Ironic that the reason Brock Lesnar has returned to the WWE is the same in reality as it is on TV. As John Laurinaitis, the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and Permanent General Manager of both Raw and Smackdown (actual title), stated on the April 9 edition of Raw, Brock Lesnar’s return also brings back legitimacy to the company. As much of a fan as I am of young superstars on the cusp of the main event spotlight — think guys like Cody Rhodes and Dolph Ziggler — I acknowledge the benefit that a presence like Lesnar brings to the pro wrestling scene.
Not to mention, I’m actually enjoying the angle he’s been thrust into upon his return. From his not-so-shocking yet still uproarious return in Miami the night after Wrestlemania to last Monday night which featured a recorded UFC-style promo, the Lesnar storyline has been handled by the WWE as well as anything in recent memory. Dare I say it’s been the best few weeks in the business since last year’s shortly lived Summer of (CM) Punk. If we as fans have any luck, the near perfection of the angle won’t be handled with the same ham hands that soiled Punk in 2011.
But back to the case of the legitimacy Mr. Excitement (Laurinaitis’ personally coined andquite fitting nickname) and I speak of. While it seems a vast majority of fans — or at least the ones filling up both the arenas and online wrestling forums — are excited for Lesnar to be back, there is a bit of a rift when it comes to the long-term benefit of having the guy around. Reports around Wrestlemania weekend were that Lesnar signed a one-year deal with WWE, with a contract that includes him making 30 or so television appearances. Much like the Rock’s most current stint in WWE, Lesnar is a glorified part-timer. And when you have a former WWE and UFC champion with a name that carries the weight that Lesnar’s does (not to mention how much money he’s making for limited appearances), you’re going to immediately put him in the main event picture. This presumably steals the spotlight from those on the rise, thus stalling their momentum for the time being. (If WWE’s writing team had a better track record for developing a strong mid-card with more interesting and relevant storylines, then “mid-card hell” might not actually be so bad.) Though it’s tough to counter this argument, there are still other ways to look at it.
Fans call for a Rhodes or Ziggler to be the WWE or World Heavyweight Champion by next year’s Mania, or at least get to that status of contendership. But what would putting a major title on these guys do to their image? Would it make them look more viable in fans eyes?
Enter Brock Lesnar, who has been tangling with John Cena for the past few weeks. As many have already established, the only satisfying outcome for the two’s match at this month’s pay-per-view Extreme Rules is for Lesnar to win. Perhaps a dominating win could lead to an injury angle for Cena in which he gets some well-deserved and much-needed time off. That’s a positive on its own, and a topic for another time. Either way, Lesnar is back to win, no question about it. And after he does that in abundance, he will move on to the WWE Champion (who, depending on the winner of the championship match on Sunday as well as the timing of Lesnar’s insertion into the title picture, could either be Chris Jericho or CM Punk — more probable is the latter) in a feud that would help propel WWE’s holy grail into a legitimate prize.
A bit of fantasy booking — and this is hardly a stretch of the imagination, as I have read and heard it being talked about. Lesnar becomes WWE Champion and defends the title unscathed until Wrestlemania 29, where his opponent is, of course, the Rock. Seeing as though Lesnar is signed for only a year, he drops the strap to the Rock, who three weeks ago promised to one day be the champion again (so you know it’s going to happen), and who will carry the belt for several weeks following Mania.
Simply put, having stars like Lesnar and Rock as title holders elevates the WWE Championship and again, brings legitimacy to the belt. If you’re going to have a bunch of legends and part-timers booked for Wrestlemania, why not include the WWE Title in one of those matches? What good would a Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler WWE Championship match do for the belt (not to mention, both those guys) if they’re just going to be the warm-up for the actual main events?
Furthermore, the superstar who either a WWE Title-defending Rock or Lesnar put over following Mania will be elevated that much more for their victory. Beating Cena or Punk for the title is one thing — pinning the Rock cleanly will always be on a completely different level. That’s how you make a new top superstar. It’s no longer about winning the belt, because the belt appears meaningless. It’s about beating a legend. When that legend happens to be in possession of the WWE Championship and you beat him, then holy shit, there you go.
So while I’m not saying WWE should never push our favorite mid-carders, I am saying it should table those pushes while McMahon and co. squeeze as much purposefulness as possible from the part-timers. Let the part-timers return the gravitas to things that should be important (like the championship belt), then usher in the new wave of main eventers as they make their exit.