The three-month build up to WrestleMania is widely regarded as the best time to watch WWE, but as that big show approaches, plans are put in place regarding what happens immediately AFTER it has ended. This also makes for some great TV, from time to time. 2012 was one of those times.
The Rock had beaten John Cena at WrestleMania 28. Cena came out on Raw the night after to admit defeat to the better man and to ‘congratulate The Rock on his victory’. However, Cena was disappointed to find that Mr Johnson had already left for Hollywood – again. So out marched Brock Lesnar, instead. Lesnar, who left the WWE after WrestleMania 20, had beaten John Cena (and, indeed, The Rock) before. He was somewhat of a wrecking machine during his first WWE run from 2002-2004. Here was a guy who WWE really invested in from the very beginning. He beat down Cena, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, and The Big Show in decidedly dominant fashion.
In the time he had been gone from WWE, Brock had jumped into the UFC Octagon and won their Heavyweight Championship. With an MMA record of 5 wins and 3 losses, Lesnar quit the genre in 2011 and was ready to work with Vince McMahon again.
As Cena stood in the ring and watched Lesnar approach him, he took his usual, ahem, sporting approach and clapped the returning former champion. As the fans roared and chanted ‘Holy shit! Holy shit!’ over and over again, big Brock entered the ring and KO’d the gullible John Cena with his old signature move, the F5. How come he never used it in UFC? Never mind.
Even though The Rock had been a semi-permanent fixture on WWE TV in the build up to WrestleMania 28, this moment felt bigger and more exciting than anything WWE had presented in quite some time. A heavy hitter from a previous era had returned from his travels to, apparently, rule the roost once again.
As the weeks passed, Lesnar and Cena exchanged physical altercations and promos on Raw and it was suddenly announced that the two would lock horns in the ring at the next WWE Pay Per View, ‘Extreme Rules’. The match was a brutal affair, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while. Surprisingly, Cena won – after he had been battered mercilessly by Lesnar for twenty minutes.
When some of the details of Lesnar’s new WWE contract became public knowledge, a hint of disappointment began to manifest itself. Reportedly, Brock will work 24 dates over a 12 month period for WWE. Six of these had already been used within 2 months.
After his loss to Cena at ‘Extreme Rules’, Brock attacked WWE COO Triple H and ‘quit’ WWE again. In other words, he was written out of the storylines because he has a very limited number of dates left for which they can use him. He’ll likely return for a program with Triple H (a match between the two has been pencilled in for Summerslam), leave again, and then return again for WrestleMania 29. In a storyline sense, having Cena beat Lesnar at ‘Extreme Rules’ now makes perfect sense – Brock was upset about the loss, so he lashed out at authority and left the company. Is it possible that, to support the same storyline logic, he is also destined to lose to Triple H at Summerslam? Let’s hope not.
Unlike in MMA, win/loss records in WWE are not particularly important. But if Lesnar returned after 8 years to lose to John Cena and Triple H, then that’s a shame. I don’t want to concern myself with WrestleMania 29 too much at this point, but if Lesnar does get put up against The Undertaker (as has been speculated) at that event, it’s likely that he could leave WWE without a single victory in what could be his final run with the company. With that theory now out in the open, let’s consider why this might be…
Maybe WWE don’t want to invest too much in Lesnar again. As much he’ll be a draw for them while he’s around, I do get the feeling that maybe they’re ultimately going to use his return as an opportunity to bury his legacy, while cashing in on it at the same time. I always got the impression that they had tried to this in his absence – with Randy Orton breaking his record of being the youngest champion in history (a title reign which bombed, by the way) and Mark Henry superplexing Big Show through the ring, just as Lesnar once did. WWE love to break their own records, and when ideas are short, they do tend to repeat themselves. But I have always had a suspicion that, with Lesnar, they wanted to erase some of his accomplishments as best they could – out of sight, out of mind. He left WWE on fairly bad terms after they had invested in him and had him poised to be their ‘Next Big Thing’, because he wanted to pursue other dreams, didn’t want WWE to consume his life, and didn’t want to live the next 10-20 years of his life on the road.
Of course, there are many scenarios we could be presented with. I thought at first that it’d be nice to see Lesnar win the WWE Title again, but knowing that his appearances will be so limited, it somehow doesn’t seem right – or likely.
Either way, as a fan, it was great to see Brock Lesnar come back to WWE. His return was grand, and the ovation he received was well deserved. I do want to see him win, though. I want to see him kick somebody’s ass, and create a path of destruction like he did a decade ago. This time around, though, I’m not sure that the WWE machine is truly on his side.
Vince giveth, and Vince taketh away.