Friday afternoon, WWE.com broke the news that Kurt Angle will replace Roman Reigns in the hotly anticipated Tables, Ladders and Chairs match originally slated to be The Shield’s first match together in three years.
WrestlingInc.com reports the WWE locker room has been stricken with a case of the mumps, leading to Reigns and Bray Wyatt’s removal from the pay-per-view card.
Angle, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist, WWE Hall of Famer and five-time heavyweight champion, will wrestle his first match for Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire in 11 years. The announcement not only threw the entire TLC card into upheaval, 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 WWE television amounts to little more than a thrown-together appearance at the last second?
But First, 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 unnecessary risky match to return to the squared circle in.
Factor in incredibly physical workers like Cesaro, Sheamus and Braun Strowman with whom he will interact, and 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 the current Raw general manager has.
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 in matches of many types. 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.
Factor in the idea that Angle working with Cesaro has long been a dream of die-hards and 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
The inexplicable introduction of Angle to the match hurts WWE’s long-term plans with 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 in the undercard. What about Jason Jordan, who has an established history with Miz and could stand in for his on-screen father Angle?
The most obvious replacement is Matt Hardy, who is the originator of the TLC match and is 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 absence of Reigns. The problem is, it comes at a TLC pay-per-view that has a very real 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.