At its 2006 No Surrender pay-per-view, TNA shocked the world with the announcement that the company had signed Kurt Angle. Two years later, Angle headlines that pay-per-view, which takes place tonight in Oshawa, Ontario.
Angle appears in a Four Corners match for the TNA Championship that also features Booker T, Canada’s own Christian Cage, and the current TNA World champion Samoa Joe. While he is confident that the four men will be able to put on an outstanding match, it’s not necessarily the format he would have preferred.
“I believe pay-per-view matches should be straight up, one-on-one,” Angle shared with SLAM! Wrestling in an exclusive sit-down. “One on one, or tag on tag, nobody else involved, no run-ins, no gimmicks.”
Indeed, he was quite candid in his view that TNA’s over-reliance on multi-man and other gimmick matches is, for the most part, unnecessary.
“I feel TNA sometimes thinks we’re being innovative by having matches that are gimmick,” he theorized. “Like on one pay-per-view, we had a cage match with weapons, and a Last Man Standing match, and a New Jersey Street Fight. We don’t need to have gimmick matches. We have the talent to have great wrestling matches. That’s why we are different than WWE. We have amazing wrestlers that can put on incredible matches.”
That complaint aside, however, Angle is glad to be in TNA and has nothing but optimism about the company’s future.
“I’ve had a blast since I’ve been here,” he said. “I think the company has grown so quickly, and I’m just hoping we continue to grow just as fast. Where we are right now after six years, I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like in 12 years.”
To that end, he has a suggestion for the company’s executive team of Dixie Carter and Jeff Jarrett: use the WWE as a blueprint for success.
“There are a lot of things you can learn from Vince McMahon; he’s a genius,” Angle said about his former employer. “He does make a lot of great decisions, a lot of smart decisions. But at the same time, he’s made some bad ones, too. So you can learn from a guy like that. I believe TNA needs to take that manual, and do what works. What WWE is doing right, (TNA should) take those steps; and when we see them do something wrong, we (should not) make that decision.”
Contrary to some reports that have attributed comments to Kurt that TNA is already as big as or bigger than WWE, he knows that there is still some ground to cover.
Addressing those other reports, Angle clarified his view. “I want everyone in the world to know (I said) this, because everybody thinks I’m an idiot: we are not anywhere near where WWE is. They are the giant monster, they are THE company.
“But within four to six years,” he predicted, “we will be comparable to them as far as ratings. As far as value of the company, we’re getting there. If, God forbid, Jeff and Mrs. Carter wanted to sell the company right now, it’s worth a lot of money. I think eventually the company will be almost every bit as valuable as WWE.”
TNA’s strategy to get there includes, to no small degree, an increasing house show schedule. Saturday night, the John Labatt Centre hosted the company’s debut show in London, Ontario. Angle notes that, in addition to seeing all of their favourite wrestlers in the six-sided ring, TNA’s house shows offer fans a truly unique experience in other ways.
“We have a good old southern hospitality kind of atmosphere at our house shows. After the show, Jeremy Borash will say, ‘Come on down, we’re going to have an all-night autograph session!’ All the wrestlers come out and sign autographs for free, or the fans can pay to come into the ring for a Polaroid. I do that every time — it usually lasts a couple of hours.”
It’s a bonus that Angle thinks is fine for now, but doesn’t see the company doing this forever. In fact, despite the fact that it’s seen as a fan-friendly gesture, he notes wryly that it’s something that the company will not be able to do as their fan base grows.
“I think it’s kind of cool, but eventually there’s going to be a point where we can’t do that anymore. You can do that for 2,500 people, but when we eventually get to the point when we have 11,000 in an arena, it’s not going to work because we can’t all be there all night. What are you going to do for that other 8,500 people? They would get nothing, So it’s better not to do it for anybody.”
More pointedly, Angle feels that offering fans that kind of accessibility somewhat diminishes the mystique that the wrestlers should have in their eyes. Again, he points to WWE’s approach as a guideline.
“You’d never see a WWE wrestler in the ring with a fan. Vince would never let a fan get in the ring. He would never let anyone get near any of the wrestlers unless they were at an appearance or at some public place. You want your wrestlers to be larger than life, especially the young guys. I think there will probably come a point when we’re not doing that anymore, because I think it will be beneficial for the company to not put the wrestlers in that position.”
So his message to fans who are considering attending a show? “Take advantage of it right now.”
Of course, beyond the house show, the company’s big thrust this weekend is No Surrender in Oshawa, marking TNA’s first international pay-per-view. Angle is happy to be coming back to Canada, noting that crowds here are some of the most rabid wrestling fans in the world.
“Canada has always — for both TNA or WWE — has always been one of our biggest. We have an opportunity to perform in front of the biggest crowd we’ve ever performed in front of. As long as we put on a great show here, we’ll be welcome back. And that’s what I want. I think that with this pay-per-view, without a doubt, we’ll end up doing our first TV in Canada (at some point). Fans love it up here.”
|ANGLE VS BRET?|
Beyond the fans, another soft spot Angle has for Canadians is his admiration for Canada’s own Bret “Hitman” Hart. Angle says that Bret is considering getting involved with TNA Wrestling, and he relishes the opportunity to get to work with the Canadian legend in any capacity.
“Whether or not I can get a match out of him, I don’t know. I’ve been trying to talk him into it. Just him becoming involved with the company, just being there as a personality, would be really neat to have. He’s my favourite, he’s a guy I really look up to. I watched his matches, and I said, ‘Man, I like that. I’m going to take that. He’ll be pissed, but I’m going to do that.’ I’m taking the Sharpshooter next,” he laughed.
He’s also looking forward to seeing the reaction he gets from the Caandian fans. While Christian Cage is likely to get a huge hometown reaction on Sunday, Kurt believes the fans here in Bizarro-land, as Toronto has been called, will show him a lot of support as well.
“Outside of Orlando where we do our (Impact TV tapings), fans in different cities cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. I’m the only (bad guy) that they don’t boo. I think it’s out of an unbelievable respect. They look at me as the frontier of TNA, and can’t look at me as the quote-unquote bad guy, because of the years I’ve put in, be it in winning a gold medal, and the entertainment years in WWE and TNA. Every time I go out there, no matter what I do on TV, they don’t care; they came to see Kurt Angle.”