On Sunday, Kurt Angle returned to WWE.
Sure he’s been back for almost a year now, but only as General Manager, a non-competitive role. Though the Olympic Gold Medalist vowed he would eventually return to the ring (“when the time is right”) many refused to believe it. After all, Angle’s been known to embellish and present his wishes as reality. Not to mention Angle isn’t exactly in his prime and WWE has tried to present itself as a company that cares about the health and safety of its workers.
You can do your own joke.
Nevertheless, after the scare that happened during Sting’s final match, it’s not unreasonable for them to be gun-shy about someone who’s being held together by duct-tape and fishing line. But last week, amidst a mini-plague that spread across the locker room, WWE found itself about to host a PPV without two of its biggest names.
Throughout history, Vince has shown himself to be a believer “sudden opportunities.” You can criticize him all you want for booking the same match over and over for three months straight and you can bad-mouth his inability to see the potential in certain superstars, but every now and then something unexpected will happen and someone will be forced to step up to the plate. When that happens, Vince usually goes all-in, riding the wave of chaos to see where it takes him.
Thus, Kurt Angle.
Am I complaining? No. Angle is, hands down, my absolute favorite wrestler of all time. He and I came to WWE together (he as a wrestler and me as a fan in late 1999). He was my first favorite, has continued to be my favorite, and will forever be my favorite. So no: There was no complaining when Angle was announced for the TLC match. It was Christmas morning.
He was tossed out into a match with zero build-up to compete in a tag match built around a faction that reformed specifically for that match. But it worked: It was weird seeing him cosplaying as Roman Reigns. It was weird seeing him do the Shield entrance, surround the ring like the Shield used to do, give someone the Shield’s finisher, the Triple Powerbomb, and fist the other two Shield members after the match, just like in the good old days [editor’s note: there’s gotta be a better way to phrase that]. But it all worked!
So now that the cat’s out of the bag there’s no reason Angle can’t be a semi-regular attraction going forward. It’s not like you can say “but his health!” If his health is so bad he can’t wrestle the next match, he shouldn’t have been allowed to wrestle this one. That ship has sailed; let’s look ahead to who he might wrestle in the future.
Here’s my list of wants…countered by what we’re likely to get instead because, I don’t know if you realize this, but Vince has a way of taking a monster dump on his fans’ hopes and dreams.
WHAT I WANT: JOHN CENA
Yes, I’m aware that just three years ago this would be a Big No. But a lot has changed in just three years; Cena has gone from full-timer clogging up the main-event scene with the same tired act to being a grizzled veteran, working the match of the night almost every time he steps into the ring. Far from the unbeatable boy scout, Cena is now more vulnerable, having lost as many big matches lately as he’s won.
Angle is not an up-and-comer though; he’s a guy who goes way back, having done the job for Cena when the then-new main-eventer was just solidifying his status as “the man.” A match between them would be a genuine “Legend vs Legend” contest and would easily steal the show on whatever big show it happened on.
WHAT I’LL GET: ROMAN REIGNS
Basically take the John Cena vs Kurt Angle match from Survivor Series 2005 and redo it, only with half the excitement behind it, and twice the angst.
WHAT I WANT: AJ STYLES
In a very short span of time, Styles has become sort of this generation’s Kurt Angle. There are differences of course; Angle was an amateur wrestler who came to WWE very green but who took to This Business like a duck to water. In a very short span of time Angle was one of the most polished characters, promo-guys, and in-ring talents the WWF had. There have been many to win the WWF/E championship in their rookie year, but few justifiably climbed steadily up the ladder as quickly as Angle did.
Styles, by contrast, came to WWE a seasoned veteran. He’s wrestled everywhere against every kind of opponent. His background isn’t the amateurs, it’s the indies. And yet, the one thing they have in common is the assurance that if you give them a stage and time to work with, they can make magic happen, no matter the opponent. That was Angle from 2000-2004 and that’s Styles today. Just imagine what they could do together (yes I know TNA is a thing that happened, but something something tree falling in a forest).
WHAT I’LL GET: KANE
I’m still irrationally and unnecessarily bitter over Angle getting shafted with a protracted WWF Championship run during the InVasion angle, at a time when he was the hottest babyface on the roster. It was a classic example of someone getting lost in the shuffle of a big storyline. He ended up turning heel toward the end of the angle and limped into WrestleMania X8 without clear direction. And despite a roster overflowing with talent ready for potential dream matches, who does Kurt Angle—one of the best in-ring talents the WWF has ever had—wrestle? Freaking Kane.
So yeah: I expect nothing less than for Vince to dare me to get excited about a rematch with Kane.
WHAT I WANT: DANIEL BRYAN
This is a personal dream match of mine going back seven years. When Bryan was fired from WWE for getting a hair too kinky with Justin Roberts and his tie I hoped he’d stop off at TNA for a cup of coffee; long enough to have a match or two with Kurt Angle. Their styles are vastly different, with Angle a mat-technician and Bryan a lightning-fast striker. It’s not quite Angle vs Rey Mysterio at SummerSlam 2002, but it would have just as crazy and fun. In fact the match almost happened twice-over. Right around the time Angle signed with TNA, Dragon Gate USA had an agreement between he and Bryan Danielson for a match, but TNA put the kibosh on it. Later, when Paul Heyman almost became the creative head of TNA, he had plans to bring Danielson over and build him up for a major clash with Angle. Obviously that never happened.
Now they’re both under the same roof and there’s just one itty-bitty thing holding it up: Bryan not being cleared to wrestle by WWE’s doctors. I’ve said before that the real holdup on clearing Bryan is how it would look for WWE. They’ve touted themselves as a “safety first” company and they’ve denied Bryan for so long they’re in too deep to ever back out now. If they ever did though, this match would be epic.
WHAT I’LL GET: SHANE McMAHON
It’s not 2001 anymore and Shane’s baby-punches and lust for jumping onto tables from large heights is played out. But if it’s a SmackDown vs Raw match you want, this is likely what you’ll get. I’d rather just watch the old King of the Ring match again.
WHAT I WANT: BROCK LESNAR
The reason is simple: They were each other’s best feud during their first run with the company. They were the perfect “similar but different” rivals just as Austin and Rock were. Both were amateurs but Angle was more finesse and Brock more power. Angle more goofy and Brock more dead-eyed murderous. They were peanut butter and chocolate and every match they ever had with each other (and I’ve seen them all more than twice) was at least “really good” and usually “holy crap I need to watch that again immediately.”
One more match between them, for old time’s sake, would be the ultimate dream come true for me.
WHAT I’LL GET: BROCK LESNAR
It’s not 2003 anymore and Brock Lesnar’s boring “suplex, suplex, suplex, shoulder block in the corner, suplex, suplex, F5, pin” style of offense is played out. The crowd still counts along with each throw, but they also turn on their flashlights for Bray Wyatt’s entrance. WWE fans are always down for good performer-to-spectator interaction; it’s not indicative of how into a match they are…and Lesnar’s matches have gotten terribly stale. The potential is always there for a flash of greatness, but too often there’s 51% or more boredom and shouts of “that’s it?” when it’s over.
Let’s not even mention the fact that Lesnar’s offense, which again consists almost exclusively of throwing his opponents down hard on their neck, is maybe not the best idea against Kurt Angle, a man whose neck is so fused he basically moves like Michael Keaton’s Batman. Do I think Vince would actually book the match? Yeah. He threw Angle out there in a TLC match for crying out loud. We might get the match, but I don’t think It’ll be a dream come true.
That’s my list, Cagesiders. There were many more names that could have been included (Triple H, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, Chad Gable no seriously Chad Gable for 15 minutes would be amazing and you know it). Comment below and let us know who you’d love to see Angle wrestle.
Until next time, I’m Matthew Martin: I love WWE but everything sucks and I’m never watching again.
See you next Monday.