The current WWE World Heavyweight Champion is on a limited appearances contract, because despite his minimal schedule, Brock Lesnar is still one of the biggest draws in the wrestling world at the moment. Place the Rock on a card, and watch the dollars roll in for whatever WrestleMania or SummerSlam he is available for. The same goes for the Undertaker, or Chris Jericho, and if the incessant rumors regarding Steve Austin and Sting are true, then that will hold true as well. If a megastar with a massive following briefly returns, it is a sure-fire way to get seasoned and casual fans to stop whatever their doing and tune in.
Now, the rumor mill is abuzz with news that the WWE has gotten in contact with Kurt Angle over a potential return to the company that made him a star. Angle, the 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist in Freestyle Wrestling, left the WWE in 2006 following a brief stint as part of the new ECW brand, and has been one of the main draws of TNA for the past eight years. After five world title reigns, induction to their Hall of Fame and a short spell as their Director of Operations, he is now once again a free agent.
Over the last twelve months, stories of Angle rejoining the WWE have been rife on wrestling news sites and forums. Some have suggested he has been desperate to rejoin the company, even contacting Vince McMahon directly with concepts for his return. Other reports suggest most higher-ups in the organization would not like to see him back, citing his personal issues since leaving WWE and whether he would be able to pass a physical. And, in the last few days, speculation has reached its zenith with statements that WWE have offered a full-time contract to Angle, only for him to refuse as he would rather have a part-time role, with TNA still waiting in the wings to sign the Pittsburgh native back up.
Now, I cannot disguise how delighted I would be to see Kurt Angle back home in WWE. He is one of the greatest professional wrestler's of all-time, a four-time WWE Champion and one-time World Heavyweight Champion. His classic encounters with the likes of The Rock, Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Shawn Michaels and Undertaker have lined many fans' DVD collections, and his place in the superb SmackDown Six have ensured his status as one of the most proficient technicians and storytellers in history. Many would readily feature him in a discussion of the greatest wrestlers ever, me included.
But, it is just another bandage over the cracks in WWE's current process of bringing in part-time stars to cover over their inability to create stars to replace them. Can you imagine in fifteen years' time the crowd getting on their feet to welcome back Dolph Ziggler? Or Kofi Kingston? How about The Miz? Maybe Fandango would get the crowd dancing for a little while, but that's it. These names currently make up the midcard of WWE today, but don't have the same connection to the fans as those that made their name in the Attitude Era. If X-Pac or Rikishi, or even Val Venis or D'Lo Brown made a cameo in WWE today, the reaction would be immense compared to what would likely result from any of the current names.
Angle can only cover over so much though with his presence. He is a great wrestler with a remarkable lineage, but when he goes, what is left? A group of wrestlers that are undoubtedly talented, because this roster is arguably the best it has ever been from a purist standpoint, but are lacking the spark which saw flocks of people connecting to the masses in the Attitude Era. People may not enjoy every aspect of what that time brought to the company, but the creative team pushed the boat out to get these guys and girls noticed, whereas in these days they may not be lewd or controversial, but even worse - generic.
Undeniably, Angle will be a fine distraction if he does manage to work out a deal to return to his home to end his career. I, along with many long-term wrestling fans will welcome it with open arms, no matter what it tells about the state of the roster at the moment. As soon as he locks somebody in the Ankle Lock, all thoughts of the detriments on the rest of the superstars and divas will fritter away into euphoria for the triumphant return of a former hero. Then, he will depart, and the problems with the roster will be exposed once again in the spotlight.
But, who cares, The Rock should come back to rescue the WrestleMania buyrate and keep the status quo afloat. For Vince McMahon, it's "Long Live the Attitude Era", because if he wasn't living off those successes, I wonder where the company would be right now.
Arguably in a better place with a new wave of stars lining the card.