The sudden appearance of a Kurt Angle profile on the Alumni page of WWE.com has sparked plenty of chatter and speculation about a possible return to the company.
Of course, it could be completely meaningless. He’s a WWE alumnus, so he belongs on the page. Better late than never, perhaps.
But it does seem peculiar that, out of the blue, WWE would choose to showcase a guy who remains one of the most recognized and respected wrestlers for WWE’s closest competitor (even though it’s highly debatable whether TNA is a competitor at all).
The seeming randomness of Angle’s appearance on the WWE website does beg the question: is WWE planting the seeds for Angle’s return to the big leagues? Is it merely a goodwill gesture toward one of the greatest performers to set foot in the WWE ring? Could WWE already be thinking of Angle for a future Hall of Fame induction — an honor he surely deserves?
It seems unlikely that WWE¬† is interested in a full-time return for Angle, who is battered and bruised beyond his 44 years. Particularly after Jerry Lawler’s high-profile heart attack, WWE bigwigs are keenly aware that the media would pounce on the story of an older wrestler getting hurt in the ring.
On the current active WWE roster, only the Undertaker is older than Angle — and he only wrestles once or twice a year.
Mind you, Angle can still deliver hugely athletic and entertaining matches. He is relentlessly competitive and hugely talented, so he could still deliver the kind of match WWE fans remember him for.
So maybe WWE is interested in bringing him back for a part-time run — a long-building feud with a big payoff, similar to the roles held by The Rock and Brock Lesnar. This seems far more likely than a full-schedule return, and potentially a very good idea.
After WrestleMania, WWE might be looking for a new nemesis for Brock Lesnar, since he was recently signed to a two-year contract extension. Lesnar and Angle put on a hell of a match at WrestleMania 19 (despite Lensar almost crippling himself with a botched shooting star press), and a rematch would be a natural draw.
Or perhaps even more intriguing would be a long-awaited feud with Jack Swagger. WWE might be looking for the perfect hero to uphold true American values against the xenophobic rhetoric of Swagger and Zeb Colter.
Fans have been dreaming about a Swagger/Angle match for years — Swagger has been dubbed “the next Kurt Angle” many times, due to his stellar amateur background — and there’s every reason to believe the two stars would deliver a doozy.
So far, Swagger and Angle have been mostly complimentary of one another:
“I mean, honestly, I’m a big fan of Kurt,” Swagger has said.¬† “He’s one of the reasons I wanted to wrestle, I admired him as an amateur wrestler and admired him even more as a professional wrestler. To be compared to him, it’s an honor, but at the same time, I think both of us are different people and different wrestlers. It might be apples to oranges, but at the same time it’s nice to be in that category.”
Angle has returned the compliment, though with fewer words: “I like him. He’s a good wrestler.”
Of course, WWE could easily ignore such past niceties — especially now that Swagger is a heel — and build an adversarial storyline for the duo. Angle would be the older, wiser Olympic hero, disgusted by how Swagger is wasting his talents by representing a backwards form of patriotism.
Both men are enormously competitive, and you can bet that they’d love the chance to test one another in the ring.
Of course, this is all speculation based on what might have been a meaningless bit of housekeeping on the WWE website. All the guesswork overlooks one thing: Angle is under contract with TNA.
Earlier this month, Angle told a Pittsburgh radio host that he still has “another year and a half” on his TNA contract, which means he wouldn’t be a free agent again until late-2014. He added that retirement is coming relatively soon.
“I do plan on going probably uh two to three years, and I’m done,” he told¬†John Phillips on 93.7 The Fan. “I will retire and..¬† when I’m retired that means I’m done. That doesn’t mean I’m going to retire and come back. It means I’m finished with it for good.”
If history is any indication, though, Angle’s TNA contract is hardly a major impediment. Wrestlers frequently get released from their contracts, and it’s never wise to underestimate the prowess of WWE’s lawyers. If WWE really wants Angle, there’s almost certainly a way to make it happen.
Angle would probably insist he is capable of one more stellar run in WWE (after all, he has made bold claims about MMA and the Olympics). Whether he gets the opportunity will depend on whether the WWE brass believe it’s (damn) true.