Making Sense of Kurt Angle's Return: What Can We Expect at WWE TLC?

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2017

Credit: WWE.com

Friday afternoon, WWE.com broke the news that Kurt Angle will replace Roman Reigns in Sunday's hotly anticipated Tables, Ladders and Chairs match that was originally slated to be The Shield's first bout together in three years.

Raj Giri of WrestlingInc reported the WWE locker room has been struck with a case of the mumps, leading to Reigns and Bray Wyatt's removals from the pay-per-view card.

Angle, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist, WWE Hall of Famer and five-time heavyweight champion, will consequently wrestle his first match for Vince McMahon's wrestling empire in 11 years. The announcement not only threw the TLC card into upheaval, but it hot-shots Angle's return to the ring, ruining what could have been a momentous moment further down the line.

It is a decision that reflects desperation and suggests WWE officials recognize the significance of Reigns' absence in the heavily hyped marquee bout.

What does it mean for Angle, though, whose return to a WWE ring amounts to little more than a thrown-together appearance at the last second?

         

But 1st, the Match

For someone like Angle, whose neck injuries were well-documented in the 2017 documentary WWE 24 - Kurt Angle: Homecoming, a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match seems like an unnecessarily risky contest in which to participate on his return to the squared circle.

Factor in incredibly physical workers like Cesaro, Sheamus and Braun Strowman with whom he will interact, and the tables, ladders and chairs that will be strewn around ringside, and you have a scenario that does not necessarily favor someone with the injury history of the Raw general manager.

With that said, there are few greater big-match performers in WWE history than Angle.

Arguably the best worker to ever lace a pair of boots, he has repeatedly shown an ability to excel no matter the match type. His Hell in a Cell performance in December of 2000 proved Angle's ability to thrive in a brawling atmosphere, while his Street Fight with Shane McMahon at King of the Ring 2001 is the stuff of legend.

Throw in that seeing Angle work with Cesaro has long been a dream of diehards, as well as the Pittsburgh native's history of working with big men to great results, and you have every reason to believe a motivated and determined Angle will turn in another strong performance in a career of extraordinary feats.

        

Looking to the Future

Angle's inexplicable introduction to the match hurts WWE's long-term plans for the iconic performer.

It is extremely short-sighted to take someone of his stature and star power, throw him in a gimmick match on a C-level pay-per-view and ruin any potential opportunity that existed to make money off of his return to the squared circle.

Not when WWE could have utilized Finn Balor to team with Rollins and Ambrose. Or SmackDown Live's AJ Styles, who is now slated to face Balor on the undercard. What about Jason Jordan, who has an established history with Miz and could stand in for Angle, his on-screen father?

The most obvious replacement is Matt Hardy, who is one of the originators of the TLC match and without a match on Sunday's card.

How the company missed such a readily apparent solution, rather than risking diminishing the significance of Angle's return to the ring, is a mystery.

What is not is the clear indication of a panic move on the part of WWE Creative to make up for the Reigns' absence. The problem is, it comes at a TLC pay-per-view, which has a C-level feel to it.

As has been the case with WWE in recent years, it sacrifices long term to stick a Band-Aid on the current and, in the process, robs fans of a legitimate moment they can look back fondly on rather than a one-off match with no substantial build or quality story.