The return of Kurt Angle to WWE is something a lot of fans are interested in, and to which the company itself publicly kept the door open.
But according to an interview the Olympic gold medalist gave to Sports Illustrated, they weren't nearly as receptive in private negotiations.
I haven't spoke openly about this, but I opened up my options and was going to decide between TNA and WWE. I wasn't going to leave TNA unless WWE was offering a fair deal.
This is the most we've heard from someone who took part in those discussions instead of just rumors. And while almost all accounts of the dealings between Angle and WWE have made it sound like a one-sided affair, and this one is no different, it's still surprising to hear how disinterested Vince McMahon and Triple H were in bringing back one of their biggest stars.
Attempting to facilitate a deal with the man he'd always dealt with in the past, and who the article paints like a father figure for Angle, Vince McMahon, didn't get him anywhere, as Kurt says he was referred back to Paul "Triple H" Levesque. Versions of the story that have gone around in the past had Angle trying to go over Levesque's head to Vince when he didn't like the younger man's answer, but here the current TNA champ says he tried McMahon first and was directed to his son-in-law:
Paul is in charge. I found that out when I contacted Vince. I've always had a good relationship with Paul, so I didn't consider that a problem. But he decided they had enough talent.
For the Vince McMahon who I knew, enough was never enough. He always wanted more. I don't know what was going on over there, but they even canceled our meeting. I never went to see them. They didn't even sit me down and talk to me.
It blew my mind. It was as if I was a nobody, that I wasn't Kurt Angle. From a wrestling standpoint, they just weren't interested. But TNA not only stepped up, they gave me everything I wanted - the dates, the money, and it's no secret that I've went to rehab in the past, and they gave me time off. You talk about a company that's loyal to you, and you want to be loyal back. So I didn't pursue the WWE any further. When it comes down to it, you've got to stick with the people who want to take care of you. And [TNA president] Dixie Carter took care of me.
But I'm going to be straight with you. The WWE would have made more money this year if they would have signed me. That's no secret.
He talks about matches he could have had with guys currently on the WWE roster, including Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar and Rusev - bouts he's all confident he could safely and entertainingly deliver. But while Angle doesn't it address it in the interview, obviously the health concerns that lead to his initial release are still there, along with whatever other bad blood may exist between he and Hunter.
And now, he's saying he's okay with not going back:
I don't know if they just thought I was too old, but obviously they're not watching our product. Triple H is the same age as me. It was hard, but at the end of the day, I'm really happy.
Will I ever go back? I really don't care. I'm happy to be here in TNA.
TNA is happy to have him, as is their new broadcast home, Destination America, who reportedly pushed for his current title reign and are touting Impact Wrestling's contribution to growing their brand. While he's disappointed that TNA couldn't lure Paul Heyman to the fold, he's happy with the company's direction.
And contrary to reports that he and WWE parted ways over his not wanting to take time off during his injury and addiction-plagued day in the mid-aughts, Angle's comparison of Carter and McMahon does indicate that, at least this time around, WWE was not interested in giving the 46 year old a softer schedule:
If I wasn't feeling good, Dixie would tell me to take the night off - and she wouldn't dock my pay. I can't say that ever happened in WWE. Vince is great at what he does, but so is Dixie - and I know my body is going to hold up in TNA.
Check out his whole chat with Justin Barrasso for more on his favorite matches from his whole career and a humblebrag story of grappling with Brock when the collegiate wrestler tried to take down the Olympian in Lesnar's early days in WWE.
What do you think about this version of events? While most would agree that WWE is right to have concerns about Angle's physical health, are you surprised they didn't try to work out any deal? Given this, do you think we'll ever see him in a WWE ring again?