Interviews

Kurt Angle Talks Going From Addict to WWE Hall of Famer

This pro wrestling star and Olympic gold medalist talks wrestling with WWE legends and his own demons.

Kurt Angle Wins An Olympic Medal
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

Once WWE’s golden boy, Kurt Angle’s career took a turn when he parted ways with the organization in 2006 because of a personal issue. That issue was his addiction to painkillers. But, after a stint in rehab, he’s three years sober. And good behavior pays off: Angle was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame last month at WrestleMania 33, and he just launched an app, Angle Strong, to help recovering addicts.

M&F: How does it feel to be a WWE Hall of Famer?

KA: Not many people get inducted into the Hall of Fame in their 40s. It’s the biggest honor I could have besides winning a gold medal in the Olympics.

What finally pushed you to get sober?

My wife, Giovanna, told me, “I love you, but you pass out every night at 7 o’clock, and we don’t see you until the morning. I can’t do this anymore. So, I’m gonna have to take the kids and leave you.” So, I went to rehab.

What’s the purpose of the Angle Strong app?

When you’re done with rehab, you’re on your own. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a single father who works 12 hours a day to try and get to his meetings. That’s why we started the Angle Strong initiative and app, which launched in January. It has a chat room where you can talk to other recovering addicts. It forces you to answer questions and check in. And if you don’t check in, your lifelines—family, friends, or sponsors—will be notified.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give a young athlete? 

Learn from your mistakes. Follow the protocol and stay out of trouble. Don’t be that guy fans speak about years later and say, “He would have been the greatest of all time if he had just stayed out of trouble.” That’ll be my reputation forever.

At 48, how has your training changed?

It’s all about maintenance and recovery now. I spend a couple of hours each day stretching my neck, foam rolling, and doing yoga. Because I’m off painkillers, there is the pain in my body, and the only way to alleviate it is maintaining my health.

Who was your favorite opponent to wrestle?

I’ve wrestled so many greats, but I’d say Shawn Michaels. I have to give myself credit, too. I’ve never had a bad match. Kurt Angle could have a four-star match with a broomstick.

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