Brock Lesnar is most likely not going to wrestle again until January’s Royal Rumble. In fact, from all reports, he and his advocate Paul Heyman might not even appear on WWE programming until around the holiday season. Now, depending on who you ask and what time you ask them, this is viewed as both a positive and a negative for the company. I can see both sides of the argument here, but I lean more towards the Barrett side (Bad News, get it?), though it’s not for the same reason everyone else does.
Truth be told, I don’t think Brock Lesnar is as big of a sales pitch as many other people do. I don’t think people are tuning into RAW or watching PPV’s to see Lesnar compete. Right now there are only two reasons people are really watching WWE these days.
But that’s another column.
So it’s not the Heyman promos, as good as they are, or the Lesnar vignettes, as unintentionally funny as they can be, that I’m going to miss. It’s this. . .
On a random Monday Night RAW back in the early 2000’s, we saw Triple H, who was almost always the champion back then, take on Shelton Benjamin. To the best of my knowledge, there was no major build-up to the match at all. Just a random appearance by the champion against a possibly worthy challenger. And as you can see by the image, at one point, Shelton was “this close” from defeating the champion.
This moment sticks out so clearly in my mind because, at the time, I was convinced that this was going to be the springboard that propelled Benjamin to WWE superstardom. Here he is, a midcarder at best, giving the World Champion a run for his money. It was an amazing feeling, although Shelton never did seem to do anything with it except bleach his hair and call his Mamma.
Let’s use a better example.
Undisputed champion and biggest dog in the yard, The Undertaker took on Jeff Hardy in a ladder match. As one would have expected back in the day, ‘Taker was dominant for much of the bout, but Hardy’s “never say die” spirit brought him closer to the title than anyone imagined possible. At the end of the match, Hardy had earned the respect of the Deadman, and in this instance, that match did propel him to greater heights than he had achieved before.
This is what the World Champion is supposed to do. It’s not just about defending the title on PPV against your storyline opponent. The champion can elevate lower level talents just by being in the ring with them. That was what the territory era was all about. When Ric Flair came to town, you were almost positive that he wasn’t going to lose his Big Gold Belt to your local hero. But over the course of the match, you started to believe it was possible, and by the time the match ended, said local hero was an even huger star in your eyes.
Flair vs. Road Warrior Hawk. This match, from 1988’s Bunkhouse Stampede, is paused on my television as we speak. I can’t wait to finish it. Is Hawk going to win the title? Of course not. Does he look like a future World Champion as he throws the Nature Boy around the ring? Hell yes, he does!
When I started hearing that Brock Lesnar was going to be the “part time champion”, I had no major issues with it, since his absence does allow other stars to develop with the extra screen time. However, I didn’t want it to just be this PPV business. Once every 6-8 weeks or so (likely on a month when there’s a “mid-major” event like this upcoming Hell in a Cell), the champ would appear on a RAW (or, dare I even dream, an NXT) and take on a rising star. Here’s how I saw it going.
A random RAW at a random time. Sheamus has just bested Damien Mizdow in a competitive match, since as we all know, Sandow is amazing.
As Sheamus is celebrating, we hear the dulcet tones of…
“Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Paul Heyman,” as Heyman walks onto the entrance ramp, “and I am the advocate for BROCKKKK LESSNARRRRR! My client has authorized me to inform you, Mr. Sheamus, that he has been relatively impressed by your performance these last few weeks as United States Champion. So much so, in fact, that my client feels you are a worthy opponent. . . Worthy of being conquered.
See you next week.”
That’s all we would need. That 60 seconds sets up a “special appearance” by the World Heavyweight Champion against one who is deemed to be a worthy opponent. That next week, Sheamus doesn’t win, of course, but for just that fraction of a second, you believe it possible. Paul Heyman does his Oscar-worthy performance as usual, living and dying by every 2 count, nearly going apoplectic when Brock just barely dodges a Brogue kick. At the end of the match, as Brock walks away with his title over his shoulder, just the slightest look back from him, just a single nod from Heyman, and suddenly Sheamus is back to being considered a main event player in the WWE.
Now stretch that over the course of 9 months to a year and replace Sheamus’ name with guys like Cesaro, Ziggler, Harper, Wyatt and the like, and suddenly that group of guys who, despite the IWC’s screaming, just haven’t seemed to make the leap into the top tier are now poised to main event PPV’s for the next 5-10 years. All of that can happen when you have a fighting champion, even if those fights only happen every so often.
So I hope the rumors and reports I’ve been seeing are wrong about Lesnar, especially if the reason behind his absence is a serious heart issue. He doesn’t need to be back in 2014 so we can see another Brock / Cena debacle. He needs to be back so he can do his job as champion and help make the next generation of main eventers.
Oh, alright. . . He can suplex Cena out of his sneakers while he’s at it, too.