The Less We See Of Brock Lesnar, The More We Like Him
In an era with an entire network (albeit one struggling mightily to attract customers) dedicated to professional wrestling, time is not exactly of the essence. With five new hours of weekly programming on television 52 weeks of year, we as wrestling fans are oversaturated with content. That does not even include the developmental division that is NXT or the “C” shows like Main Event and Superstars that can all be seen exclusively on the Network. We are sick of watching John Cena, sick of Randy Orton; hell, in three months I’m already sick of Roman Reigns. That’s not to say that WWE is incredibly stale (which it is), but to say that there are just so many hours of wrestling that it’s impossible for every week to avoid feeling somewhat repetitive. Reigns and Orton, in a way, have been feuding since the day after WrestleMania. That was four months ago. John Cena is now a 15 time World Champion and his character is the same as ever. The worst part is we see these guys week after week, and while they aren’t necessarily just going through the motions, there is only so much these performers can do to seem fresh.
Enter Brock Lesnar.
Since the moment that Lesnar became ‘The Conqueror’ and defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania, it was a foregone conclusion that Lesnar would compete for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the company’s second biggest event of the year, Summerslam. If it weren’t due to Daniel Bryan’s actual injury, we would have seen the underdog Bryan taking on the beast Lesnar. But with Bryan gone, Cena/Lesnar became the no doubt main event, despite WWE giving it to us with little build up in April of 2012. John Cena was destroyed that night, but went over Lesnar because Vince McMahon had to prove that the WWE guy is always better than the UFC guy. Whatever.
Since that night, Lesnar has had his ups and down since returning to WWE. Essentially, every one of his feuds have felt ultra repetitive, just like the product. Lesnar comes back from a long layoff, beats up opponent. Lesnar shows vulnerability to opponent. Lesnar and opponent sign contract. Then they have their match at the PPV(s) and then Lesnar disappears for a while. (Brock is only contractually obligated to appear at a certain number of events per year for WWE, despite making a hefty salary). Of course, he is omnipresent thanks to the brilliance of his advocate Paul Heyman, but Lesnar is physically only appearing close to 20 times a year. The feud with Triple H dragged on. The feud with CM Punk never really found its stride. When Lesnar began his feud with the Undertaker earlier this year, it seemed just the same as the Triple H and CM Punk feuds. Paul Heyman would talk a ton when Lesnar wasn’t around. We were going through all the same motions. After Lesnar unfathomably conquered the streak and became the first wrestler ever to defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania, everything changed. For starters, this happened. But more importantly, Brock’s aura was back.
There was no more going through the motions with Brock Lesnar because he had done something that everyone thought wouldn’t be done. There was an outcry of wrestling fans, “How could Lesnar be the one to end the streak!? He’s never even here!” Those wrestling fans missed the entire point. That’s the reason he ended the Undertaker’s streak. He’s an assassin, a wrestler that works just for the money, that doesn’t give a crap about the business. He ended wrestling’s equivalent to DiMaggio’s streak. He’s so utterly dislikeable for the marks that he was perfect person to end the streak. It makes sense that the McMahons would pay him handsomely to work just a few dates per year. While every other character in the wrestling soap opera sounds the same and has become cookie cutter, Lesnar is simply a bad ass, gun for hire. He’s such a proven real life ass kicker, it’s believable.
Whenever Lesnar returns from one of his many sabbaticals, it’s always a huge deal. Perhaps it’s the surprise, but there are always surprises in wrestling. The reason Lesnar’s return is always huge is because he’s just not a regular guy. Despite being WWE’s version of superman, John Cena is always there. Lesnar’s mouthpiece may always be around, but not him, not the beast. The man comes and goes as he pleases and shows up when the time is right and when there is money to be made. The fact that he‘s not around all the time proves that time does in fact equal money; the less time you are around, the more money that can be made from you. That’s not for everyone. That’s just for Beast Incarnate.
On Sunday, at Summerslam, Lesnar competes for the WWE World Heavyweight Title against John Cena, in a match we have seen several times before. However, this time the buildup is unique. We’ve had Paul Heyman give us soliloquies and raps and speak poetically on how his client, Brock Lesnar, will conquer the champ. Heyman is THE best talker in wrestling. So good that WWE just released a DVD on his storied career. The former WCW manager, ECW owner and WWE commentator has turned himself into the go to guy in WWE to get something over, whether that’s a wrestler, a product, or simply a match. WWE trusts Paul Heyman with anything and everything right now, and rightfully so. He has proven to be a modern day Bobby Heenan, the greatest manager in professional wrestling history. Heenan’s dream was to end Hulkamania and he managed a dozen wrestlers that went up against Hulk Hogan during Hogan’s star studded run. Heyman doesn’t need a dozen wrestlers. He has the Beast.
Despite wrestling this Sunday, in this recent program Cena and Lesnar have been in the building together just one time. Due to Brock’s contractual obligations and Cena’s Judd Apatow obligations, we have been left to a different than normal build up to the main event. Lesnar (Heyman) promo, Cena promo, an awesome video package by the awesome video team and then the final words from both wrestlers. The two men had to be in the same ring for less than two minutes and yet it doesn’t matter. Brock Lesnar is so real that his presence can make any match seem huge. Putting him in there with the face of the company is an easy sell and the company knows that. Lesnar/Cena on Sunday is going to be brutal and awesome, no matter the predictable outcome of The Conqueror becoming The Champion. Whoever is next to beat the again unstoppable Lesnar is going to be a made man, especially when Cena can’t.
Enter Roman Reigns.
As I said last month, Reigns is without question the future of WWE. He has been positioned as the second biggest good guy in the company behind Cena. After failing in two different WWE World Heavyweight Championship opportunities, Reigns is back with the slow burn and as predicted facing Randy Orton on Sunday at Summerslam. It’s expected that after four months, Reigns will decisively defeat Orton, which will be a good stepping stone for Reigns. Orton is the credible, reliable, former champion and their match on Sunday should be a good physical battle. But we’ve seen it before. We saw it at Extreme Rules, we saw it at Payback, and we’ve seen it on Monday Night Raw over and over again. I’m not interested in Reigns getting any sort of revenge on Orton. But that’s okay. Orton is a stepping stone for Reigns. A stepping stone to the eventual showdown with the Beast. When no one can take down Brock Lesnar, the future champion, Reigns will step up. Reigns will conquer the conqueror. Reigns will be made. And isn’t that the point in all of this? To make new stars, to be fresh? You may not like the direction, but WWE has strapped the rocket to Roman Reigns and set the plan in motion for him to be the man. We’ll have no chance but to enjoy it. However the future doesn’t end with Roman Reigns, formerly of the Shield. That stable consisted of two other future stars.
Enter Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
Ever since The Shield broke up a few months ago, Rollins and Ambrose have been feuding nonstop. Ambrose, playing a Brian Pillman type lunatic, is doing everything in his power to take down the corporate sell out and Money in the Bank contract holder, Rollins. Despite feuding for quite a while now, they haven’t wrestled a true one on one match yet. Even their scheduled match at the last PPV, was simply an angle to push this feud forward. So now finally Ambrose gets his chance to get his hands on Rollins. The problem is this feud has now gone on so long, I’m over seeing Ambrose get revenge, much like I’m over Reigns getting revenge on Orton. I think WWE sensed that this feud was fading, as they added the lumberjack situation to the match. The point of having all of the wrestlers not on the show surrounding the ring? I’m not exactly sure. I would have chosen a different stipulation for this match, such as putting Rollins’ contract on the line. This match should be physical and is the first (only?) outcome on the show that is not utterly predictable to me. On Kountermove, I’m staying away. Perhaps the reason this feud has been a bit stale, has been the prominence of The Authority in other storylines.
Enter Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella
Culminating at WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan feuded with The Authority and Triple H for the better part of six months. By Hunter’s side was his real life wife, Stephanie McMahon, the best heel in wrestling. The sound of her voice itself produces jeers not heard anywhere else on the card. She’s evil, she’s annoying and we love to hate her. By Bryan’s side is his real life wife Brie Bella, who just so happens to be the star of WWE’s reality show Total Divas. Once it was clear that Bryan was going to be out a significant amount of time with his neck injury, WWE planted the seeds to a Brie Bella/Stephanie feud. Stephanie hasn’t fought in a real match in a decade and the fans would love to see her get her face ripped off, by anyone, but especially by the wife of their hero Bryan. Over the past several months Stephanie has tortured Brie and her twin sister Nikki, forcing Brie to quit and Nikki to suffer. Eventually, through a few events (including an awesome angle where Stephanie was “arrested”, showing off the crowd’s real passion against Stephanie), we are going to get Brie vs. Steph on Sunday.
This match has been promoted as essentially a co-main event along with Lesnar/Cena, unheard of for a divas match (but most definitely heard of for a match involving a McMahon). In fact, Brie and Stephanie was in the main event spot during two consecutive Raws. An angle surrounding two top divas has not main evented Raw since Trish Stratus and Lita back in 2004. What started as a feud that had incredible fervor and passion, turned into a little too soap opera like for my taste, with Stephanie returning the favor and having Brie “arrested” last week. This was only after Stephanie showed Brie the woman her husband was “cheating” on her with. It was as stupid as it sounds.
As you’d expect, just like WrestleMania, normally good conquers evil at Summerslam and in the end of feuds. Proper logic would say Brie kicks the hell out of Stephanie and gives the YES! Chant, just like her husband did back in April. While this is absolutely possible and even probable, there has been a rumor about Brie’s sister Nikki turning against her, essentially saying that all of her torturing was thanks to Brie. While a Brie vs. Nikki feud would be good from a wrestling perspective, it would be frustrating from a storyline perspective. Why would Nikki team with the person that tormented her? When would Stephanie McMahon ever get her comeuppance? Hopefully this match is better than it has any right to be and maybe we even get a surprise Daniel Bryan appearance. No matter what though, this match is certainly one I’m looking forward to, for both the right and wrong reasons.
The entire rest of the card at Summerslam features rematches and rehashes that we have either seen just in the last month or over the last several months. Bray Wyatt takes on Chris Jericho again in a rematch from Battleground. You’d think Jericho won the last one, why are they fighting again? Hell of a question. Bray goes over the veteran Jericho, that’s why Jericho is back right? Bray has been running in place for a little while here, once Cena moved on to fight Lesnar. I hope once Wyatt is done with Jericho, we see his continued evolution and eventual rise to the top. He’s that good.
AJ Lee defends her Divas Championship against the same challenger as she did last show, Paige. Paige is now crazy; much like AJ used to be and she now wants her title back. This would be an interesting feud if it received the time that it deserved and wasn’t a backburner feud, thanks to Stephanie/Brie Bella angle. Both of these women are physical and awesome in the ring and this won’t just be a bathroom break. This will be a fun match, with AJ again going over.
Jack Swagger and Rusev continue their feud in a rematch from Battleground, this time in a Flag Match. Normally a flag match ends when a wrestler retrieves their flag that is stuck in the corner turnbuckle. WWE though has said (perhaps incorrectly), Swagger is going to tap Rusev out, which of course wouldn’t make sense. While America and the good guy usually win at the big PPVs, Rusev is still the young guy that WWE aims to push. If the winner just has to retrieve the flag, Swagger is going to win. Perhaps, Rusev “wins”, but then Swagger gets to stand tall in the end. These two guys have excellent chemistry and people clearly care. This will be aggressive, physical, and very solid. I still believe Rusev moves on to fight Sheamus for the United State Championship when it’s all said and done, eventually winning it. It’s just the proper next step in his evolution.
In what is sure to be the opening match, Dolph Ziggler challenges for the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz. WWE has done everything they could to make us care about The Miz again, with a new Hollywood gimmick, a new “I hate getting punched in the face” gimmick. While I give them credit for trying, The Miz will always be just another guy in the eyes of the fans. Matching up against ultimate fan favorite/bumping machine Dolph Ziggler, will allow the crowd to care for the near falls and be hot for the opening match. Unfortunately, it won’t have the crowd ending happily. The Miz isn’t losing this title so quickly and Ziggler isn’t moving up the card as he rightfully should. Sigh. Oh in case you were wondering, yes we’ve seen Ziggler vs. Miz, a good 300 times before, including earlier this year in the “Battle of Cleveland”, involving two men that no longer live in Cleveland.
When thinking back on it, there is not a single fresh match on this card. Has that ever happened before? Even still, despite the lack of anything fresh, when playing on Kountermove the only slam dunk picks I have are Lesnar and Reigns. That’s a good thing. As repetitive as everything is and as stale as everything feels, WWE still has it’s beast. The Conqueror won’t let the viewer down, because he’s too real to. He shows up to make money and kick ass, and the fact that it’s not every week, only makes me more interested. WWE has my money for Summerslam. (Fine they already had it due to my 6 month Network subscription, but still enjoy the show.)