Opinion: The future of Kurt Angle's in-ring career
An illness that hit several wrestlers in the WWE locker room, including Roman Reigns, meant that the WWE had to act fast to save TLC, their last RAW branded pay-per-view.
They were unable to go ahead with the main event which would have featured the Shield's first match since their reunion. As a result, the WWE pulled the trigger on an early return to the ring for Kurt Angle and the inclusion of a cross-brand dream match between Finn Balor vs AJ Styles.
Angle, who hadn’t wrestled in the WWE for 11 years, partnered with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose in the main event of TLC. This guaranteed that many long-suffering fans of the WWE tuned into the PPV to see one of the most popular wrestlers of his generation compete within a WWE ring again.
The WWE was smart to ensure that, whilst nostalgic, the fans were not treated to the full Angle experience with Kurt coming to the ring in Shield attire rather than his own iconic singlet, something that they are obviously waiting to unleash at another major PPV event in the future.
Anyone who watched the recent short documentary on the WWE channel covering Kurt’s return to the WWE after an estranged relationship with the company would have realized just how much of an emotional moment it was for both the company and the legendary performer.
As a wrestler, The Olympic Gold Medalist is one of the greatest in-ring performers that the WWE has ever seen and this Sunday’s match was highly anticipated and with more time would have been built to great fanfare.
Angle’s Hall of Fame speech before Wrestlemania last year highlighted just how much of a talent he was for the company and it's fantastic to think that he will pen the start of another chapter in the ring with the WWE at TLC -- a chapter which began with his in-ring return last Sunday but will not end after just one match.
In fact, last Sunday could be seen as a “feeler” for both the WWE and Kurt. A feeler that was more than satisfactory given his performance on the night.
The illnesses to key personnel within the locker room forced WWE’s hand, however, given how quickly this was put together, our guess is that this has always been the plan since Kurt re-joined the WWE as the General Manager of RAW.
Furthermore, given the closeness to Wrestlemania, which is now only six months away, and the storyline with Jason Jordan (his illegitimate son on television), Angle returning to the ring must have always been the plan given that the storyline must have been conceived to lead as a conduit to Angle's in-ring return.
Interestingly, whilst saving TLC as a one-off performance, Kurt stepping into the ring will have major repercussions and it is hard to see him returning to a non-wrestling position within the company.
His performance on the night, was not by any stretch of the imagination going to be included in his "best of matches" once his in-ring career does finally come to an end. He did, however, hold his own and show that he still had the fire in the belly to compete at a very high level.
There were genuine moments of nostalgia during the match with his Angle Slams of Cesaro and Sheamus massive highlights on the night and a foundation on which the Shield + Angle were able to get the win on the evening.
Whilst Angle had a successful in-ring return, one of the key attributes of a General Manager is their impartiality to their performers. This ensures the legitimacy of matchups and opportunities provided to staff. Siding with The Shield members on Sunday’s PPV will have repercussions through the RAW locker room. Having taken a side and moving across into a wrestling role once again means that Angle’s role as the General Manager of RAW must surely now be untenable as a result.
His focus on himself opened the door this week for Shane McMahon and the Smackdown roster to invade RAW sight unseen. Had he been focused on his role as General Manager rather than actively working as a wrestler, we strongly doubt Shane would have been able to get the upper hand.
In addition, the confrontation with Shane McMahon has potentially opened the door for a dream match. Could we see the commissioner of Smackdown Live vs the General Manager of RAW... or General Manager vs General Manager. A return to the ring for Daniel Bryan to face Kurt Angle at Survivor Series would undoubtedly be seen as an instant classic and 'must watch TV', as would a matchup with Shane.
Whilst we all loved seeing Kurt in the ring, we now know that the next 1-2 months is going to be critical in his character's story development and second stint in WWE. I suspect given the drop in TV Ratings that Angle will now move back into a part-time wrestling role with the WWE, meaning likely matchups at Survivor Series and Wrestlemania.
This is great news for fans, as whilst we have all enjoyed him as the General Manager of RAW, I believe we have all secretly wanted Kurt back in the ring for one more run with the WWE. A run that we all know he deserves.
Oh, it’s true, it’s damn true!