Kurt Angle Names John Cena WWE’s G.O.A.T, Weighs In On Linda McMahon-Trump In Exclusive Interview
As Kurt Angle prepares to headline a 2017 Hall of Fame class that will feature the likes of luminaries Rock ‘N’ Roll Express and Teddy Long, the former Olympic Gold Medalist has adjusted quite well to life after wrestling.
Angle recently launched his AngleStrong app, which focuses on recovery from the very types of addictions that almost derailed his own legendary career.
Like the rest of the country, Angle has also taken a vested interest in an unprecedented scene in American politics. One where his former boss Linda McMahon was recently confirmed by a landslide 81-19 margin as head of the Small Business Administration in President Donald Trump’s cabinet.
In a country that is seemingly as divided as ever, McMahon—who has an estimated net worth of $1.16 billion—was one of the rare Trump nominees met with little resistance from democrats.
In fact, Senator Cory Booker—a rising star in the democratic party—took a playful tone during McMahon’s confirmation hearings last month as he poked fun at WWE Vice President Triple H.
McMahon’s smooth ascension in the Whitehouse is likely due to the fact that her business savvy helped grow WWE into a publicly traded company, and although Angle considers her the “silent MVP” of the WWE, her work speaks for itself.
“She has done the business aspect of that company for all this time. She deserves that. If anybody is going to be able to represent the United States for small businesses, it’s Linda McMahon,” said Angle.
“She has taken WWE from a semi-small company into a worldwide mecca. She singlehandedly did that. Vince was more the hands-on approach, as far as entertainment was concerned, but Linda McMahon deserves that job more than anybody and I’m so happy for her.”
Angle also continues to survey the professional wrestling scene outside of the WWE, which now more than ever, is dictating the direction of WWE’s once insulated vision.
WWE recently reported 1.41 million WWE Network subscribers in its recent Q4 2016 earnings report. WWE continues to express interest in offering outside content on the Network to grow its subscriber base, and has been known to poll fans on their interest on seeing rival promotions like ROH and TNA on the WWE Network.
Of WWE’s 1.41 million subscribers, 400,000 are international. Last year, it was reported that New Japan World—New Japan Pro Wrestling’s answer to the WWE Network—has more subscribers in Japan than the WWE Network, which offers services in over 170 countries. And as WWE continues its path of world domination on the pro wrestling landscape, Kurt Angle has taken note of a few outside promotions where WWE can acquire talent.
“The thing is, there’s great talent out there. I like the whole NXT thing, I think that helps WWE so much, I think Triple H has done a tremendous job, but you have to remember they’re also taught by the same people so you want a little bit of a different flavor from everyone.
You have Ring of Honor, you have TNA, you have New Japan [Pro Wrestling]. The UK is really coming on strong with wrestlers, so WWE has a lot to pick from and there’s a lot of great talent out there right now.”
WWE’s foray into streaming services has gone hand-in-hand with the social media era where much of the content, analysis and instant-fan reactions are online. WWE reported 739 million followers in its Q4 2016 earnings report, although social media engagement ticked down to 275 million, compared to 303 million from the previous quarter.
With the rise of social media has also come a sense of entitlement, as fans have more power than ever to let their voice be heard and possibly alter WWE’s best-laid plans as was the case with The Yes Movement in 2014.
Angle was at the forefront of the pesky “what” chants, which have gone from engaging chants designed to annoy the Angle character in support of former rival Steve Austin, to apathetic taunts among restless fans. Still, Angle sees a lot of positives in today’s, at-times volatile, landscape of fan culture.
“I believe that social media has made it much easier for the fans to semi-control what’s going on,” said Angle.
“When somebody’s in high demand, after a while, WWE can’t ignore it. Daniel Bryan is a great example. So, I think that social media has given the fans a bigger voice and it’s gotten to the point where companies can’t ignore it anymore. If you’re hot, you’re hot. I believe maybe social media maybe had a little bit to do with me being able to come back to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.
If placating its vocal fanbase isn’t enough to contend with, WWE also has an ongoing rivalry with UFC, which over the years has evolved into more of a friendly rivalry where talent exchanges are not out of the ordinary.
Former Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey made a memorable appearance at WrestleMania 31, while Brock Lesnar competed in a special attraction bout against heavyweight Mark Hunt at UFC 200. UFC did a live gate of $10.7 million with a buyrate of just under 1.1 million while WrestleMania 31 grossed $12.6 million and was viewed by an estimated 1.3 million global households.
Angle’s second-to-none amateur wrestling background would have made him a great fit in the UFC, though the former olympian opted to venture into a career in sports entertainment, a transition which he believes is very tough for an amateur wrestler.
“UFC is a much easier transition for wrestlers. Wrestling, I believe in my mind, is the best self-defense sport out there,” said Angle.
“The issue with wrestlers going to wrestling, or sports entertainment, is you have to forget everything you learned if you wrestled for 20 years. It’s a tougher way because you have to include the crowd, you have to show emotion, you have to show anger, fear excitement which wrestlers never do. You go out there and you show no emotion, you just go out there and kill.
“In pro wrestling, you have to remember the whole match. If you have a 30-minute match, there are a lot of spots in there so it’s a lot tougher to transition. I would say any other sport than wrestling is a better avenue to get into sports entertainment than wrestling itself, but there are guys out there who have done a tremendous job especially after I have come through, you’ve got Brock Lesnar, you’ve have Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, you have Jack Swagger you have Dolph Zggler, these are all guys who were former All-Americans in college. So there are former wrestlers making that transition but it is very, very tough.”
And while many of Angle’s peers in WWE did not share his technical background in amateur wrestling, he has already identified a short list of potential inductors to go along with Stone Cold Steve Austin, who he has already claimed would be his ideal inductor.
“I would say Austin, John Cena—he has been the staple of sports entertainment for the last 11 years. The incredible thing about John, John has never been known, personally for all of us, as a fighter. He’s not a guy who’s going to to throw fists and mix it up. But what he has been able to endure for 12, 13 years. Nobody has ever done that.
“John Cena is the man. I don’t know anybody else who has gone 13 years on top…I’m not going to say he’s was greatest athlete in WWE history, but he will go down as the greatest of all time in WWE history.
“I would say Austin, Cena, Undertaker and Brock Lesnar are my four picks [to induct me into the Hall of Fame].”