Last week, news broke that ex-WWE main eventer and multi-time world champion Kurt Angle plans on departing TNA/Impact Wrestling, his place of employment of seven years, when his contract runs out this upcoming winter. Rumor mills promptly began soothsaying a return to WWE for the Olympic gold medalist. Could there be any veracity to this hopeful nostalgia for the Three I's of yore? Probably not! But maybe!
Angle floated around the prospect of a WWE comeback as recently as last year and while the McMahons could likely have brought him in with ease, they declined to do so. Why turn down a chance to re-enlist a indisputable future Hall of Famer?
Well, Kurt Angle has a few substance abuse-related skeletons in his closet, but so do Goldust and William Regal, and their late-career reemergences into the WWE fold turned out just fine. Angle is creeping up on middle age, but he’s still 10 years younger than Sting, so we know that’s not really a deal killer either. Even if Angle left WWE under particularly bad terms back in 2006, they couldn’t have been as nasty as the circumstances that led to Bret Hart or The Ultimate Warrior departing, and they both received warm welcomes upon deciding to let bygones be bygones and dropping by RAW. For that matter, wrestling fans love nostalgia. As is never the case in non-scripted sporting competitions, wrestling enables athletes who have aged well beyond their primes to defeat their youthful, physical superiors on a regular basis. For cripe's sake - Jushin “Thunder” Liger is 50 years old. Not only did he recently trounce 27-year-old Tyler Breeze, he looked absolutely convincing while doing so.
So are there any less-than-obvious other reasons why WWE isn’t going to, or at least shouldn’t, invite the baldheaded, red, white and blue titan back into its locker room? We can think of a few….
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10 He’s Probably Really Expensive
As everyone knows, Kurt Angle was a already a bonafide Olympic gold medalist by the time he showed up in WWE in 1999, meaning his services certainly came attached with a hefty price tag before he won, like, every WWE title, and eventually absconded to TNA and claimed the lesser company’s championship five times. Especially now, in the twilight of his career, Angle certainly will not work for free.
Of course WWE can afford him, especially having bounced back from the bath they took on the WWE Network’s rollout. And there’s no doubt a Kurt Angle return, following an approximately 10 year absence, would draw some eyeballs. Is Angle still a big enough draw to cover WWE’s hypothetical investment? Perhaps, although….
9 The “Legacy Guy” Problem
Having learned a lesson from watching WCW crumble under the weight of its own entitled locker room, WWE have generally brought legends back to help establish newer talent as major contenders. Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho both had successful return runs within the past few years, and traded wins with younger prospects Alberto Del Rio and Bray Wyatt. However, fans with the slightest bit of “awareness” surely recognized that, with Van Dam and Jericho, they were essentially watching the wrestling equivalent of a Greatest Hits Tour. Van Dam and Jericho could still put on a heckufa show, but neither was going to lead the charge of the next generation, for obvious reasons. Predictably, Del Rio and Wyatt ultimately prevailed in their respective feuds.
WWE’s creative team might face similar problems with their prodigal Olympian. Sure, Angle could beat Seth Rollins for a token “one last” world title win in an instant classic and match of the year candidate. But Angle wouldn’t win the rematch on the next PPV a month later, because WWE doesn't want to appear stuck in 2003. Furthermore, where’s the logic in undermining a guy whose career likely has at least another 15 years in the tank, in favor of a legend with, if we’re being generous, two or three years left before his arms and legs literally fall off his torso? Speaking of which…..
8 He’s A Wee Bit Bit Injury Prone
As is inevitable for anyone who falls down for a living, Kurt Angle has dealt with more than his share of injuries throughout his career. Not that he hasn’t proven he can tough it out. He did win the frickin' Olympics after breaking his neck, after all. But the fact that he’s been dealing with sudden numbness in his arms and legs and undergoing last-minute neck tumor removal surgery as recently as July tells us that he might not be in an ideal position to take many more significant beatings. Shall we say, it might not be in anyone's best interest to book him in the next Money In The Bank match.
7 The Ship May Have Sailed On Angle vs. Bryan
On the subject of debilitating neck injuries, naturally, the entire IWC craps its collective pants at the prospect of a Daniel Bryan vs. Kurt Angle feud. A series of matches between the best wrestler in the world during the early-to-mid 2000s against the best wrestler in the world over the last 10 years would be a thing of flippin’ beauty. Sadly, due to some evidently deadly serious neck injures, we don’t know if Daniel Bryan can continue to perform in the ring at all, much less at the career-peak levels the IWC would require for an "American Dragon" vs. "American Hero" showdown to live up to its hype. Hopefully, most fans would rather live without a Bryan vs. Angle dream match than see the leader of the Yes! movement put his long-term well-being at risk.
11. His Old/Classic Gimmick Won’t Work Anymore
Angle’s wholesome, self-proclaimed good guy who’s so assured of his own nobility that he's a pompous douche-routine made him an ideal villain during the Attitude Era when anti-heroes were in vogue. There are plenty of reasons that wouldn’t work in today’s WWE: The Attitude Era ended more than a decade ago and Angle’s got too much less-than- wholesome personal history for anyone to believe his erstwhile squeaky clean character these days. Furthermore, Angle's old gimmick wouldn’t scan as especially unique. Bo Dallas just finished a stupendous yet inexplicably underpushed spin on the same basic idea, while New Day currently knocks the goodie two-shoes antagonists shitck out of the park on a bi-weekly basis.
6 He’s a Twitter Liability
If I ever See You Punk, Hide Bitch!— Kurt Angle (@RealKurtAngle) August 14, 2012
WWE’s been noticeably, and correctly, concerned with the consequences of misguided social media posts in recent months. NXT prospect Zahra Schreiber got canned when some years-old swastika tweets resurfaced (also, WWE were probably looking for an excuse to scapegoat her ever since we all found out what Seth Rollins’s privates look like). Nhooph Al-Areebi narrowly avoided the same fate based on tweets she claims were a tasteless prank someone played on her in high school.
Angle might not have a history of racism - except that one time - but he’s gotten in social media pissing matches with both Randy Orton and CM Punk. Long story short, Angle accused Orton and other WWE workers of stealing his signature moves. Orton pointed out everybody steals everybody else's moves. Realizing he had made himself sound like a moron, Angle tried backpedaling by claiming he account had been hacked, and CM Punk aptly described Angle as a “sloppy drunk douche.” So if WWE’s worried about their employees tweeting their feet into their mouths, Angle could cause issues.
9. Nobody Really Wants To Boo Him Anymore
Karl Marx writing in 2015 might offer an observation along the lines of, “Religion is the opiate of the masses….And pop culture nostalgia is another kind of opiate. Let’s say religion is like heroin and pop culture nostalgia is like, I donno, something like hashish.”
Angle did his best work in WWE as a top villain. But these days, the sound of an arena chanting “You Suck!” along to "The Patriot" Del Wilkes’s old theme song evokes very pleasant memories for many fans. For this reason, WWE audiences are not predisposed to get anything other than stoked about a Kurt Angle comeback. Angle’s been away for almost 10 years, he’s had widely publicized, embarrassing personal problems, and his best years have come and gone. Regardless, but if he comes back, he’ll have to burn a flag and swear his allegiance to ISIS on live TV to convince fans to stop cheering him.
8. Nobody Wants To See Him Lose To Triple H, Either
Given that internet rumors (which may or may not be bullcocky) tell us Angle didn’t part ways with WWE on the best of terms, it seems plausible that should he return, he’d be asked to do a high-profile job, just in case he needed a reminder of who’s in charge. Hence, in the hypothetical scenario of Kurt Angle reemerging on Monday Night RAW, The Olympic Gold Medalist should expect a thorough thrashing at the hands of The Cerebral Assassin - Vince’s son-in-law and proxy, Triple H - at the next PPV.
Which would be okay, except WWE used up their vindictive, vanity-driven booking points when Sting ate sledgehammer and counted spotlights at WrestleMania 31, and they wasted their vindictive, vanity-driven promotional ammunition by recently cranking out yet another “Death of WCW” DVD. Fans know punishment-based booking when they see it and Angle putting Trips over at this point would garner eye rolls from all.
5 Angle Could Beat Up Vince, If It Came Down To It
There’s a fable circulating around several internet sources and we’re told it’s in Angle’s autobiography, in which Vince McMahon used to make a habit of sneaking up on the master of Greco-Roman style and wrestling him to the ground, in a manner only slightly more homoerotic than the product McMahon's made millions producing for national television. Seeking good-natured retribution, Angle snuck up on Vince and similarly tackled him during a plane ride. The Undertaker, unaware of the spat’s friendly nature and incorrectly presuming Angle intended the chairman legitimate harm, proceeded to choke the supposed submission machine into unconsciousness. Later, The Undertaker offered Angle a "My Bad," which was accepted.
But let’s face it - should Vince attempt any real shenanigans on Angle, let’s say a Montreal screwjob type scenario, Angle’s one of the few famous professional wrestlers who could crush 95 percent of the human population in a real fight.
6. His Wife Left Him For The Lamest Wrestler Of All Time
Should the online innuendo be believed, Karen Jarrett (formerly, Karen Angle), broke off her marriage with the only Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, because he was constantly messed up on drugs on booze and sleeping with Dawn Marie on the side. We’d be dishonest if we said we could read the phrases “constantly messed up” and “sleeping with Dawn Marie” without feeling envious, but clearly, Angle was not fitting the traditional model of an ideal husband at the time.
Karen Angle moved on and soon became Karen Jarrett - which, we suppose, makes sense if she was looking for more stability than Angle could offer (meaning, any stability at all). But she failed to take into account that, as any wrestling fan would’ve explained to her had she asked, Jeff Jarrett is the lamest wrestler of all time. It would be the understatement of the century to say "awesome wrestlers don't always make good life partners," but it's at least got to sort of suck being married to the lamest wrestler ever, right?
4 Brock Lesnar
As the other most credible crossover athlete to crack the upper-echelon of WWE, Brock Lesnar has always been an obvious foil for Angle. In some respects, that's great! As long as Lesnar doesn't ever attempt a shooting star press, they work fabulously together! The problem now is WWE have arguably done too good of a job making Lesnar look invincible since his most recent return. Even The Undertaker only squeaked by The Beast Incarnate on a fluke during their last encounter. Should he come back, Angle would basically have to challenge Lesnar at some point, but hardly anyone would accept the possibility that the aging ankle lock aficionado stood much of a chance against Lesnar, who's been built up as an utter juggernaut. A fresh chapter in the Angle vs. Lesnar story may result in a great match, but it would run into some serious storytelling problems on its way.
4. TNA, Sting, And The Dudleys
Not that they've ever had a good reason to, but WWE TV shows don’t acknowledge the existence of the TNA brand. While they’re certainly in the minority, a small contingent of WWE fans must be vaguely aware that Angle has remained active in Total Nonstop Action for several years, alongside Buh Buh “Bully” Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley, and Sting. Should any combination of these three men appear on camera together for any reason, they’d pretty much have to pretend the last 10 years of their lives never happened…..Which, now that we think about it, shouldn’t be too difficult, because memorable TNA-related moments ceased to occur after Jeff Hardy got sober.
3 Angle Could Probably Make A Bunch Of Money Doing Something Safer (Politics?)
As we’re all aware, pro wrestling is frickin’ dangerous and getting injured really, really hurts, and hurting sucks. Being a relatively famous person with lots of charisma, Angle probably has at least a few dozen alternate careers he could take on wherein he would rarely, if ever, find himself in physical danger. He could be a professional reality show contestant, play-by-play announcer, personal trainer, Price Is Right host, adult entertainer, podcaster, professional Kurt Angle lookalike for office parties, a video game tester, and that’s just off the top of our heads. Is the risk of potentially quality-of-life-annihilating injury really worth one more appearance at WrestleMania? Especially considering…..
2 He Can’t Have a Retirement Match Against Shawn Michaels Anymore
Should Kurt Angle embark on one last run in WWE, that means it needs to build to a triumphant yet bittersweet retirement match. Presuming Daniel Bryan isn’t available due to previously established and unfortunate circumstances, Brock Lesnar stands as the closest thing to a fitting opponent for Angle’s ride off into the sunset. Angle vs. Lesnar would make a fine and good B+ outing, for sure. It's also an encounter that would just as certainly leave fans thinking, “Gee, that was a pretty great final match for Kurt Angle. But can you imagine how much better a Shawn Michaels vs. Angle match would’ve been?! If only we had a time machine, and could travel back 10 years, kidnap The Heartbreak Kid of 2005 and bring him to the present…”
Best case scenario of Angle vs. Lesnar retirement match: a dedicated wrestling nerd invents the time machine.
1 Actually, Never Mind, WWE Should Bring Angle Back….In NXT
Everything you just read is based on a filthy lie. Kurt Angle should absolutely return to the WWE, but not the main roster. Granted, a handful of grapplers worthy of Angle's talents inhabit Raw and Smackdown. Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, and Cesaro pop to mind. But should he land on NXT, we could see Angle vs. Finn Balor, Angle vs. Samoa Joe (again, remember - if it happened on TNA, it didn’t count), and Angle vs. Sami Zayn, plus they could do Angle vs. Neville and Angle vs. Kevin Owens, except let them go for 20 minutes instead of the five or 10 they’d have to confide themselves in on Raw or Smackdown. Just as John Cena became infinitely more interesting during his feud with Owens, Angle could reinvent his entire persona, help herald in the next generation of stars, and have plenty of outstanding matches if he eschews cable TV for the WWE Network.
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