As Kurt Angle prepares to be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame during Wrestlemania 33 weekend, the Olympic gold medalist has reflected on his career during various media tours.
The 48-year-old has not been inside a WWE ring since departing the company in 2006; up until last year, he was the top name in TNA Impact Wrestling. In his view, Angle believes his short run in WWE does not help his case of being WWE’s greatest superstar of all-time, even if his sheer talent says otherwise.
“You know what, to be honest with you… I haven’t been there [WWE] in 11 years. You can only have so much impact when you’re in a company for six and a half years [and] you’re injured for a year and a half of it, so really five years,” Angle said in an interview with FOX Sports. “Would I put myself in the history books as the greatest wrestler of all time? Yes. But not ‘WWE Superstar’. I was only there six and a half years. I also had a pro career in TNA for 11. You can’t combine them together unless you’re talking from a non-WWE standpoint.”
If Angle’s accolades from WWE and TNA are combined, he’s right up there with any legendary name to ever come out of the industry. Between WWE and TNA, Angle held 12 world titles, six in each federation. On top of that, despite his brief run, Angle held every major championship in WWE, partnered with accolades such as the King of the Ring. In TNA, Angle held all of the company’s titles (World Heavyweight, X-Division, Tag Team) simultaneously in addition to the IWGP Heavyweight championship.
But the WWE machine is what determines a superstar’s standing in history and longevity is the key.
“And the WWE is the monster, it’s everything. The longer you’re in there and the more successful you are, the more accolades you should have. I wasn’t John Cena, I couldn’t stay on top for 14 years. I tried. Very few individuals could do that. I’ll give you an example: Who I think is the greatest of all time is – but he just wasn’t there enough – was Stone Cold Steve Austin. He had a great run for five years, but he was also out a year of that. So his top babyface run was about five years, but he was out with a neck injury for a year. Nobody can sustain it like John Cena has, and consistency is definitely a key when you’re talking about the greatest of all time. Did I have consistency after WWE? Yes, but I had to go to another company and have a much-reduced schedule in order to do it.”
Angle has cited addiction to painkillers and alcohol as the reason he left WWE in 2006. In subsequent years, he has been arrested on multiple occasions for driving under the influence but has been sober the last several years.
If WWE was open to giving performers part-time deals back in 2006, Angle says he would have never left the company. In recent years, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar, and Goldberg have returned to WWE for numerous stints in short bursts.
Only Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker had that luxury in 2006; if WWE would’ve obliged Angle, he believes he would have set WWE records.
“What’s crazy is two years after I left, they started doing that. It was like ‘damnit! I just missed it by two years.’ I would have stayed in WWE. I went to rehab back in 2006 and I got myself straight, took Vince McMahon’s advice, and I would have stayed. I wanted to stay, I just knew I couldn’t do that schedule.” he said. “At the time, unfortunately, it wasn’t an option to be a part-timer, and I do understand it, because I was only in the business at that point for six and a half years. Part-timers usually have to put in that 20 or so years. So I understood that, but two or three years later they started doing that. It kind of sucked [laughs]. I missed that moment where I could have stayed, and I could have been a 25-time World Champion!”
[Featured Image by WWE]