Kurt Angle’s return to Raw was the most emotional moment of the year in WWE. All the new additions—Shinsuke Nakamura, The Revival, Tye Dillinger, and the return of Finn Balor—were meaningful, yet none, with the Hardys a close second, had the impact of Angle.
Angle was announced by Vince McMahon as the new GM of Raw, yet he is only two years removed from the WWE having little to no interest in his return.
“I haven’t spoke openly about this,” Angle told Sports Illustrated in 2015, “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.”
WWE was not interested in Angle, and even canceled the in-person meeting.
“I never went to see them,” Angle explained. “They didn’t even sit me down and talk to me.”
From a wrestling standpoint, WWE was simply not interested. As sobering as that information was for Angle to digest, the former Olympic gold medalist responded in the typical fashion: he went back to work to prove he was still an elite wrestler and character.
Angle never grew bitter, never knocked WWE for passing on him—a genuine superstar—and he instead found ways to enhance his legacy. He made the right choice by distancing himself from the chaos of TNA Impact Wrestling, worked select independent shows around the United States, and also rejuvenated his connection with fans in the United Kingdom through his WhatCulture Pro Wrestling shows. Angle’s most recent work with Alberto Del Rio and Cody Rhodes were WrestleMania-caliber matches.
Wrestling is often criticized as “fake”. There is nothing fake about Angle, who has experienced every sort of tragedy and heartache since leaving WWE in 2006—a divorce, addiction, the loss of loved ones, and rejection from the company to which he so desperately wanted to return—but that smile on Angle’s face during his intro on Raw was extremely real.
WWE has created more questions than answers with Vince McMahon’s announcement that there will be a “Superstar Shake-Up” next Monday on Raw.
Will there be a draft? Or will the talent be randomly assigned to new homes?
The talent balance has shifted, and significantly so, in favor of Raw. The return of Finn Balor, new additions in the Hardys and The Revival, and a new GM in Kurt Angle have tipped the power scale in Raw’s favor. Yet the power structure will rebalance itself on Monday.
More details to follow.
In other news…
• Matt Hardy correctly predicted this past Friday on SI.com that “the best ladder match of the weekend will be the one with the Hardys.” The Hardys put together a sublime ladder match with the Young Bucks on Saturday night for Ring of Honor in Lakeland, Fla., then traveled to Orlando on Sunday for WrestleMania 33 to reclaim the WWE tag team titles for the first time since 2007. WWE seemingly has its cameras cut away each time the Hardys start a “Delete!” chant, and although it was odd to hear Matt Hardy not speak in his “Broken” character on Raw Talk, the creative options for the Hardys in WWE far outweigh what they would have experienced in Impact Wrestling.
• Imagine if Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage had a WrestleMania rematch at WrestleMania 2000? Or if Bret Hart and Steve Austin had a WrestleMania sequel atWrestleMania XXVI? The 13-year gap marked the amount of time between ‘Mania matches for Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg, who worked against one another at WrestleMania XX and again at WrestleMania 33. Lesnar and Goldberg somehow exceeded expectations, despite the fact the match lasted only 285 seconds.
• Roman Reigns buried The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33, and then responded succinctly to the boos and vulgarities from the crowd on Rawby simply stating, “This is my yard now.” Reigns is now in need of a fresh opponent—someone like Baron Corbin would be a good fit, or even AJ Styles, though it would be interesting to see how audiences worldwide would respond to a Reigns storyline with John Cena.
• Dean Ambrose had a world title reign—and this was before the brand split—as the lone WWE champion, in the same calendar year that he had a match on the pre-show at WrestleMania 33. Ambrose is also in desperate need of change, and a move to Raw would allow him the opportunity to work with Samoa Joe and Finn Balor.
• The Smackdown women need to have less of a gimmick to their matches to be taken seriously at WrestleMania. The men would never be booked in a 6-man title match at a WrestleMania, yet that was somehow the case for the women. Naomi defeated Alexa Bliss in a one-on-one encounter on Smackdown, which would have been a far better use of their allotted time at WrestleMania 33.
• WrestleMania 33 was a seven-hour spectacle, though many of the matches lacked the psychological fundamentals for WWE Hall of Famer Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat:
“Part of my success was rooted in psychology,” said Steamboat. “That was the old-school teaching. Whenever two guys got together, you asked, ‘What body part would you like to work?’ In my case, it was the arm. Most guys wanted to feed me for that arm drag. We always believed in storytelling, so if I had the arm, the heel would get away for a moment—or heel his way away—and then I would get back to it. We were trying to paint a picture that I was getting back to the body part that I was spending time on. Once you established a body part, then the story is you are continually trying to get back to it. I see a lot of that not being used today. Some guys do things in matches just to fill in the blanks, just to do, what we call, ‘stuff’. You need storytelling in the match.”
• The talented Dave Lagana is currently working on his newest project, “Galloway – End of Independents”, which documents newest NXT-signee Drew Galloway’s seventy-two hour rollercoaster weekend in Orlando including Evolve, WWN Supershow, WhatCulture Pro Wrestling, and the moment he drove off to return to WWE. “This raw and unfiltered look will give a deeper dive into the passion Drew has for his craft, his fans and his family,” said former WWE writer Lagana, who noted that the full documentary is coming soon.
• NXT champion Bobby Roode, who will forever be the man to claim he sent Shinsuke Nakamura packing from NXT, is looking forward to working a program with the artist formerly known as “The King of the Indies” Chris Hero, who is Kassius Ohno in NXT:
“Kassius has made quite a name for himself after he left NXT the first time around, and he opened some eyes and got a spot back here in the company,” said Roode. “Whenever there is a guy at the level of Kassius Ohno walking through the doors, everybody starts licking their chops and wants an opportunity to get in the ring with him. There is always a competitive spirit, and everybody wants to be that top guy and, ultimately, make it to the main roster.”
• Why does WWE insist of giving supernatural powers to Bray Wyatt? The “Eater of Worlds” is supposed to be a feared cult leader, not someone who can make the ring light up in different colors. Wyatt’s first reign as WWE champion was as disappointing as it was short.
• In the business section of the Week in Wrestling: WWE and Topps launched a partnership that has delivered Topps SLAM 2017 , which is an app that features 5,000 different trading cards and interactive video cards; The New Day dressed as Final Fantasy XIV characters in their WrestleMania 33 entrance as part of a partnership between WWE and Square Enix, makers of the popular Final Fantasy video game franchise; and John Cena is adding to his brand by working with Crocs:
“They’re launching a fantastic campaign called ‘Come As You Are,’ and it’s centered around a person’s ability to deal with adversity and still remain true to oneself,” said Cena. “I really don’t pat myself on the back too often, but man, I’ve made a living doing that. So I was really happy to be chosen to be a part of it. I think that the messaging of what they’re trying to say and what I do on a daily basis is exactly identical.”
Exclusive Lucha Underground clip
Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson
“Given everything that happened at WrestleMania, we really wanted to celebrate The Undertaker’s career,” said Thompson. “We want to go back to near the beginning. You have his debut and his first WrestleMania available in his archives, but then Bruce left and wasn’t back until late ’92. We thought, ‘Let’s give everybody two complete years of the life of The Undertaker, and that’s what we are going to do for both 1993 and ‘94.”
Thompson is particularly looking forward to engaging Prichard on the subject of ‘The Underfaker’, who was played by Brian Lee.
“The SummerSlam match was Undertaker vs. Underfaker, and we’ll talk about that and the hilarious bits they did with the cast of the ‘Naked Gun’ films. There will be a lot of fun, old-school, Undertaker stories. We got to see the end this past Sunday, so I think going back to where it began will hit the spot this Friday.”