Everyone knows the story of Kurt Angle and his abrupt exit from WWE in 2006. The former WWE Champion was actually scheduled to fight John Cena at the Unforgiven pay-per-view, but to the shock of the world, the company announced that they released the Olympic Gold Medalist. Angle recounted the events leading up to his 2006 exit, citing injuries, the grueling WWE schedule, and addiction issues. For over ten years, Angle would spend his time in TNA/Impact Wrestling, being the top champion of the brand and continuing to cement his legacy in the professional wrestling business.
Finally, Kurt Angle made his WWE
return in 2017 with a Hall of Fame induction, and then the former WWE Champion would be an onscreen presence as the RAW General Manager. Ultimately, Kurt would make his in-ring return after 11 years at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view, substituting for Roman Reigns to team with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to face The Miz, Braun Strowman, Kane, Cesaro
, and Sheamus. The match itself was pretty good (though crowded); however, the issue was that this was Kurt Angle’s first WWE match in eleven years. Not only does it take place on a worthless B-level pay-per-view, but there’s no story motivation behind it other than Angle was a substitute for Roman Reigns. Kurt Angle’s debut was a missed opportunity, though it wasn’t necessarily doom and gloom because his return could’ve been far worse. To WWE’s credit, there was a storyline between Jason Jordan and Kurt Angle that was building to a possible match at WrestleMania, but that reported bout was scrapped due to Jordan’s career coming to a screeching halt.
While it’s disappointing that the Jordan storyline never went anywhere, Kurt Angle’s best match in his latest stint would be a mixed tag team bout with Ronda Rousey against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. It was easily the best match on the wrestling card, and a reminder to fans why Angle is one of the best talents in the world. Now, to be clear, 2017 Kurt Angle was not 2006 Kurt Angle. The former WWE Champion gave his all in TNA/Impact Wrestling and he noticeably was slower in his later WWE years. Kurt Angle didn’t need another title run as it was indeed time to focus on the next generation. The issue lies with how WWE marketed his matches and his final string of bouts before his grand exit. There really wasn’t a story for Kurt leading up to his final match at WrestleMania 35. Unlike the excellent farewell journey that Ric Flair went through leading up to his match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24. Or Michaels putting his career on the line following his failure at beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25.
It was a string of random matches that resulted in some of Angle’s best rivalries of the past, then the lackluster end by losing to Baron Corbin at WrestleMania 35. On paper, having the veteran putting over the younger talent on his way out is actually a great idea and the company could’ve made a strong story between Corbin and Angle leading up to the big event. But they didn’t. And the match never felt big, nor was it given enough time to be memorable. In truth, Baron Corbin wouldn’t be my first choice to give such a huge victory too, but Vince McMahon was clearly high on the guy and there’s worse names on the roster that Kurt could’ve jobbed too. However, the win over Angle didn’t do much for Corbin’s career. Sure, he got a little boost to the main event spot but the end result saw him on the losing end. And Corbin’s trajectory continued to fall, especially when he was given the idiotic King gimmick following his win.
The former United States Champion didn’t particularly need to be the next Champion, but he should’ve been kept in the mix of the main event scene as the next big heel, which should’ve ultimately result in holding a top title. His win over Kurt Angle was forgotten within a month because the company never made it a big deal that Baron Corbin beat a multi-time WWE Champion and Hall of Famer. It felt as Angle’s loss was all for nothing. Kut Angle’s final run in WWE was bad because it never felt that it had any true purpose. Kurt Angle just felt like another guy on the roster, not a WWE Hall of Famer in the vein of Shawn Michaels, The Rock, or Stone Cold Steve Austin. As I previously stated, I’m not saying that Kurt should’ve been main eventing pay-per-views or winning top titles. His goal should’ve been putting over the younger generation. And he did, but it’s a shame that those wins over him felt meaningless.