Published on February 4th, 2017 | by Pro Wrestling Stories0
Kurt Angle: STRONG
A ProWrestlingStories.com Exclusive Interview
This is no secret – drugs go hand in hand with professional wrestling. With the countless bumps taken in and out of the ring each day, drugs start off for some in the business as a pain management mechanism but then it soon spirals out of control to a full-fledged addiction where all you are worried about is not what’s happening in the ring, but as Kurt said, “How am I going to get the drugs for tomorrow?”
There is a real drug epidemic happening at the moment. Kurt Angle has lost way too many of his closest loved ones, personally and professionally, to addiction. He almost lost himself to it. Whether you’re a fan of professional wrestling or not, he has a story to share that people can relate to, especially those who are struggling like he once did – a story that will hopefully change and save lives.
In the days leading up to Christmas, I found myself idly flicking through my Twitter feed (@pws_official) when I came across a tweet from Kurt (@RealKurtAngle) that caught my attention. He was promoting an app he created that was set to be released on January 15th which promised to help recovering addicts keep clean. “Truly wonderful,” I thought. This hit home. In 2005, I lost a very close loved one to an opioid addiction and since then have felt a resolute urge to turn something positive out of this crippling life experience. This article is my earnest attempt at that.
Here we have an Olympic gold medalist, a thirteen-time world champion and soon-to-be WWE Hall of Famer coming out with an addiction recovery app. It’s hard not to be inspired while also wishing something like this was available twelve years ago.
Soon after seeing his tweet, we struck up a conversation, first via DM, then on the phone. During our thirty-minute interview, Kurt candidly opened up about a host of topics ranging from receiving the call from Triple H which led to him being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, to his past opioid abuse. We talked about fatherhood, who his best friends were in WWE and how he lost contact with everyone after making the decision to leave in 2006. He reveals who he would like to share a ring with if he were to step into a WWE ring again, the possibilities for after Wrestlemania, the difference in backstage environments between now and when he was coming up in the business while also giving us a sneak peek of his WWE Hall of Fame speech!
It is our honor to share with you now our interview with Kurt Angle.
*A note to publications: if you are going to use excerpts from this interview in a piece on your site, please kindly cite your source by linking back to this article.
PRO WRESTLING STORIES: Kurt, first and foremost, congratulations on your induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.
KURT ANGLE: Well I appreciate that. I was pretty surprised that I got the call this early. You know, at forty-eight years of age. I’m not even done with my wrestling career! I got a call from Triple H and he said how they wanted to induct me into the WWE Hall of Fame. That just puts an exclamation point to my pro wrestling career. I’ve been inducted into every hall of fame but the WWE in both amateur and pro, so this is definitely a huge honor.
PWS: It’s about damn time, too! After ten years, you’re coming back home.
KURT ANGLE: (laughs) Yeah, I know.
PWS: It is hard to think of anyone more deserving than you to get into the WWE Hall of Fame. You have had an unprecedented career, winning Olympic gold in freestyle wrestling in ’96 and acquiring countless championships and accolades along the way. But all of that pales in comparison to the battles you have won outside of the ring.
KURT ANGLE: Thank you.
PWS: It is no secret that you have had your issues out of the ring, and you have been very open about it.
KURT ANGLE: Yes.
PWS: How long have you been in recovery?
“I decided to enter rehab back in 2013 when I got my fourth DUI in five years. I got pretty wreckless.”
KURT ANGLE: I’ve been in recovery for four years. I decided to enter rehab back in 2013 when I got my fourth DUI in five years. I got pretty wreckless. It started with painkillers because I was having a lot of anxiety when I broke my neck four times in two-and-a-half years. I went to Xanax, so I was taking both of those. WWE didn’t even know I was taking it. Back in 2003, they didn’t have the drug testing they do now. They have a great drug testing policy now, but back then it wasn’t implemented yet so I was getting away with a lot of stuff. Because of health issues and also feeling like I was a liability to Vince McMahon, I asked for a release in 2006 and Vince granted me it and I moved on with my life and they moved on with theirs.
When I went to TNA, everybody drank and I never really drank alcohol. All of a sudden I was drinking alcohol and now I was mixing the three – it was a pretty deadly combination.
PWS: You saw your life spiraling out of control so you made the choice to step away from the WWE only to go to TNA where another vice was added to the mix. What would you say worked well for you once you did decide to seek help and go to rehab, and what didn’t?
KURT ANGLE: I just had to get my mind straight. There was a lot of psychological damage. Deaths of family members. The death of my coach [Dave Schultz]. With the Olympics when I broke my neck and wasn’t cleared by the doctors, it felt like my life, my dream, was taken away from me. The same thing happened in the WWE. My neck kept breaking on me. Four times in two-and-a-half-years, from 2003 to early 2006. It just felt like I just started in WWE in late ’99, early 2000, and now in 2003 I’m at the height of my career and it’s being taken away from me. I just wanted to numb it.
I was also in a very bad relationship. That didn’t help, either. I felt like as long as I was medicated, I would just keep working as hard as I could and make the best career that I could while it lasted and that would be fine. As long as I could take the pills and not feel the pain, I would be okay.
I got remarried and had more kids. I realized that there’s more to life than wrestling. My new wife really pulled me out of my mess. She was there at my worst and she was the one that said, “Listen, you need to do something. If you don’t, I’m going to leave you.”
To me, that was too valuable. I didn’t want that to happen. I had the love my wife and my beautiful kids. I went into rehab for them.
PWS: That tough love from your wife is what fortunately pushed you to change and save your life. As you said, it was psychological. Everything you were going through and the fact that you were at the height of your career experiencing these injuries, this understandably played a toll on your mental state.
Many athletes, as well as everyday people, suffer from chronic pain and they look to opioids as their only resort for that pain management. What has been the best way for you to treat your chronic pain now that you are clean and in recovery?
KURT ANGLE: Well, I do a lot of different things. I probably spend three hours a day working on my body. I do anything from anti-gravity for my spine to traction for my neck to stretches to yoga. I have all these different devices now that I use. I have vibrating balls and tubes that I use.
Basically, you have to work hard and take care of your body. I do everything every day and I have a routine. It helps that it keeps me, I wouldn’t say completely pain-free, but less pain-free. I’ve also been using these supplements that are pain relieving supplements called Levare [non-narcotic pain relief]. I got them from a former professional football player and also the brother of Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the Steelers. I’ve been working with them and it does help. It’s not like opiates, but you have to learn to alter and you have to learn to adapt to your surroundings and know what you are capable of taking and know what you’re not capable of taking. I’m an addict. I can’t take painkillers. I can’t take anything.
In the past, I crossed over from alcohol to benzos [a type of medication known as tranquilizers such Valium or Xanax]. None of that stuff is good for me. I was even taking muscle relaxers at a certain point in time, so none of that stuff is good for me and I know that the only way I can do it is if I stay clean.