Brock Lesnar's drawing power in MMA was already in great decline before he left to come to WWE to make millions to simply come and go as he pleases.
WWE is in a weird sort of transitional period right now. How would you define this era, assuming you couldn't simply call it "The PG Era?" There's very little emphasis on the WWE championship, despite the fact that it gets plenty of screen time. There's even less emphasis on the other major titles within the promotion.
You could argue the real emphasis is on returning attractions like The Rock, Triple H (not necessarily returning but definitely an attraction), Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman. When these men show up, the emphasis is put on them and everything else takes a back seat.
There's a good reason for doing so, sure. These men are legends of the ring, big enough names to demand big enough paychecks that anything less than the main event is unacceptable. But their presence, and the continued emphasis on it, undercuts the rest of the roster. The big problem is they aren't using these men to create and nurture new stars.
They've turned it into a storyline with CM Punk demanding respect for his accomplishments despite the fact that WWE refuses to acknowledge as much.
He can say he's the main event no matter where he is on the card all he wants, the fact of the matter is he never goes on last. That's indicative of both his perceived shortcomings as a draw and the manner in which WWE has gone about its business of late.
In short, it seems they don't trust the current roster to carry the business. So they're relying on old hands to do it for them. That's a big problem.
Lesnar is a particularly egregious case because he seemingly harbors a great deal of disdain for the industry. He doesn't enjoy pro wrestling. He's not passionate about what he's doing. He's just talented, an athletically gifted specimen who fits the mold of what Vince McMahon believes a pro wrestler should be.
He's also got a big ego, one that seems to be entirely too hard to satisfy. He's overpaid, too, considering he hasn't done much more than come in, job to John Cena (already a made man and the biggest star on the roster), look incredibly weak, and defeat Triple H (also a made man who is a part-timer). WWE reportedly paid $5 million for this and while that number is probably inaccurate, if it's anywhere in the ballpark, it's an insane figure.
After his appearance on last night's (Aug. 20, 2012) episode of Monday Night Raw, Lesnar told us he was leaving and never coming back. We know this isn't true, he's simply taking yet another vacation until he inevitably returns to be an attraction at a pay-per-view (PPV) to be determined.
The Rock doesn't fall into the same boat as Lesnar, as he has a genuine passion for the business and has worked more dates in between his film career. He's also arguably been far more entertaining but he's also simply an attraction, a star WWE brings out of exile to boost the business when he's got free time in his schedule.
This serves to take away opportunity from the current crop of "superstars" who the company will be relying on when Lesnar decides he doesn't want to come back anymore or when WWE realizes he's not worth the money they're paying him. But it's hard to break the glass ceiling when you're constantly taking a back seat to wrestlers deemed more important than you.
At some point, that has to change. But it won't be anytime soon. The Rock will be back to win the WWE championship at Royal Rumble, regardless of who is holding it going in. Lesnar will return as well, likely for a showdown against Undertaker at WrestleMania 29. And by this time next year, it's unlikely anyone on the roster at present time will be any more of a star because of their presence.
The "Returning Attraction Era" may be good for a few cheap pops every now and again but it's not a sustainable model and it's stunting the growth of those who are actually putting their time in.
I'll let Owen Hart get the last word on this because he said it best -- "Enough is enough and it's time for a change."