By Mike Mooneyham

March 16, 2003

Ignoring doctors’ advice and his better judgment, Kurt Angle has decided to defend his WWE heavyweight title at Wrestlemania on March 30 in Seattle. The 34-year-old Angle, who is scheduled to undergo neck surgery that will put his mat career on hold for at least a year, has been warned that he is taking an unnecessary risk by wrestling in his present condition. Angle has herniated disks that are pressing on his spinal cord, causing pain and nerve problems in his left shoulder and arm. He will have to have two vertebrae fused immediately and two more fused in the future. The latter surgery will effectively put an end to his ring career.
Some sources, however, have hinted that Angle may feel his career is over regardless, and that he wants to get in one last high-profile match – and major payday – at Wrestlemania.
Angle, WWE’s Smackdown world champion, had agreed to drop the title to Brock Lesnar at last week’s show in Pittsburgh, but at the last minute decided to scrap that plan and was able to talk WWE owner Vince McMahon into allowing him to go ahead with his title defense at Wrestlemania. The reinstatement of their Wrestlemania match caused WWE to re-book the Angle-Lesnar bout at Smackdown.

Kurt Angle

Kurt Angle

Had Angle pulled out of Wrestlemania, Chris Benoit most likely would have gotten the nod as his replacement.

Angle now will undergo surgery shortly after an expected title loss to Lesnar in Seattle. Although he said he has been given medical clearance to wrestle until the surgery, he admitted there are risks.
“I could get a worse neck injury, possibly paralysis, and they said, yes, maybe even death,” Angle told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week. “It’s a very big risk, so I have to take care of myself and be very careful.”
Angle said all precautions would be taken in his match with Lesnar, and that certain moves would be avoided.
The 1996 Olympic gold medalist was told he should retire from wrestling after suffering a broken neck in 1995 during training for the Summer Games in Atlanta.

– Shawn Michaels praised Ric Flair as the greatest wrestler ever in a radio interview last week. Calling the 16-time world champion his hero, Michaels said Flair was the one man he’d like to work with before retiring. The two wrestled during the early ‘90s, before Michaels emerged as a major star. Flair has expressed interested in working with Michaels at the WWE’s May pay-per-view in Charlotte.

– Last week’s WWE ratings proved to be disappointments, with Raw posting a 4.0 (a half-point drop from the previous week) and Smackdown coming in at 3.0 (down from a 3.3). Smackdown’s decline was attributed partly to a slew of pre-emptions due to the NCAA basketball tournament.

– Jeff Jarrett, Dusty Rhodes and D-Lo Brown will meet Brian Lawler, David Flair and Erik Watts in the main event of Wednesday night’s weekly NWA-TNA pay-per-view.

– Columbia’s The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young, the oldest known tag-team in wrestling history with a combined age of more than 160 years, will team up on an independent show today in Portland, Maine.

– Tommy Dreamer has been dropped from the Raw writing team.