I spend a lot of time in these columns groveling at the Creative team’s feet when something I’ve hated for months (years?) makes me a do a 180. But yet again, they’ve managed to do it.
They’ve made me care about Brock Lesnar.
I originally planned to do a Q&A; column, but a trip to the Network (is it 9.99 or 9.99?) steered me in a different direction. I had been watching WrestleMania XIX to finally watch the match between Booker T/Triple H where I’ve often heard that Booker was buried by Trips.
(A real quick aside: Triple H shouldn’t have won. The whole storyline was based on Booker not being good enough, almost similar to Trips recent feud with Daniel Bryan being a B+ player, except in Booker’s case, Triple H was damn near saying n****** can’t be champions. It was a good match, Booker did not look weak, Triple H sold it well and it looked like he took a bad beating, but the wrong man walked out of Seattle with the World Heavyweight Championship.)
Following that match, I watched The Rock v. Stone Cold in Austin’s final match (that match is really done well, I could see why Austin chose Rock to be his last opponent. Rock went to great lengths to protect Stone Cold without making it super obvious), and then the main event: Brock Lesnar v. WWE Champion Kurt Angle.
I’ve seen the shooting star press botch before, who hasn’t? What I hadn’t seen before was a lot of Brock’s first run WWE matches. If Michaels and Jericho hadn’t been on the card, this would’ve been the match of the night. It was amazing from a technical perspective with two former amateur wrestling champions involved, but the storytelling was great too. Angle got to show off how strong he was with some big power moves on Brock; Lesnar showed off his athleticism by constantly escaping potential Angle Slams, the botched shooting star press spot, and then having the presence of mind to remember the script and finish the match with a resounding F-5 after he had just fallen on his head.
From Mania XIX, I moved on to the next PPV, Backlash. Lesnar was scheduled to defend his newly won WWE Title in a match against an upcoming heel, who had won a number one contender tournament, John Cena.
In 2003, Brock was the face and Cena was the heel.
This is before Cena won his first WWE Title at Mania 21. This was the Doctor of Thuganomics who rapped his promos, didn’t use the STF yet, and was allies with a tag team called the Full Blooded Italians. And he said “word life” all the time.
Brock would retain his WWE Championship despite spending most of the match being pummeled by the man who would one day become the face of the company. But Brock showed me something in those matches that I didn’t think he understood in the handful of matches he’s had since his return in 2012.
Brock Lesnar gets it. He gets the art form of professional wrestling and there’s more to him than just being a monster, almost wordless heel who gets to end WrestleMania win streaks and wrestle 3 times a year. And because of his getting it, this is why the Brock Lesnar Plan worked.
The Brock Lesnar Plan was implemented shortly after Lesnar retired from UFC I’m sure, when WWE reached out to him about returning to the company he shunned in 2004. I’ve said before that I wasn’t a fan of Brock upon his return, thinking that his match with Cena in 2012 went off-script. I skipped his SummerSlam match with Triple H in 2012 as the outcome was obvious. I purchased WrestleMania NY/NJ and was bored with Lesnar/HHH II. The best part of Lesnar/HHH III at Extreme Rules ’13 was how well Trips sold the sledgehammer shot he took from Brock that cost him the match.
I did say in the most recent Year End Awards that Brock’s match with Punk at last year’s SummerSlam was excellent (then again, even now, I remain a CM Punk guy) and I’d like to see more matches with Brock featured in that light. This year’s Rumble saw him barely wrestle Big Show. The match that ended The Undertaker’s winning streak at Mania XXX was…clumsy at best. And we haven’t seen Lesnar since. We’ve heard Paul Heyman every week (one of the best parts of WWE television), but Lesnar hadn’t been seen until April.
Until Plan C was needed. Cena survived Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, and (the Demon) Kane at Battleground. Orton was stopped from accepting the SummerSlam Title match from Trips by Reigns. Plan B Seth Rollins wasn’t in play for an actual match with Cena. And then Heyman emerged from the back, beckoned Brock at Triple H’s request, Triple H shook hands with the man who broke his arm twice, and this Sunday we finally get Brock/Cena II for the WWE World Heavyweight Champioship.
The Brock Lesnar Plan has worked before the lights even come up in the Staples Center.
I’ve always thought that Cena winning their Extreme Rules match was absurd. While the blood loss isn’t that unusual for the WWE, it is in the PG Era. For someone to bleed like Cena bled that whole match and then to win with an Attitude Adjustment onto the steps is still ridiculous. Brock didn’t look weak; he just looked like he couldn’t finish the job. And then we didn’t see Brock for months.
I feel like the best parts of his feud with Triple H were Heyman and Shawn Michaels, as the actual wrestling was very lackluster to me. I can’t remember any parts of the matches other than the broken arm spot at SummerSlam and the aforementioned sledgehammer. I didn’t even remember that he broke Vince’s pelvis until I looked at Wikipedia (and apparently steel steps are Brock’s weakness, as Triple H beat him at NY/NJ by, surprise, delivering a Pedigree onto the steps). The key part: Brock disappeared from TV for almost 5 months before he came back to complete the feud.
Lesnar appeared once in June, once in July, and twice in August last year to build his feud with Punk. Not seen again until December. After he beat ‘Taker, he was gone until last month.
Lesnar’s second run is accompanied by his absence. He only has so many dates in his contract. When he beats John Cena on Sunday, he may stick around to give him a rematch at Night Of Champions but after that, he’s gone until January at the earliest.
The Rock’s 2013 WWE Championship run was the first time the Title wasn’t on TV on a regular basis in recent memory when the Champion wasn’t injured. It didn’t work because when The Rock was gone, he was truly gone other than Michael Cole and King talking about a tweet he may have posted.
Brock has Paul Heyman.
Since Mania, Heyman has went on and on about how he is the one behind the one in twenty one and one. Not only did it become a catchphrase for the WWE Universe, it kept Brock relevant. Having Heyman as a mouthpiece is the same as having the WWE World Heavyweight Championship being shown every week, if not better. And this was all part of the Brock Lesnar Plan.
If Bryan hadn’t gotten hurt, we’d be seeing the Beard vs. the Beast this Sunday. Instead, company face John Cena has admirably stepped in and is prepared to drop the biggest Belt in the company for a second straight year at SummerSlam. Sure, he’s not putting over someone like Bray Wyatt, but he’s putting over someone who may be an even bigger household name than The Rock.
People will complain about Brock’s absence of course. But with the Title off TV, maybe this means we get some longer feuds. Maybe this means characters will go different directions. Maybe this means the IC and US Titles will have some value again. And maybe this means that when Lesnar’s next defense is announced after his feud with Cena is over, more people will buy the Network.
Not that they aren’t grovelling at everyone’s feet for that to happen anyway. The whole company has went into subscriber mode; no one knows whether they are coming or going.
I watched the Judgment Day PPV from 2003. Lesnar was defending the Title against the Big Show this time. Why? Because Big Show was assaulting Rey Mysterio, who he had slammed into a ring post while he was on a stretcher at Backlash. Lesnar basically wanted Show to pick on someone his own size, so the two had a really fun stretcher match.
Find me a wrestling fan who won’t give Big Show credit for his lengthy career and ability to adapt to any angle Creative’s put him in. Here, he was the monster heel who was going around picking on the little guys of WWE. Lesnar, in his only face run, used a forklift to not only turn the tide of the match but he used it to win as well. Daniel Bryan used this strategy to perfection at Extreme Rules to beat Kane, I never thought that Brock Lesnar had as well 11 years earlier.
And here I’ve been thinking Lesnar was a big, dumb brute collecting WWE paychecks since he couldn’t be in the UFC anymore. Despite all the back and forth he had about not wanting to go back to the WWE or hating to shake hands backstage or not wanting to workout with The Undertaker prior to WrestleMania, he does love professional wrestling. It wasn’t his first option but he wouldn’t have come back for any amount of money if he didn’t care.
The other thing that Brock Lesnar realized really early was how much money he was worth. This is why he bailed on the WWE in 2004. This is why he became a top draw in the UFC. This (and the limited dates) are why he returned to the WWE in 2012. And you’d be crazy to think that there wasn’t talk of a Brock Championship run during negotiations.
When was the last time a WWE Champion just looked like he couldn’t be beat for the Title? Sheamus in ’09? Triple H in ’08? Cena in ’06? JBL in ’04? Ultimate Warrior in ’90? Hogan from ’84 to ’88? I really just picked most of those names from the length of their runs but only Sheamus, Warrior, and Hogan came close to looking unbeatable since it was each of their first runs with the Title. But the real answer was Brock in 2002. He only held the Belt for 84 days and it took Big Show with help from Heyman to end his reign at Survivor Series.
The only person to beat Brock clean for the Title was Kurt Angle at Vengeance 2003. Eddie Guerrero was true to his phrase “cheat 2 win” when he took advantage of Goldberg’s Spear and a well-placed Belt to end Brock’s third reign at No Way Out in 2004. And no one has beaten Brock in a straight up wrestling match with no stipulations since his return.
Right underneath our noses, Brock Lesnar is the strongest Superstar in the entire WWE. Despite his limited dates, Creative has made it seem impossible for John Cena to retain his WWE World Heavyweight Championship Sunday.
I wonder what would’ve happened if the feud between Brock and The Rock could have taken place in 2013. Would the Plan still have worked with The Rock surely scoring a win over the Beast? What if Stone Cold hadn’t walked out on the WWE in 2002 when they asked him to put Brock over? Would Austin have been booked to beat Brock clean at some point and thus, ruining the legacy he’s created in his short career?
Or what if, by some miracle, Cena beats Brock AGAIN this Sunday? Can they really send Rollins down to cash-in his Money In The Bank briefcase in a repeat of what Orton did at SummerSlam last year? I really can’t imagine Lesnar agreeing to lose to Cena twice. And I doubt they would have Rollins cash-in on Brock if he wins because having Seth Rollins as Champion right now when they’re bleeding money isn’t the best idea. If they were feeling that frisky, they should have had Reigns win the Belt at Money In The Bank.
No matter how it finishes, when Cena and Lesnar walk to the ring on Sunday, there will be similarities to their Backlash match in ’03. Lesnar and Heyman will get a bigger pop than expected, as the anti-Cena movement will be firmly in his corner even though he’s not the face. And Cena will have boos reigned down on him, even though he’s not the heel. He’s used to it by now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make for a unique match experience. I, for one, am just excited to see the Brock Lesnar Plan reach it’s apex.
I’m taking the under that Cena kicks out of at least 2 F-5s though. I can’t imagine Creative burying Undertaker by having Cena kick out of more than that.
On the other hand, if they think that will get people to spend 9.99 a month on the Network, all bets are off.