Don’t adjust your monitor, don’t check the date on your screen, it’s not 2006. It’s 2017 and Kurt Angle is making his in-ring return for the WWE! It’s true, it’s damn true!
So, how did we get here? About an hour after I posted my WWE TLC preview/predictions on Friday 10/20, the WWE announced Kurt Angle will replace Roman Reigns in the main event of the TLC Pay Per View. WWE stated that Reigns is unable to compete due to a severe illness.
Although Kurt Angle has been the GM for Monday Night Raw since April, he hasn’t wrestled in a WWE ring for over 11 years. There is plenty of skepticism about Angle’s health and whether wrestling in a dangerous TLC match is the right way to come back. Putting that aside, and assuming WWE and Kurt have weighed the risks, this is an exciting time for newer and long-time WWE fans.
There are plenty of WWE fans that have never watched Kurt perform live in a WWE ring. For many of these fans, Angle’s return is a dream scenario, similar to the Hardy’s WWE return at Wrestlemania. For more seasoned fans, or even fans that have lapsed from the current product, Angle’s return is a throwback to a different era for them.
But wait, there’s more….
Also in the Angle announcement, due to illness Bray Wyatt will be replaced by AJ Styles. What was looking like an awful end to an awful feud (read my old PPV Preview post) has now turned into an overnight Dream Match scenario with Finn Balor vs AJ Styles. The Styles addition is certainly an upgrade and even without a build, the match has a nice buzz going for it as, at least on paper, it looks like a Match of the Year candidate.
Sash Banks vs Alicia Fox (Kickoff Show)
The first of 3 Women’s matches on the card will happen on the Kickoff show. It’s a smart move putting Sasha on the Kickoff for any fans watching for free who may be enticed to sign up for the Network.
My Pick: Sasha wins and moves onto bigger and better things.
Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann vs. Gentleman Jack Gallagher & The Brian Kendrick
This hasn’t been the most captivating story but it is good for the Cruiserweight Division to get multiple PPV matches. Although 3/4 of Alexander vs Gallagher on Raw fell flat to the crowd, they did get into the match at the end. It does feel like Swann and Alexander are both slowly getting over each week. This feud will probably continue after the PPV and maybe lead to being part of a Cruiserweight Survivor Series match.
My Pick: Gallagher & Kendrick
Asuka vs Emma
The main story here is Asuka’s main roster debut. After arguably the best NXT run for any wrestler, male or female, Asuka brings her undefeated streak to the Raw Brand. This match feels like it will be a complete showcase for Asuka to show off her character/moves to a larger audience.
My Pick: Asuka in a squash
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
Kalisto (C) vs Enzo Amore
Kalisto won the Cruiserweight Title earlier in October defeating Amore in a mjor upset on Raw. Most of the internet has speculated as to why that decision was made (Neville) and I expect the belt to go back to Enzo at TLC. While Kalisto is a great wrestler, his promo on Monday reminded everyone why he can’t be the face of 205 Live.
My Pick: Enzo Amore
WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Alexa Bliss vs Mickie James
Damn, this one feels like it should have been a ladder match. Either way, it’s nice to see Mickie back in a major title match on a WWE PPV. Some of the age insults (keep in mind she’s younger than John Cena) on Raw hurt this match, because they aren’t necessary and only hinder Mickie as being a credible threat. WWE could have built Mickie up with all of the history of her with the company, and instead went the other way. This match feels like it is a vehicle to add another major win to Alexa Bliss’ Raw Women’s title run. They could go the nostalgia route and have Mickie pull of the upset, but all of the build up to this match says otherwise.
My Pick: Alexa Bliss
“The Demon” Finn Balor vs AJ Styles
WWE.com is still advertising The Demon for the match. It’s tough to see why they would go that route, as there is no built in reason for The Demon to be brought out to fight Styles. Still, it shouldn’t take away from the match, and may even help a match with 2 days notice, feel like it is a bigger spectacle. There isn’t much to say about expectations for this match. They are completely off the charts. Both stars have had International success, as well as success in WWE. Anything under ****, even for a last minute match, will feel like a bit of a letdown. Before the Styles replacement, it looked like Finn was going to get the win over Bray/Sister Abigail. Finn could certainly use the win more than AJ, especially after the cold Wyatt feud.
3 vs 5 TLC Match
Kurt Angle, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose
The Miz, Braun Strowman, Kane, Sheamus, Cesaro
I have no idea what to expect from this match now. I hope all 8 wrestlers (especially Angle) protect themselves. With Roman out of the match, it’s safe to assume that Rollins and Ambrose will do most of the heavy lifting in the ring. There is still potential for some major moments, given all of the star power in the ring. Angle will probably do some chain wrestling and mat work to illicit the standard “you still got it” chant.
The Angle addition is the perfect opportunity to change course with the story. If Angle takes the pin at TLC, it adds fuel to the heel side and still protects the Shield for when Roman comes back. I think WWE will play the long-game with this story and continue toward a match at Survivor Series.
My Pick: Miz, Kane, Braun, Cesaro, Sheamus