The entire wrestling world was collectively happy to see Kurt Angle make a momentous return to WWE in 2017 and the list of potential match-up possibilities seemed endless. However, many fans of The Olympic Gold Medalist were left feeling there was something missing when he finally hung it up for good, a loss to Baron Corbin at WrestleMania 35 only two years later.
On the most recent edition of The Kurt Angle Show, available exclusively on AdFreeShows.com, Angle sat down with co-host Conrad Thompson to discuss the details behind the difficult decision to close the book on his in-ring career in a match that was fourteenth on a sixteen match card.
“When you have 16 matches that’s a long show. I think that show was seven hours long. It was ridiculously long. There were a lot of matches on there of course and being 14, it is a lot of pressure. I also understood when you’re in the business as many years as I am, you realize what each match is for and what it represents. The number 14 match, it was structured in between two featured matches and the number 14 match which was my match with Baron Corbin was only six minutes long. It was a filler match,” Angle said. “That’s what it was. It is what it is. I understand why they did it. My body was breaking down and I couldn’t go at the level I could go as I used to, so I think Vince McMahon gave me the retirement match not that I exactly wanted, but needed and I was just happy to have the match.”
Going back a few years to when Kurt made his in-ring return in WWE, he says he saw synergy with the team of American Alpha featuring Chad Gable and (his soon to be “illegitimate son”) Jason Jordan.
“I was excited because I wanted to pair up with Jason and Chad when they were tag team partners. I wanted to wrestle and I wanted to be the world champion and have them be the tag team champions just like Team Angle and I thought it made a lot of sense. They decided that I was going to have an illegitimate son and they weren’t sure who it was gonna be, and they decided to pick Jason over Chad. I’m not sure why, but it might have been a politically correct move but I was happy.”
Angle could tell that Jordan was building into a star, but an unsettling neck injury put Jason on the shelf, and in the same respect, Kurt was left without a dance partner for WrestleMania 35.
“I was excited about it because Jason is a great talent and he was improving every week. His chops were improving, his work was improving, he was getting a lot better. He was on his way to main event status until he hurt his neck and that’s where that program ended and I was stuck high and dry without a partner for the next WrestleMania because that’s who I was going to wrestle,” Angle explained, “and they immediately paired me with Baron Corbin.”
Angle makes clear that he respected Baron as a talent and a professional, but felt that the young star wasn’t quite at the right level for an engaging story against a now WWE Hall of Famer.
“Baron was more of a bully, I was more of the victim. I didn’t like that, but you know that’s what they gave me and the program was fine. I was okay with it, it was a lot of fun to do. Baron’s a great talent. I didn’t expect him to be my opponent at WrestleMania because at that time,” Angle explained, “I don’t think he was at the level that he deserved to go into WrestleMania wrestling a Hall of Fame legend, even though afterward, they utilized him pretty good.”
Corbin would go on to win King of the Ring later that year and was on his way to the main event, but Angle felt like their WrestleMania match ignited that. Kurt says he understood his role in the company, but once he made up his mind to retire, he realized he better act soon if he wanted his final match to be with someone he was familiar with.
“Vince wanted me to get him over and that was the plan the whole time. I knew that and at the time when they told me, I was thinking, ‘This is going to be my last [run] and I’m going to retire and I need to tell Vince and if I want an opponent other than Baron, I need to tell him right now.’ So I went to his office and I said, ‘I’m gonna retire at WrestleMania, Vince and I know you have a program planned with Baron, but I would like to have John Cena because I started his career and I’d want him to end mine.’ I thought it made a lot of sense. He said, ‘Well, you’re not doing that this year. You can possibly do it next year if you continue to wrestle for a year.’ And I said, ‘Well, no I want to retire this year cause my body’s breaking down and I don’t want to go on after that. I’m not able to perform at the level I expect to, and I’m not crazy about wrestling Baron only because of his status at the time’ and don’t get me wrong,” Angle said, “Baron was a great worker and he was very professional. He was great to work with, but I just don’t think at that time that he was at the level he needed to be to wrestling a main eventer or Hall of Famer.”
Conrad asked Kurt what happened in between the Jason Jordan storyline and the eventual retirement program with Baron Corbin that led to him making the decision to retire. Angle explained that the major catalyst happened to be from the lack of actual work he didn’t get to perform in the ring.
“When I took the GM role, I didn’t wrestle. I wrestled I think three times in two years. There wasn’t a lot of wrestling, I think a TLC when I teamed up with The Shield, Survivor Series five-on-five match and then the WrestleMania match with Ronda Rousey. So being inactive for two years was really hard on my body. I was working out in the gym, but I wasn’t taking bumps in the ring and when you’re out that long at the age I was, you age quicker and your body shuts down. And I knew at the time, this was right around when I was doing my farewell tour, and I gained a little bit of weight and I was a little sloppy so not being able to perform at the level I wanted to, I decided that I’m gonna have to retire now. I can’t go another year and I also felt like the company wasn’t really utilizing me at the level I wanted to be. I was more doing jobs than I was contributing. I mean it is contributing [by] doing jobs, but when you’re a Hall of Famer, legend wrestler you don’t expect to lose that much. It was a humbling experience,” Angle said, “but I do understand why. Me being close to retirement I need to put the younger guys over and I understand that.”
Kurt noted that he decided not to push back too much against creative as he honestly never expected to be back in the position he was currently at with WWE in the first place.
“Coming back to the company, I came back very humbly and I was grateful they brought me back because I didn’t know if or when they were gonna bring me back. When you make a lot of mistakes in your past, it’s going to catch to you in the future,” Angle explained, “so I never really talked to Vince about the direction he wanted to go with me. I just kept my mouth shut, listened and did what I was told.”
(Transcription credit should go to @DominicDeAngelo of WrestleZone)
There’s much more from this particular episode which you can access via AdFreeShows.com. Non-subscribers are able to listen to the first episode of The Kurt Angle Show below in which Kurt and Conrad talk his classic WrestleMania 19 match with Brock Lesnar.