Kurt Angle is a multifaceted athlete: two-time NCAA national champion, 1996 Olympic gold medal winner 220-lb. division), championship wrestler in both the TNA and WWE, actor (Dylan Dog: Dead of Night) and entrepreneur (Angle Foods, which creates “affordable gourmet and performance meals”).
At 42, the native of Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh Steelers fan is perhaps at the busiest point of his career. He is helping to lead TNA’s newly rebranded Impact Wrestling (which airs Thursdays on Spike), is training for a comeback on the mat at the 2012 Olympics in London and has a featured role in Warrior, which stars Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte. Largely filmed in Pittsburgh and scheduled for release in September (from Lionsgate), the movie delves into the sport of mixed martial arts as seen through the personal struggles and triumphs of two brothers and their father.
Angle spoke with Big Lead Sports about his life of wresting, acting and training for the Olympics.
Big Lead Sports: What is your status for the 2012 Summer Games in London?
Kurt Angle: I think right now I am right on where I should be with my training. We are five months in and I am going to look to qualify at around 211 pounds. I’m doing all my work in and around Pittsburgh with the trainers I have to work with there and am in constant communication with the USA Wrestling folks. It’s a little different now and I have to pace myself but I feel great and I am going to give this my best shot to qualify, make the team and represent my country in London next summer. I won the gold medal at 220, but I wrestled 11 pounds under that weight, so I’m going to try and go a little lighter this time as well. I feel great about it.
BLS: In Warrior you play Koba, an undefeated Russian fighter who eventually is upset by one of the brothers in a fight. What was it like for an All-American to play a Russian?
KA: I equated it to what it was like to have Dolph Lundgren play Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Koba is the hero, the undefeated world champion, he is the mystery that the fans came to see. His entrance and the crowd scene is one of the most intense in the movie, and I had to be careful to take the right direction from Gavin O’Connor to stay kind of cool and less emotional than someone could be on that spot. It was very intense and the fight sequences are intense. There wasn’t a huge amount of dialogue, I have one speech in Russian actually, but what comes across is the power that Koba has, since he is the draw for the fans in the scenes I am in.
BLS: Is the Koba character similar to the real life Fedor Emelianenko?
KA: Yes I think so. I have seen Fedor fight several times and he is the real deal, a champion and an amazing fighter. He was one of a kind, and I think people may see some parallels to the Koba character, with maybe a similar result as well.
BLS: How is the new promotion, Impact Wrestling?
KA: I hope TNA continues to back up what they have been saying, which is to provide great wrestlers and more action for the fans with less talking. There are so many great personalities with great skills that we have now, the response has been great. We have versatile athletes big and small, not the cookie cutter stuff you see now with the WWE, where everyone looks and talks the same. It is much more like what the WWE used to be, with larger than life personalities who were great athletes and wrestlers from varied backgrounds, like The Rock and Hulk Hogan, myself and many others. This is wrestling for the fans the way the fans want it.
BLS: What do you think of the WWE today?
KA: It is the same show every week. The guys look the same, they talk a lot, there is not much diversity in style, it is all from the same script and I don’t think it’s much for the fans. In the past, every match was exciting, there were different characters, now the WWE is the same stuff every week. I think we are giving the fans what they like and what they were used to, and that’s why I’m excited about the new shows.
KA: My focus right now is on the Olympics. Let me say this: I have nothing but the utmost respect for Dana White and the UFC. There was a time not too long ago where I was considering MMA and I was approached with great money from everyone from the IFL and proElite to the UFC. I had several discussions with the UFC and they made me a great offer, but the timing wasn’t right and I told them that. They wanted me to train and then fight in too short a period and it needed to be the right timing and on my terms for me to be who I wanted to be in the Octagon. I wish it worked out but it didn’t and I’m happy where I am now. In the future, if wrestling goes well and I’m in the shape I can be in then great, maybe I’ll take another look then. But for right now it’s all about the Olympics for me.
BLS: What do you think Warrior will do for MMA?
KA: I think it will be a big boost for the sport with people who don’t know much about it, and that the fans of the sport will enjoy it. The movie has true grit, it is a great story that speaks to anyone who is dealing with all kinds of issues today. It is a family story and the actors in the movie portray a family that has its struggles and its challenges and it shows how they overcome those challenges.
BLS: How was the fighting in the movie?
KA: It was very real and very intense. Those guys trained hard and understood what it took to make the scenes strong. Heck I beat the crap at of Joel at least once, but he came right back. People who see the movie will enjoy those scenes as much as the overall story, which definitely speaks to a large audience.
BLS: Any thoughts on your hometown Steelers?
KA: I haven’t really followed the lockout at all. I’m sure they will be back. I love the Steelers and have always been a fan and am looking forward to seeing them play this fall, just like all the fans are.
(Photo credits: TNA/Impact Wrestling)
Watch Kurt Angle in the Warrior trailer: