current roster:
"There are obviously a lot of guys out there but one that I think I could have a really meaningful feud with would be Rusev. I really like the way he competes in the ring. I love his persona and I think I’d be able to have a nice program with Rusev. He's a very talented individual, and I think that the clash of our styles would work very well."
On whether he regrets leaving the WWE when he did:
"No, it was my time to leave. I was having a lot of issues at the time with painkillers and injury. I was in the WWE for about 6 and a half years at that point and I actually wanted to go part-time, but back then you didn't do that unless you were a Shawn Michaels or an Undertaker. I was still relatively new and I just don't think that we would have been able to come to an agreement that would work. The painkiller issue was a big one, too, and I think that Vince McMahon was very concerned about me. Do I regret parting for this long, though? Yes. I did actually expect to come back earlier. It just wasn't on the cards. When you get in the sort of situation I got into, and your life spirals out of control like that, you can't expect a company like the WWE to bring you back. You have to prove to yourself first that you're okay and that you're physically and mentally prepared to come back. I don't think I was truly ready until this past year and I think both WWE and myself agree on that. I'm just glad to be back and hope that I’ll be able to get the chance to get back in that ring and prove to the world that Kurt Angle really is the best of all time."
On the ever-improving state of women’s wrestling:
"I'm really happy with the progress the women have made over the past 5 or 6 years on RAW, Smackdown, and NXT. You have a lot of incredibly young, incredibly talented women, and you can look and see that these girls are main-eventing the shows. That wasn't possible 11 years ago. But that proves how good they are and how far they have come."
On the current Raw and Smackdown Live! roster:
"You look at the talent on RAW and you look at the talent on Smackdown and I think it's very evenly dispersed. I mean, Raw’s got the guys like Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Brawn Strowman, and Bray Wyatt. But then you look at Smackdown and you have people like AJ Styles and Randy Orton and that new champion...gosh...I can't believe I'm going blank right now...who's the champion?...Jinder! Jinder Mahal! Yeah, he surprised everybody. I think that Jinder Mahal winning the world title was good for the company. I don't think anybody expected it and every once in a while you need a good shock factor like that. I love his character. I love the heat he draws and I think he's going to continue to be one of the key guys on Smackdown. There's no doubt about it. He's carrying the title the way he should. He has turned out to be an incredibly successful heel."
On whether it was difficult to pick up the WWE style:
"The hardest part was getting my body up for someone to throw around. When you're an Olympic gold medalist and a world champion in freestyle wrestling: nobody takes you down. Nobody throws you. It was hard to turn off those instincts. As a matter of fact when I started out I'd come very close to hurting some of the other wrestlers because I didn't know how to tone it down. And I carried that with me for a couple of years. I had to learn how to just trust them to do what they had to."
On the prejudice that exists between “real” sports and professional wrestling:
"I don't think it's as bad now but I remember that before I even started I was told to never watch professional wrestling because it was "fake" and that those guys that do it are “cissies”. That's the general perception in the amateur wrestling world that you get about pro wrestlers. But the truth is I got more injuries and more banged up in my first 6 years of pro wrestling than I did in my 22 years of amateur wrestling! So that just goes to show how intense professional wrestling is. You’re working day-in, day-out for 250-300 days of the year. Are there pre-determined winners? Yes. But that's the only thing that's "fake" about professional wrestling. It really gets me that some people still think that this whole thing is “fake”, like when someone like Conor McGregor makes some dumb comment - he's never been in the ring and boy I’d love for him to take five bumps. He would change his mind."
very funny little guy. Why don't you get your head out of Dana White's ass— Kurt Angle (@RealKurtAngle) August 7, 2016
"I like sweats. I’ve been training 8 to 10 hours a day for as long as I can remember so I’ve always needed to wear stuff that I can move in. It’s why, to this day, I still prefer to wear stuff like Nike sweats and Champion sweats. That's what I'm most comfortable in and that's just who I am. I don’t put much thought to it though, I wear what I wear and that’s what I’ve always done.”
On 2K18 cover star, Seth Rollins:
"Seth Rollins is a new staple of the company. Roman Reigns and him have really become the go-to guys over the past few years. And rightfully so. I mean, you know Roman's your classic Greek god-looking kind of guy. I mean, he's a great wrestler but Seth is the athlete. He really is ‘The Architect’, and when he gets in that ring he's very special. He reminds me a lot of AJ Styles in that way, who's another superstar that I consider just as talented as Seth."
On his motivation to return:
“Well I have three little ones who have actually never seen me wrestle - a 6 year old, a 4 year old, and a 7 month old – so I’ve always wanted to return for them. And not only that but I also feel like I owe it to the WWE universe to come back and end my career where it all began. I know that a lot of fans have been asking for that for many years. It hasn’t been about feeding my ego and it certainly hasn’t been about making money: it's been about the WWE universe, the fans, and my kids. I want to show them what daddy can really do."
Scheduled for worldwide release on October 17, 2017, to find out more about WWE 2K18 and 2K, visit wwe.2k.com.