Kurt Angle conducted an exclusive hour-long interview with Busted Open, which aired earlier today on Sirius 92 and XM 207. Doug Mortman, Dave LaGreca and Angle talked about Chyna's debut, the Jeff Hardy incident the TNA name change, his new contract, the state of pro wrestling, and so much more in a candid and revealing sit-down.
We posted some excerpts over the weekend, here are all of the excerpts from the interview:
On his Olympic comeback: "I started training two weeks ago. I'm not allowed to really talk about but I'm gonna make a formal press conference in August. I will be training with my nephew who's never tried out and it's gonna give him that opportunity to realize his dream….to not say 'What if? Why didn't I try?' So him and I had a long two hour conversation one night and we were very serious about it. I mentioned it on WTAE in Pittsburgh and it just went out like wildfire. I'm very serious about it. I am going to do it and I believe I have a very good shot."
Does he still have the passion for wrestling: "I love wrestling. I will always love wrestling, but now for me, it's a job. My responsibility is to have the best match on the card every time I go out there and I usually do. That's my job, and I get paid very well to do it, and I don't want to quit wrestling because that's getting me to where I can get my Angle Foods where I need it to go. It's also getting me so I can train for the Olympics. TNA is going to give me time off to train. If I make the Olympic Team, obviously I'll have to leave for 3 months to train in Europe. So TNA has been a blessing for me to be able to do this. I don't think I could have done it in the other company."
On if he is still the best in the business and still loves wrestling: "I could retire. I made enough money to sit back the rest of my life and retire, but I do love it. I know that if I left now, I would miss it significantly. I am signing a new deal with TNA right as we speak. It's another 3 and a half year deal. It will be part time, I'll be doing very few house shows, I'll be doing a number of TVs and I promised I'll do all the PPVs. My wrestling will calm down. I've been more of a TV/PPV schedule and a lot less of the house shows. I'd rather wrestle six days a month than doing what I'm doing right now which is 18. With WWE, I was probably doing 18-24 so I'm almost as busy as I was then and I went to TNA to back off so we came to an agreement that I should definitely be taking off house shows and be able to rest and recuperate."
The Jeff Hardy incident at the end of the Victory Road PPV: "That was an unfortunate situation where I think Jeff realizes it now. Whatever he did... this is something that's been talked about many times. Jeff made a mistake. If he was going to take any form of, let's say, sleep medication... he probably should've waited an hour before he did that. Jeff made a bad decision and he's learned from it. Jeff has been clean for the last month and he wants to come back and he's ready to come back and I believe that he won't make that mistake it again. But it did happen. I felt really bad. I felt bad for TNA, I felt bad for Jeff, I felt bad for the company. Jeff Hardy is an amazing wrestler. I have nothing bad to say about him, actually I love the kid.
"I wrestled Jeff at his best and I wrestled Jeff at his worst, and it's night and day. I think it has a lot to do with him. He goes to the house shows and he not only gives 110%, he acts like it's a PPV every time, and this is the problem with Jeff. He works too hard, and I used to do that. I stopped doing that about a year ago. My house show matches are great but they're not my PPV matches. There's a big difference and Jeff always puts on PPV performances every night. I watched him that week, three house shows right before the PPV, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. 30 minute matches with AJ Styles where they did not stop. And then he had the Sunday match with Sting, and I'm not sure what happened with Jeff, what decision he made, but I knew he was banged up hard because of those matches they had at the house shows. Jeff is one of those guys who needs to learn how to slow down at the right time and when to go at the right time and I think he's going to learn that in the near future."
The Impact Zone holding TNA back from being bigger than they are: "That's where TNA has had long talks with SPIKE TV and we have come up with a solution. In the next three months we are starting to go out like we did Fayetteville. I don't think we should be doing two TV's in one night like we did in Fayetteville. I think we should be doing one TV at a time. We are starting to go out at different cities. We already have two scheduled for later this year. We're probably going to do it once a month. We're going to start doing TV's in different cities. I know TNA has talked with SPIKE about the funding. Both companies come together to fund it. The network and TNA, we are all in agreement. We did one in Fayetteville and it was the first time in a long time I had that other company feeling. There were only 4,000-4,500 people there, but it was still that feeling of that big time, big arena, and then we went to Cincinnati and had a really good turnout for the pay-per-view, so you're right that atmosphere really helps the wrestlers and when we got other cities like that and they're hot and ready for it, it's a lot better. You feel like you're performing for people who really care about professional wrestling. I personally believe we should be going out to different cities right now. I know they're in the process of doing that. In the next few months you are going to start seeing TNA on TV. TNA will be in Dallas, Texas. TNA will be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. TNA will be in New York City. TNA will be in Los Angeles, California, so it's happening. That's the next step. We have a start somewhere. It had to be in Impact Zone. Me personally? I hope we stay there in the next three-and-half year because it's easier on me. I get to stay there. To be honest with you the company has to take the next step. They're making money. They're doing well. They're signing big names. They're taking big steps forward. Thank God they got a bunch of TV deals all over the world. At least 60 of them that are paying good money for our TV. The company is making money. It's just a matter of going out there and doing the TV's in different cities and expanding. Internationally, we are doing phenomenal. Here in the United States, we are getting our butts kicked by the WWE. I think it has a lot to do with what you said not going to different cities to do TV's and pay-per-views."
On the house show in Brooklyn last year: "Oh it was incredible and it was done on a baseball field. The baseball stadium, the fans were at least, a hundred feet away. That was the first row. It was a pay-per-view moment. It wasn't a Wrestlemania moment, but it was a pay-per-view event, having 7,000/8,000 people. The place was packed. That's the kind of atmosphere that we need for our TV's. If we have that I think our ratings will start going up. We'll have a lot more. I think a lot more people will be interested. I think they are a lot more TNA fans out there, I should say Impact Wrestling fans out there then people would imagine. I think we have grown a fan base and we don't get enough credit for that because the ratings are always going up-and-down, up-and-down, and up-and-down. I believe we do have the fan base."
On the name change to Impact Wrestling. Is TNA Gone? "Gone, yeah. Impact Wrestling is the new name of the company. I personally believe in it because when it comes down to it, you can't take the word wrestling out of pro wrestling. Any storyline, or any feud, or any debacle that I have….when you do that, it's entertainment and you're doing the storylines but where does it ultimately end up? In the wrestling ring! At the PPV, the payoff. So how can you take wrestling out of pro wrestling….you can't. That's what they (the fans) buy tickets for. They buy tickets to watch guys wrestle. Not to be actors and entertain us. They pay to watch great wrestling."
On Vince McMahon disagreeing with Kurt's opinion: "Hey, you know what, it's a boost for us. If he wants to go that way, we'll go the other way."
Hulk Hogan and perception that TNA has become 'WWE-lite': "Yes I believe when we brought in Hulk Hogan and I will say this from the bottom of my heart "I love Hulk Hogan." He is a great addition to our company, but he too realizes that it can't be total non-stop talk. We have a lot of characters on the show that don't wrestle. Some that wrestle every once in awhile, but really ultimately you're talking about Dixie Carter being on the show sometimes. You got Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, Ric Flair, Mick Foley. I mean I'm just naming a few that don't wrestle and they're on the show all the time. You start seeing a little too much talking and not enough wrestling. We are now in the process of going to more wrestling. Beer Money matches with Motor City Machine Guns. You couldn't beat that. My matches with A.J. Styles….you can't beat that. Those are the kinds of things I've talked to Dixie Carter personally about. I said 'you know Dixie', I would rather give the fans great matches on TV, incredible five stars matches, right now even if our pay-per-views suffer. I rather do that now and get our ratings up and then work on our pay-per-views then try to get pay-per-views now and have our ratings stay down. It's better to have wrestling on the shows because it's different. It's not like the other company."
Who will be the next top guy in TNA after Angle hangs it up? "There are many guys. I see Mr. Anderson, Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles….I see, even a guy like Abyss. If you take the hardcore out of him, he's an incredible wrestler. Samoa Joe if you bring him back the right way. I hated beating his undefeated streak when I came it, we shouldn't have touched each other for a year. But here is the guy that's gonna steal the company, and he's gonna be the top guy in the near future and probably carry the company for the next 5 years and that's Robert Roode. Wait 'til you see him as a singles wrestler, him and James Storm, but Robert Roode has something about him that he's gonna be the man, I guarantee it."
TNA's creative direction (or lack thereof) with Samoa Joe: "I've been very vocal about Samoa Joe. I don't think we're using him the right way. I didn't like him putting paint on his face, it reminded me of Umaga. They were trying to do something comic with him with the Japanese guy….having his own ninja. It didn't quite work out with the Pope. To be honest with you, Samoa Joe hasn't been on that many house shows. The guy's getting paid well, we're not really using him that well, and when I came in, he was the guy. He was the guy I wanted to wrestle, him and AJ were the two guys I was really looking forward to wrestling. And Sting as well. I was looking forward to those matches I would have with AJ and Samoa Joe, and I've seen AJ escalate, and I've kind of seen Samoa Joe kind of just fade off, and that should not have happened. I don't know what happened. I know he got in a couple fights and arguments with creative and I think Joe was right in the sense of why he was complaining, but I don't think he rubbed people the right way and that might have made him suffer a little bit."
Is there a problem with the creative team with Impact? "The problem is... nobody's wrong and nobody's right. Vince Russo writes the shows. Now, when he writes the shows, he has a vision. Now, this vision might be 4 to 8 months, even 12 months long. When he has this vision, he goes in to the meeting, Everybody breaks it down, chops it up, takes this off, puts this on, add this, takes this away….now you have a convoluted show. So you had a guy with a vision that had the show nailed down the way he wanted it, and everything becomes convoluted. What we need to do as a company, and I've talked to people about this, is we need three guys to come together, write the show, keep it that way, don't change anything, make a few altercations, but don't make the show cloudy.
"Vince had the show and I'll read it, and I understand everything that he's doing. And then when we do it, I'm like 'Wait a minute, that wasn't written. That wasn't written. That wasn't written. This has changed. This is the same, but that changed.'
"[referring to Chyna's debut] I'll give you an example. We just had a TV on Tuesday. We did a promo and I was supposed to introduce my partner, and instead they decided to do it with Hulk Hogan to make it a bigger deal and Mick Foley. What happened was we didn't have the reaction of Jeff and Karen. They weren't in the ring. So they had to go back out and do it again."
Chyna's debut with TNA: "She looked good. She looked healthy too. You know what even though we only had 1,400 people there. The response that just came from those fans sent a big message to Hulk Hogan and Dixie Carter and myself as well that Chyna will always be a huge name. It was cool because when they introduced her this "Y" came up. It was a heartbeat. It was a "Y." All of a sudden there was an "H" and an "N" next to it and there was a heartbeat. And then when there was a "C-H-Y-N-A," people were like "Holy…." No way. Chyna. She's coming. Oh my God and then she came out and she looked good. It was like she is back. It was one of the feel good moments for Impact Wrestling. It was cool. I mean, Chyna is going to….shes going to cause a ruckus in Impact Wrestling. I hope they have her wrestle the guys she was, but TNA, I should say Impact Wrestling is very pro-women as far as women wresting women. I remember when Awesome Kong came in and I told Jeff Jarrett I want to wrestle her right now. Let me put me over. He's like no. She's going with women. I believe Chyna should go with the guys eventually."
On the difficulties of working a lengthy program with Jeff Jarrett and his ex-wife Karen: "Thank God everything worked out well because I found the right person in my life and Karen would be the first to admit that I was very questionable about the whole marriage. It was a rough marriage, but we kept trying to make it work and we tried to make it work for our kids, but with Jeff it was a trust factor because Jeff and I are really tight and then this happened. It was like I couldn't have done that to you? God bless him. His wife had cancer and died. She was a wonderful lady. I don't think I could have done that. For a while there was a trust factor. I had them both written off the show just until my anger dropped. I had some anger towards the both of them. I wanted to be released and they gave me my wishes of what do you want? I wanted them gone. I can't work with them here, but once I realized the right thing happened. The only downfall to it is my kids live in Tennessee. Other than that everyone is happy. We actually get along really well. My kids we try to keep them…they're not allowed to watch the show. We're down with this angle. They were only in the show or they were in the park or my son or my daughter walk into an arena with me, but they didn't see any of the drama. We've protected our kids and a lot of people would differ with that. We have kept our kids out of it completely. I'm happier now then I have ever been and Karen is happy. I love Jeff's kids like they're my own kids, so when I see them I treat them like they're my own kids. If I'm watching them and my kids are there and Jeff's kids are there I will treat them all the same, great kids, so with that may fiancé Giovanna and my new daughter Juliana I'm just in a good place in my life. When I found the right person with Giovanna it made it easier for me. I knew Karen was a great talent. You have to admit Karen is very talented at what she does. She's pretty good as a character on TV. I knew that for a long time and she wasn't real interested. She wanted to get back on the show. I figured she's going to bring the kids down. I'm going to see the kids more. Thank god I did get to see my kids more, but I think the angle went a little bit too long. We went a little bit too far and other then that I don't regret it. I saw my kids and because Karen would bring them down during the shows when they come. In that aspect I wouldn't have seen my kids for the past three months if it weren't for Karen bringing them down. It's been a blessing."
Did he really wrestle Brock Lesnar for real when they were both in WWE? "Brock is a very dear friend. He is a beast. To be honest with you me personally right now and there's a difference between Olympic wrestling and MMA fighting and there are also a lot of similarities, but I do well. Yes I do incredibly well. Have I've been offered to do it? Yes I've been offered a lot of money to do it, but my focus is more on the Olympics because I have been so good at wrestling my whole life and that's what I'm best at. I think I have a better shot at making an Olympic team then going and getting beat up doing MMA and having five fights. Those fights, these guys take a beating. You have to train so much and when you fight the fights are the ones that take years off your life because they are brutal. You're getting banged up and beat up, your joints, your neck, your face, so Brock and I had…the thing is Brock was dodging me for a few months because everyone wanted to see it happened and I kept asking him and asking him and one day he got in a ring with Big Show and he was tossing Big Show around. Big Show was about 520 pounds at the time. Brock was picking him up and slamming him down and I'm going "Wow maybe I shouldn't get in the ring with him." I looked at Big Show and Brock back was looking towards me and I said get out and he said "Okay. Okay." He snuck out of the ring and I go out and I tapped Brock on the back. He turned around and said "Ah s--t." I said, "Let's go," because he said six months before they asked how would he do against me? He said, "Well Kurt is too small. I'm way bigger than him. I'll kill him, so I took that personally. I wouldn't let it go until we got in the ring. We got into the ring and I got a good piece of him. I will tell you this: Listen Brock is no joke. I think he is the best heavyweight fighter in the world. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a good friend of mine. You know him and I did go at it and I did get the best of him, but you know I still have so much respect for him."