I suppose it was inevitable that after a week’s worth of praise, we should return to the default position apropos World Wrestling Entertainment i.e. tedium, irritation and insidious boredom. As I noted last week, the early doors of the NXT/Nexus renegade saga succeeded in intriguing this writer. The prospect of a lime green (but undeniably fresh) twist on the New World Order represented a vast improvement on the hollow dross that has typified WWE television for what feels like decades now.
Sadly, the events of this past week have brought two rather large setbacks; thus eroding a considerable amount of my previous optimism. Firstly, my fellow countryman (and leader of the Nexus) Wade Barrett found himself deported on a visa expiration issue. Such problems can take months to resolve, as the similar situation involving TNA and Angelina Love (from last year) readily demonstrated. For Mr. Barrett’s sake, I hope the matter is resolved in a more precipitous manner than the unfortunate Ms. Angel Williams. It’s too early to gauge just how damaging Barrett’s absence will ultimately be, but the loss of their leader and chief spokesman has hurt the momentum of the Nexus.
The aforementioned second blow concerns the decision to confine the Nexus members to Smackdown. The profile of the blue brand has never been lower, and its inclusion in the hottest new angle in WWE might’ve been a momentary boon for the beleaguered “B-Brand”. Assuming WWE has some notion of what an “invasion” entails, the idea of the Nexus ignoring Smackdown diminishes the scope of their assault and weakens the impact of the angle. It also serves to underline, highlight and italicise the irrelevance of Smackdown in the current television era.
It’s back to square one then, for your faithful scribe. Watching NXT Season Two, I can’t help but draw parallels between it and the Big Brother reality TV concept. Whatever progress is made by the presentation of the rookies is negated by the stupid, pointless challenges they routinely face. Couple this with the ritual humiliation and endless “they aren’t ready for WWE” sermons and you have an uncomfortable brew. Amazingly, all this pales in the wake of having to watch and hear Matt Striker. The man dresses like a mid-forties divorcee and routinely denigrates the English language in his attempts to promote his apparent intellect. At the risk of being ineloquent, Matt Striker is quite obviously an obnoxious prat. It’s therefore quite helpful that he works for Vince McMahon.
Switching gears (or brands), I recently caught an episode of TNA Impact featuring a tremendous match between England’s own Desmond Wolfe and Kurt Angle. As is typical of Impact, the match was annoyingly short, but even with a meagre time allocation Wolfe and Angle assembled a sharp, competitive contest featuring crisp, hard-hitting action. It was a joyful viewing experience, which reawakened memories of the Angle/Wolfe feud from the end of last year. Say what you will about TNA, but the already polished and capable Wolfe would have been lumped in NXT if he’d joined WWE as originally planned. He’s criminally wasted in TNA right of this moment, but in WWE he wouldn’t even have been allowed to register a blip on the smallest radar.
Long-time readers of this column will be aware of my feelings regarding Kurt Angle. He has an obvious propensity for wanton stupidity when within the vicinity of a non-TNA microphone, but as a wrestler he has no equal. Kurt Angle is the quite simply the most naturally gifted professional wrestler in the history of the medium; capable of carrying a walnut whip to a stunning, back-and-forth encounter. Since his return from a well-earned sabbatical, Kurt has looked healthier and seemingly remains as motivated as ever. If Vince McMahon has any sense whatsoever, come September he’ll take the risk, re-sign Angle to a limited dates contract, and watch his main event scene improve exponentially. Alas, I’m reasonably certain this will ultimately not happen, and the reason is quite simple: Paul Levesque hates Kurt Angle with a passion, and what Hunter wants, Hunter gets.
If permitted a moment of genuine candour, Kurt Angle would probably admit to having very little affection for Triple H. In August and September 2000, Paul Levesque used his burgeoning relationship with the then newly appointed head of WWE writing – Stephanie McMahon – to bring the outstanding Steph/HHH/Angle love triangle to a premature end. Caustically aware of Angle’s growing pedigree (so to speak), Hunter feared the loss of Stephanie and his own subsequent babyface turn might irrevocably weaken his standing as baddest heel in town. So, in a move that pissed off millions and began the anti-HHH backlash, he had the whole thing pulled. As technically proficient as Hunter was in 2000, he knew that Angle possessed all the tools for mega stardom, and a flustered Helmsley connived to defend himself. Looking back on it ten years later, it still rankles.
Throughout Angle’s WWE career, Hunter remained reluctant to spend time around him. As the years continued, Angle’s abilities and attitude steadily improved (despite all the neck problems), whereas Triple H descended into an abyss of paranoia and politics. Though eventually rebounding in 2004, Triple H remained terrified of Kurt Angle. Between the end of 2000 and Angle’s WWE sacking in September of 2006, permanent main eventers Angle and Triple H worked precisely one feud together (which lasted two months). As Angle’s power and standing grew, he became increasingly resentful of Triple H and the attention lavished upon him at the expense of all others. Just like The Rock, Steve Austin and later Randy Orton and Batista, Kurt Angle grew tired and browbeaten from constantly playing Hunter’s stupid little games.
Triple H hates Kurt Angle because despite his all his power and exposure, the so-called “paper champion” (as HHH, in a mind-blowing display of arrogance, referred to Angle as) simply continued to improve. Despite the creative control, politicking and unbroken twelve year push, everyone in wrestling positioned to have an opinion on such matters agrees: Hunter is sixty percent fabrication, forty percent legit. Kurt Angle is one hundred percent real (or “damn real”, if you prefer). If Kurt stays fit and motivated, he is the greatest in-ring asset in the world. He has almost single-handedly carried the TNA main event scene for three years, and his return to WWE would be a major boost to the tepid, gimmick-driven crap that is presently driving customers away in droves.
Think for a second how much Kurt Angle would bring to the likes of Jack Swagger and the Nexus. Think again of a resumption of feuds with the likes of Edge and Randy Orton. Think one more time of Angle/Undertaker at Wrestlemania… Wow. That gives this writer Goosebumps just imagining that spectacle. Then again, so does the thought of Paul Levesque’s face if Vinny Mac was to tell him of a Kurt Angle return. That would be funny. Damn funny…
Daniel R. Browne.