Q&A, Part II: One second from WWE super-stardom
E. RUTHERFORD, N.J. — On July 11, Matt Striker, a New York City schoolteacher forced to resign from the classroom, came just one second away from outlasting former WWE Champion Kurt Angle.
It was the culmination of a wild series of events that received national media attention — and it was a chance for Striker to move one step closer to his dream of becoming a WWE Superstar.
In Part II of this two-part series, Striker explains what it was like to momentarily be a star in front of thousands of fans at Continental Airlines Arena:
WWE.com: Looking at the Kurt Angle Invitational this past Monday, what was going through your head when you were caught in the armbar early on?
Matt Striker: Going in, I said to myself, “Just use whatever wrestling knowledge I have.” But it’s such a naïve thought because for a split second you forget that Kurt Angle is the greatest mat wrestler in the entire world. And you can kid yourself into believing that you can do something. But once he had that armbar on … I knew going in that Angle was as tough as they come, but I think I was caught off guard by the amount of pain that armbar delivered. I used my other hand to try to alleviate some of the pressure. But I mean, I was very close to giving up right there, to be honest.
WWE.com: With 40-seconds left, you actually had Angle out of the ring. At that point, fans everywhere started to believe you could actually outlast Angle. Walk us through that moment.
Matt Striker: That had come right after he had just thrown me over his head, so for a split-second, I blacked out. The next thing I know, I realized that someone is grabbing my ankle and I cannot be in this position, so out of desperation, I just kicked with my foot and I didn’t see but I heard a crash outside. And that’s when I looked up and I realized that Angle was outside the ring.
I thought to myself, “My God, this is great!” And then the fans start cheering for me. It was better than any dream I have ever had. That’s when I tried to keep the dream alive by going to the opposite end of the ring and praying that the referee counted a little faster than he normally would. But Kurt got back in right underneath the wire and something took over and I just went crazy just to try to keep him down.
WWE.com: With 10-seconds left, you managed a low-blow.
Matt Striker: (Sigh) It’s not something I’m proud of, but desperate people do desperate things.
WWE.com: How does it feel to review the tape and see just how close you came to victory?
Matt Striker: So many people said to me afterward, “One more second! You couldn’t hold on for one more second?” I don’t think they understand what it feels like to feel that your ankle is going to pop. The minute he turns that ankle, it feels like it’s going to pop out of the joint. You think, “My God, I want to keep my limbs intact!” You have no choice. You just want to make him stop and all I could think was, “Please stop! Please stop!”
WWE.com: What do you think you would have done with Kurt’s Olympic gold medal?
Matt Striker: My first thought was, “I wonder how much I can get for it.” My second thought was how cool it’s going to look to run around my house wearing Kurt Angle’s medal. Then, the next thing I knew, I thought my ankle was going to be broken.
WWE.com: Did you learn from your first Kurt Angle Invitational attempt back in February (posing as a Philadelphia local)?
Matt Striker: I certainly called upon my experiences with Kurt. I watched the tape over and over again. I do think that the experience of being in there with him one other time certainly lent itself to me being a little more aware and not as intimidated. And you can say all that, but you forget everything the minute he’s eye-to-eye with you, telling you, “I know you, you’re a liar!” You just stare into his eyes. Game plans are great on paper, but the minute you get into the ring with him, it’s a totally different world.
WWE.com: When you were in the ring opposite Kurt Angle and he was making fun of your situation and calling you a liar in front of thousands of people, did you doubt yourself at all?
Matt Striker: To hear it from him in front of all those people on national television … you saw my face, I mean, I realize that what I did was wrong. But then right away, I realize that my passion and commitment to professional wrestling says so much for all of the people who have come before me who have paid the dues in blood and sweat. I mean, Barry Horowitz paid his dues and his blood and his sweat for years so that I could be in that ring, and just because he’s not a worldwide-known name, that doesn’t mean that I can’t realize that I made sacrifices for my passion the same way people like him did.
So, when Kurt was saying those things to me and making it a reality and addressing the things that I had done, I realized that (my actions) were wrong, and I realized that I have offered to repent. But I also realized that I would sacrifice anything to follow my dream and become a WWE Superstar.