Angle needs surgery, but may not miss year
by Phil Speer
SEATTLE – March 30, 2003 – Kurt Angle wrestled tonight with an excruciating neck and less than 50 percent strength in his left arm.
Surgery is on the horizon. But the questions are: Which procedure will he have? And how long will he be out? The fact that those questions are unanswered right now is actually good news, because a few weeks ago, it was a foregone conclusion that Angle would have spinal-cord fusion and miss an entire year.
But since then, Angle has found a neurosurgeon, a Dr. Jho from Pittsburgh, who has told him that he could have “reconstructive” surgery and be back in four to six weeks. To many Superstars, it sounds too good to be true. Angle is optimistic but a little skeptical himself; he’s going to meet with the doctor later this week.
“This doctor is so excited and so confident, it almost scares me,” Angle said.
But the doctor has done the procedure on 30-40 people, including former WWE competitor Scott Hall/Razor Ramon, who raves about him.
Instead of fusing the vertebrae, Dr. Jho takes pressure off the nerves in the spinal cord, chips off bone spurs, slightly restructures the discs and “make sure everything’s naturally the way it’s supposed to be.” Dr. Jho, who has 30 years experience in neurosurgery, told Angle he could return, good as new, in about a month.
“He said, ‘You don’t need fusion. I don’t like fusion,’” Angle said. “As a matter of fact, fusion is horrible, because when you fuse your neck together, that weakens the other parts of the neck and makes them more vulnerable to injury. Then you have to fuse that. Before you know it, you just have a block on your neck.”
Angle called WWE’s talent relations department to get Scott Hall’s phone number so he could ask Hall about Dr. Jho.
“Nice guy,” Angle said of Hall. “I don’t know him very well, but I enjoyed talking to him. I talked to him for about 45 minutes. He had nothing but graciously good things to say about this doctor. He said, ‘Kurt, nobody knows about this guy. I told this doctor, he needs to get his name out there and become the premiere doctor for neurosurgery.”
Hall told Angle that three hours after surgery, Hall drove himself to the airport and flew home. By the next day, Hall was already lifting heavy weights. By contrast, Superstars who have had the spinal-cord fusion have had to wait six months – enough time for the fusion to properly take hold – before they can touch weights.
Angle, who turned 34 in December, has been dealing with chronic neck pain and gradually decreasing strength in his left arm since the six-man tag team match at No Way Out, when his left shoulder jammed into a turnbuckle, jarring his entire head. Angle said the real cause of the injury was years of abuse, and the No Way Out incident was merely the straw the broke the camel’s back.
Upon returning from the subsequent tour of South Africa, he visited Dr. Lloyd Youngblood in San Antonio. An MRI exam revealed bone spurs touching his spinal cord, problems with four vertebrae and two discs, and a badly bruised spinal cord. Dr. Youngblood told Angle, “Your (neck) is almost as bad as (Stone Cold Steve) Austin’s. Austin’s is the worst I’ve ever seen. But yours is second out of all the guys.”
Angle initially didn’t think he was going to make it to WrestleMania, but eventually decided to tough it out, knowing that his feud with Brock Lesnar has the potential to become the greatest of all time. The fact that he waited to have surgery could turn out to be a huge blessing. In the meantime, Angle did an interview with a Pittsburgh newspaper talking about his condition; Dr. Jho saw the article and got in touch with Angle’s manager, Dave Hawk.
“If I go with Dr. Jho, I am going to feel a little bit bad, because I know Dr. Youngblood would have done a tremendous job,” Angle said. “But I’m going to look out for what’s best for me and what’s best for the company.
“Right now, we’ve got Edge out. We’ve got part-timers in (The Rock) and Stone Cold, and even the Undertaker to a certain degree isn’t on the road full time, which he deserves not to be because, let’s face it, he’s been in the business 15 years.”
Angle is due to make a decision about which surgeon, and which procedure, later this week. “I might be taking a big chance with this doctor,” Angle said, referring to Dr. Jho, “but I’m willing to take it.”
JUST SHUT UP AND FIGHT!