AS I SEE IT 10/2: Surprise, surprise, surprise....

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Well...TNA certainly had a "big announcement".

TNA signed Kurt Angle.

This signing was a total surprise, and was NOT anti-climactic as many feared the "major surprise" might well be, an event that's a rarity in the Internet/newsletter era where nearly every surprise signing, character turn, or other surprise event seems to get leaked to someone in advance.

Kind of refreshing, wasn't it?

Knowledge of the deal was apparently limited to Dixie Carter, Jeff Jarrett, and the company's Chief Financial Officer...which allowed for a surprise that couldn;'t be spoiled by sites like my own PWBTS site and the other sites on which you read this column.

There is a small problem in the signing, though.

That problem is not a non-compete as many fans feared. WWE apparently paid the remainder of Angle's contract through February as if he did have one, according to Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer this week. The fallout from the Brock Lesnar case may well have discouraged WWE from attempting to enforce any non-compete.

The Kurt Angle himself.

I touched on this issue two weeks ago, when discussing the non-suspensions of the non-suspensions of the current WWE Wellness Policy:

"The recent firing of Kurt Angle for violations of the Wellness Policy seems more the exception than the rule. The Angle firing seems to reflect a genuine fear over obsessive behavior by Angle, as well as an admitted addiction to prescription pain killers, behaviors which were reported in disturbing detail in a recent Wrestling Observer. Paul Heyman once made a remark about the release of Louie Spicolli from ECW that 'he didn't want [Spicolli] dying on his watch', after Spicolli continued with heavy public use of somas (including an evening where he came into the Philadelphia TraveLodge barely able to walk). It seems that WWE had similar fears in this case."

Angle's obsessive behavior while in WWE has recently been reported, most tellingly in the Wrestling Observer. While the obsession necessary to be a world-class athlete may be valuable within wrestling, in allowing for the dedication to put on world-class performances night after night...especially on Angle's level; such obsession and dedication takes a frightening personal toll. Angle made no bones about the fact that he couldn't work the WWE schedule without painkillers. Whatever WWE's failings are in its Wellness Policy, at least it has one.

TNA does not, as was pointed out in the following response to the WWE Wellness Policy column by reader Ryan Kalashian:

"I was reading a writer response to your article about WWE's changes to their drug policy and how he thought their whole policy was a sham.

I think it should be noted that for the amount of criticism that WWE gets about their drug policy, it seems TNA has gone unnoticed for their lack of having one.

I find it interesting that so many people take the time to remark about how much they dislike the WWE's policy or how ineffective it is, yet they never mention TNA for not even bothering to put one into effect. Why don't they lambaste TNA for doing nothing in this area, instead of continually criticizing every move WWE does with the policy, at least the WWE is trying to institute some policy in any form. I think TNA should be held to task on the fact they continue to hire wrestlers that WWE has let go due drug problems or wrestlers who have been known to have drug problems.

The hiring of Jeff Hardy and Lex Luger spring to mind and now the recent hiring of Kurt Angle is the straw that broke the camel's back for me. How can TNA justify hiring Angle when many people viewed his firing as an action taken by WWE to force him to get straight and clean. What message does that send, "We don't care if you have a serious problem, cause our need for business trumps that"? And for everyone who can look at Angle going to TNA and say, 'well..they needed him and it's good business', then they need to look at how they evaluate their dislike of WWE when they change their policy or shove Cena down our throats...cause for WWE, those things are just good business too."

While the wrestling fan in me is glad to see Angle sign with TNA, the human being in me can't argue one bit with Kalashian's letter. I fear that unless TNA makes some arrangement for counseling or drug testing or both for Angle, they run the risk of a disaster happening "on their watch". Having a former Olympic gold medalist on their talent roster is a great step forward...but the possible fallout if something happens while Angle's on their roster is difficult to contemplate from both a business standpoint, not to mention a human standpoint.

Dixie Carter respoded to this issue on TNA's own website with the following:

"[Angle] has been cleared by his team of doctors to wrestle, and I have that verification from the doctors. I have personally met with Kurt and his wife. All past medical and pain medication issues have been addressed in depth and to my satisfaction. We have assembled a team of doctors around Kurt to monitor past injuries and also oversee his health on an ongoing basis. Kurt will personally address specific questions about his past, not me.

...TNA Wrestling has a very strict drug and alcohol policy, and each contracted talent signs an acknowledgement of the policy set forth. Drug use and alcohol abuse are issues we take very seriously. TNA has the right to conduct random drug-tests and other tests in accordance with government requirements. Violations of the policy are spelled out and failure to comply or failure of a test can result in mandatory drug counseling and treatment, suspension from work without pay, up to and including dismissal. We do not address the specifics of this policy publicly as we are a private company and our talent are independent contractors."

If there is a drug/alcohol policy, it has never been made public. As for the workers being independent contractors, while what Dixie Cartershe says at the end is technically true, the fact of the matter is that TNA would get bigtime unwelcome press if something tragic were to happen to Angle as a result of working the style he will inevitably choose to work.

It's true that that TNA's travel schedule will be only a fraction of what WWE's was for Angle. Odds are that Angle will only work TV (if that) and PPV, ala Sting.

But as Jim Ross's blog mentioned this week, he ca't see Angle being satisfied with doing aything haflway. So Angle's style in individual matches is likely to be harder working than he when was in WWE. That may be better than his originally rumored (and still rumored) involvement in MMA...but not by much.

The fans live went nuts when the annoucement was made. While the TV version many of us saw (sans crowd reaction) is available on, here is a link to a fan camera shot from Orlando of the Angle announcement. To put it mildly, the live Orlando crowd went ape@#$t when they saw the flag and realized who it was.

Let's just hope that what fans wat doesn't come at a cost we won't want to see.

The Wrestling Voice, which carries As I See It, has its Wrestling Hall Of Fame starting up again (last year was it's first year) on the 15th with voting open to anyone who wants to and staying open from September 15th to October 15th.

Last year, their Wrestling Hall Of Fame got about a thousand votes, but the site is really hoping to at least double that this year. The link is here with the voting link live now. Please participate.

Until next time...


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