Kurt Angle grew up a high school football and wrestling star in western Pennsylvania who dreamed of playing linebacker or safety for Pitt or Penn State. Angle even had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers after winning an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling in 1996. But while the Steelers play the Chargers on "Monday Night Football" tonight, Angle will be starring on the WWE's "Monday Night RAW."
Do you keep in touch with people from USA Wrestling?
Oh yeah, I keep in touch with those guys. I try to promote Olympic wrestling as much as possible. Half the reason I joined WWE was to expose amateur wrestling. Every time I walk out to the ring, everybody knows who I am and where I came from. You can't get any better exposure than that. It's been a win-win situation for everybody, even though USA Wrestling was a little bit tentative about me joining, because they thought I was selling out. I'm in sports entertainment now, I'm not in real wrestling, but I'm exposing amateur wrestling to every single kid out there that wants to be Kurt Angle, and there's a bunch of 'em.
So has USA Wrestling come around?
They've changed their mind. They said, 'Holy smokes, this kid is actually good.' I'm not only one of the best amateur wrestlers of all time, I'm very entertaining as well. They never saw that in me because as an amateur wrestler you're trained to show no emotion, like a robot, like Ivan Drago from 'Rocky IV.' Go, do your job, win, raise your hand and walk off the mat. And I'm not like that. I'm an emotional person.
Did you ever bust out the "Angle Slam" during a football game?
No. I was actually a better football player than I was a wrestler, but I liked the one-on-one attention with wrestling. That's what really got me.
Where'd you get offered scholarships?
Pitt offered me, then backed out. I was really upset about that. West Virginia recruited me very hard, so did Penn State. Joe Paterno said I was too short. It made me very upset.
The moments before a "SummerSlam" or "WrestleMania," does that feel anything like getting ready for a football game?
Nothing is more exciting than 'WrestleMania' or 'SummerSlam.' The only thing I can compare it to is the Olympics, and the only problem is with the Olympics, I can't remember a thing. My mind was so focused, I can't remember who I wrestled, I can't remember the match, I can't remember receiving the award. It was my dream I always wanted to come true, and when it did I was in a state of shock. It wasn't even that I was happy -- I was relieved. People don't understand how hard amateur wrestlers work. Put it this way: If we're ever in a bar and we're having a few drinks, stay away from us, because amateur wrestlers are the baddest dudes on the planet.
So what pro sports star would make the best pro wrestler?
You know what, Deion Sanders would be a tremendous pro wrestler. I'd love to have that son of a [gun] in our company. Charisma, I'd take any athlete with charisma. Jeremy Shockey would be one of the biggest bad guys we've ever had. . . . T.O. would be awesome.
Would he be a good guy or a bad guy?
Oh gosh, he'd be a bad guy first, then he'd be a good guy, because he's so damn arrogant. Ray Lewis would be great too. Actually, I want you to put this in your column: I would love to take on Ray Lewis at 'WrestleMania 22.' Make sure you put the word out. Tell him I want his [hide] at 'WrestleMania 22.' I think he's the most dominant player in the NFL and I'm the most dominant wrestler in the WWE. I think that would draw huge, huge pay-per-view buys.
-- Dan Steinberg