Airing from the Verizon Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, on January 16th, 2017, Monday Night Raw provided fans with quite the delight with the announcement of a 2017 Hall of Fame entrant. The man behind the "Three Is" -intensity, integrity and intelligence- Kurt Angle, would be inducted as part of WWE's 2017 Hall of Fame ceremony.
When it came to Angle's induction it was never a matter of if - it was a matter of when. The five-time WWE Champion excelled from the minute he stepped foot in WWE in 1999. The 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist padded his resume mighty nicely as he won the 2000 King of the Ring tournament, became the company's tenth Grand Slam winner and held any and every belt available to him during his tenure.
As you can see, Angle has racked up achievement after achievement; moreover, these are only his WWE achievements. Whether Angle will ever lace up his ring boots is up in the air for now. But, let's say he does. Here, we take a look at the top fifteen wrestlers that should force Angle to hang up his boots once and for all.
15 Baron Corbin
The "Lone Wolf" Baron Corbin is arguably the most polarizing figure in WWE's ranks today. For every staunch supporter the former Arizona Cardinal and Indianapolis Colt Offensive Guard has, he has another five (if not more), determined detractors. While opinions on Corbin vary, it does not take a genius to realize that WWE is currently intent on pushing him as one of Smackdown's top heels. Corbin's been involved in some recent segments/matches with top stars such as John Cena and AJ Styles. He doesn't have much on his WWE resume sans debuting at WrestleMania 32 and winning the Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal. If WWE plans on having Corbin as a prime time player (not like Titus O'Neil and Darren Young), a victory sending Angle into retirement would do wonders for the covered in ink superstar, Corbin.
14 Finn Balor
The impact that the "Demon King" Finn Balor has made with NJWP and NXT is undeniable. However, despite being crowned WWE's first ever Universal Champion, he only ended up holding the belt for a day. In a tragic turn of events Balor suffered a shoulder injury in his SummerSlam matchup versus Seth Rollins that has him sidelined to this day. As a result, Balor's resume in the WWE is rather plain and unfilled. Yet, it's clear as day that WWE has aspirations of pushing the Irish born superstar to the moon, as one month after debuting he claimed the number one title on Monday Night Raw. By ending the career of the 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Angle, Balor can add another eye popping accolade to his name. Not to forget, the two would almost assuredly put on an instant classic in the squared circle.
13 Shelton Benjamin
Unlike the other names on this list, Shelton Benjamin never received a legit opportunity at the top of the card. Despite being relegated to the mid card and tag team scene throughout his WWE days, Benjamin was amongst the company's most talented in ring performers. He also has history with Kurt Angle as he along with Charlie Haas aligned with Angle in December of 2002. Benjamin and Haas billed themselves as the "World's Greatest Tag Team", and the name held merit as within one month of debuting they became tag champs. Benjamin can play up his prior history with Angle and say "the student has now become the teacher". Moreover, Benjamin can point at how he was the real talent of Team Angle and how he was always overlooked by fans and wrestlers alike. Angle and Benjamin know each other well which likely means their in ring chemistry will be as fluid as can be.
12 Seth Rollins
Just as Baron Corbin is polarizing in terms of likability, Seth Rollins is equally as polarizing in reference to whether or not he is a safe worker. For one, John Cena had his nose broken in a matchup against "The Architect of the Shield". Secondly, Finn Balor dislocated his right shoulder against Seth Freakin' Rollins. Third, "The Man" ended the career of WCW legend, Sting. While the issue of safety is something that Rollins will likely have intertwined with his name for the rest of his life, it is unfair to say he isn't not just a good worker, but one of the best in the wrestling business point blank. Rollins has successfully made the transition from a cowardly heel to a well liked baby face. In doing so, Rollins has shown he can excel in both roles. Being a superstar that is at the top of WWE's pecking order and a wrestler that excels in the ring bodes well for both Rollins and the company. A match with Angle is one that fans would've never fathomed even as early as 2016. Rollins sending Angle into retirement would place him in legendary status.
11 Randy Orton
Remember when Randy Orton was billed as the "Legend Killer"? As the "Legend Killer" Orton defeated and disrespected the likes of Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels and Harley Race. In this role, Orton was arguably the most compelling he has ever been as a character. The character hasn't been seen on WWE programming in over a decade and retiring Angle would be the perfect way to bring it back. Orton could say he's sent legends packing before and Angle will just be another one to add to his list (and Chris Jericho's if he chooses to do so). Angle didn't need to be recognized by the WWE as one who would enter their Hall of Fame in 2017; his status as a HOF legend was already long established. The two have locked up in the square circle prior, and another match between the two would surely grasp the interest of both the casual and diehard fan. The WWE could also play up the storyline as to whether Orton can successfully bring back the "Legend Killer" persona.
10 Samoa Joe
Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe have prior history as the two were once a part of one of TNA's better feuds, as well as being members of the Main Event Mafia. Joe is currently down at Full Sail University working within the NXT ranks. However, it's widely assumed that Joe will debut at the Royal Rumble. In addition, WWE reportedly has big plans for Joe when he comes up. While these plans are currently unknown and there is nothing to point at one thing being likelier then the other, a match with Angle would certainly suffice for "big plans". Moreover, a retirement matchup with Angle would be grounds for not just big plans, but monumental plans. Joe had no business being sent to NXT in the first place as he was ready for the main roster for a number of years. It's time that the WWE rewards Joe and puts him over Angle so he can be recognized as a major player in the E, just like he was for TNA.
9 CM Punk
The funny thing about CM Punk is that while he's so opposed to returning to WWE, his UFC promoter Dana White is just as opposed to having Punk return to the UFC octagon. Moreover, White feels Punk sealed his fate in his match against Mickey Gall as he spent two minutes on the ground, unable to muster any offense against Gall. When Punk entered the WWE, Angle had just departed for greener pastures (on second thought, maybe not), in TNA. The mere return of Punk to the WWE would have fans in a frenzy as he'd have the opportunity to face off against the likes of Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and AJ Styles. But, a retirement match against Angle at WrestleMania would simply blow the roof off the place. While this matchup is likely wishful thinking, it is one that would "steal the show" and not even Dolph Ziggler would be upset about it.
8 The Undertaker
It's widely assumed that WrestleMania 33 will be The Undertaker's last hurrah. It's also commonly believed that 'Taker will be involved in a WWE Championship against either John Cena (who seems to be the more likely opponent) or AJ Styles (less likely opponent, but still possible). Whether 'Taker will walk out on his feet or will be laying on his back is still in limbo. The scenario of "The Deadman" wrestling his last match for the WWE Championship is certainly compelling. But, is it more compelling then having both Angle and 'Taker put their careers up for grabs? This would make for a great storyline because no one can really pinpoint whether or not Angle and 'Taker actually have hopes of hanging up their wrasslin' boots. Sure they're a step slower and at the end of their career. But, do they think that? These two duking it out in a career vs career match would be an unexpected swerve that would be welcomed with open arms.
A feud with the "Bulgarian Brute", (who really should be calling himself "Handsome Rusev"), practically sells itself with Kurt Angle. On one side, you have Rusev who is not only the company's best foreign heel, but he is the only formidable Anti-American heel. Angle, is about as patriotic as they come as evidenced by him competing and winning gold for the U.S.A. at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Rusev is currently in a lackluster feud with Enzo and Cass and his pairing with Jinder Mahal is rather head-scratching. While Rusev is a 2x United States Champion, his resume doesn't have that one accolade (no pun intended) that distinguishes him as an upper echelon player. By ending Angle's career, Rusev is easily recognized as a top heel and threat for years to come.
6 Kevin Owens
With "KO-Mania" slowly approaching once again, Kevin Owens has a number of intriguing angles he can be placed in. For one, he could face-off against his current best friend Chris Jericho at the "grandaddy of them all". All good things must come to an end and there's no better event than WrestleMania for the two to finally clash. Secondly, Owens could defend his Universal Championship, if he's still holding it by 'Mania that is. All in all the company can steer Owens in a wide array of directions. One of these directions would be against Kurt Angle. Owens is a favorite of Triple H's which likely means that he will be featured at the top of the card for years to come. Why not strengthen his resume by having him put Angle out of action once and for all?
5 Chris Jericho
On January 9th, 2017 Chris Jericho claimed the United States Championship and by doing so he claimed the final championship in WWE that had alluded him for close to two decades. Now forty-six, Jericho has proven that his longevity is unprecedented as he's been working a full-time schedule for a little over a year now. Jericho is also no stranger to putting wrestlers over. Moreover, he arguably puts over and has put over more wrestlers than anyone in WWE. He put over Jack Swagger when Swagger won his first and only World Heavyweight Championship. He put over Dolph Ziggler by losing to him cleanly in 2012 at SummerSlam, when Ziggler was in the midst of establishing himself in the main event scene. Oh, and he put over Fandango at WrestleMania 29; who could forget that? How about flipping the switch, WWE? Why not put Jericho over this go around?
4 Sami Zayn
Billed as the "Underdog from the Underground", Sami Zayn is WWE's resident lovable David in the land of Goliaths. The skinny twin of Seth Rogen has essentially taken over the role of Daniel Bryan after he was forced into retirement. Zayn's wrestling ability is right at the top when contrasted with his fellow WWE peers, yet he's always fallen short in his quest for gold on the main roster. Zayn's had the opportunity to tangle up with the best of the best as he's feuded with the likes of Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins. But, unlike Owens and Rollins, Zayn usually comes out on the losing end of his feud. If Zayn retires Angle, the WWE can frequently point at this being his defining moment, despite of how many times he may come up short in the future.
3 Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes may not currently be in the WWE as he is off killing it on the independent scene. But, Rhodes name will forever be intertwined with WWE considering he spent close to a decade on its main roster, his half-brother, Goldust is still with the promotion and his father, Dusty Rhodes is a WWE Hall of Famer. Angle and Rhodes also have history in the ring as one of Rhodes first matches on the indy scene was against Angle in Wappingers Falls, New York. Rhodes got the better of Angle and this would be a perfect way for Rhodes to come back to the WWE. Not only would Rhodes get a huge pop, but fans would be invested as they'd wonder would WWE be willing to do right by Cody this time around and push him as he should be pushed. Or would they use him improperly as they did for the majority of his first stint with the company? Not to forget, based on Angle and Rhodes first matchup, this is one fans would surely love to see again.
2 Bray Wyatt
In 2016, Bray Wyatt was inexplicably left off of the WrestleMania 32 card. In 2015, Wyatt was defeated by The Undertaker at WrestleMania 31. Wyatt's been involved in his fair share of high profile feuds against the likes of Dean Ambrose, John Cena and Roman Reigns. Unfortunately, Wyatt almost always gets the short end of the stick. As a result, Wyatt's character suffers because it's one thing to face the company's elite; it's another thing to defeat the company's elite. Wyatt's momentum at the moment is at a standstill as he's caught in the middle between Luke Harper and Randy Orton. Wyatt has the capability of not just being one of WWE's top heel, but the heel (don't worry Roman, you can still be "the guy") if booked properly. Sending Angle into retirement is the perfect jumpstart for Wyatt.
1 AJ Styles
If it were up to Kurt Angle his final match would be against AJ Styles. Speaking with Lillian Garcia of AfterBuzz TV, Angle said the following about "The Phenomenal One", "I wrestled AJ in TNA, and I can tell you that he is every bit as good as Shawn Michaels. [...] AJ is a special individual where you can go in that ring and literally just stand in the middle and he does everything for you. I have never had a match with anybody that's been so easy, and every time I worked with him it was a five star match. So AJ's that kind of talent. He only comes around once in a lifetime, so I'd really love to shake it up with him one more time if I could". The praise for Styles via Angle is obviously high and its warranted as Styles is the name most would reference as WWE's best worker. This match sells itself and finding someone who is opposed to Angle facing Styles is unfathomable.