I’m a wrestling fan, have been since I was about 9 years old. I’ve had a ton of favorites (in and out of the ring) but recently I’ve come to admire one of them in particular.
Kurt Angle has accomplished a few things. For starters, he’s an Olympic Gold Medalist (1996, freestyle wrestling). No, that’s not a WWE gimmick (although he used the truth for great returns in WWE). He’s quite possibly the most legitimate badass in pro wrestling history, although some of that depends on which stories from the past are true.
Angle proved to be a prodigy in pro wrestling, adept at the physical side and impressively good at the theatrical aspects, showing tremendous comedic timing and developing a diverse character. Given that he’s the best athlete in nearly every room he enters, this made him freaking awesome.
All of that is cool. Great athlete, awesome wrestler, engrossing character. Cool. But my appreciation and admiration of Angle extends beyond that and into the struggles he’s had.
Pro wrestling is a very hard life, and Angle’s personality wouldn’t let him settle for second best, meaning he pushed the limits. Often. Angle has had neck problems for decades — he literally won a gold medal with a broken neck — and developed the kind of wear-and-tear typical in a wrestler of his stature.
But he was so talented and so driven that injuries couldn’t stop him. Nothing could stop him. As Angle has said repeatedly, he thought of himself as the best in the world. And so the show went on.
That came at a big cost, though. Angle developed a horrifying drug problem, and at one point was taking north of 30 painkillers when he woke up. That ended up breeding an alcohol problem, too, and after a series of humiliating DUIs, he eventually got clean.
There’s something amazing about that story.