Kurt Angle is back and he’s heading into the WWE Hall of Fame. While it’s not unprecedented for Hall of Famers to continue wrestling (and while there’s absolutely no indication WWE wants him to wrestle again, or that his new deal with the company includes any in-ring action at all), the impending induction likely signifies that Angle is attempting to wind down his career. So if it wasn’t already running rampant … it’s time to let speculation run rampant about who Angle’s final opponent or opponents might be.
During an appearance this week on Afterbuzz TV’s The Tomorrow Show, Sean Waltman said there are “several guys” that could be in the mix to face Angle in a retirement match, although the one name in particular he tossed out, saying he “could be the guy” was Chris Jericho. For his part, Angle himself said the person he’d love to have one more match against is AJ Styles.
For those who have seen him wrestle over the past decade since leaving WWE, Angle never lost much of a step in the ring, if any at all. He would likely have dynamite matches against anyone they pitted him against, considering the unprecedented talent depth on the current WWE roster, particularly at the top of the card.
I’m personally of the belief that Angle might not have just one match over the course of 2017, but perhaps a series of them, or a retirement tour of sorts. Hell, it might stretch on into 2018 or beyond, considering what a workaholic (in several senses of the word) Angle has always been. Still, the short list of bona fide dream matches that WWE fans would want to see likely isn’t that short at all.
Let’s start with the obvious candidates, and likely the biggest possible matches WWE could put together for a final Angle match from a business standpoint: Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan. They’re both long shots, although Bryan obviously a much longer shot.
Lesnar and Angle will always be tied together, as it was arguably his WWE Undisputed Championship feud with Angle that put Lesnar on the map, and they’re pretty inarguably the most accomplished amateur wrestlers to compete in the modern WWE era. One last feud between the two would be compelling and likely they’d motivate each other to put on one final wrestling clinic. It took a returning legend in Bill Goldberg to make Lesnar look motivated again, so lord only knows what Angle would motivate him to do.
Bryan, on the other hand, has been a dream opponent for fans of Kurt Angle ever since he was wearing white trunks as “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson. He’s retired and WWE has made it abundantly clear that they have no desire for him to wrestle again, ever. That said, if there’s enough money and interest in a one-time-only Daniel Bryan return match, Angle would be the opponent to break that glass case for. It’s not going to get any better. Not even a grudge match against the Miz could match Bryan/Angle in a double retirement match.
The tier below Lesnar and Bryan is the “established main eventer” tier of potential Angle opponents. This is where you’ll find names like Jericho, Seth Rollins, Undertaker, John Cena, Styles, and Randy Orton. Any of these opponents would be great and would move the needle and likely do big business (any Angle retirement match is poised to do big business). The problem with these as possible final opponents is that they’ve either mixed it up with Angle a ton of times before, or fans just wouldn’t be as interested in those matches. But the biggest problem is that retiring Angle wouldn’t make that big a difference in their careers. None of these men would be more of a star if they won (or lost) against Angle in his final match.
And then you have the most intriguing tier: the “next generation” batch of opponents that could retire Angle in his final match, but not before both men have one of the best and most high-profile matches of their careers. This is where you put opponents that really make your eyebrows unconsciously raise when you think about them. Cesaro, Finn Bálor, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, The Miz, Rusev, Shinsuke Nakamura, Chad Gable, Jason Jordan … come on down and wrestle Kurt Angle already.
My personal choice for Angle’s final opponent would be Chad Gable. All day, every day. Then you can have Angle settle in as the mentor/manager of American Alpha as Team Angle 2.0. But man alive, there’s really no wrong answer here, is there? Except for John Cena. As great as he is (and as great as he and Angle have been together in the past), that’s probably the wrong answer. But I want to see pretty much all of these matches. Here’s hoping we get some sort of Kurt Angle Open Challenge or a Kurt Angle Decimation Farewell Tour. Because we all deserve to see 2017 Cesaro mix it up with everyone’s Olympic hero. Or Rusev. Or Lesnar!
Heck, I can’t choose. But whoever finally gets that final nod and honor, it’s going to be incredible. Who you got?