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It was August of 2003 and I was attending my freshman orientation weekend at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. I was to accustomed to staying at home in high school and was content with playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, after school watchings of Around The Horn and the delinquent kids at bootcamp on Sally Jessy Raphael. My venturing into the the collegiate universe was quite uncharted territory for a kid with ’84 in his graduating class.
I only applied to Clarion. That was it. I didn’t care about Pitt, Penn State or Slippery Rock. Just give me something that was a stone’s throw away from the familiar rolling hills of Elk County. Clarion had Vinny’s Pizza, a theater program, was quite well known for its broadcast journalism. Sounds right up my alley. The true call of Clarion for me was comfort and career opportunities, but another feather in my prospective secondary education cap was that Kurt Angle went there.
“1996 Olympic Gold Medalist” was great, but this man right here was a four-time WWE Champion. He preached his “Three I’s” as he scuffled with the likes of Austin and Rock, made his opponents tap with Ken Shamrock’s ankle lock and was just entertainment as well as athleticism epitomized. Looking back in retrospect, comedy spots and moments aren’t the healthiest way to handle a main event talent, but Angle was undeniably great at comedy and being in a landscape in which he was in the mix with two of the biggest stars ever in pro wrestling, Kurt made whatever star he was supposed to shine. Including himself.
As we were all settling into our two-day stay in the dorms, the itinerary for the new blood included us sitting in Marwick-Boyd Auditorium to watch staged plays of “dormitory dos and don’ts,” probably a speech from new school President Gruenwald at the time and whatever else, but the one thing that stuck out to me the most? That damn video package. It was celebrity after celebrity talking about how college was the place to be and how new opportunities were on the horizon for . It included a pitch from The Rock, which got a massive pop from the crowd, but the true cherry on top came from Kurt Angle himself, who addressed the university directly in his pitch (paraphrasing, it’s been 16 years): “Freshman students of 2003! There’s no better place to be than Clarion University! Oh, it’s true, it’s true.”
— Clarion University (@clarionu) January 17, 2017
That was the moment my Clarion Golden Eagle wings began to spread. I knew I was going to love college and love Clarion. And boy, I did. For seven years (yeah, seven). I got by by adhering to only one of Angle’s “Three I’s”: Intelligence. My grades were always good, but the intensity and integrity? My efforts were not fit for furthering my future outside of school, let alone Kurt’s cool alliteration. It took me another seven years to grasp hold of those other two and that road came with some hard lessons (which are coming). One out of three is bad, but at least I had current WWE beat. Their handling of their Olympic Hero has been lacking in all three.
The intelligence was the first Golden Eagle that flew out the window. Make him RAW GM? Great. Make him RAW GM to play fool and foil to Triple H and Stephanie, just like all the other GMs of the past? No thanks. Have him return to the ring? Could be monumental, but not when you don’t make him the focus. Having him job out on your weekly three-hour television not only unceremoniously, but without any big picture payoff? It’s dumb. It’s damn dumb. Oh, look at that, there flies away the integrity and in tow goes the intensity. Climate change must be real because those three haven’t stuck around for WrestleMania season in recent years. But for better or for worse, they always stuck with Kurt Angle. Until now.
Fans shouldn’t just be upset at WWE seemingly to carelessly book Kurt Angle with Baron Corbin, they should be two more “I’s”: irate and insulted. The latter especially because it appears as if Corbin was the planned opponent all along.
Apply yourselves, WWE. I hear Clarion is accepting applications.