Oh man! That was freaking amazing. After 11 years since the last time he stepped in a WWE ring, WWE Hall of Fame inductee Kurt Angle set foot in the ring as part of a team with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, two parts of The Shield, against the combined team of The Miz, Cesaro & Sheamus, Braun Strowman, and Kane in the 5-on-3 main event of the WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs event. Kurt Angle was put into this match on short notice after the third member of The Shield, Roman Reigns, was diagnosed with a viral infection that forced him to bow out of the match. But after watching that match and seeing what Kurt Angle did in this match, I am pretty sure that the WWE Universe was not disappointed with this decision. Yes, Kurt Angle’s return to in-ring action in a WWE ring should have been much more illustrious and with a lot more fanfare – but for what happened in this match, the way that Kurt Angle performed, the sheer athleticism that was on display by all eight men in this match… this was as good as we could have gotten. Hell, it was a better match than even I anticipated given the circumstances that made it happen.
Simply put, Kurt Angle is a “Wrestling God”! The man is a born sports entertainer. And he showed that he is still at the top of his game during this match. He can still go on all eight cylinders. Of course, just because this is the first time that he has set foot in a WWE ring in 11 years doesn’t mean that he has 11 years’ worth of ring rust. For the better part of the past decade he was a main event player over at TNA – Total Non-Stop Action (now Impact Wrestling) and he delivered some of the best matches of his career there. He’s also competed over in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, Revolution Pro Wrestling, What Culture Pro Wrestling and other independent promotions over the past 11 years, proving that he was still one of the elite wrestlers to ever step foot in a ring. But his return to in-ring action in a WWE ring is his wrestling career coming full circle.
After all, he started his wrestling career with the WWE back in 1999. Well, technically he started his wrestling career in the National Wrestling Alliance’s 50th Anniversary show in October 1998 during a Battle Royal event, but how many people actually remember that match? Even so, Kurt Angle signed with the WWE (then WWF) in October of 1998 and was sent to the WWE developmental territory Power Pro Wrestling before moving up to the house show roster in March of 1999. And during the 1999 Survivor Series, Kurt Angle made his main roster in-ring debut. After which, he would spend the next seven years in the WWE and made a name for himself as a wrestling machine, winning over the WWE staff backstage and the WWE fans by showing that his in-ring acumen and psychology was among the best to ever step foot inside of a wrestling ring. He would go on to win numerous championships within the WWE:
- WWF Hardcore Championship (1 time)
- WWF European Championship (1 time)
- WCW United States Championship (1 time)
- WWF Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
- WWE Tag Team Championship (1 time), with Chris Benoit
- King of the Ring (2000)
- WCW Championship (1 time)
- WWF/WWE Championship (4 times)
- World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
He would also go on to win numerous other titles in TNA and other promotions, but, arguably, his most visible and recognized championships and accomplishments happened in the WWE and this is where he, in numerous interviews, considers home. So, seeing him return to action in a WWE ring was something that was as sweet as it was beautiful. I won’t lie, I completely marked out when I saw Kurt Angle walk out with Rollins and Ambrose as part of The Shield’s entrance. And I completely lost my shit when I heard Kurt Angle’s music hit as he made his way back to the ring after being escorted backstage after sustaining a kayfabe injury partway through the main event. I mean, seriously, I was jumping up and down when he came back and his music was blaring throughout the arena. I can only hope that there is some more in-ring action planned for the Olympic Gold Medalist in the near future because if he was this good with only two days’ notice, how good can he be if he had time to fully train and prepare for a match? Either way, this was an awesome match and Kurt Angle still proved that he’s still got it.
On a side note, how awesome was that Finn Balor vs AJ Styles match earlier in the WWE TLC event? And all because Finn Balor’s original opponent, Bray Wyatt, was affected by the viral outbreak that hit the RAW locker room. But as it was, this match had the two former leaders of the NJPW/Ring of Honor faction, The Bullet Club, going at it for nearly 20 minutes and putting on a wrestling clinic for the fans. I mean, holy shit, that was awesome. Watching these two world class athletes go at it, matching each other move for move, counter for counter – this is the kind of wrestling that fans live for. Finn Balor and AJ Styles are two of the best in-ring performers of this generation and this match solidified that statement. The way they managed to hold the crowd, deliver a beautiful story through their moves, and showcase high-speed, lightning quicks moves the only way athletes of their caliber can.
I would equate watching this match as being on par with the Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle match at WrestleMania 21 or the Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko two-out-of-three falls match in their last match for ECW. You may not agree with me on the caliber of the match, but the level of athletic ability on display during this match was, for lack of a better word, phenomenal. And the “Too Sweet” gesture between them both at the end of the match was bloody awesome. (Though I am pretty sure this pissed off the current Bullet Club members as well as The Young Bucks seeing this on TV.) This may be the first time that both of them have faced each other in a ring but hopefully this is not the last time we see them go at it.
In closing, it’s kind of sad that a viral outbreak in the RAW locker room ended up making the WWE TLC event a more memorable and entertaining event than it had originally panned out to be, but I guess that old saying is true: “anything can happen in the WWE” – even if it may be by complete happenstance.