Abstain, Absolve, Admonish

“I won an Olympic medal with a broken freakin’ neck!”

-Kurt Angle

This quote is synonymous with Kurt Angle and his career as a professional wrestler.  Countless times in his career, when he was counted out, he has shown the resiliency and dedication to persevere towards success.  He has done the impossible and defies the advice and objections of others.

After he broke his neck during the Olympic Trials in 1996, doctors recommended he retire from competition after he fractured two of his cervical vertebrae, herniated two discs and pulled four muscles.  He defied those suggestions and has continued to wrestle professionally for nearly fifteen years.  Angle is the last of a dying breed.

When a similar situation arose for him in early 2003, Kurt Angle once again defied doctor’s orders to go under the knife to correct chronic neck ailments and have a cervical surgery performed to fuse the vertebrae in his neck.  Instead Angle went ahead and wrestled in the main event of Wrestlemania X and only a few days later had an unconventional surgery where only bone spurs and selected portions of discs in order to reduce his recovery time.  The original fusion surgery would have put Angle on the shelf for a year.  His alternative procedure put him on the shelf for less than two months.  Failure is not an option in Kurt Angle’s eyes and he will not let any obstacle stand in his way, no matter how large they are.

WWE’s Wellness Policy was established shortly after the untimely death of Eddie Guerrero in an effort to curb substance abuse as well as hold talent accountable for their actions.  It was at this time Kurt Angle came under scrutiny as he was implicated as purchasing performance enhancing drugs from a Florida clinic.  Angle has adamantly denied the claims stating that any drugs he had taken,

…was under the care and supervision of my doctors. Any attempt to link me to the athletes in the current news accounts who may have improperly sought performance-enhancing drugs is without foundation.”

While Kurt never failed a drug test for pain-killers, he did however fail a steroid test after his prescription expired.  It was at this point Kurt Angle reportedly requested time off to “heal from his injuries” which is why he was given time off.  According to other sources, Kurt Angle was presented with the ultimatum that he either choose to enter rehab in lieu of a second Wellness Violation or be released from his contract.

Given Angle’s conduct in regards to his career and his defiant attitude, it’s no secret that the more than likely scenario was WWE’s.  They had an image to protect, and they did not want another wrestler passing away while under contract after Eddie Guerrero’s passing.  They could not afford another bad PR nightmare, especially since they had launched the Wellness Policy.  If a wrestler were to succumb to death while working for WWE as a result of drug abuse, the Wellness Policy would be lauded as a complete failure.

Like a defiant teenager, Kurt Angle didn’t want his parents telling him what to do.  He was released from his contract and found his way to TNA.  A company with no detailed drug testing program/policy whatsoever.  So what’s a man to do when he’s working for a company that lists zero repercussions for his actions?

September 28, 2007: Arrested for DWI, Charges Cleared September 9, 2008.

August 15, 2009: Arrested for violating a protection from abuse order to stay away from his girlfriend, November 9, 2009, all charges dropped.

March 25, 2011: Arrested for DWI.  April 20, Pled guilty and placed on one year probation, a chemical dependency evaluation, a $250 fine, $225 in court fees and a ten-day suspended jail sentence.

September 4, 2011.  Arrested for DWI.  Charges dropped after 2nd BAC taken at police station was lower than legal limit.  Angle was still charged with reckless driving.  November 8, 2011, Angle pled no contest and was fine $1,500.

August 2nd 2013. Arrested for DWI.  Angle stated he would immediately enter a rehab facility.

It’s no secret that his behavior is, at the very least, reckless, and it’s quite surprising that nobody else has been hurt when he’s been behind the wheel.  Just because these are the only times he was caught doesn’t mean they were the only times he was driving under the influence.  However, despite all his arrests, he has only been convicted once prior for DWI.  The question that remains though, is this conduct TNA’s responsibility to handle?

While Angle must be held responsible for his own actions, the fact that this behavior is allowed to continue under TNA’s watch is more damning than anything else.  At what point does TNA decide to intervene and offer either counseling or rehab for its talent?  At what point do they place themselves front and center and take a stand against drug abuse that Kurt Angle himself has admitted to in the past?  What will it take for TNA to wake up and realize that they are responsible for the talent in the ring before it’s too late?

“The TNA Family is very supportive of the steps @RealKurtAngle is taking in his recovery. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.”

-Dixie Carter

TNA does not have any policy that is remotely similar to that of WWE’s.  And it’s no secret when TNA allows Jeff Hardy to “wrestle” on PAY-PER-VIEW at Victory Road in 2011 when he was clearly high on some substance.  A main event match between him and Sting was allowed to occur and nobody intervened.  There was nobody at any time that sending Jeff Hardy out there, not any agents, producers, nobody that didn’t realize what the ramifications would be of allowing a drug abuser on their biggest stage, in the main event of a product that people are willing to pay for no less.

TNA cannot be held responsible for Angle’s condition before he arrived, but they have to be held accountable for allowing his behavior to manifest as it has today.

Dixie Carter and company must be held accountable for their relaxed stance on drug testing before it’s too late and someone on their roster ends up passing away under their watch because they failed to do anything about it.  Say what you want about WWE and their past, but with their decision to implement the Wellness Policy and have it administered by a third party speaks volumes about the steps they have been willing to take as opposed to TNA doing literally absolutely nothing.

It seems that Angle has conceded that he is no longer in control of his life and is making an effort to enter rehab in the near future.  But what will it take for TNA to make the necessary changes to hold its talent accountable?  Every single movement made by TNA has been a knee-jerk reaction to WWE.  They do not revise the business model they simply replicate it:

WWE runs live on Monday Nights, TNA attempted and failed miserably at airing live on Mondays.

WWE has a developmental program, TNA now has a business relationship with OVW, WWE’s previous developmental territory.

WWE runs monthly PPVs, TNA ran monthly PPVS up until recently, now reducing their PPVs to four a year.

WWE tours around the country, TNA just recently began touring and is now losing millions of dollars in the process.

WWE has a Wellness Policy, TNA enable their talent bottom line.

If Kurt decides to never wrestle again, then he should be content with the career that he carved for himself.  Even if he has spent the same amount of time in TNA as he has WWE, nothing will match what he accomplished in such a short career with WWE.  Sure there are dream matches people would want to see, namely against the likes of Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and Antonio Cesaro.  My dream for Angle would be to get clean and live a happy, sober life regardless if wrestling is a part of it or not.