2017 Hall of Famer Kurt Angle was the special guest on Lilian Garcia: Making Their Way to the Ring today, revealing how he and Shawn Michaels prepared for their legendary WrestleMania 21 bout, who he'd like to have one last match with, and whether he'll ever wrestle again. You can watch the full interview in the video above or download the podcast version on iTunes, they sent us these highlights:
"[My sister] was a wrestling cheerleader. My brothers were all wrestlers. I was kind of forced into it. I wasn't very good as a kid. I was more of a crybaby, and that really bothered my brothers. But little did they know I was going to be the best one in the family."
What set him apart from his brothers:
"They got disqualified a lot. They had a lot of penalty points against them, because they had tempers. I didn't have a temper. I looked at it from a technique standpoint. That's how I attacked my opponents, and it worked for me. A lot of guys would try to hurt me, especially in the Olympics, when my neck was broken. A lot of athletes knew my neck was broken so they were going after my neck. While they were focusing on my neck, I was focusing on scoring on them. So it really helped that I wasn't that kind of animal. I was more of a technician."
On why he thinks he spiraled into addiction:
"For me it was my injuries. It was my injuries and also being in a pretty bad marriage at the time. I didn't want to feel anything. But breaking my neck again in WWE I started on pain killers. The first pill I took I loved it. I loved how it made me feel. It made me feel indestructible. The more I took, I kept getting injured. You know, Lilian. I broke my neck four times in two and a half years. I just got more and more depressed. It was like, why is this happening to me? I didn't want to feel the pain anymore. I felt like my career was being taken away from me."
How Kurt was able to compete in Olympic trials six weeks after breaking his neck at the US Open:
"No doctor would clear me until I talked to Dr. [Joseph] Maroon. He said, listen we're going to do something really simple. Don't train. We're going to go to the trials and whenever you're ready to wrestle, we'll shoot you up five minutes before your match with nova cane, and then you won't feel your neck for about an hour. But afterward you're going to be in excruciating pain. We'll just do that every match. So I did that in trials and at the Olympics."
His response to Vince McMahon offering him a ten year WWE deal after he won the Olympics:
"I didn't understand pro wrestling. I never watched it. I said, well you know Mr. McMahon, I'm an Olympic gold medalist. So I can never lose. Vince just looked down at the paper. He was like, OK well ah, you go home and look at that contract. I literally didn't hear from him again. Actually two and a half years later I contacted him, and I said, is that deal still there? He said, no. But you can come up and try out. Now I am grateful for that because nothing ever came easy for me. I think if I would've gotten a contract earlier, I don't think I would have had the same success as I did.
Kurt describes how he was treated by the other wrestlers at WWE:
"These guys, the [Steve] Austins, The Rocks, the [Chris] Jerichos, the Edge and Christians, the HHHs, they were really giving to me. They never tried to screw me over or tried to make me look bad. They saw my talent, and they knew I wasn't quite ready. But they were able to nurture me to continue to improve. They could have made me look bad at any moment but they didn't do that. So I'm so very grateful for what those guys did. The Eddie Guerreros, even the Chris Benoits, and you know we're not really supposed to talk about that, but there are guys that just gave so much to me because they believed in me. And you know this, Lilian, I was taking their spot. That's really hard to be giving to somebody that's going to be the champion where everybody else wants to be. But that's how they were toward me."
How he and Shawn Michaels prepared for their legendary WrestleMania 21 match:
"The thing, is Shawn and I never wrestled before that. Even though you have a whole week to prepare for your match, Shawn and I didn't really talk about our match. We talked about family. We talked about personal issues that we were having or what we were going through. We only practiced one move. It was a move where I had to lift him up over my head and he did a sunset flip behind me. It was just a quick move that we were going to use in the match. Other than that we talked a little bit about the match but we didn't go over anything. Shawn and I, the first time we locked horns was literally at WrestleMania 21. And to have that kind of match with somebody you've never been in the ring with, that shows the kind of character Shawn has, the kind of athlete he was."
Kurt answers who he'd like to have one last match with:
"The one that I would really love to have a final match with right now is the kid that's the hottest right now in WWE and that's AJ Styles. I wrestled AJ in TNA, and I can tell you that he is every bit as good as Shawn Michaels. The thing with AJ Styles, and I want everybody to realize this--you don't have to do anything with him. He does all the work. So it's an easy match for you. He flies around the ring. He does all the bumping. AJ is a special individual where you can go in that ring and literally just stand in the middle and he does everything for you. I have never had a match with anybody that's been so easy, and every time I worked with him it was a five star match. So AJ's that kind of talent. He only comes around once in a lifetime, so I'd really love to shake it up with him one more time if I could."
What the future holds for Kurt:
"I'm in a great place in my life. I talk to people and they're like, hey why don't you come back and wrestle? No, no, I'm in a good place right now. I'm OK with not being Kurt Angle the wrestler anymore. I'm just happy being who I am. I think that people don't know how to just accept who they are and be happy with who they are."
So is he officially done wrestling?
"I can't really say. But if I am, I'm OK with it...I will tell you this, Lilian. That's the only reason I would do it. I will not do it for myself. I would do it for you and the fans out there. It's no longer about me."