When we first learned that WWE legend and soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee Kurt Angle would be returning to the WWE, it was like excitement and shock all wrapped up in one giant wrestling singlet package.
For years, Angle dealt with alcohol and substance abuse issues, which kept him from returning to the ring much sooner, and in a Reddit AMA over the weekend, the 44-year-old Olympic gold medalist explained WWE’s initial hesitation to have him back.
“They didn’t want me. And I understood why. You know, when you screw up so many times, your reputation is destroyed. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how much the fans want you back. If you’re a publicly traded company, you’re looking at Kurt Angle and saying, ‘Okay, he’s been in a lot trouble with drugs. He’s had four DUI’s. He’s out of control. We haven’t had him in for eleven years. Is he really worth it? Will it have a negative effect on the business? Will he be a liability?’ So I understood.”
But thanks to his wife Giovanna, Angle was able to begin the process of turning his life around.
“[She said], ‘Listen, I love you, but you have had 4 DUI’s already. I love you but I can’t stay with you. I can’t live like this. You pass out every night at 7 o’clock and you don’t spend any time with the kids.'”
“She wanted me. She wanted the Kurt Angle that she knew. So I decided to check into rehab. That’s where my rock bottom came.”
Angle has already put on great work for years over at TNA (Total Nonstop Action), and his return to the WWE has been well-earned both personally and professionally. Will we see him kick off his return by feuding with John Cena? It’s quite possible, considering his strong connection to Cena, which he also described in the AMA.
“I really liked John. I talked to him and I had heard from some promoters out west that he had everything that it took to be a top tier guy. He had the look, he could wrestle. He was a little robotic in the beginning. You know, he didn’t have the magic touch. He wasn’t one of those guys where everything looked solid. His punches were a little weak at the beginning and I’m not sure if they even got better. I watch Cena now and he has had consistently some of the best matches in the last seven or eight years. He has seriously outgrown some of the, I guess, the theory that he can’t work. He can work. He can wrestle.
“But, at the beginning, I was told that this guy had it all. When I wrestled him, did I think he was going to be as big as he was? No. But I also didn’t know that he had such an incredible business mind. Literally, three months in from when he started, he was meeting with Vince McMahon on different merchandise ideas. He came up with that belt, the spinning belt. He just had, he was prepared. I have never seen anybody who came to the company be more prepared than John Cena. He was set from a wrestling standpoint, from a character standpoint, from a business standpoint, and when he started doing the rapper thing, he just took off. And rightfully so. He was one of the most prepared individuals I had ever seen.
“About the match, I just wanted to teach John a lesson. I literally tried to get him tired in that match. If you ever watch it, it’s twelve minutes of non-stop movement. I made him hustle. I made him earn the respect that he deserves, and he knows it. But he didn’t get tired! He’s one of the few guys that kept up with me in that ring. I tested him and he passed with flying colors! (laughs)”