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Does Kurt Angle Belong on the Mount Rushmore of Pro Wrestling?

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Kurt Angle is one of the most accomplished figures in pro wrestling history. Si’s Justin Barrasso got a chance to speak with Angle to reflect on his career and what’s next for the Hall of Famer.“In order to win Olympic Gold, you need a certain drive and certain unrelenting work ethic” Barrasso says as he describes the fast lifestyle Angle has lived, the addiction he’s battled, and how he’s overcome this to find himself in a good place.Angle has had time off to take care of his body, and Barasso wouldn’t be surprised if the 51-year-old did make a return to the WWE at some point.

Read full transcript below:

Madelyn Burke: Kurt Angle is one of the most accomplished figures in pro wrestling history, and SI's Justin Barrasso recently got a chance to speak with Angle to reflect on his career and what's next for the hall of famer. Justin, what did you learn about Kurt during your time with him?

Justin Barrasso: Well, Kurt Angle story is so fascinating because in order to win Olympic gold, you need a certain drive and a certain unrelenting work ethic that isn't really healthy and other aspects of life. And Kurt dealt with that. Kurt dealt with living a very fast style life, you know, battling addiction. And he's in a really good place right now. I think the interesting thing with Kurt Angle and his future is he's had time off. He's had time to rest and recuperate. And he's working on his own business, too. But really for his body to be off the road and just to pay the attention he needs to that 51 year-old body. I wouldn't be shocked if we saw Kurt back at some point. And I think a big part of that, too, is just the fact that AEW exists. So there's a little more reason for WWE to make sure he's re-signed and doesn't go anywhere else.

Madelyn Burke: Now, a lot of people do the gimmick of the Mount Rushmore when they talk about the greatest among the great. Does Angle belong in the Mount Rushmore of the greatest pro wrestlers, he certainly makes a good convincing argument. Probably not. And I would only say because he didn't spend enough time in WWE, Kurt only spent a few years and then he went to TNA and had some outstanding, outlandish, incredible moments, but it just didn't have the Wrestling Mania flare behind it. But Kurt's an all-time legend, no doubt. I mean, he's part of that attitude era discussion with guys like Steve Austin, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Mick Foley, the Mr. McMann character, Kurt's special. He's probably not on that on that Mount Rushmore for pro wrestling. But in terms of guys who transitioned in, Kurt's number one, there's never been anybody better who transitioned in from another field. And Kurt, it took them, what, two and a half years? And he was he was one of the best in wrestling. That's unheard of. So, yeah, he's gonna even even start, like, coming to an ECW show, which was the really extreme promotion in the mid to late 90s. And there was an angle with the with the cross and Kurt wanted no part of it. So to see where he started there to where it finished in WWE, it's a pretty remarkable story.

Madelyn Burke: And now we turn the page and look ahead for the sport. Who is the next Kurt Angle or is there one?

Justin Barrasso: Yeah, great question. I think he's very different. But Matt Riddle, former UFC fighter. Very successful, but kept having outcomes overturned. It's funny how how archaic the scenes seems now, but due to marijuana testing, positive for marijuana. And I think Matt thought that Dana White was out to get him and Dana had no time for Matt. And I remember covering Matt on the independent scene right after. And I remember being with him one night when he got paid. He's making a fraction of what he was making in MMMA, but he was so happy to be competing and to be presenting himself in a new fashion and Matt Riddle's another guy who very quickly learned how to become a wrestler and learned how to become a great pro wrestler, not exactly like Kurt Angle, but I think that's the guy. I think if there's anybody you want to make similarities to, Kurt Angle, very, very different. But Matt Riddle's the guy.

Madelyn Burke: The comparison game is a tough one to play. But hey, being compared to Kurt Angle. Not a bad thing. Justin Barasso, thank you so much for taking the time.

Justin Barrasso: Thank you.