So with the return of Brock Lesnar to WWE Raw last night in Miami, ten years after his original debut, and the apparent long-term part time return of The Rock to "home", I know I for one am filled with absolutely tremendous excitement, and not just for the men themselves. Hell, I'm not even just excited to see Brock destroy people (though that is an appealing notion). I'm excited because I WANT to see these two legends go toe-to-toe with the best the WWE has to offer today. And I personally don't even hope the pair of them clean house and "destroy the PG Era", a concept that I've seen thrown around a lot (that I still don't think will happen). I think the WWE right now has one of the largest reservoirs of young and veteran but still prime talent in company history, and those two men, The Rock and Brock Lesnar, have the potential to not only excite fans and give them boosts of nostalgia, but also to freshen, motivate, and legitimize the new talent in the company, creating a possible boom for business and, by proxy, entertaining television.
Read more of my thoughts after the jump...So first, a little bit of my history as a wrestling fan. My first Raw as part of a regular viewing routine was the Raw before Survivor Series 1998. It actually started as a semi-ironic thing; a bonding activity with my older brother to sit back and laugh about how "fake" and silly the thing was. But The Rock had other plans in mind. It's kind of funny actually, I really am not a huge Rock fan. Sure, he's an INCREDIBLE performer, and I'm not about to say I'm not entertained by him, but when listing my favorite wrestlers, both past and present, Rock is, well...pretty far down the list. But I'll never forget it. That face-in-peril match he had against Mark Henry to earn a spot in the 1998 Survivor Series WW(F)E Championship Tournament that also involved Shane McMahon sold me on pro wrestling. I was absolutely hooked. I watched Raw every week, ordered Wrestlemania 15 for my first ever pay-per-view in 1999, and never looked back. I gorged myself on it, watching every old Wrestlemania on VHS, familiarizing myself with legends and iconic matches, and learning to appreciate the drama, theater, and athleticism involved with pro wrestling.
Today, I'd consider myself a borderline junkie: posting daily on a wrestling forum, watching Raw and Smackdown EVERY week without fail, sometimes watching TNA Impact just to see if I'm missing out on anything there, ordering the Big 4 of the WWE every year (sometimes lesser shows too; looking at you, MITB '11), and even ordering iPPV's from ROH and doing volunteer show recaps for NWA: Mountain State, an independent pro wrestling promotion in West Virginia. The cool thing about MSW is, while I haven't done a review in a while, my work has been noticed by the talents there, and I've even exchanged emails with a guy who used to be on WCW TV. My point is, while I have a disability that will leave me forever in a wheelchair and thus will never be able to directly work in the business (though pro wrestler Gregory Iron actually shares my diagnosis), I LOVE pro wrestling. So I want to see WWE do well, and I want to see the exciting, gripping TV that I know it's capable of.
This brings us to The Rock and particularly Brock Lesnar. Rock has made it clear in and out of character that last Sunday in Miami, while not the beginning of a full-time return, is not a one shot either. And Brock has apparently signed a one-year deal with a minimum of 30-35 appearances, culminating in Wrestlemania 29 in New Jersey (which I may actually be able to attend, a lifelong dream), with the option for additional appearances if Lesnar is willing to make them. 30-35 appearances isn't just for one match. No, I'd wager chances are good that Brock will wrestle somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 major matches in the next year, and that's not even counting The Rock. Not only is this exciting by itself, especially to ponder the possibilities (Lesnar/Cena? Lesnar/Taker? Lesnar/Sheamus? Lesnar/Orton? Lesnar/Punk? Lesnar/Rock?) but it means that excitement among the fans will increase, which is better for both the business and the quality of the TV.
Last night was a prime example of just how much a red-hot crowd can make an event so much more entertaining. Hell, look at the Attitude Era. I'm gonna come out and say it: in terms of in-ring product and even promo quality vs. today, I think the Attitude Era gets pretty consistently overrated. But what DOESN'T get overrated is the crowds. Everything is red hot. Why? They're not red hot for The Brood, or The Oddities, or Ken Shamrock. They're red hot because they know they're gonna see The Rock, Steve Austin, Undertaker, HHH, even Vince McMahon. But it doesn't matter. Because the energy is there, and it's UNBELIEVABLY fun.
So not only does WWE have a potential font of dream matches to put on for the next year or even two possibly (and I'm looking at you, Austin/Punk) but additionally, the crowds are going to be juiced for it. And think about the tremendous and/or promising current talents I haven't or have barely mentioned: Cody Rhodes, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Sin Cara, Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett, CM Punk, and yes, John Cena and Randy Orton...even guys in developmental like the Kings of Wrestling (known in WWE Developmental as Antonio Cesaro and Kassius Ohno, currently singles competitors), Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose), Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Richie Steamboat. The point is that the wealth of young and promising talent in the WWE right now is positively tremendous, it's just been misused and/or hasn't gelled with crowds yet.
But the shot in the arm of Lesnar and Rock and the possible dream matches associated with them, combined with what seems to be a greater involvement by HHH behind the scenes, not to mention some tremendous angles and new characters (YES! YES! YES!) and what will HOPEFULLY be continually excited and energetic crowds more than they have been lately, seems like all the ingredients necessary to capitalize and, while not likely to create a new boom for wrestling, could at least revitalize and freshen up what had previously been stale, tired or uninspiring, even when Brock, Rock, HHH, Taker, and other legends like Austin and Jericho aren't necessarily directly involved.
Of course, another thing I've learned in my 15 years of watching wrestling and my 10 or so years of following things on the internet is to never underestimate the ability of Vince McMahon to screw up something good in his older, competition-less age. But I think I'd be lying to myself if I said this didn't seem like the most widespread, massive, difficult-to-botch mixture of circumstances the WWE has had in a LONG time.
And until I see them actually screw it up, that is really really exciting. Time to buckle in guys, 'cause whether the destination is great or not, I'm pretty sure it might be one hell of a ride.