Olympic gold medallist and wrestling legend Kurt Angle champions Manchester aside London as the best UK city ahead of his final TNA tour in January.
After triumphing in freestyle wrestling at the 1996 Atlanta Games – which completed an amateur wrestling Grand Slam – Angle transitioned to professional wrestling and signed a contract with WWE (then WWF) in 1999.
Angle, 46, recalls breaking his neck four times in a two and a half year span towards the end of his time with WWE, where he left after seven years for TNA, and a lesser schedule.
His TNA contract expires on the last day of January’s UK Tour when Angle expects to lace-up his boots and close a remarkable in-ring career in front of some of his favourite fans.
“To know it’s going to be here and in front of thousands of fans instead of hundreds, it’s a big deal for me,” Angle told a podcast for In Ring Pop.
— In Ring Pop (@inringpop) November 21, 2015
“Our biggest and best fans are from the UK and we only come once a year and these happen to be my final matches, so it’s a great feeling.”
Manchester Arena will host the TNA Maximum Impact tour on January 29 and the Pennsylvania-native says he’ll feel right at home.
“The best city is always between Manchester and London – it all depends on how you’re booked,” he said.
“Manchester is every bit as good as London as far as the fans and the excitement we get from the crowd, even when I was in WWE it was the same.
“I always remember the arena because we can park our bus in the gates and the catering is the greatest out of any city or country! We always look forward to the catering in Manchester, it is crazy!”
Angle, who coined the catchphrase “it’s true, it’s damn true” during the business boom Attitude Era period, has been on a spoken word tour of the UK this week (including Manchester’s Hotel Football last night), meeting and answering questions from fans across the country.
In a career that has included headlining Wrestlemania – ‘the Grand Daddy of Them All’ – against Brock Lesnar in 2003, he has truly done it all.
There are obvious highlights – among those Angle admits his ‘Mania contest with ‘Mr Wrestlemania’ Shawn Michaels in 2005 was his best match ever – but they are not confined to the distant past.
On the palpable issue of his favourite matches, which fans will have asked countless times, Angle reflects on what has been a timeless career.
“My favourite match changes: I would have said my first world title against The Rock but then last year I wrestled Bobby Lashley.
“I validated then that I could do as much at 46 as I could at 32 and that I was just as good now, and so that became my favourite.”
Yet while Angle is set to wind down his in-ring exploits – he speaks of travelling and spending time with his wife and kids – it is not a quiet retirement that he has in store.
He has already signed with US mixed-martial arts promotion Bellator to do commentary, has a movie scheduled in March called ‘Epidemic’ and is working on a new autobiography.
Following an initial autobiography released in 2001 – entitled It’s True! It’s True! – this will be an updated, ironically ‘raw’ version after signing with a publisher to release with less constraints.
“This will be solely my take,” he said.
“In WWE, they protect you on everything you say and if they thought there was a possible lawsuit you had to change the story and the name and it got to the point where I’m reading my book thinking, ‘Is any of this true?’
“Not that everything was false but everything was a little changed or twisted so this time I get to do the whole thing and be 100 percent honest.”
The full interview can be found on iTunes podcasts under ‘In Ring Pop’ or at http://inringpop.podbean.com/
Meanwhile tickets for the TNA Maximum Impact Tour at Manchester Arena in January are still available via Ticketmaster.
Image courtesy of Kurt Angle via Instagram, with thanks.