“It’s real. It’s damn real.”

Those words nearly a decade ago truly shocked the wrestling world.

After a contentious exit from the WWE in 2006, Kurt Angle sought redemption making a deal with TNA Wrestling in the fall 2006. The 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist brought instant credibility and notoriety to the company with his arrival. While Dixie Carter and company gave him a limited schedule to heal injuries that have been nagging him for years.

Many fans watched eagerly as Angle had a face-to-face showdown with then NWA champion Samoa Joe on his first episode of Impact Wrestling. Like a Fourth of July fireworks display, Angle fired into the air a explosive shot that put everyone on notice especially the as of yet undefeated Samoan Submission Machine.

Angle and Joe had a series of matches that were moments in time that will not soon be forgotten. Angle versus Joe was one of those rivalries that will often be imitated and never duplicated. There was just an energy, to borrow one of Kurt’s I, an intensity that is sorely lacking in the modern era wrestling. I remember their Lockdown cage match in St. Louis. It was a beautiful mix of MMA technique with pro-wrestling psychology. It was one of the greatest showcases of Kurt’s skill.

But as technically proficient as Kurt is, he is also a daredevil. He is willing to put himself at risk to make anyone look better. Whether it’s against AJ Styles, Jeff Jarrett, Ethan Carter, Rockstar Spud, he would make them seem just a little more credible in his presence no matter the style. And that’s a sign of a true pro. Let’s not forget that Angle had Jay Lethal pin him clean to win an X-Division Title.. Truthfully in this ring there’s nobody better.

However, now at 47, the self-professed Wrestling Machine is now taking time away from the wrestling business. According to Angle, he is taking time away from the ring to focus on family. And who could blame him. When you’ve done it all and you’re at the top of your game it’s smart to walk away. 20 years in the professional wrestling business is a long time. Many people would love to have a fraction of the accolades Kurt has.

Impact Wrestling gave a fitting sendoff to the first TNA Champion on last night’s episode. From the King of the Mountain match to the final match for Kurt and Bobby Lashley, the episode was solid from top to bottom. The company is really been firing on all cylinders creatively when it comes to television.

The question is now with Kurt leaving the hexagonal ring who is the next machine for the company. Ethan Carter, Drew Galloway, Rockstar Spud? Who is the guy you build the company around? In my opinion Ethan Carter is already a made man so you need to have the next generation starting to be built. Maybe that’s the plan for Mike Bennett but I don’t know if I see that working as well as they think. He really will be The Miracle if that happens at least in my opinion

The same thing applies for The Knockouts Division, Gail Kim is great but we need to start building other talents around the division. And I hope that’s what they’re doing with Jade so the torch can be passed to the next ladies to carry on the tradition of what the company started almost a decade ago.

It’s a shame that the most mainstream press TNA gets these days is during Hulk Hogan’s testimony in his sex tape civil case. With the former Impact Wrestling General Manager talking about interviews he did for the TNA Bound for Glory tour in 2012. Honestly for the most part this is probably the first many in the media even know of the company’s existence. It probably doesn’t help that TNA has been portrayed in the testimony as a lesser than company to juggernaut WWE. Hearing a former TNA PR person talk about working for the company and the lack of organization from Dixie Carter just further points out the disparity between management and the television product right now.

It’s rather ironic that this testimony comes on the heels of the six year anniversary of the ending of TNA’s two month head-to-head battle with Monday Night Raw. An idea that was Hogan’s to begin with and TNA has been struggling to come back from for quite some time.

And needless to say the company has made strides in regaining fan interest in the product. Although you will always have fans that will not forget the past. TNA has done a lot with its roster and its limited budget to make one of the most entertaining two hours of wrestling television out there today.

Impact Wrestling as a brand may be tattered and worn but it’s perseverance is something to be admired. Much like a former Olympic Gold Medalist.Kurt, much like TNA themselves, has gone through quite a but of personal issues . And much like the brand he’s represented, Angle has come out on the other side seemingly a much better man than he did 10 years ago. Sometimes the Hall of Famer seems to let his integrity waiver with some of the things he says. But nobody’s perfect.

Intelligence will be the key to TNA’s survival going forward. One hopes that the company is able to find someone to invest in them to help them grow their infrastructure slowly. Hopefully, they can find a true hero to wave their banner much like Angle did in 2006. However, there will never be another talent like Kurt. And that’s real that’s damn real.

About The Author

Dan is host of Shooting from the Hip which you can hear every Sunday at 8pm EST, 7pm CST right here on PWpop.com.