By Haydn Gleed
One of the features of the WWE Network that I enjoy are the WWE:24 documentary specials because I enjoy finding out more about the person behind the persona. They usually contain interesting tidbits I didn’t know about despite the amount of years I have been watching professional wrestling with an analytical eye. WWE’s offering of the Kurt Angle story is no different. Not being American, I obviously didn’t know much about Kurt’s gold medal exploits outside the antics of his character on WWE, so it was a interesting being able to watch some of Kurt’s memories in the amateur’s to reach the Olympics including reliving the moment that he actually broke his neck.
But what surprised me the most was the candidness of both Kurt and people within WWE of Kurt’s issues with pain medication and/or other substances. Going in, I was expected a puff piece with perhaps a casual mention of the issues Kurt had. Although they didn’t get into the real detail of what Kurt was taking, they laid it bare and left the viewers in no doubt that there was some serious concern for the well being of Angle for a long time. Watching his wife breakdown while discussing the issues that Kurt was dealing with as recently as 2013 was painful to watch, as well as Kurt’s admission that the took 25 pills one evening while hoping that he wouldn’t wake up the next day. It didn’t go into great detail about both the 2013 DUI incident or the possible suicide attempt as this was ultimately a documentary with a goal of telling the redemption story, but it certainly felt a lot grittier at times than a usual WWE PG era documentary.
There was, of course, a lot of lip service paid to WWE, which was off putting at times. For example Kurt talked about hiding his addiction from people, but then feeling the need to throw in the line “this would never happen now with the Wellness Policy” took me out of the flow of what felt like a genuine outpouring of the heart up to that point. I’m not denying that what he said would probably be true, it just felt like a line out of place in the narrative of the segment. The constant talking about the feeling of coming home to WWE, and how this is the place he did his best work, he always felt that Vince McMahon was watching him from afar, and he always thought about him was also somewhat nauseating. Also, I do personally cringe at people who declare themselves the best in the world at anything or talking about having the best matches of all-time in a non-promo environment. To me, not only is it subjective in the professional wrestling industry whether your match is deemed as great, but it also should be something that is said about you not something you declare yourself as it demonstrates an ego. Again, though, that’s just my own personal opinion on human behavior, not a criticism of the documentary itself.
Dixie Carter’s role in this documentary is interesting on multiple levels. Although Kurt nor anyone else ever say the letters TNA, they did show an uncredited headline that declared Kurt had signed for Total Non-Stop Action in 2006 and also put up a graphic declaring Dixie as the former President of TNA. It does make me chuckle to imagine what the casual fan who may never have heard of TNA in a wrestling context was imaging when they saw former President of TNA next to a lady speaking, but I digress. Although it can be argued if it was done on purpose or unintentionally, I don’t feel that Dixie came off great in this documentary. Kurt had just spent a large chunk of time pouring his heart out about the issues he was going through. Vince McMahon even spoke about how he felt that Kurt needed to go to rehab and rest his body, and then Dixie said she took Kurt to TNA where he was able to work a lighter schedule. She then followed up by saying every time he wrestled you could tell he was in a lot of pain. Although not a strong contradiction, it still leaves the viewers the question of why, if she saw this happening on her watch, did she not do what WWE did by giving him an ultimatum of going to rehab or giving up his job if. Instead the viewers are left with the idea that Kurt was going through hell for seven years in this company ran by Dixie Carter until he finally went to rehab only because he was going to lose the love of his life, not because of anything that was prompted by the company he worked for.
All in all, I did enjoy the documentary. I went into this with low expectations of what they would and wouldn’t discuss so the end result left me satisfied. If you go into this expecting to know exactly how many pills Kurt was taking or details regarding the night(s) he was arrested for DUI charges or anything of that detail, you will be left disappointed. Ultimately, though, this adds to the list of quality network-only content for WWE.
Agree or disagree? As always feel free to let me know via email firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @haydngleed