Looking back, it’s unfathomable something can get my blood boiling far past the heel turn of Vickie Guerrero which caused my fiancÃ©e to sit in on some pretty big rants from my big mouth. It’s unfathomable that someone could show lower morals than WWE. But it happened. As much as I’d like to go to bed and pretend it didn’t, it did. And that’s what scares me.
If you don’t know, TNA announced earlier this week an announcement that would change the course of pro wrestling history would be made at their PPV on Sunday. Last night at their No Surrender PPV, they revealed one part of their announcement to be the arrival of Kurt Angle, one of the greatest wrestlers of this age if not, perhaps, of all time. And seconds following the PPV’s conclusion, I literally felt a part of me die.
Now, let’s back up and look at Kurt Angle. We all know Kurt Angle is someone who pushes himself beyond any limit. He won the Gold Medal with a broken neck, he wrestled WrestleMania XIX with one, he took the easy way out with surgery to come back as soon as possible forcing him to miss more of 2004, and recently he injured himself three times in one match, by his own admission, & refused to enter rehab. Does that sound like a sane man to you? Does that sound like a man who is in his right mind whatsoever? Even more, if you look at the interview he did with WWE, he claims that he needed time to “reheal and rehab [his] body.” Now, that was less than a month ago and I’m all for quick recoveries, but no way in hell did Kurt Angle repair all the damage done to his mind and body in less than a month. Yes, there is such a thing as passion in this business and it’s quite obvious that Kurt Angle once had it, but this goes past passion and obsession into pure insanity. Refusing to enter rehab and wanting to continue to wrestle after suffering three concurrent injures (two of which came about because he didn’t know when to stop) is complete insanity that we finally see truthfully and there is no way to look around that.
Do not get me wrong. I am a big Kurt Angle fan and I am not trying to insult him. Just the other day I was re-watching WrestleMania X-Seven and I couldn’t wait to get to his classic with Chris Benoit that blew my mind when I first saw it. Hell, I’ll probably watch it again after this column. Last year saw him cement his legacy along with Shawn Michaels and when he first entered ECW this year, I was ecstatic to see a completely different Kurt Angle within the ring. This transcends being a Kurt Angle fan though. This transcends being a Kurt Angle hater as well. This is about caring about a man’s personal health, if not life, and while that may sound horrendously extreme, it is definitely warranted no matter how you look at it.
Last year, Eddie Guerrero tragically passed away and WWE instituted a drug testing policy. Interestingly enough, when the video of Vince McMahon announcing the drug testing went up on WWE.com, it was Kurt Angle who had the majority of the questions. Fast-forward to January and WWE fans were treated to Kurt Angle sans at least twenty pounds looking freakishly scary while holding the World Heavyweight Championship. Reports poured in from fans who witnessed Angle leaning on others for support while backstage or exiting the arena. “Breaking News” posts were made every other day about a possible new Angle injury. Interviews popped up from Angle himself saying he would just not stop. Rumors emerged of wrestlers scared of the well-being of one of the top stars in the promotion. Angle next disappeared shortly after joining ECW due to a suspension for not keeping the prescriptions for the little drugs he had left (compared to the humongous number we know he had before the drug testing went into effect) updated and came back in the same sorry state he left. Then, after being in no state to wrestle for anyone, he was told to enter rehab by WWE. Mind you, WWE pays those who enter rehab so Kurt Angle could have been making money by doing nothing except finally giving his body some practically mandatory rest. I just mentioned Eddie Guerrero and it’s well known the company paid for Eddie to enter rehab. Why would Angle not go? Why would he shove aside all that money and not recover? Again, I ask: do these sound like the actions of a sane man to you?
After all of this, rumors arose of Angle joining MMA while every other promotion (wrestling and MMA) under the sun marveled at the chance of getting Kurt Angle in their ring. Angle’s manager, Dave Hawk, even claimed that Angle was retired from pro wrestling and would fight in MMA in 2007 and to be honest, that’s probably the safest thing for him. I don’t even follow MMA and I know that for a fact. Everyone is required to take drug test to fight so that right there narrows it down to a fifty-fifty chance that Angle would even step into the ring, because God knows Angle probably needs a full bottle of assorted pain killers and other pills before being able to walk let alone train let alone fight. From there, you just need to look at the rules of any MMA promotion out there from UFC to PRIDE and you can put your mind at ease. First off, you know the ref is going to already be overly concerned for the well-being of someone that has a tentative appointment with the Grim Reaper down the line according to scuttlebutt. Second off, do you really expect Kurt Angle to spend eternity locked in a neck crank and the ref not call for the bell? This is just common sense here, folks, and after that, you just have to ask yourself which is more damaging to the body: taking a few high left kicks from someone like Mirko Cro Crop in a five minute round or going thirty minutes with someone like Samoa Joe who will dish out stiff blow after stiff blow that Angle can’t even attempt to counter or block in most cases. That’s not even factoring in the insane bumps that Angle would be taking or would probably even demand to take in the matches. God forbid you get him in an Ultimate X match which you know either Vince Russo or Angle himself will be lobbying for.
But did Angle enter MMA? No, Kurt Angle decided to forfeit the money he has left on his WWE contract (voiding the non-compete clause) and shack up with TNA as I already mentioned. In one fell swoop, the roles of the major players in American professional wrestling instantly changed. WWE was once, and probably still is, regarded as the evil, callous promotion devoid of a heart and a soul. After all, they milked Eddie’s death for all it was worth and let people like Jackie Gayda and Dawn Marie go after getting married and getting pregnant respectively. TNA was believed to be the alternative. TNA was supposed to be the promotion with the heart of the sport, giving the fans what they wanted and giving the talented workers shunned by WWE a place to go. Now? Now, TNA has signed the wrestler WWE deemed too crippled to wrestle for them. They let go someone who could be a major coup for any promotion and I guarantee you they didn’t do it because Angle looked at Vince the wrong way in the hallway. Do you think for one second that Vince McMahon would let Kurt Angle go unless he literally feared for his life? For those who still want to play the “blame WWE” game, do you think for one second that Vince McMahon would let Kurt Angle go unless he literally anticipated Angle’s death and the subsequent lawsuits, hateful editorials, & bad press that would follow?
Now, you can say how this is a business all you want and you’re right: it is a business, but isn’t that what WWE has been saying for years to people, only to get criticized more. That aside, even the shrewdest businessman would tell you that this is a humongous mistake. On one hand, you’re losing the appeal you attracted fans with. You grabbed wrestling fans burnt out from the Invasion mess with the promise of no bullshit WWE practices, a promotion with a heart; and now you’re hiring someone even McMahon, the one notorious for milking those for all their worth, deemed nowhere near stable enough (physically and mentally it seems) to go near his ring. And what for? Ratings and a profit; those are great things to risk someone’s well-being for. On the other hand, what is going to happen if (and according to many, when) Kurt Angle becomes paralyzed or even dies in the ring? What kind of public image is that going to give to the product? What kind of message is that going to send to your fans? Right now, TNA can claim ignorance or the fact that they are handing out a “second chance,” but what happens when something like that happens (and I guarantee you that one of those two things will happen)? Looking at it even more, what if it turns out to be like the “Hail Mary” save Sting made for TNA earlier this year in that it spiked buyrates and ratings at first, only for things to slowly dwindle down to the current state TNA is in now necessitating such an acquisition? Where would the rationale be then? “Hey, kids; Kurt Angle is in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, but he helped us get some extra cash for a bit that we then spent on another WCW star who did nothing for the product.”
I put the blame fully and 100% on Total Non-Stop Action truthfully (and the argument would be the same if another promotion like NOAH or ROH had beat them to it). I’ve said it above and I’ll say it again: all this does not sound like the actions of a sane man and Kurt Angle is nowhere near sane by the look of things. A sane man does not get three injuries in the span of five minutes, continue wrestling, and then object to being taken off the road. A sane man does not leave a humongous paycheck behind for refusing to go to rehab that will make it so he can walk his daughter Kyra in a beautiful gown down the isle one day. Kurt Angle is not sane. In America, you can get acquitted for murdering someone with a plea of “insanity,” but what if someone sane put the knife into the hand of a man nowhere near his right mind and pointed him in the direction of eternal damnation? Whose fault is it then? In my opinion, it’s that sane person’s fault and this is exactly the position TNA is in right now. They know full well everything going on with Kurt Angle. Even if they have not read his own statements, the statements of others, the backstage rumors, the press releases, et cetera; all you have to do is look at the poor man and realize that he should be nowhere near a professional wrestling ring for the remainder of his life. TNA has shown in one announcement what is most important. Instead of valuing the health of their wrestlers and the very life in this case, TNA is just looking for a quick fix and this time, they are committing assisted suicide for the sake of a five hundred thousand more viewers.
Go ahead and bust out the demanding schedule of WWE and compare it to TNA’s breezy work schedule. What you’re forgetting is that Kurt Angle has been told by many doctors that he risks paralysis and even death every time he steps into the ring. Every time, people. Every time Angle comes out and does his spin in the middle of the ring, he is playing Russian Roulette with his life. Let me tell you something: it doesn’t matter if you’re working one day a week or five. If you’re gambling with your life, it’s eventually going to catch up to you. You don’t expect a drug addict coming off a five year binge to just shoot heroin once a week or once every two weeks and be all right. May seem a little extreme, but they do call it “the drug of choice” and looking at the match where Angle pulled his groin, tore the abdominal muscle off his pelvis, and blew out his hamstring, one match is all it takes. It’s a risk no matter how many times you’re working and to point out something TNA fans loves to boast, TNA is a completely different style than WWE. It is way more physical and while Angle did wrestle many a match with Chris Benoit, that was in 2003 and I guarantee you that Angle has not gotten younger or let his body rest much in those three and a half years. Meanwhile, there are wrestlers in TNA like Samoa Joe and AJ Styles who are building their reputations based on insanely stiff matches (for American standards). One match with Samoa Joe may be the equivalent of twenty with someone the likes of John Cena nowadays. Try telling yourself again that the lighter TNA schedule will do Angle some good.
This goes further beyond TNA and Kurt Angle as well. What is going to happen in the eventual dream match between Kurt Angle and AJ Styles if Angle goes to give Styles an Angle Slam, blows out his hamstring (again), and spikes AJ Styles straight on his head, injuring the young star immensely and damaging his future? Again, I ask: where is the justification? TNA has brought in some questionable stars like Jeff Hardy and Scott Hall (and I’ve been very vocal about those two) in the past, but none have ever posed such a risk to themselves and to their partners in the ring by just getting into the ring as Kurt Angle. We didn’t watch Jeff Hardy square off against AJ Styles on the Second Anniversary show and pray Jeff Hardy would make it out alive & be able to walk and not drag down AJ Styles with him. We didn’t watch Scott Hall get into the ring with Styles at Turning Point 2004 and cringe every time he lifted up Styles or took a bump. At least the biggest risk with Hardy & Hall was that they’d pass out, miss their flight, and TNA would be out a match on the PPV. If I was AJ Styles, I’d be begging Kurt Angle to no-show a PPV no matter how great a match the two could have.
I started out this column disgusted and I still am, but more and more, I am scared down to my very being. What scares me right now is that it seems WWE is the promotion with some set of morals for a change. What scares me right now is that we aren’t even over the tragedy of Eddie Guerrero and we are already preparing ourselves for another one. What scares me right now is that in a year, people might look at the plight of Kurt Angle & Dynamite Kid and lament how Dynamite Kid got off easy in comparison. Overall, what scares me the most is the justification everyone right now is giving to a promotion for hiring a crippled man who casually admits he has little to no feeling in his left arm, can not compete without a myriad of pills, and was turned away by an infamous company finally doing the right thing, just so the fans can get a dream match they want.
Right now as I type, thousands of TNA fans are going to bed dreaming about their Olympic Hero going one-on-one with their favorite TNA wrestler: AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, et cetera. Right now, thousands of Angle fans are dreaming about seeing their favorite wrestler ever return to primetime. Me? I’m trying my hardest to stay awake because I know the nightmares that awake me when I drift away. We already lived through these nightmares last November. We shouldn’t have to again, TNA, and that disgusts me.
I welcome any and all feedback through any and all means so please do not be afraid to contact me.
Have a news tip? Attended an event and want to send a live report?