Olympic gold medalist and six-time WWE Champion Kurt Angle is the first confirmed inductee into the WWE Hall Of Fame for 2017. The ceremony will take place Friday March 31st in Orlando Florida, ahead of Wrestlemania 33 the following Sunday.
Angle, now 48, asked for his release from WWE in 2006 after a 7 year run, and has since spent spent 10 years with rival promotion TNA, retiring in early 2016.
“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.com.
“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 has had well documented troubles with substance abuse in the past, but is now said to be clean, and hasn’t entirely ruled out making a re-appearance in a WWE ring.
“I took this year off and enjoyed it thoroughly; almost too much, to the point where I was thinking maybe I’m not going to go back anywhere. But I really believe that the contract with WWE, whether I wrestle or not — and there aren’t any guarantees either way — I feel like being an ambassador to the company is the most important thing for them and for me right now.”
“We have not talked about any wrestling,” Angle said. “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.”
Angle’s been making appearances on the independent circuit during 2016, although largely taking the year off to spend time with his family. His wife, Giovanna, gave birth to their fifth child, Nikoletta, in November.
“There was unfinished business [with WWE] the day I asked for a release. I always knew that I would come back, I just didn’t know when. This is my real home, and even though I was gone longer than when I started, this is where I made my name.”
I’m coming home! #itsdamntrue
— Kurt Angle (@RealKurtAngle) January 16, 2017
Pro Wrestling Insider reported earlier this week that DDP – Diamond Dallas Page – will also be joining the class of 2017, although this hasn’t been confirmed by WWE.
Page is currently investing his efforts in DDP Yoga, a health and well-being program developed to assist athletes like himself who had suffered years of injuries due to high impact sports and fitness. DDP has been credited with rebuilding the lives of troubled stars including Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott Hall, as well as helping numerous others including Mick Foley, Vader & Chris Jericho.