The 2017 WWE Hall of Fame class has its headliner -- and it's someone that many doubted would ever be back with the company in any way.
ESPN broke the news on Monday afternoon that Kurt Angle would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31st over WrestleMania 33 weekend in Orlando, Florida. The induction is the first association Angle has had with WWE in over a decade after parting ways with the company in 2006.
"I was shocked. I've been out of WWE for a long time and out of touch with them so I didn't really expect this," Angle told ESPN about the news. "It's a huge honor. This is the only Hall of Fame that I'm not in and probably (the one) I want to be in the most. This is the one that means the most for me. I had a lot of fun entertaining the fans for seven years with WWE, and I'm glad that my hard work paid off."
Angle had spent most of the last decade of his career in TNA Wrestling, while a litany of highly publicized personal and substance abuse issues had kept him out of WWE's good graces since his departure.
“Kurt Angle’s accomplishments both in the Olympics and WWE were extraordinary,” Paul Levesque (better known as Triple H) said in a statement. “He was one of the most gifted athletes to ever enter the ring, and we are honored to welcome him into the WWE Hall of Fame.”
In the ESPN interview, Angle claimed that he was told the news on Monday after having little relationship with the company in the time since he left aside from a conversation with Levesque last year. Dave Meltzer reported in the January 2nd edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Angle had told indie promoters that he wasn't taking any more bookings and would be going back to WWE in April.
It remains to be seen whether Angle will ultimately only be back for the induction or if he'll have any further role in WWE.
"We have not talked about any wrestling," Angle said to ESPN. "Whether we do or not, that remains to be seen...there are no guarantees. I think right now the most important thing is the Hall of Fame -- and I think both sides feel that way."