June 20, 2009
Angle a TNA team player
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
When they reach the upper echelon, some wrestlers, using their considerable clout with bookers, refuse to lose.
But for Kurt Angle, losing every now and then is for the good of the company, in this case TNA, which is holding one of its premiere pay-per-views of the year, Slammiversary, tomorrow night.
"I'm excited about the (King of the Mountain) match," says Angle. "There's been a lot of preparation, a lot of ideas thrown around. But it's been kept quiet. The bookers, the writers are not telling anyone who the winner is going to be. As wrestlers we usually know well ahead of time, a month ahead of time."
In this case, the wrestlers -- Samoa Joe, current champion Mick Foley, Jeff Jarrett, A.J. Styles and Angle -- will likely be let in on the finish tomorrow morning. And that could lead to a whirlwind of a match, with Holy S**t moments aplenty.
Angle says: "We've got to be careful not to hurt five of the company's top athletes. But as men and wrestlers, we will end up doing some crazy stuff.
"This match is so innovative. You have to be a rocket scientist or adamant TNA fan to understand it."
And back to his philosophy that there comes a time, though it may not be tomorrow, when the next generation needs to rise to the top.
"I've always been for the underdog," says Angle. "I like to see talent become superstars. Would I bet on Kurt Angle? Well, I haven't won (the title) in awhile. Do I need it? Not necessarily.
"When I win, it's not necessarily to get myself over. It's usually to hand it over to the next guy. I believe the business will get stronger the more superstars we create. I've won a gold medal, I don't need to win a 13th (title) for my ego. I'm a team player. I've always been unselfish. I'm not afraid to lose.
"The business goes up and down. Who would have ever thought John Cena would be in his position? He's got a great look and he talks pretty well, but he's an average wrestler. A lot of the top wrestlers now are great wrestlers. You look at Triple H, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, A.J. Styles, Booker T, Samoa Joe ... It's not about the gimmick now, it's about being able to produce as a wrestler."
In particular, it's Styles who Angle says will become a future face of the business.
"I believe AJ hasn't reached half of his potential," says Angle. "Within the next three years, he'll be as popular as any wrestler in the world. I'm not going to be envious or jealous for him. I'll be happy."
Angle has, in the past, admitted to taking painkillers to take away the sting of neck injuries. That's in the past, he says.
"I don't touch them anymore. We're under a strict drug policy.
"Wrestling has been tainted. In the 1980s and '90s, recreational drugs were abused. But the idea of a good time now is going back to the hotel to play Nintendo. Wrestlers are more into health and their bodies."
Angle, from Pittsburgh, is proud of the city's sports teams -- the Steelers won the Super Bowl and the Penguins recently sipped from the Stanley Cup.
"I'm very proud of the Penguins -- my favourites are Malkin and Crosby. I would have guessed there was a 95% chance the Red Wings would win the last game at home. But it's a great thing for Pittsburgh. In pro wrestling, we're coming to Detroit for our biggest pay-per-view of the year so far. People can escape reality for a bit and get away from their daily worries."
Every now and then, there are rumblings that Angle will jump over to MMA with UFC. He considered UFC in 2003 before breaking his neck.
"Then in 2006, I had a choice to make," he says. "I met with TNA and I met with (UFC boss) Dana White. I had thought about doing both and Dana said I couldn't. Dana and I talked again this year. He's been really good to me. He told me that whenever I decide to retire from wrestling, to give him a call. He does not want you to be at any risk unless it's in the Octagon. I'm not ready to retire yet."
Angle says the intense character we see on TV is him, but out of the ring, he's extremely gracious with his time and interaction with fans.
"I'll do polaroids at a house show. I'm very grateful to the fans, even if they don't like me. Very seldom do I ever turn down an autograph, unless there are 250 people waiting and I only have five minutes."
"It was Vince Russo's idea. The whole idea was to spike ratings, to show that we had some of the best wrestlers in the world. We've been going at each other a bit, but it'll all come back together. We're not adding or subtracting people here and there. We don't want to dilute it."
"I love Vince and I always will," says Angle. "He was a father figure, the closest companion I had in WWE. We had a falling out, but we made peace. Will I ever work for him again? I could ... But right now I want to stay with TNA. TNA is here to stay.
"We've been able to add 1 1/2 million viewers in the past two years. It may take 4-6 years (to catch WWE). It's not going to happen overnight."
And what are his goals before saying goodbye to wrestling?
"I'll know when it's time to quit," he says. "I'm not going to lie, I'm starting to feel the pain. I'm 40 years old and I'm doing my third movie this year.
"But I'm not going to forget my roots.
"I would like to help TNA build another 10 main wrestlers before I retire. It's not about the championships, it's not about beating Ric Flair's record. If I can help develop 10 more stars, I can hang up my boots."
Tim Baines is the Sports Editor at the Ottawa Sun. This is an extended version of his weekly column that runs in the Sun papers. Email him at Tim.firstname.lastname@example.org.