Brock Lesnar looks to be on his way back to WWE.
The last time we saw the former WWE and UFC heavyweight champion was last August at Summer Slam when he concluded a memorable trilogy of matches with Cody Rhodes, a feud that was key to maintaining the momentum that Cody had as the top baby face in the company after the disappointing loss at Wrestlemania against Roman Reigns. Make no mistake about it, without the importance that Brock brought to the table for the series of matches, it’s very possible Cody wouldn’t be in the position to potentially main event WM again this year. The storyline was very strategic and very well done, as it gave Rhodes a monster to slay and odds to overcome so the audience didn’t lose faith in him as a top guy. Lesnar’s unscripted endorsement of Rhodes following their bout at Summer Slam was icing on top of the cake, as it gave him another level of credibility as a truly top star.
There are a lot of moving parts ahead of this weekend’s Royal Rumble, particularly with The Rock’s implied involvement with Roman Reigns that was mentioned during the segment with Jinder Mahal a few weeks ago. With two nights of WM planned, as unnecessary as it might usually be, it gives the office more options of how to shuffle the deck or where the puzzle pieces could fit into place.
The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer speculated that Brock will be back for the Rumble and speculated that something could be booked to set up Gunter as the eventual opponent for Wrestlemania in April. That’s a safe bet, considering it makes sense and the WWE has used interactions in the battle royal to set up WM matches before. Granted, the IC belt is traditionally considered a mid-card championship and that’s nothing wrong with that so it’s not something that would immediately come to mind for something that would be an option for Lesnar, but the actual match-up is the money, not the belt in this particular situation. Don’t get me wrong, Gunther has elevated and made the Intercontinental title more relevant and prestigious than it has been in years, but in this specific scenario, the fans would be just as invested in a Gunther/Lesnar showdown regardless of if a championship is involved or not.
Gunter is one of the very few guys in the entire industry today that can match physicality with Lesnar, and that’s the biggest selling point of the contest. In fact, depending on what plans the office has for the main event scene throughout the rest of the year after Wrestlemania, the argument could be made that Gunter/Lesnar could be worthy of another trilogy of matches. Another option, assuming Cody wins the title at WM 40, would be for Gunther to challenge for the WWE championship. Sure, it would be simple storytelling, as it would give Cody another monster to slay, but if it’s effective then it would be mission accomplished.
How Brock is booked and when he returns is definitely intriguing, but the circumstances when he comes back might be the biggest takeaway from this entire scenario.
Keep in mind, about a decade ago Lesnar was pushed to such a dominate level that the argument could’ve been made that actually too much focus was put on him. He broke The Undertaker’s undefeated streak, he was the dominate champion that was rarely on television so it became difficult to book Raw without the championship as the center piece, and the product became very stale when the cache that was built for him was repeatedly unsuccessfully used to try to force the baby face Roman Reigns into the John Cena role at the time. But, times have changed within WWE. There’s enough depth on the current roster that throwing the title on Brock for an easy booking decision isn’t necessary. In some ways, Brock booked as strongly as he was for such an extended period of time almost became a lazy booking option since his title runs weren’t based around compelling drama or required intriguing booking for the build up, but rather that he was just pushed as a dominate monster.
At this point,Brock can be used as specifically a special attraction that can boost the show when needed, but isn’t used as a booking crutch either. Seth Rollins’ rumored MCL injury that would rule him out of Wrestlemania derails some possible plans for the biggest show of the year, but depending on if or how the office pivots prior to the Rumble, only a slight shuffle of the deck might have to take place to give WM 40 two major main events for both nights. Instead of CM Punk/Rollins for the championship, the angle could be shifted to set up Punk/Cody Rhodes for the belt, while the speculation of The Rock/Roman Reigns bout could be used for the second night of the event. As I wrote a few weeks ago after The Rock dropped hints of a clash with the Tribal Chief when he made a surprise appearence on Raw, if the WWE can get Dwayne Johnson for a WM match at this point in his career, it’s too big of a money match to pass up, mostly because of how many moving parts are involved with the Endeavor merger, the stock price, the possibilities for Raw’s next TV deal, and of course, the streaming numbers on Peacock. If The Rock is scheduled for WM, the optics alone are a huge boost for the corporation. More casual fans will watch WWE programming to see The Rock’s return and it will garner main stream publicity, which helps boost the stock price.
Obviously, that doesn’t give Cody the true conclusion to “finish the story” but given the domino effect The Rock’s involvement can have for business, if the office can sign Dwayne Johnson for a match then that will be the priority. It might not be the traditional pro wrestling philosophy because the guest star would take some of the spotlight away from the full-time performer, but the corporate agenda has to serve many different purposes for the company.
But, what about Brock Lesnar?
In many ways, Brock is the ace up their sleeve for the office and can be used to kick start the championship scene on Raw. If Rollins is ruled out, as mentioned, there’s still enough meat on the bone for two nights of Wrestlemania with The Rock, Reigns, Punk, and Cody. At the same time, Brock could be used in a prominent role as well to make sure there’s still enough sizzle for the biggest event of the year. Maybe The Rock and Lesnar have a match-up at some point as a throwback to their Summer Slam bout in 2002 that solidified Brock as a main event star. The biggest takeaway from all of this is how much star power the WWE added to its roster within the past for years with the return of CM Punk and Cody Rhodes. It also says a lot about the missed opportunities for All Elite Wrestling, but that’s a different matter for a different time. Some will cite Triple H’s takeover of creative, and that might be an accurate assessment that proves Vince McMahon was behind the times, but regardless, the company has a very anticipated line-up ahead of WM season and that hasn’t always been the case in the modern era. Again, when you take into account that Brock Lesnar might be simply an added bonus to the WWE landscape, it proves the level of star power of the company.
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Until next week
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