March 18, 2005
Angle won't be pinned down
By SCOTT ZERR - Edmonton Sun
From the outside looking in on the brawny world of professional wrestling, it seems like a glamorous life. Part action movie and part daytime drama. Heroes, villains, good girls and bad boys. There's a little bit of everything all neatly rolled up into a carnival of muscles and mayhem that travels across the globe. But there is more to the story. There are bad breaks -- physical, mental and emotional -- and setbacks that require mending of the body, mind and heart.
Every one of the wrestlers who've reached the pinnacle of performing for a World Wrestling Entertainment audience will declare that it is the greatest job, but definitely not the choice of employment for the weak (and we're not talking bulging biceps here).
Three-time world champion Kurt Angle has battled through severe neck injuries just to stay in the game. He could retire anytime and have a comfortable future, but he's not about to surrender his career to the three-count.
"I've given up a lot of time from being with my family so in the long run my daughter would be better off, but I can't walk away," said Angle. "After three injuries, I thought it might be time to retire, but I love it too much. I'm going to wrestle as much as I can till the doctors tell me I can't anymore. It's the love of doing it and I can't walk away with a legendary status like Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels after only five years."
Angle and diva Torrie Wilson were greeted by an enthusiastic throng of fans at the AgriCom yesterday and will be part of the show when the WWE returns to Edmonton May 31 for a Smackdown! taping at Rexall Place. Tickets for the show go on sale Saturday through Ticketmaster.
Over the past six years, Angle, the 1996 Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medallist, has become one of the most celebrated characters in the WWE. But for Angle, who will face Michaels in an expected classic at Wrestlemania XXI in Los Angeles in two weeks, wrestling has also caused a great deal of pain. He required major neck surgery in 2002, just days after a gruelling main event match against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania IXX. At the time, it was feared that Angle might do serious damage to himself by just competing in that contest. During the bout, Lesnar was nearly crippled after a botched Shooting Star Press -- a summersault dive off the top rope clear across the ring.
"It never occurred to me that I should retire but it did occur to my wife and she asked me to retire that night," recalled Angle.
"That was a hard thing. That was a scary moment being in the locker-room and having the shakes and going to the hospital. Retirement came across my mind, but I never lost sight of that fact that I wanted to come back."
Even after the surgery, Angle continued to experience problems with his neck, but after a year and half of difficulties, he is now in tip-top shape. Still, the 36-year-old must be fearful of what could happen and what a debilitating injury would mean to his wife Karen and daughter Kyra.
"I'm going to have problems the rest of my life whether I wrestle or don't wrestle, but the way my neck feels now, I don't have a problem wrestling at all," said Angle, who has a standing offer on the table from WWE head honcho McMahon for his non-wrestling future with the company. "There are certain things I can't do but what I can do is be the best wrestler I can and have the kind matches I had with Chris Benoit."
For Wilson, the WWE road has led to success and contentment in and out of the ring. A former Ms. Galaxy fitness model champion, the 29-year-old blond beauty has become one of the most popular divas in the business, thanks in large part to a pair of Playboy pictorials. But her life on the road is coupled with trying to maintain a marriage to WWE star Billy Kidman (Pete Gruner).
"I'm not sure I could handle being on the road 300 days a year without him," said Wilson.
"He understands the business a little more than I do and sometimes he tells me just to keep my mouth shut."
Both are in the Smackdown! menagerie, yet there are still days when they are apart, as Wilson heads out on promotional duties.
"He's been injured for the past three months so I've been on the road by myself and I think I've just about reached the end of my rope. It's time for him to come back," laughed Wilson. "I did get a puppy dog (Chloe) for Christmas and she fills in for him when he's on the road."