Kurt Angle has survived steel chairs, low blows and dastardly double-crosses in the choreographed world of pro wrestling.
But Angle couldn't continue on the amateur circuit when his own body betrayed him with a series of injuries that ended his improbable run at making the U.S. team for the London Olympics.
On Thursday, the former Olympic gold medalist and TNA Wrestling star backed out of next week's U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa. The 43-year-old Angle was planning on competing for a spot on the U.S. freestyle team headed to the London Games this summer.
Angle partially tore the MCL in his right knee during training on Monday to finish off the longshot bid. He also tore his right hamstring during a training session last month.
"I feel like it was a waste of time," Angle said by phone Thursday. "Here I am, at the 11:30 hour, and I get the worst injury I've gotten in the last year. I've had four or five injuries, but I've worked around them. This one, I can't work around.
"There's no way around it."
Angle understood his bid at making the Olympics was viewed with wide-eyed skepticism.
He never cared.
Traveling around the globe for TNA Wrestling, Angle found the closest mat around to the professional ring and pushed himself during training.
The 1996 220-pound freestyle wrestling gold medal winner in the Atlanta Games had scaled back his professional commitments for TNA and dedicated the last year to his Olympic dream.
U.S. Olympic Team coach Zeke Jones advised Angle to withdraw from the U.S trials set for April 21-22 at the University of Iowa.
"We have such incredible, awesome competition, that with my MCL injury, they would have torn me apart," Angle said.
Angle said he will perform for TNA and wrestle Jeff Hardy at its Lockdown pay-per-view event on Sunday.
"In amateur wrestling, I have no control over what's going to happen to me," he said. "My No. 1 priority is TNA Wrestling. With TNA, I can work around my injuries and still have a five-star match."
He's the second high-profile wrestler this month to depart the trials. Cael Sanderson, the 32-year-old Penn State wrestling coach who won gold at the Athens Games eight years ago, said this week that he is also dropping plans to win a spot on the U.S. team.
Angle said he planned to wrestle in Iowa with the hamstring injury, but the MCL was too much to overcome. He does not need surgery because the MCL was not completely torn.
"My foot slipped on the mat and my knee turned inward," he said. "I knew right then I was done. I quit practice."
Angle had to get back to the amateur basics, the style that made him a worldwide force in the 1990s that culminated with him on his knees as tears poured down his face when the referee awarded him an overtime decision over Iranian Abbas Jadidi in the 1996 gold-medal match.
Angle had been smarter this time around, training fewer hours and days, and feeling less pressure than in '96 when it was gold medal or bust.
Angle went from the amateur ranks to the WWE and became an instant star for the promotion. Angle was granted his release from his WWE contract in 2006 and signed later that year with TNA.
His injuries ended his shot at making Olympic history. The oldest Olympic wrestler to medal was Chris Campbell, who won bronze at 37 at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Angle turned 43 on Dec. 9.
"I really thought that I had a legitimate shot of at least making the team, or being an Olympic alternate," Angle said. "At 43, no one's ever done it. I had that opportunity.
"I had that shot."