During the long road to recovery, Kurt Angle didn't realize how severe his addiction was until it affected both his business and personal life. In an interview with Chris Van Vliet, Angle discussed the burnt bridge he had with Vince McMahon after leaving the WWE in 2006, and how neither of them spoke to one another until his return three years ago.
"Vince and I were really close," Angle noted. "It was the last year and half (during my first run in the WWE) that I got out of control. I was doing a lot of painkillers; I was getting injured quite a bit. I was wrestling full time. It was really getting to me. I was taking up to 65 extra-strength Vicodin a day. I was a wreck. Vince did not know this. Back then, they didn't have that drug policy, so up until 2005-2006, they started drug testing. Before that, you could do whatever you wanted.
"I was really screwed up-psychically, mentally, psychologically, and I had to leave. When I did leave, Vince and I never spoke again, until I came back, two years ago. The first time we saw each other, we hugged each other. I apologized to him for the things I did and said, and he said, 'Don't worry about it.' So, we're back to normal. Vince has always been a father figure to me. I never wanted to intentionally hurt him."
After saying that, Angle recalled a time when his relationship with McMahon was on the verge of extinction and how a physical fight almost broke out.
"I decided I wanted to quit, and my manager and I, we went to the WWE Headquarters," Angle began. "What happened was I injured myself, really badly. My hamstring and groin there was blood all over across my genitals. The blood was running down both of my legs on the inside, like a bruising. I showed it to Vince when we had our meeting, and I said we need to talk Vince because I'm not doing very well.
"So, he pulls out about five tight pages of text messages and phone call messages I sent him, and I'm reading them. It says, 'Vince, I'm going to beat the s**t out of you when I see you. Vince, you better answer my call or I'm going to kick your a*s.' Really, really crazy stuff. I don't remember sending him those. Unfortunately, at the time, I was taking painkillers, and every once and a while, I would blackout.
"So, he showed me all of these messages, and I'm like, 'Oh, my God,' I actually said this stuff. He stood up, took his jacket off, and said, 'You want to kick my a*s, let's go right now.' I was like 'Oh, my God, I can't believe Vince McMahon wants to beat my a*s.' This guy has been my father figure for seven years, I have too much respect for him to stand up, but he wanted to go. I left the room, came back, and I just broke down. I told him I can't do this anymore, I need you to release me, and he did."
McMahon did try and offer rehab assistance to Angle, but he denied the help and signed on to TNA just five days after being released from the WWE.
"Yes, he wanted me to go to rehab," Angle stated. "He said 'I want you to go for a couple months, and then come back in six months, and we'll start your contract back up.' I said no. I decided I was going to leave and go to TNA."
Even though Angle had a very successful career in TNA that last up to 10 years, he still was not facing the fact that his addiction was spiraling out of control. It wasn't until his wife threatened that she and their children were going to leave, that Angle started getting serious about his well-being.
"I knew deep down I had a problem, but I was in denial for so many years," Angle mentioned. "I didn't consider rehab until I got hit with a DUI, and it was my fourth one. The reason why I never quit or went to rehab was because when I went to court, my DUI case would either be thrown out or be a lesser offense. To me, I was like I don't have a problem. The last DUI, I was in jail, and I called my wife, and she said she couldn't do this anymore, I'm going to leave you. She said if I went to rehab, she would consider staying. I went because of my wife and kids. It was the best move I ever made."
After getting sober, Angle was able to reconnect with his family. One goal he focused on was building a strong and affectionate relationship with his kids-something he did not have growing up.
"I never spent any time with my kids," Angle said. I would get home after touring, and I would drink a 12-pack of beer and take some Xanax and pass out. I never even talked to my kids. My wife pointed that out to me and I was like Oh, my God, you're right. When I came home from rehab, I started having a relationship with my children and my wife. It was so much better than being high. They were very forgiving, especially my wife. She's the reason I did it. My wife got me to believe in what's important.
"Growing up, my dad was a very hard worker, but he wasn't affectionate. We didn't hug or anything. We shook hands like men. I was very distant from my father and I started feeling like that towards my kids-that isolation of drinking and passing out. My dad would drink every night until he passed out. I was turning into my dad, and all I could think was oh God, I need to stop this. When I did (stop), I realized, I have kids who love me and want to be with me. I never thought about it. My kids want to spend time with me? Why I'm boring. But they want to spend time with me, and that's more important than anything."
You can view Kurt Angle's full interview above. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chris Van Vliet with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.