TORONTO – The line separating mixed martial arts from sports entertainment is becoming blurrier than ever before. For his part, Kurt Angle would prefer if, notwithstanding TNA Wrestling’s marketing slogan, the company does not cross that line.
“In wrestling, there’s a story in every match. In MMA, you cannot tell that story.” Elaborating, he told SLAM! Wrestling, “There is not story in a ‘shoot’ fight — you either get knocked out, choked out, tapped out, or you make it and the referee decides who wins by decision. It becomes very difficult to tell a story in a worked shoot.”
That view may seem contradictory to Angle’s actions earlier this year. At the company’s Lockdown pay-per-view, Angle faced Samoa Joe in a very MMA-like encounter. The then-champion changed his attire for the match, wrestling barefoot and in long shorts, similar to his counterparts in the UFC and other fighting leagues. Further, vignettes in the weeks leading up to the event showed Angle being trained by his friend, MMA star Frank Trigg.
“Joe and I had to walk a very thin line,” Angle explained. “We had to do a little MMA, then a little wrestling, because we still wanted to tell that story, show who was the good guy and who was the bad guy. We started MMA and then slowly turned it to a pro wrestling match. It was hard to do.”
Whether or not the experiment was a success is debatable. Fan reaction and critical reaction was generally positive, but it’s notable that similar types of matches haven’t been tried since.
That said, that’s not to say TNA has abandoned MMA entirely. Indeed, Sunday’s pay-per-view featured a straight MMA match between Trigg and A.J. Styles. He uneasily noted that Trigg’s involvement, and lack of pro wrestling experience, could lead to some unfortunate outcomes, citing a recent incident as evidence.
“Frank did a pre-tape about a month ago (an interview segment with Karen Angle) and he broke a guy’s nose. He hit him so hard, the whole arena heard the sound. His nose was on the side of his face. So A.J.’s a little nervous, you know?”
The match itself on Sunday was awkward at best, terrible at its worst. “Taking Styles out of his element for the match backfired, and, bless his heart, he tried, but the first five-minute round felt like an eternity,” wrote SLAM! Wrestling’s Jason Clevett in his review of the No Surrender PPV.
For Angle’s money, it’s that kind of unpredictability that makes MMA less appealing than pro wrestling. That, and the fact that pro wrestling’s focus is on engaging and entertaining the crowd.
“I believe pro wrestling will always be around,” he stated firmly. “People like to lose that touch of reality for a couple of hours and watch the show and have fun. Going out there, and cutting a promo, or heeling in a match and the crowd are booing you, and they’re becoming emotionally involved — that’s what makes it fun. Wrestling’s a beautiful art. I’m a big MMA fan, and I think wrestling’s way better.”
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