NEWS, HISTORY AND ANALYSIS THAT MATTER TO THE SERIOUS WRESTLING FAN
EDITORIAL: KILLING YOURSELF TO LIVE
Published Monday, November 21, 2005 by DEVELOPMENTALspotlight | E-mail this post
The Pro-Wrestling Chronicle will occassional run editorial peices. These editorials represent purely opinions, and should be taken as such.
The Pro-Wrestling Chronicle acknowledges Chico Harlan's Pittsburgh Post Gazette column for quotations contained in this editorial, and credits The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, The Pro-Wrestling Torch and "It's True, It's True" as valuable sources of information.
KILLING YOURSELF TO LIVE
On August 29th of 1985, a typical American man was hard at work on a construction site in rural Pennsylvania, perched high in the air like a bird. It was a typical summer afternoon, and with autumn drawing near he was looking forward to the relief those months would bring.
Unfortunately, for some people, the autumn never comes.
In life, a fraction of a second can ripple for eternity. He knew that he had lost balance, but he didn't have time to think about it. He was crashing to the ground. His head hit concrete first. Both of his shoulders broke instantly. His skull was cracked in three places. Lesser things would have killed any other man, but not him. He picked his broken body off the ground and began the longest walk of his life. When he arrived, he checked himself into the hospital.
No one could ever tell him that he wasn't tough. And no one could ever tell him that he wasn't determined.
On August 31st, two days later, the man was pronounced dead in the same hospital.
David Angle was 55 years old, and he couldn't take his pride with him.
Twenty-four hours later, his son Kurt wasn't listening to those who were telling him not to play in the varsity football game that afternoon. Kurt thrived to overcome all things, even his father's death. Sixteen solo tackles, two touchdowns and one interception later, Kurt walked off the field after the best football game that he would ever play, feeling proud.
Little did Kurt know that he would some day be carrying his own broken body to the hospital, and positioning himself to follow in his father's footsteps of living proud, and regretfully probably dying young.
"I just wanted to talk a little bit about him, and what he meant to me. When he was on, he was the best wrestler in the business. He may have even been the best ever. He showed me a lot of things, and said a lot of things that not only helped me professionally, but personally. He cared about everybody, he loved everybody. I love you, and I'll miss you".
Kurt Angle made these comments, fighting back tears, in the wake of Eddie Guerrero's tragic death. Sadly, these comments aren't that different than those that could made about Angle himself one emotional Monday evening if he doesn't make make a drastic change immediately.
Less than eight hours after Vince McMahon and Chavo Guerrero addressed the media at a press conference in Minneapolis in regards to Guerrero's death, a broken down Kurt Angle landed on his head after taking one of the most dangerous offensive maneuvers of his career from the top rope. Like his father, Angle is tough, determined and proud. Like his former mentor and fellow Olympic medallist David Schultz, Angle is tough, determined and proud. At 36 years old, there is a good chance Kurt Angle can outlive his mentor Schultz, who was murdered in 1996 at the age of 37. At the rate Kurt Angle is going, outliving his father may be his toughest battle to date.
His 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.
When training for the Olympics, Kurt Angle pushed his body to the point of insanity. "I'd train so ferociously some days that I would make myself sick". That training makes getting out of bed today even difficult according to Angle, as he broke his body down at a very young age.
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. Hunched over in tears, Angle had defied paralysis and proved himself as the best amateur wrestler in the world. He wished his father would have been there to see it.
Nine years later, Kurt was in his fourth as a WWE wrestler. In an eerily similar scenario, Kurt Angle's neck was destroyed in early 2003, and he was advised not to compete in the main event of Wrestlemania 19. Maybe it was the backflip that he attempted from the top of a steel cage, fifteen feet in the air on January 14th of that year. It was a move that could end a career if the slightest thing went wrong, but in the all-or-nothing fashion typical to Angle, he went big. The result was the most graceful moonsault imaginable, and as Kurt hung upside down in the air high above the arena, time seemed to stand still for just an instant before his knees hit the mat in a landing that could not have been any more perfect. Angle had wagered his body for glory, and come out on top yet again.
But how long could he keep getting lucky? He was willing to roll the dice one more time at Wrestlemania of that year, deciding to step into the ring and face Brock Lesnar in a match that would solidify his legacy, or paralyze him for life. Angle not only stared down death, but taunted it, taking dangerous drops on his neck and shoulders before passing the World Championship to Brock Lesnar. The 54,097 fans in attendance roared in approval of Kurt flying around the ring. Kurt's wife Karen and newborn daughter Kyra probably had different reactions.
For 240 days a year, Kurt Angle wakes up in a bed that doesn't belong to him. In hotel rooms all over America, Canada, Japan and Europe. His Coraopolis, Pennsylvania home, his BMW and his family are things he seldom has the time to see. Several years ago he stated in an interview that the only way he could continue to wrestle was through the heavy use of painkillers. In 2005, Kurt Angle is going harder than ever.
In an interview with Kurt Angle and his wife Karen several years ago, Angle stated that the only time he ever physically felt 100% was right before a match when his adrenaline took over. Kurt continued "But after that, I'm right back down to the bottom again. It sucks, because if I want to play with Kyra... (Kurt looks to his daughter playing in the next room)...sometimes I just can't do it".
Karen Angle spoke: "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."
At that moment, Kurt Angle smiled, "I'll never stop" he finished.
Kurt Angle's marriage ended several months ago, devastating him personally. He is a proud man, and wrestling is something that he is dedicated to, and excellence is his obsession. Tired of wondering if he would be in a wheelchair in a few years, as Karen Angle has publicly wondered, she opted to separate from Kurt over the summer, and their marriage never made it to the autumn.
Kurt Angle has made it clear in the past that he will settle for nothing less than being remembered as the best of all time. But is that distinction worth his life? To Kurt, a proud man like his father, it might very well be.
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. As a training partner once said of Kurt Angle, "He doesn't have an off switch".
Estranged from his family, Kurt Angle is said to be more focused on being the best in wrestling than he ever has been. But how many times can Kurt Angle keep rolling the dice before his luck runs out? I don't know if World Wrestling Entertainment can continue to allow him to try.
Kurt Angle doesn't need wrestling. He has made millions and has nothing left to prove, at least not to his fans. He could stay another few years, maybe end up with permanent damage to 10% of his brain like his idol Bret Hart. Or he could move on with is life, make a new career out of motivational speaking, acting. Maybe amatuer wrestling seminars.
Kurt Angle has proven in the past that pride is more important to him than anything however. It has cost him his health, it has cost him his family, and at the rate he is going, sooner rather than later, he too may find himself dragging his dying body to the hospital when doctors can no longer help, and his pride may cost him his life. Sadly, it may already have. And Kurt won't be able to take his pride with him either.
The person most qualified to speak, Kurt's long time wife Karen, spoke best when she said, "I don't think what he's doing to himself is worth it".
Neither do I.