Kurt Angle returned to the WWE in 2017 after leaving the company 11 years prior. In a recent interview with Denise Salcedo on Instinct Culture, Angle admits that he was left disappointed by his final run.
“It didn’t go the way I wanted it to,” Angle revealed. “Vince McMahon had an idea for me. I think he was looking at me as a liability, someone that was addicted to painkillers, someone that broke his neck 5 times. So, I think Vince didn’t have the same idea I did. I wanted to get a title run when I came back.”
Angle said that after he left TNA, he spent a year wrestling all around the world preparing for his final run in the business.
“I actually took a year off after I left TNA, and I wrestled around the world. I did events in the U.K, Europe, Asia, Mexico, Arizona; I did a pay-per-view down there with Rey Mysterio,” Angle said. “I wanted to have another title run and retire.”
Angle said that Vince’s idea didn’t seem to be concerned with getting him back into the ring.
“Vince McMahon wanted me inducted into the Hall of Fame and I told him, ‘Well, I am not done wrestling’ and he said, ‘That’s okay’ And I said, ‘Well, you know eventually I would like to wrestle,’ and he said ‘We’ll get there.'” Angle recalled. “So, after the Hall of Fame, that night, after I had my speech, Vince McMahon came up to me and said, ‘You’re going to be the GM of Raw starting tomorrow.’ And I was like ‘Well, I still wanna wrestle,’ he said, ‘We’ll get you there.’ So, I think he did everything he could to kind of push that off.”
All the time off from the ring being in the GM role hurt Angle’s physical ability to wrestle, and when he did finally get back into the ring, Angle said that he didn’t feel the same as he had before.
“When it was time for me to wrestle, I was doing the GM job for a year and a half; I was inactive, not bumping, not wrestling.” Angle said. “My body started getting arthritic, my neck tightened up, my back, my knees. Before I knew it, I got in the ring and I looked like an old man wrestling. And I knew that even though the company wanted me to continue to wrestle, I didn’t feel right about it for a couple reasons. One, I wanted to come back and have the title run, that wasn’t going to happen.”
With the title run out of the picture, Angle said he and Vince had conversations regarding how his retirement match would go down. Angle said he preferred to have a final match with John Cena, while Vince was pushing for him to work with Baron Corbin.
“Basically, I wanted to come back and have a good way to retire.” Angle explained. “Vince McMahon told me that I had a program with Baron Corbin, and I told him that I wanted to retire at WrestleMania. And he said ‘Well, you’re going to wrestle Baron Corbin because you had a program with him for the last seven months.’
“I said, ‘Vince, I want to retire. Baron is a great talent but he’s an upcoming talent, how about John Cena?’ He said, ‘If you want John Cena, next year you got him. But this year, you get Baron’ I said, ‘Vince, I am not going next year. I am done. This is it.’ He said, ‘Well, you’re stuck with this.'”
Angle said he understood Vince’s perspective but knew that it was going to be his last opportunity to work with Cena.
“So, I respect it. I understood why, because they had spent a lot of time building up Baron Corbin and we had to have a match.” Angle said. “If I wanted to continue for another year, I could have got Cena. But I didn’t want to go a whole other year. I knew I was done.”
Angle said he returned ready to wrestle but the time away from the GM role accelerated his transition into retirement and put his body in too difficult a position to come back and compete at the level he wanted to.
“There’s nothing I can do. I believe WWE played it safe with me, and I don’t blame them.” Angle said. “I think I would have done the same. But when I came to WWE, I was ready to wrestle, I was in great shape, my technique was great, my body was great. But that year and a half/two years sitting out; it’s just when you turn 50 years old, your body is not the same as it was 20 years prior. So, I had to deal with that and I knew my career was coming to an end quickly, so I did what I had to do.”
Despite his return not going exactly how he planned, Angle did give praise to Ronda Rousey, who he was able to work with during his final in-ring run.
“She did an excellent job.” Angle said. “The one thing Ronda didn’t do that she could/will do if she comes back, is that she never mastered the business. Because she wasn’t in that long enough and what she did that whole year is incomparable. She dominated and she put on great performances? but we had to tell her, this is what you’re going to do here, this is what you’re going to do there. We had to give her step by step instructions and go over it with her for multiple days, so she would be ready for the match, so she knew everything that was gonna go on.”
Angle said Rousey was only going to continue to improve as she continued to work in the business and gain more experience. Despite her lack of experience, Angle believes she had a better first year in the company than even Brock Lesnar or himself.
“In the business, once you get experience, which Ronda was getting it in the end before she left, you learn how to improvise and work on the fly.” Angle explained. “You come up with 50% of the match and then the other 50% you make it up as you go along… Ronda didn’t get the opportunity to learn that, but what she did in her first year, I would even say she had a better first year than Brock Lesnar or myself. I think she did incredibly well.”
Angle said that Rousey was a great grab for WWE, and that he enjoyed working with and getting to know her.
“Ronda Rousey isn’t just a plus for the women, she was a plus for the whole company.” Angle said. “Whatever amount she got paid, I am sure it was a lot, she deserved it. Ronda is a household name, everybody knows who she is, everybody loves her and she made a big impact in the business. And she deserves to have that notoriety. She’s one of the biggest names we’ve ever had, you can’t deny that. She was easy to work with. I love the girl, I consider her my sister.”
Since retiring, Angle has been seen sparingly on TV, and he recently turned down an offer form WWE to be the on-screen manager for Matt Riddle.