Very few wrestlers have a body of work as impressive as Kurt Angle. Taking the big leap from Olympic amateur wrestling to professional wrestling/sports entertainment was a huge risk but Angle excelled instantly as one of one of WWE’s hottest stars during its hottest time period in a very short time. During his time in WWE, Angle became regarded as one of the best in-ring workers in the history of business. For a few years, Angle being in a match guaranteed it would steal the show. After leaving the company in 2006, the Olympic gold medalist would spend the rest of his career in TNA up to this point.
Angle has recently stated he’s going to let his TNA contract expire this year and take a short break from wrestling. Most important, he’s not calling it an official retirement, but taking some time away, so chances are he’s hoping to have at least one more high level match to end his career. That leads us to speculate who the best opponents for a Kurt Angle retirement match would be. Unfortunately for TNA, most of their best talent that has history with Angle no longer works there, so a hopeful WWE return match and a farewell would be the ideal scenario.
Many of Angle’s best opponents throughout his career are no longer options. Some of the men to have classics with him have passed away (Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit), many are retired (Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin), and most of the others just aren’t realistic. Even with options we’d love to see no longer realistic there are plenty of promising stories and matches to have in Angle’s final moment with old rivals, stars of the future or just great talent. Using realistic options in today’s wrestling world, here are the top 15 possible Kurt Angle retirement matches.
15 Chris Jericho
The two veterans are on their last legs as performers but still can give a great performance in the right spot. Chris Jericho vs. Kurt Angle would be a perfect match to celebrate their pasts and give them a respectful final WrestleMania match. Both men are respected as among the most elite in-ring performers of all time and have tremendous character depth. so a story would be easy and the match would deliver. In an interesting note, the two both made their WrestleMania debuts in a match against each other (and Chris Benoit as it was a triple threat) so their final WWE match facing off would be a fascinating ending to wrestling purists.
14 Jack Swagger
The career of Jack Swagger has gone downhill to the point where this was once a slight dream match that could draw money but now it’s a bold pick. Swagger’s wrestling style and background is very similar to Angle but he lacks the charisma and presence to ever become a main eventer in the WWE. Now as a low tier character rarely on television, a match vs. Kurt Angle could save his career. Angle would likely be ecstatic about working with a young WWE talent, especially with the ready-made story of “Real Americans” facing off in a battle of the Ankle Locks.
13 Kevin Owens
Another younger talent with more promise that could make a great final big WWE match for Kurt Angle would be Kevin Owens. Still very new to the main roster, Owens has shown the ability to stand out and stay relevant despite already having a less sustained spot on the card. A strong suit both Owens and Angle share is the skill of adapting to the style of their opponents. Whether the two go for the brawling route or the technical wrestling route, the match would deliver either way. A program between the two would give Angle a wonderful exit and Owens a huge help going forward. Everyone wins.
With Sting officially now in the WWE Universe, most of the wrestlers he worked with in the past are no longer wrestling or are not in the WWE. If Kurt Angle also returned, it would make for an opponent Sting has a history, and overall successful chemistry, with. Given how WWE likes to utilize real aspects in storylines these days, this match could easily feature a heel Angle bitter about how Sting was received with a hero’s welcome despite never contributing to WWE while he was left on the sidelines after years of work for the company. The match would also help hide Sting’s age as Angle has done with him many times before.
11 Bobby Roode
It’s a little difficult to believe but Kurt Angle has actually spent more time in TNA than he did in WWE. Considering TNA is such a big part of his career, it’s only fair we acknowledge one potential TNA retirement match. The problem is most of the stars Angle did his best work with in TNA have left the company. One of the few remaining homegrown stars is Bobby Roode who has a long history with Angle, including two Bound For Glory matches. Looking at the current TNA landscape, this would probably be one of the few matches that could warrant Angle’s final appearance.
10 Randy Orton
Randy Orton was one of the last top opponents for Kurt Angle as his days in the WWE came to an end. Following Angle’s WWE days, there was controversy surrounding him making negative tweets about Orton using his “Angle Slam” finisher at WrestleMania XXVII. Since then, Angle has backtracked saying he respects Orton as one of the best performers in wrestling but between their history working matches together and the aforementioned drama, a showcase match between the two could be an ideal situation for a final Angle bout. It would even help Orton as a match with Kurt Angle seems more interesting than any program he’s been in over the last year.
9 The Undertaker
The history between Kurt Angle and The Undertaker isn’t as exceptional as one would think. The two legends only had one true classic match at No Way Out 2006 with an absolutely tremendous performance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t saved for one month later where it would have been a more appreciated classic at WrestleMania. Considering The Undertaker’s opponents in his rare appearances tend to be against fellow legends he’s familiar with, giving him a match with Kurt Angle to close out the latter’s career would provide great results. The match would be a very wise selling point to older fans tuning back in to see their favorites.
8 A.J. Styles
During his time in TNA, Kurt Angle had his best chemistry with A.J. Styles. The two men had countless classic matches against each other and were even a very fun makeshift tag team at one point. With Styles leaving TNA and currently working for New Japan Pro Wrestling, the match would likely have to take place in Japan. Angle has worked there in the past and the match could serve as a main event level bout on their biggest show, Wrestle Kingdom. There’s also the slight chance WWE hires both men but anywhere this match were to take place, they have a flawless track record and would send Angle out in the right way.
7 Samoa Joe
Similar to A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe was one of the TNA names most associated with Kurt Angle’s time in Orlando. The two had great chemistry and one of the most memorable rivalries in the company’s history. Angle has expressed joy in helping Joe grow as a performer, so it would likely be a badge of pride for him to work the now NXT star Joe in a WWE program. It would be Angle’s last match against someone he helped shape into the performer he’s become and give Joe the biggest platform in his career, facing a legend in his final match on the WWE stage.
6 John Cena
Before becoming the biggest star in the wrestling industry, John Cena’s first opponent on WWE television was Kurt Angle. The match put Cena on the map as someone that would get his opportunities on the roster and he obviously made the most of it. How fitting would it be if Cena’s first match was against Angle and Angle’s final match was against Cena? Getting to wrestle Cena would likely be the biggest way for Angle to end his career as there’s no active wrestler near Cena's status. Cena is also doing the best in-ring work of his career and the two would likely have a memorable match.
5 Triple H
Many would argue that Kurt Angle’s greatest opponent in WWE was Triple H and it would be hard to disagree. Angle ascended to the top of the WWE due to his storyline with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, so it would be a great story to have him come back and square off with The Authority one more time to end his wrestling career. Both men can still go at a very high level in a big match scenario and you can even play into the real rumors circulating that Triple H wasn’t fond of the idea of bringing Angle back into the WWE.
4 Seth Rollins
Using the story of Kurt Angle returning to WWE to finally get his revenge on his old rival Triple H, they could easily place Seth Rollins in the role of defending his mentor. Rollins is already trusted enough to work a storyline with an even older wrestler like Sting. WWE likes to typically put legends and legacy stars against each other, so this shows they have a unique trust in Rollins that would extend perfectly with Angle. With Angle’s intense style, it would be very reminiscent to his better TNA matches with A.J. Styles but on a much larger stage with a significantly larger moment at stake. It gives Angle a great match to end his career while further establishing Rollins as the future and the now.
The obvious and possibly most rewarding story of all options for a Kurt Angle retirement match may be against Rusev. As the most successful anti-American wrestling character in years, it would only make sense for the American hero to return and stand up for the country he’s sacrificed his body for. Both guys work a very snug, intense style in the ring and Angle would get to showcase the best of his abilities, before getting a feel good win if working the last match of his career vs. Rusev. Despite having a solid match with Cena, Rusev’s ideal WrestleMania 31 opponent may have been Angle.
2 Daniel Bryan
The biggest Kurt Angle dream match yet to happen may be a match with Daniel Bryan. Even before Bryan signed with WWE and became a big star, many diehard fans were buzzing about the possibility of two of the greatest pure wrestlers giving us a classic. Unfortunately it never happened but in recent interviews, both have stated the interest of working against each other. Angle said on his website that his ideal final wrestling match would be a 30 minute “match of the century” with Bryan because “he is Shawn Michaels reborn.” Bryan has also showed an interest in wanting Angle to return to the WWE and work against him. Make it happen Vince!
1 Brock Lesnar
Quite possibly the most underrated rivalry in WWE history was the battles between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. Two of the more accomplished athletes coming into WWE, they completely delivered and stole the show any time they faced off in the ring. Whether it was the WrestleMania XIX main event or a random Smackdown bout, Angle and Lesnar created magic in the ring together with a supreme chemistry. Lesnar has only improved since his return to pro wrestling and one more match between the two would create the perfect mix of nostalgia and current greatness to send Kurt Angle off in grand fashion.