20 questions on Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena and the week in WWE

It's been a big week in WWE: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena is officially the main event at WWE Extreme Rules (April 29, 2012), and who would have thought that was possible just a few weeks ago.

But Jason Mann has a voice inside his head that has many questions about this and many other happenings in WWE, especially after last night's wildness.

So, as part of his court-mandated therapy, he is sharing these questions and his answers to all the Cagesiders in a column we like to call "20 questions." Because we are so clever.

1. Extreme Rules? Doesn't that seem a little soon for such a big match?
I guess so, but what's the benefit of waiting? Is WWE going to create a story to make this more memorable? What are the chances of that helping? Fans seem eager to see it now, so why not give it to them?

It's not like we're going into this cold. There's already a backstory of Lesnar being the former pro wrestler turned UFC star and Cena being the big WWE loyalist. Minimal storytelling is required.

Plus, the further WWE can get away from putting all its eggs in the WrestleMania basket, the better. Every pay-per-view should be big and memorable, otherwise what's the point in having them? It's certainly better than the April show being The One With All The Rematches From WrestleMania, Plus Stipulations.

2. But wouldn't this make a lot more money at a bigger show, like SummerSlam?
Maybe. But are you Vince McMahon's accountant? Why do you care if WWE makes less money than it could on a pay-per-view?

3. So will Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena be any good?
Well, I haven't seen Lesnar wrestle in more than a half decade, so it's hard to say. He's a world-class athlete, so it seems unlikely he's lost all his ability to be great. I doubt they'll have a mat classic, but Cena is a smart performer who more often than not delivers in these situations. I'm sure the raucous atmosphere in Chicago will help.

4. Was Lesnar really that great in WWE?
There's this weird revisionist history going around lately that Lesnar wasn't all that great in his first WWE go-around, but I find that ridiculous. He showed amazing feats of power and speed immediately, and quickly developed into a fantastic overall performer with some of the best matches of the time.

He and Undertaker had probably the greatest Hell in a Cell match of all time. He had a fantastic feud with Big Show, including the famous ring collapse when Lesnar superplexed Show.

Though I thought their matches could be somewhat robotic, he also had some memorable bouts with Kurt Angle.

He also had superb matches with The Rock, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio and others. He made Hulk Hogan pass out with a bearhug and smeared Hogan's blood on his chest. He murdered one-legged Zack Gowen. He dropped Bob Holly on his head. He and Goldberg trolled a bunch of babies at Madison Square Garden. It was a hell of a two years.

5. So how was that last Lesnar v. Cena pay-per-view match?
So you know how I said all those great things about Lesnar just now. Well, his match with Cena at Backlash 2003 was not an example of this. It was dull, plodding and lifeless.

But Lesnar, while he'd been having great matches, was still inexperienced. It was Cena's first time in a big match, and he didn't seem ready to deliver at that level (which was probably why he didn't win the title for another two years). Plus, in retrospect, they were miscast in their roles with Lesnar the fan favorite and Cena the villain.

6. What's the track record in wrestling of feuds being revisited after so much time has passed?
Well, I'm glad you asked that.

I set an arbitrary point of seven years between feuds. But the answer is: It's quite mixed

Hulk Hogan would revisit feuds like this a lot. Sometimes successfully (his Starrcade 1996 with Roddy Piper, a return from their 1985 feud, is an unheralded classic, though they also had the awful Halloween Havoc 1997 "Age in a Cage"), but more often in failure (most notably his 1998 WCW feud with the Ultimate Warrior, and its smoke and mirrors shenanigans, and his silly 2002 feud with the Undertaker, after he'd regained the WWE title).

Just barely failing to meet the seven-year cutoff were Hogan v. Andre the Giant (which worked out pretty well in 1987) and Hogan v. Savage (which was commercially successful in 1996 and 1998, at least).

Ric Flair's first major TV feud in WWE in 1991 was with Roddy Piper, his old rival from the Carolinas who he'd last feuded with in 1983 (The two also rekindled their rivalry again in the late 1990s).

Flair also had a feud in 2000 with Terry Funk, but it did not come close to matching their classics in 1989.

Here's a few other examples:

  • Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker in 1998 and 2009
  • Booker T and Chris Benoit seven-match series in 1998 and 2005
  • Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho in 1998 and 2009
  • Jerry Lawler and Randy Savage in 1985 and 1993 (in Memphis)
  • Mick Foley and Sting in 1992 and 2009
  • Raven and Tommy Dreamer in 1997 and 2010
  • Jerry Lynn and Rob Van Dam in 2000 and 2010
  • Jimmy Snuka and Don Muraco in 1983 and 1992

7. So what's your point in all of that?
I was supposed to have a point? That doesn't sound like me.

8. Fine. Who else would you like to see Brock Lesnar face in WWE, besides Cena?
Well, I'd love to see Lesnar and Mark Henry clubber and toss each other around with reckless abandon.

It would be great to see CM Punk mock Lesnar for not hacking it as WWE champion, then Lesnar bring up what marks wrestlers seemed to become for UFC once he won the title.

He could trade submissions and mat holds with Alberto del Rio. He and Sheamus could have some beastly brawls. Assuming Lesnar can perform at a high level, he could have some technical classics with Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio or Daniel Bryan. Or he and Big Show could beat each other up again just for kicks.

9. What about The Rock, Triple H, or The Undertaker?
I'm sure those would all be fun in the right time and place, but I'd rather see Lesnar against some of those others first.

10. So moving on: Does this Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk feud really need this added story of Punk's father being an alcoholic? Can't it just be about the wrestling?
Dude, seriously, you are such a dork sometimes. I can't handle it.

No, I guess it doesn't NEED it. And apparently it's recycled from another Punk ROH storyline. But it's a good way to humanize Punk and for Jericho to be a total sleaze. I thought the reaction last week when Jericho poured the liquor onto Punk was perfect; the fans realized it was a big degradation for Punk and they were mad at Jericho for doing it.

This week's didn't quite come across as well, but I like that they have some reason to fight other than for the gold belt that gets you the No. 3 spot on the biggest show of the year.

11. Why doesn't anyone like Sheamus?
They do like Sheamus, I think. But they don't like him as much as Daniel Bryan and chanting "Yes Yes Yes."

Speaking of which, I found this WWE.com video pretty compelling, with the referees responding to Sheamus kicking one of them after a bad call in his match with Del Rio.

Wrestling referees aren't generally characters with point of views. They are disposable characters with no wants, desires or motivations that the audience cares about. So it's weird to see them: 1. Have a point of view and 2. Point out that Sheamus isn't a hero. I wonder where this is going.

12. Why doesn't anyone like Lord Tensai?
Well, they aren't supposed to. He's a heel, after all.

But no one seems to yet be responding to him, except for some mild "Albert" chants to heckle him, so I supposed that might become a problem.

A few guesses: 1. Squashing a Yoshi Tatsu or an Alex Riley maybe just isn't impressive to a 2012 fan. 2. It's not immediately clear why Lord Tensai should be a villain, unless you don't care for the Japanese (or Japanese sympathizers). 3. Fans who do remember back that far don't think he was very good then and aren't willing to consider the idea that he might be good now.

13. There's a WWE draft on April 23. What's the point when wrestlers move freely from one show to another these days?
You got me. But I've given up expecting this stuff to make sense. As long as I get some good matches and promos once in a while, I'm fine.

14. On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are you for CM Punk vs. Mark Henry next week?
Eleventy-billion. Give or take. I hope everyone is finally convinced that Henry is an outstanding professional wrestler, and I don't know what else it would take if you aren't.

15. How are you feeling about the Funkasaurus these days?
Fine. If we can avoid the racial stereotypes, I'm good. The dynamic of Brodus Clay sticking up for his little buddy Santino seems fun (also, down the road, Santino is a good candidate for Clay to destroy if he ever decides to embrace his inner monster).

16. Do you think Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler know that a brontosaurus isn't a real dinosaur?
To answer that, I'm going to quote my friend, The Hot Tag:

Brontosaurus was the head of apatosaurus and the body of another dino. Like how Brodus is the racism of Slick with the body of Yoko.

17. David Otunga seems to be the most successful non-Daniel Bryan member of Nexus. Did you expect that?
Wade Barrett might disagree with you, but Otunga makes a nice lackey. I enjoy his bow ties, his thermoses and his glistening as much as anyone, though once he hits the ring I am less enamored. Still better than lounging around with Mr. Perfect's mean kid, though.

18. Speaking of Daniel Bryan, where was he on Raw?
That was a conspicuous absence, wasn't it?

YES, YES, YES ...!
All right, don't you start with that.

19. Sorry, I couldn't help myself. But WWE seems to be moving toward Sheamus v. Del Rio already. Doesn't Bryan get his rematch clause?
Well, the more Daniel Bryan, the better, most certainly. Though I enjoy Del Rio as well. Maybe a three-way would be fun.

20. So what did you think of The Three Stooges on Raw?
I remember a time when fictional characters parading around on a wrestling TV show was an outrage of the highest order. I didn't get the sense that was the case this time, so perhaps we've moved on. WWE seems to like to be essentially a "Saturday Night Live" with wrestling matches, and most of the time I don't have a problem with that.

But The Three Stooges were not funny to me. At all. Of course, I don't much care for the originals either, so maybe I'm not the target audience. They were better than Chucky trying to outwit Rick Steiner, though.

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