WWE’s TLC pay-per-view this Sunday just became one of the most compelling pay-per-views of the year.
After initially struggling to build interest in the show, the wrestling world has erupted with fascination over the sudden return of 48-year-old former Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle to a WWE ring.
The decision was made by Vince McMahon.
I had the chance to speak with Angle this past August. He explained that the hardest part of his role as Raw GM is not being able to express himself from a physical standpoint.
“It’s great to be back with WWE, but I prefer to wrestle,” Angle told me. “I’ve accepted the role as the GM of Raw, and it’s a lot of fun. But this job will become challenging again when I step in the ring and wrestle again. I’m patient. Whenever Vince McMahon wants me to do the physical end, I’ll be more than happy. When I look at this roster, it’s the most talented roster I’ve ever seen. It’s hard for me to admit that, but it’s true.”
Angle’s return to action this Sunday will mark his first time wrestling on a WWE canvas in 11 years. His last match for the company was August 8, 2006, against Sabu for the WWE-branded ECW.
There is no storyline to Angle’s return to the ring because he is filling in for Roman Reigns, who is reportedly dealing with a viral infection. Therefore, Angle will wrestle in place of Reigns and team with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose in a three-on-five Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match against Braun Strowman, The Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro and Kane.
Does it make sense?
But there is no doubt the card just significantly improved.
Another major story broke Friday, as Kevin Owens left the WWE tour in Argentina to fly back to Tampa, Fla. Different reports have circulated as to why Owens left before the end of the tour, and SI.com will continue to follow the story.
As for TLC on Sunday, the long-awaited return of The Shield together in the ring is now on hold, but Angle should amaze fans in this three-on-five match. He has prepared meticulously for a potential return, constantly reminding McMahon that he is ready for action.
The never-ending story between Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt also takes a brief hiatus on Sunday as AJ Styles reappears on a Raw pay-per-view in place of Wyatt, who is another victim of a viral infection.
Styles, who is the most talented wrestler on the entire roster, will make a one-night only switch from the SmackDown brand to a Raw pay-per-view in a dream match pitting the first two leaders of New Japan’s Bullet Club against one another.
This is the most significant crack in this current brand split. There was also no build for Angle’s return, which is a monumental moment in the annals of WWE history, as the company welcomes back a former megastar to the active roster.
The move was not specifically done to boost ticket sales at the Target Center in Minnesota, which were strong in advance. The decision runs deeper, as Angle has pushed for his in-ring return since his return to the company. McMahon, after consultation with Michael Hayes, finally relented and signed off on the decision.
WWE has been searching for a star to boost attendance and draw ratings. This Sunday, WWE goes back to the future to see if Angle can still deliver.