By James Guttman
Few people realize the level that Kurt Angle trains, competes, and performs on. As a former Olympic Gold Medalist, his dedication and focus are second to none. When Kurt makes up his mind that he's going to be the best at something, it happens. Repeatedly.
That's why Angle's latest promise to redeem himself before entering the TNA Hall of Fame is so important. While many wrestlers have promised to "make this my year" or "defy the odds", Kurt is a different situation altogether. For him, failure is not and has never been an option. When the Olympian stands center-ring and promises to rise to the top again, it's more than lip service for a sound bite. It's Gospel.
But it hasn't been smooth sailing for the former TNA World Heavyweight Champion since making this vow. Bobby Roode has rained on Angle's parade not just once, but twice. Against doctor's orders, Kurt stepped into the ring against TNA's IT Factor on two occasions. Both ended with paramedics surrounding the fallen gold medal winner and urging him to seek medical assistance. Neither outing will be appearing on any Kurt Angle highlight reels any time soon.
But this Thursday on Impact, doctors have given Kurt a green light to compete. He's ready, willing, and able to step into the ring for the second match in our World Heavyweight Championship tournament. Should be smooth-sailing from here on out, right?
Wrong. If you saw the start to our World Heavyweight Championship Tournament last Thursday, you know that no one is going to sail through things, much less in smooth manner. The pain and brutality that Jeff Hardy and Chris Sabin inflicted on one another in their epic Full Metal Mayhem is just a taste of what each bout will offer.
However, it's not just the circumstances that make things difficult for Angle. It's his opponent. You see, while Kurt might be embarking on a new "prove the world wrong" campaign, the man he's facing has been playing that game for years. Austin Aries, the former champ who will be standing across the ring from him at Impact in a submission match, isn't on a redemption tour. He's on a redemption career.
The man who most refer to as The Greatest Man That Ever Lived didn't debut with the fanfare Kurt Angle did. Whether it was his initial entry to pro wrestling or his explosive TNA debut in 2006, Kurt was an icon before his first contest. Everyone knew he was someone special. His background was amazing and his resume unmatched. The wrestling world was bowing at the Olympic Hero's feet before he even put one of them in the ring.
Austin Aries hates that. He despises it. Every title he's ever captured and every win he's ever gotten has been to someone's chagrin. Aries has been proving people wrong for years and the thought that he could be seen as a stepping stone for an Icon's return to greatness is enough to send him into a blind rage.
It's for that reason that this Thursday's show is something no fan will want to miss. It's the night that Kurt Angle will do whatever it takes to prove to the world that he's ready for the spotlight again. It's also the night that Austin Aries will do anything he can to make sure that doesn't happen.