Home Brock Lesnar re-signs with WWE: You had to see this coming

Brock Lesnar re-signs with WWE: You had to see this coming


brock lesnarGive WWE credit for having a flair for the dramatic. WWE champ Brock Lesnar went on ESPN SportsCenter, as Brock Lesnar, real life guy, awkward as hell, stumbling over his words, not Brock Lesnar, The Beast Incarnate, to announce, well, something.

It was refreshing to see Lesnar tripping over himself trying to spit out that he’s done with MMA, after months of speculation, fueled by Lesnar himself, that a return to UFC was in the offing once his contract with WWE came up at the end of the month.

Interesting it was that Lesnar waited another tick before confirming that his decision to formally retire from MMA came with the concurrent decision to re-sign with WWE, which he told ESPN’s Michelle Beadle was finalized last night.

Kinda adds some intrigue to the main event to WrestleMania 31 on Sunday night, doesn’t it? Because it had long been assumed, dating back to SummerSlam, that Lesnar was a placeholder for the ascension of Roman Reigns as The Next Next Big Thing at WM31.

It’s not a guarantee that Reigns doesn’t still walk out of the main event as the WWE champion, but if it was decided that Reigns is to be the man, it won’t be as the company’s top babyface, as had seemed to be in the cards lo these many months.

No, if Reigns ends up with the strap, it will be with a heel turn that will simultaneously turn Lesnar from monster heel into the people’s champion, and if that scenario ends up playing out, credit to WWE creative for playing to reality.

Fans who had seemed warm to Reigns last summer cooled off when it became apparent that he was going to get the WM push that the Internet Wrestling Community felt was owed to former WWE champ Daniel Bryan, whose reign at the top after WrestleMania 30 was cut short by neck injuries that put him on the shelf for eight months.

When Bryan was eliminated early from the Royal Rumble in January, fans hijacked the rest of the match that crowns the #1 contender for the WWE title and puts that man in the main-event slot opposite the champ to the point that even a surprise appearance from The Rock couldn’t save Reigns from a cascade of lusty boos.

WWE tried to make the best of the situation, putting Reigns’ spot in the WM31 main event on the line in a match with Bryan at Fast Lane, and credit to Reigns for holding up his end of a match that turned out to be pretty much solid. But whatever momentum WWE wanted to create with the brief Bryan feud washed away just as quickly, leaving the company in the untenable position of being on the verge of putting its signature championship on a babyface who is green as hell in the ring and has the support of a fraction of the audience at best.

Lesnar, we have to presume, played this existential dilemma faced by corporate to his advantage. He said in the live ESPN interview that his appearance at a recent UFC show was not about trying to create leverage, but it’s hard to see it any other way. Lesnar had WWE over a barrel; with CM Punk gone, with Bryan relegated to the midcard, with Reigns not ready for prime time, with nobody else having been built up enough to force their way to the top of the card, it’s pretty much Lesnar, or nobody.

That doesn’t mean Lesnar has to win the match, as I intimated above. In fact, with Lesnar signed, sealed and delivered with a multi-year contract, it makes sense for him to do business to put Reigns over the way Undertaker did business for Lesnar to legitimize his monster 2014.

Think about it. Reigns already isn’t over with fans; why not play into the fans’ distaste by having him win the title through some sort of nefarious means (think: Paul Heyman switching allegiances), in the process turning Lesnar into the fans’ darling for chasing the Chosen One all the way to SummerSlam to right the wrong?

You take care of several problems at once there. Lesnar, it is clear, from his live ESPN interview, is perfectly capable of speaking for himself, but Reigns, it has become abundantly clear from the last several weeks of inept promos, is in desperate need of a mouthpiece. Heyman has been the top heel in WWE for the past few years, dating back to his long run with CM Punk, and teaming him with Reigns would give the youngster the run that he needs to legitimize his climb up the ladder.

I’m digressing a bit here, because as logical as that scenario would seem to be in terms of how it could make money for everybody involved, WWE almost always takes the safe route, and in this case, the safe route is to keep the belt on Lesnar in some sort of screwjob finish that casts Reigns as a sympathetic figure, fueling a continued chase through SummerSlam, by which time WWE can judge whether he is worthy of a title run or a permanent spot on the midcard.

Lesnar, for his part, laughs all the way to the bank. Dude parlayed WWE creative’s inability to build a new roster of stars into the ultimate contract scenario over the past year, working a minimum number of dates since WrestleMania 30 while taking home the two highest-profile wins of the year, over ‘Taker at WM30 and the squash of John Cena at SummerSlam, and holding the belt basically unchallenged since August with only a few cameo appearances on Raw in the interim.

In so doing, Lesnar has added a bit of the mystique to the world title that used to be there when champs rarely wrestled or even appeared on TV back in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a big deal back then to see Bruno Sammartino or Harley Race or Ric Flair on TV once every couple of months. That aura fell by the wayside with routine title defenses on Monday nights, and as hard as it has been for WWE to mothball Lesnar, the move has paid dividends.

The U.S. and Intercontinental titles are starting to mean something again. Expect to see Cena and Bryan walk out of Levi’s Stadium with those belts, adding credibility to titles that should become the focal points of Mondays and Thursdays.

I hope for WWE’s sake that the company used its limited leverage on Lesnar, who admitted in his ESPN interview that he had been training the past couple of months for a possible return to MMA, and realized in the process that he didn’t have the fire that he felt he needed to succeed in UFC, to get him to agree to work more dates in 2015 and beyond.

Assume he keeps the strap; can we hope that we get more than one title defense every two or three months?

I think we can. I think we have to.

In the meantime, there’s something to look forward to Sunday night. An otherwise predictable WrestleMania just got interesting.

Though it’s still possible for WWE to screw things up. Because, you know, this is WWE that we’re talking about here.

– Column by Chris Graham



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