Kurt Angle — It’s true, it’s true!

Kurt Angle has put up with a lot of criticism over the past year. He was pushed pretty far, pretty fast, and currently reigns as WWF World champion. Critics claimed he wasn’t ready, but he silenced them by continuing to improve.

Now they are saying he has to lose the title, that he isn’t capable, or deserving, of being in the main event at WrestleMania.

The former 1996 Olympic gold medalist disagrees. “I would not bank on me losing the title. I think that right now, it’s quite questionable. It’s 50-50,” he told SLAM! Wrestling today.

“Don’t be surprised if it’s Stone Cold and Kurt Angle at WrestleMania because, let’s face it, they need a strong heel and a strong babyface. This past five months I’ve held that title, so I think that what Vince is trying to do is legitimize my championship run. So, what I’ve been told is that there is a very good possibility that it’s going to be Stone Cold-Kurt Angle.”

He just has one pay-per-view to get through, the Feb. 25 No Way Out event, on which he is the sole wrestler on the poster. “To be honest with you, I’m really excited about No Way Out. I think if I get by this pay-per-view — a lot of people say it’s too fast for Angle to be in the main event at WrestleMania because, let’s face it, he’s only been in there a year, and he probably doesn’t want to be there that quickly. I would love to be there.”

Angle doesn’t know yet who he’ll be facing at the No Way Out PPV, but he suspects it will be The Rock or Triple H. “Obviously, people will expect those guys to win, and showcase WrestleMania with Stone Cold Steve Austin. But, a lot of people might be wrong.”

The Pittsburgh native knows that he surprised people with both his success in the ring and on the microphone as well. “It was definitely a quick process,” he said of his road to the top. “But I think that I did shock a lot of people, and I think that’s what Vince McMahon wanted to do.

“I’ve improved dramatically over the year. I’ve done the best that I could and I think I’ve lived up to the standards of what the office of the WWF wanted. Therefore, obviously they had plans for me to get to that level whenever I was ready. I think if anything, I didn’t silence them, I just surprised them because I improved a lot quicker.”

He is quick to praise others for his rise up the rungs of the WWF ladder. “I credit it to the talent, because in order to look good, the other people have to make you look good. At every level that I entered into, whether it was opening card, semi-mid card, mid-card, semi-main event, main event, every time I stepped up, these guys offered their help and they offered to make me look as good as possible. So I owe a lot of credit to the talent.”

Kurt Angle is also excited about the current storyline that he’s in, with Trish Stratus as his business advisor who is fooling around with Mr. McMahon on the sly. “The one with Trish and Vince? Awesome. And the great thing is, here it is Trish and Vince, which Vince hasn’t done before. He’s gone through this mid-life crisis, and who else but Trish, the beautiful Trish. Trish is my partner and I’m completely oblivious to it. I know she’s my business advisor, [and] I don’t know she’s fooling around with Vince. It’s kind of funny. It’s good to have those fresh, new ideas.”

Yet, he knows that not everything is rosy in the WWF storyline department. In fact, things have even gotten a little repetitive and stale. “You see some of the same storylines happen over again. I’m not going to criticize the WWF. Let’s face it, I’ve been a part of those storylines and it’s been an honour. As long as you come up with fresh, new ideas I think you will continue to grow as a company. But once you start doing the same, exact thing over and over again, but with different guys, you might grow into that stale situation. We might be there right now, but we’re going to come out of it. Come WrestleMania, we’ll have a lot more new ideas, and things in different directions to go.”

The angle that he had, vying for the love interest of Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley was fun for him, and he believes it drew people in. “It struck people’s interests, they wanted to see what was going to happen every episode [and] those were the kind of storylines you want.”

Some new talent would help things for sure in the WWF, and the name Shawn Michaels keeps popping up — especially considering that he is no longer training at his Texas wrestling school. Angle has also heard the Heartbreak Kid rumours. “I’d be very excited to have Shawn Michaels come back. It’d be an honour to have him in the locker room and wrestling. Let’s face it, from what I’ve seen of him, Shawn Michaels might be the most talented, overall, sports entertainer that I’ve ever seen. So I could learn a lot from him.”

The exodus from ECW will also mean new talent. Angle said that Justin Credible had signed, and that more were on the way. “I think it’s good for us. A lot of people say we have too much talent as it is, but Vince McMahon seems to utilize talent as best he can. I think what you’re going to see in the future is maybe more talent, and less of everyone getting on every show. And that might even be better because Vince likes to expose … whomever’s in high demand, Vince is always exposing on TV. It might be good to pull guys off every once in a while off of the show, not show every guy at every show. That might be a good way to do it, have more talent in the World Wrestling Federation.”

For his own character, Angle would like to keep on course, especially because the character he plays isn’t too far off from the real Kurt Angle. “Basically I take the real Kurt Angle, and kind of turn him up 10,000 notches. I’m not an arrogant person, but I’m a very confident person. I just kind of turn that attitude into, basically, an Olympic monster. It’s kind of comical, but I enjoy doing it. And it’s not that hard to do.”