On the latest episode of The Kurt Angle Show, Kurt Angle talked about his retirement from WWE at WrestleMania 35. Angle made his return to WWE after an 11 year absence when he was inducted in the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame. Although at the time Angle was still wrestling on the independents, WWE calling him was surprising because he wasn’t planning on retiring at this stage of his career. Kurt said that he had no plans of retiring at the time and just wanted to get a call back to WWE to wrestle.
“It was a surprise because I was planning on continuing to wrestle,” Angle said. “I was expecting a call from the WWE eventually and when I did get the call I thought Vince McMahon was going to ask me to come back to wrestle but they did the opposite. They decided to induct me into the Hall of Fame which is what you do when you retire. I told Vince I didn’t want to retire and he said we’ll get around to wrestling eventually.
“I think I was a liability for the company and I think that’s the reason Vince wanted to start me out with the Hall of Fame, then gave me the general manager spot the following night on RAW. I think he was getting a feel for me to see how I was handling this situation and staying clean, even though when I came back to WWE I was clean and sober for 4 years in 2017. Vince McMahon just wanted to make sure I was staying clean while I was with the company.”
Angle made his WWE in-ring return after 11 years at TLC 2017, replacing Roman Reigns in a 5 on 3 Handicap Tables Ladders and Chairs match. He said the experience was amazing for him to be an honorary member of The Shield because of their importance in the wrestling business.
“I was a fan,” Angle said. “If you saw me come out of the arena and I was behind Seth and Dean, I just looked like a fan. I was so excited to be a part of The Shield. The Shield is a legendary team, I have a lot of respect for all 3 of those guys. Being apart of it for that night was so much fun, I had a blast.
“This was the first time [Vince] saw me compete. I was training for the match, I had a good like 3 weeks, and I was doing hill sprints and I pulled a muscle in my leg. I couldn’t push off my left leg, so I had to use my right leg the whole time. It just looked like I lost a step, even though I did, I was able to hide it. I think Vince was like ‘Okay, this guy is close to retirement, he’s almost done.’ I think that was where he judged me and said I’m not going to use Kurt in the world title picture, I’m going to use him to make younger guys. I think that’s what happened.”
Angle also appeared in the 2019 Royal Rumble as the 4th entrant in the match. He talked about only lasting 3 minutes in the Rumble. Kurt said maybe his departure from WWE in 2006 was a reason that WWE held such ill will towards him.
“Nothing I could do,” Angle said. “I probably could have talked to Vince, but I decided not to. I just wanted to keep my mouth shut and do what I was told. I was grateful they put me in the Rumble. They look to put stars in the Rumble, they don’t have enough people to put over in the Rumble. There are 10 people they’re going to make look really good and the other 20 aren’t going to look so good. I wasn’t in that top 10. I understand that, I think it had to do with my age.
“This is just a guess, I could be dead wrong, but I think the company might have been a little bitter about my departure in 2006 and heading to TNA for 11 years and then coming back. That’s just an assumption, I don’t know for sure. I think it was more of me getting up in age and my body not being able to perform at the level I used to.”
After his retirement, Angle attempted to transition into an agent role with the company. The former Olympic gold medalist said he really enjoyed the experience of being an agent and appreciated the opportunity he received from Vince.
“I didn’t like that you had to be there all day,” Angle said. “We would start the meetings sometimes at 10 in the morning, 9 in the morning. The meetings would go 4 to 5 to 6 hours. When you got out, you went to lunch, you grabbed the scripts from the writers, promos and pre-tapes, handed them out to the talents and then you got together with the two talents you were working with that night and put their match together, the show starts at 6, you go into Gorilla and produce the match.
“You talk to the referee, communicate to make sure the timing is right, everything is going the right way, it’s a very difficult job. It’s a lot of fun and rewarding. You are creating art in the ring and you’re part of that. It’s a pretty cool thing and I loved the experience.”
Angle noted how 11 months after his retirement at WrestleMania 35, the WWE and world were introduced to COVID-19 that brought upon empty-arena shows. He said it would have been tough for him to perform in front of no fans and is grateful his retirement match happened when it did.
“I thank God everyday,” Angle said. “I would’ve still retired with the COVID as long as they had a WrestleMania. Without the fans, it would’ve been a lot more difficult, it would’ve sucked but you’re still performing for millions of people watching at home. It would’ve been harder to get motivated.
“It’s hard to perform in front of an empty arena, even though you have the cameras on you, you don’t have people reacting quickly after you do something. To wrestle during COVID, I wouldn’t have been happy with that. I’m very grateful I got to perform in front of 82,000 fans.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Kurt Angle Show Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.