Kurt Angle is to personal health what Ric Flair is to personal finance - a willing self-sacrificial in the name of image. Flair loves his party-boy image as much as Angle is compelled to soldier through a physical exhibition, leaving everything on the canvas. Wrestling may chillingly be the death of Angle, hence legal-scared WWE washing their hands of the ex-Olympian. Does Flair regret lavish overspending on women and booze? Not in the moment. Does Angle regret twisting his spine like a pipe-cleaner in the name of proving his impressive prowess? Not in the moment.
Angle's bid for Bobby Lashley's TNA World Title culminated on January 31 in London, so the result's been lining the can for seven weeks. Impact on Destination America employs hype overdrive for the dust-collecting storylines, hence rightful interest in last week's Ethan Carter-Rockstar Spud record-vs-career bout, which delivered in more ways than we could have expected. The first ever Angle-Lashley meeting for the crown jewel of a teetering enterprise received weeks worth of promotion, rightly so. That Angle is 46 and moving as though the ring were inch-deep mud doesn't bother the hype - to the promotional way of thinking, Angle is still 33 and carrying Smackdown.
Angle's physical state is most evident during a rolling-Germans sequence, with Lashley's soles barely five inches off the mat as Angle begins his descent. Does it hurt the match? Actually, no. The match is sold partially on both men being mat-wrestling mavens. By the time Angle goes into the Germans, Lashley's already unfurled some high-impact offense. Makes sense that Angle would be searching for strength by the time of the suplex party.
If nothing else, Angle's autopilot can navigate the straits of a main event match, so long as his opponent is above competence. Lashley almost never gets credit for being a skilled worker, thanks to a WWE run beset with bad promos and an overpush before he was ready (Lashley was Reigns V1!), but his blend of power wrestling and articulate science is evident. And this is a man with quite the light wrestling schedule over the past seven years. What is it about MMA that makes him and Lesnar retain their main event instincts?
Overall, the match was a quality slice of drama, a shade below 'epic PPV closer', but in the wheelhouse of amiably enjoyable closers. Angle shouldered out of near-falls with such closeness, I had forgotten the spoiled result and thought Lashley had won. This happened three times. Either Angle has the timing of Groucho Marx, or he uttered, "Oh shit" after a breath and barely got the arm up. Maybe it's both.
Machine-like Lashley losing clean to an ankle lock would be regrettable against most slower 46-year-olds regardless of pedigree, but Angle is still a credible star despite his increasing limitations. He amazes in new ways, but not necessarily good ways. He's going to be the first man to hold a major World Title with robotic body parts. I say this because I've already read last week's Orlando spoilers. By July, when his severed head is wedged into the abdomen of the Krang host body and is trading victories with some to-be-determined WWE castoff, will we be surprised anymore?
MATCH RATING: ***1/2