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Saturday, August 26, 2006
Pro Wrestling--- Kurt Angle Fired by World Wrestling Entertainment
The Wrestling Observer and Pro Wrestling Torch are reporting that Kurt Angle has been fired by World Wrestling Entertainment. While this is a grave sign of what WWE thinks about Angle's current condition, this development may also bring forth the only chance that we're not going to wake up one day soon and see the headline, "Kurt Angle Found Dead," because that's what is going to happen if he doesn't get the help that he needs.
According to the Observer, Angle failed a drug test earlier this year due to large amounts of prescription pain medication being found in his system, and he served a 30-day suspension for the drug test failure.
According to the Torch and Observer, Angle recently suffered a torn groin muscle in addition to all of his other injuries, which include a broken neck and herniated discs in his back.
It got to the point that due to liability reasons, WWE management did not let him go out and wrestle at a recent TV taping even though he wanted to wrestle despite his condition. WWE management has had a reputation for decades of encouraging wrestlers to work through injuries, and it's unheard of for WWE to say to a wrestler who wants to wrestle, "No, you can't."
For WWE to have now flat-out fired Angle from his multi-year WWE contract, his condition must now be such that he's considered a very high risk for WWE to keep under contract. There have been many, many cases over the years of a former WWE wrestler dying and WWE's public statement to the media essentially being, "Well, he wasn't under contract with us when he died."
A few weeks ago, before Angle suffered his latest injuries, the Torch reported, "[Angle] is known to be reliant on pain pills to get through his matches, and it has been a concern for years that he may have built his tolerance up to dangerous levels. Angle has a well-established determination to work through pain and injuries, and a desire to please Vince McMahon and hide any pain he may be experiencing."
In late 2005 after the untimely death of Eddie Guerrero, just as Angle's physical problems reached a point that it was regarded as a life-or-death situation for him, the Pro Wrestling Torch reported than an unnamed wrestler was on an unofficial "death watch" among his colleagues. That wrestler was widely believed to be Angle, but the Torch insisted on pussyfooting around the issue instead of saying whatever they wanted to say (click here for my previous editorial on the Torch's coverage).
The Torch's Wade Keller would later write, "[Angle] may push himself so hard without a break that any chance of another entrance into the ring is extinguished. With a neck, back, and overall body as broken down as anyone in the industry today, any match could be his final."
The Torch's Jason Powell was a little bit more direct in saying, "As much as I admire Kurt's work ethic and desire to be the best in the business, I wouldn't put someone in his physical condition in the ring."
Angle himself has made no secret of the fact that he works through career- and life-threatening injuries on a daily basis. Angle said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times in early 2006, "I get a lot of self-satisfaction from going out there and performing in front of the fans. Throughout my career, I never told people about my neck problems until one day I couldn't even lift my arm anymore, and that's when the cat was out of the bag. I've had re-occurring neck injuries. I actually have one right now. I have a broken neck, levels C7 and T1, but I continue to wrestle, because I love it, because of the fans. Is it worth my health? No, but I'm addicted to wrestling. I've done it my whole life, 27 years combining amateur wrestling and pro wrestling. So I'll continue to wrestle as long as I can... I refuse to quit. Vince McMahon is literally going to have to fire me in order for me to stop wrestling."
The Pro Wrestling Chronicle wrote an excellent editorial on Angle's situation in late 2005. Key excerpts: "Angle's checklist reads like an almanac of worst case scenarios. Nerve damage to his face. Six knee surgeries. A broken neck. Torn muscles. Bone chips removed from his upper spine. Destroyed ligaments. Dislocated shoulders. Several years ago, Angle said to the press with pride, 'Look at my face. It looks like I have aged fifteen years in the last five.' Angle can no longer hear out of his left ear. It has been drained 80 times."
The Chronicle also recounted the story of how Angle won his Olympic Gold Medal in 1996, prior to his years as a pro wrestler. "Five months before the 1996 Olympics, Kurt Angle cracked two vertebrae and pulled four muscles in his back, causing two herniated discs to stab into his spinal cord. The pain was intense. Doctors told him that he risked paralysis competing, but Kurt was proud. Mepivacaine was the painkiller that Kurt Angle chose, and for the next half of a year he took it constantly to make training, and eventually winning a gold medal possible."
If you look at pictures of Kurt Angle from the mid-90s or even from 2000 and compare those pictures to what he looks like today, you can barely tell that it's same person. As the Chronicle put it, "Kurt's physical changes over the past half-decade are shocking. His head has increased in size dramatically, which may or may not point to use of Human Growth Hormone. Angle has suffered concussions, and has major nerve damage as a result of his neck problems. His triceps appear to be on the verge of atrophy, and one of Angle's biceps is noticeably larger than the other. Kurt Angle has a history of heart disease in his family. He has a glassy look in his eyes, and is a self-admitted user of painkillers. And he shows no signs of slowing down... Kurt Angle has proven in the past that pride is more important to him than anything. It has cost him his health, it has cost him his family, and at the rate he is going, sooner rather than later... his pride may cost him his life."
The WorldWrestlingInsanity web site reported just this week, "Kurt Angle is spiraling out of control.... His life is literally falling apart before our eyes. Angle is working himself into an early grave. It is public knowledge that Angle has a severely injured neck. He doesn’t try to conceal that fact nor does he downplay it. However, he has been downplaying other recent injuries that have plagued him. According to Angle’s own words in an interview with the British newspaper, The Sun, he cannot get out of bed in the morning without taking some sort of pain medication."
The Pro Wrestling Torch reported today after the news broke, "The fact that Angle has been wrestling a full time schedule has been of concern to colleagues for the past few years... several friends and colleagues of his say he has been using a lot of medication to get through his matches and mask his pain for years, to the point that people feared for his life."
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun in early 2005, Kurt Angle talked about his injuries and the fact that he was having trouble playing with his young daughter at that time.
Kurt's wife, Karen, spoke up and said to the interviewer, "If he gets to the point where he really can't play with her, that will be it. No matter what you have in your house, no matter how good your life is, you can't give that up. If that's what happens, that's when I'll put my foot down and make him stop." According to the Baltimore Sun, "At that moment, Kurt Angle smiled and said, 'I'll never stop.'"
Kurt Angle eventually reached a point where he had to choose between his family and his career, and he chose the latter. Angle's wife divorced him in the summer of 2005. They briefly reconciled in early 2006, only to separate again recently.
Karen Angle is now a few months' pregnant with their second child, a boy, who might never even get a chance to meet his father unless Kurt Angle takes his firing from WWE as an opportunity to get the help that he so desperately needs.