AS I SEE IT 10/23: Why care so much about the Angle situation?

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

OK...let me get this straight.

On SPIKE TV, Kurt Angle tells those viewing that he " hit rock bottom" after getting addicted to extra-strength Vicodin after undergoing neck surgery.

On Tuesday, October 18, in a press conference, he said the following:

"... I haven't taken painkillers in over 3 years. I did have a problem and became dependant on them and I went to Jim Ross and Vince, and I explained to them I was afraid I may die. I was on the road 300 days a year and I would take full handfuls of pills. My wife took me to a pain doctor, and I had a match in 3 days with Cena. I was told to go to rehab, and I was told not to go cold turkey, but I wanted to do it cold turkey and he said I could die."

Later, on the afternoon of October 18, Angle issued a "clarification", correcting his statement at the press conference; claiming he BEGAN to take painkillers three years ago, and has been clean since February 2005.

So which statement is true? Are either of the statements true?

There have been more than a few people who suggest that those of us who've writing about this story are either attacking TNA or trying to tell Angle how he should live his life.

First of all, I want to see as many wrestling companies succeed as possible. I don't want TNA to fail. I want to see them succeed so they can finally be a challenge to Vince McMahon and WWE; a challenge which hasn't existed since the closing of WCW and the real ECW. When WWE is challenged, then mainstream wrestling and its fans will be the will WWE itself.

Second, as for telling Angle how to live his life...with all that anyone who's looking is seeing, and with the contradictions in what's being said (especially by Angle himself), and with the lack of a response from TNA as to what their announced drug policy us...we have the right to ask questions of the TNA hierarchy that is telling us everything is fine with Angle. We have the right to ask them why we should believe what they're telling us.

Why do I care about this subject so damned much?

One reason: we're approaching the first anniversary of the death of Eddie Guerrero.

As pretty much everyone reading this was, I turned on my PC and read of Eddie Guerrero's death on a Sunday morning.

In much the same way as Kurt Angle is, Eddie Guerrero was obsessed with putting on the best possible performance for his fans. Between the physical and mental toll that wrestling took, the past recreational alcohol and drug use, and the use of steroids and other growth-enhancing drugs to keep his body "looking like a wrestler", his body gave out on a Sunday morning as he was brushing his teeth...a day on which he was about to be awarded that night the WWE Championship he had earlier some months before tried to represent at considerable physical and mental cost to himself.

I think what made Guerrero's passing so difficult for fans and those within wrestling to take was the fact that Eddie was clean and sober (Eddie had just celebrated his fourth anniversary of sobriety. ...and had been so for some time. Guerrero had found God, dealt with his demons, worked on his addictions to alcohol and other drugs; yet was taken from this world with so much to live for.

I first met Eddie Guerrero when he came into ECW in April 1994. There have been few people I've ever seen within wrestling who have ever been genuinely nicer or more approachable to fans than Eddie Guerrero was.

Eddie was a kind, decent man who remembered his friends. The most notable example I was able to see was that of Brian Hildebrand, who was remembered and supported on more than one occasion by Guerrero. I remember being the post-show bar scene at a WCW house show, when I saw Guerrero saying a prayer over his post-show meal...thought it was odd, and then later that night found out about Brian's cancer.

I've never met Kurt Angle, so I have no similar personal knowledge or opinions about the man...but I see so much of what happened to Guerrero in his situation right now.

So when I think about what Kurt Angle may be attempting to do right now, with reports (and his own statements) on his painkiller addiction, the physical toll the WWE schedule is taking on his body...I think of Eddie Guerrero and that Sunday morning.

I don't want to turn on my computer and read the same about Kurt Angle some morning; or get a phone call from someone and get the news I've gotten time after time after time: that yet one more wrestler was found dead in a lonely hotel room somewhere.

Until next time...

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