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Is GM Kurt Angle enough or is in-ring return necessary?

Kurt Angle addresses the crowd after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the WrestleMania 33 weekend at a ceremony on Friday, March 31, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images for WWE)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images for WWE

There likely was not a single fan unhappy to see Kurt Angle make his long-awaited return to WWE the night after WrestleMania 33, when he became the new general manager of Raw. For the first time in nearly 11 years, Angle’s classic theme graced the arena of a WWE event. Fans nearly blew the roof off the venue followed by the infamous “You suck” chant, creating a memorable, heartwarming moment no spectator will forget.

Rumors had been widespread prior to the official return. Angle’s induction in the WWE Hall of Fame all but cemented that his relationship with the promotion had finally been healed. Given Angle’s outspoken desire to return to WWE several years prior, once it was clear WWE was okay with Angle again, it was just a matter of time.

Of course, the very first question from the vast majority of fans was whether or not Angle would wrestle in a WWE ring again. As much as Angle has always been a great character, he will always be remembered first and foremost for his elite in-ring ability.

That begs the question of whether simply being an on-screen personality for his second WWE run will be enough to satisfy Angle’s fans. Will it always be viewed as a disappointment if we saw Angle’s final WWE match back in 2006 when he originally left the promotion?

Not only is Angle 48 years old, but he has accumulated a laundry list of injuries which began before his professional wrestling career, most notably his neck, which has been the source of major injuries as a wrestler. Such circumstances would cause any promotion to be wary of allowing the man to compete in its ring, WWE most of all given its status as the most popular wrestling promotion in the world and a publicly traded company.

It is the very reason Daniel Bryan is the general manager for SmackDown. If it were not for WWE preventing him, Bryan would still be performing in the ring. Bryan has made it clear his main intention is to finish out his WWE contract so he can get back to performing in the ring somewhere else, where his past injuries and health will not prevent him from doing so.

It is the same reason WWE recently decided against signing top Japanese women’s wrestler Io Shirai. She was a victim of recurring neck issues that seemingly gave WWE cold feet during the process of offering her a contract which, aside from the physicals, was considered a done deal.

However, we know Angle can still work at a high level. After leaving TNA (now Global Force Wrestling) in early 2016, Angle started accepting independent bookings. He intentionally kept a light schedule, working only eight matches over the course of a year, but continued to show the top-notch talent he has always been known for, working with Rey Mysterio, Zack Sabre Jr., and Cody Rhodes.

Nonetheless, it means nothing in the eyes of WWE. If Angle cannot pass the strict physicals of the company, he will not be wrestling — simple as that.

Angle has kept a positive attitude on the matter, publicly saying on several occasions he expects to make his in-ring WWE return, though if Angle has already undergone tests, it has been kept tight by WWE.

All that said, Angle’s run as general manager has been nothing to complain about. It has been only four months, but Mick Foley’s run had started showing sour elements by that time marker.

A strong argument can be made that Foley’s run would have been a lot more successful and worthwhile if Stephanie McMahon had not been a constant presence and foil throughout his time. That’s an issue Angle has not had to deal with: McMahon has not appeared on WWE television since WrestleMania 33. One would have to imagine her return is coming sometime soon, given her long absence.

If Angle does gain another match, many predict it will directly involve McMahon, likely in some power struggle that would eventually culminate in one last Angle versus Triple H match. Triple H has also not been seen since WrestleMania, giving Angle full rein over Raw since he stepped in.

If one match is doable, others should be as well. One cannot help but feel the itch seeing Angle in the ring with former foes Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe after all these years, as he has been recently. Then consider other options such as John Cena, A.J. Styles, and Shinsuke Nakamura, and the mind wanders gleefully.

For now, though, it does not appear Angle the wrestler is making his return anytime soon. Some have speculated the odd Jason Jordan angle will somehow lead to Angle competing, but that remains to be seen.

What can be said for now: There is nothing wrong with Angle the general manager. It is a necessary authority character, so it is good to have a familiar face the fans almost universally love. However, it is also true to say there is nothing particularly special about Angle’s general manager run, barring the actual WWE return itself.

For Angle’s second WWE run to be truly memorable and special, an in-ring return has to happen. Even it is just one last match, that is ultimately what the fans want most and, safe to say, what Angle himself wants more than anything else.

 



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