Please note that circumstances in the Wrestling World have persuaded me to postpone my original 60th article. Rest assured it will appear down the line.
The I in "LOL CENA WINS...."
Ok, this is going to be a bit controversial. Feel free to disagree with this article in the comments page- I actually enjoy debating the people who enjoy wrestling as much as I do, but don't always like where my head is at.
With that said, here we go...
At Wrestlemania 28 John Cena tried to be tricky and give the Rock a taste of his own medicine. One Rock Bottom later and John Cena thought his early 2012 couldn't get any worse.
The next night on Raw Brock Lesnar showed up after a eight year absence from WWE, F5'd Cena and we were off to the races.
Or so we thought.
Here's the thing. I think the first year of Brock's return (from that Raw to Extreme Rules 2013) was ok. But God it could have been so much better. In fact, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that until CM Punk and the Undertaker tangled with Brock (for very different reasons, of course) Brock was essentially treading water. And since I don't want to call my series Historically Significant Disappointments of Wrestling just for one week to rant about it, I'm going ahead with it anyway.
So you had a former WWE and UFC champ who could turn people into puddles just by looking at them. Sure you didn't have him all the time but you could keep him fresh that way and he would be able to make any card he was on a magical one.
So why wasn't it anywhere near as good as it should have been? Well, there's a few reasons.
For a company that says that they are not in competition with UFC, WWE sure talk about it a lot. At least they did when Brock Lesnar came back. And sure I know that he is a former UFC champion, but that in itself is enough. God knows in that first fucking year how many times I heard the announcers say "If this was a UFC fight the ref would have called it by now"; or "That move would be illegal in the UFC". It doesn't make for compelling television, just annoying television- simply because it seems like Vince is too busy looking over his shoulder to actually give some thought to his own product.
And the whole UFC thing didn't only affect the way announcers called the match, it also affected the way Brock wrestled.
When Brock came back to the WWE he was portrayed as a legit shoot fighter- which was fair enough. However, a WWE ring is a lot different to a UFC ring and nobody had really thought that through. Furthermore, the old Brock Lesnar had a fairly interesting move-set that could be counted on to add an element of storytelling to the match. The new Brock Lesnar more brutal, but relied on strikes, corner thrusts, kimura lock and ground and pound. Sure, there was the occasional suplex and/or powerbomb but it's easy to see how it could get a little...one paced (and there was no reason to count suplexes in the mean time...).
But what made it worse was the Brock Lesnar character that came back.
There was no shock that Lesnar came back as a bastard heel that was more interested in his pay check that any sort of loyalty to the wrestling business. However, for a guy who supposedly didn't give a fuck about the WWE or its universe, there is a curious obsession about Lesnar wanting to plaster himself all over the product. Furthermore, for a guy who is sooo secure about the WWE needing him more than the other way around, he seems incredibly willing to get all these damn assurances in writing.
Which led to one of the most cringe worthy segments in the last decade of WWE television. It actually may go down as one of the bottom five contract signings of all time in the WWE, and that's saying something.
Whoever was the idiot who thought that Brock Lesnar and John
Laryngitis Lauranitis could carry 10 minutes of promo time deserves a firm kick up the arse. Brock was not a great promo when he was in a full time schedule at WWE 8 year ago, why would he have gotten better in the time away?
And it's not as if there wasn't a way to do this that would make things more interesting. All they had to do was look into recent WCW history
In the last throes of WCW's life, Scott Steiner was the WCW World Heavyweight Champion and a right royal terror. Intimidating staff, burying and fighting fellow wrestlers- nothing seemed beyond Big Poppa Pump during this period. But of course WCW were too shit scared to do anything about it, so Steiner's behaviour was more or less indulged.
And that's what you could have done with the Lesnar build. After his first appearance on that post-Mania Raw, have John Lauranitis come out on Smackdown and say how he recruited Lesnar to usher in a new era and then say that the era will begin Monday on Raw where Lesnar will wrestle, say Kofi Kingston. On Raw Kingston comes out first and is waiting with fear for the Beast, when his music hits...and Brock doesn't show. They try again, but Brock is still not showing. Cut to a corridor out to the carpark where Brock has his gym bag and is walking towards his car when an agent of some sort asks him what he's doing only to eat a clothesline and a F5 on the concrete for his trouble.
Then the next week (April 16), after Laurinatis has pleaded through various channels to get Brock back, we see the return of this man:
Heyman will then deliver a promo about how his client is the victim in this situation- exploited by none other than Laurinatis himself and if Johnny Ace wants him back, as well as a main event for Extreme Rules than he will attend a contract re-negotiation next week on Raw. However, this time Heyman will drive most of it, with Lesnar in the background simply looking menacing. Heyman will still throw in the idea for the 'Monday Night Raw Starring Brock Lesnar' thing but it'll be obvious by Brock's grinning that they're only doing this because they have Johnny Ace over a barrel- not because Brock really cares about the show.
Of course, all this brings us on to the next big Roadblock to Lesnar
Here's a controversial statement: While I liked the Lesnar/Cena match at Extreme Rules, I do think it's a bit...overrated. It reminds a little bit of the famous Cell match between Mankind and the Undertaker, where you hit the massive moment almost immediately to get the crowd right into the match and let that momentum carry you through.
The thing is though, it's only blood. It's not like Cena was thrown off a cage. The audience was so shocked to see colour return that they lost their shit. After that though, the pace of the match slows down considerably.
I'm not saying it's a bad match, I'm just saying it's a match that I think is seen to be great in context. If you were to show the HBK/Undertaker match from Wrestlemania 25 in the Attitude, Ruthless Aggression or PG Eras, I still think it would be regarded as great. If this match was in 2003, I think it would be seen as good but not great.
Particularly when you account for the ending.
The most annoying thing about the ending is not just that Lesnar lost (though that is bad), it's just the manner of the match and the ending make it all about the other guy. Throughout the build and the match we all kept hearing about how Cena wasn't the same since he lost to the Rock at Wrestlemania 28. By beating Lesnar, Cena was seen to be top of the world again but Brock was...kinda forgotten about. And why should we care about him? He'd failed where the Rock had succeeded. Surely it would have been good to put a big 1 in the W column for his return match rather than give it to the guy who was going to face John Laurinatis at the next PPV?
And you could have still had Brock break Triple H's arm to set up the match at Summerslam.
Just make sure he doesn't get near Floyd Mayweather the next day...
Some people would say that the Summerslam match was a shocker. Actually I think it is underrated. For a start, it tries to tell a story that is a bit more complex that just "honest hero cops a beating then pulls a win out of his arse". There was an attempt to draw back to Brock's stomach problems and make it part of the story (a factor which Brock, to his credit, sold really well), by having Triple H target it as a possible weakness (which also led to Heyman shouting hilariously "Stop doing that!" every time Hunter kneed Brock in the abdomen).
However, as GrecoRomanGuy has said in a previous article, Triple H does wrestle a slow methodical style- which has been exacerbated after his two Wrestlemania matches with the Undertaker. The problem is, aside from the times Taker is concussed out of his skull, Taker is better at it because his move set is more varied and he has one of the best punch drunk selling acts in the history of the business (honestly, look how much drama is generated from the crowd by Taker crawling up the ropes- it's amazing). So what you have at the start of the match is a lot of punching followed by a few Kimura locks which transitions to a lot of gut shots when Triple H takes over. And because neither Brock nor the Game are willing to use inventive measures to go back to their weak points (aside from a nice point where Hunter throws Brock into the corner of a table) it does get a bit...one paced.
So who would Brock face with this new momentum? He got a big win over the Game! Surely something more on offer could-
Oh, wait we're doing this again at Wrestlemania?
Y'see between Summerslam and Wrestlemania 29 Paul Heyman became the advocate of one CM Punk. Which was fine and actually led to some pretty damn good television. However, during this time Heyman got into the bad books of Vince K McMahon, who during Heyman's 'Performance Review' on Raw in January found himself on the receiving end of an F5 by Lesnar who was back to...protect Heyman?
McMahon, 3 weeks out of hip replacement surgery, then challenged Heyman to a fight a month later (because that's what any responsible chairman would do) where Brock came out to defend Heyman and Hunter cam out to defend the chairman.
Look, I know a rematch was pretty inevitable, but the thing is that this makes it look like Lesnar is working on Heyman's behalf. What really does Brock have to gain by coming back? If this was about Triple H's controlling share of the company, or if Brock wins he becomes COO of Raw, then there's a carrot to dangle in front of the Beast's face.
"But Vectron!" I hear you cry, "If he had won Triple H would have retired from the ring!!!"
Yes, which made the result a foregone conclusion. And then someone had to make it a No Holds Barred Match.
Language matters in wrestling. Essentially there are three or four 'match types' that mean pretty much the same thing. No DQ, No Holds Barred, Street Fight and Extreme Rules matches are all essentially the same but evoke very different imagery in the audience. The first two are usually absent of much 'foreign objects' and just have two guys beating the bejesus out of each other. The latter two are when more interesting stuff usually begins to come into play. So when Paul Heyman declared the match between Hubter and Brock a No Holds Barred match at WM29 we all just went, "isn't that what they had at Summerslam?"
Anyway, after the requisite special Wrestlemania Triple H entrance (made a bit more interesting due to a dry ice snafu), the match started and um...wasn't as good as the Summerslam match.
To be fair, a big concussion early to Lesnar doesn't help when he hits his head hard on the concrete. It slows everything down to an absolute crawl and when it is compared to the masterpiece of CM Punk/Undertaker that was on before, it only makes things look worse.
It does get better, and the ending of the match is actually good to watch. But it just takes so long in getting there with so little in the way of interesting stuff going on.
But at least the feud was over and Brock could move-
We're doing this again?!
Yes, apparently Heyman claimed that this needed to be 'settled' once and for all in a Steel Cage Match!!
And they did this by wrecking Triple H's office. And this is apparently what gets Hunter so annoyed that he interrupts Brock's entrance to beat him down as if he's really pissed
Because, though bones may be broken and friends and fathers-in-law may be threatened, what really annoys the Game is having to replace his Macbook Pro...
Look, I understand this feud may have been running low on juice at this point and it was possibly just added on to take the heat off Ryback who was perhaps not ready to headline a PPV just yet. Furthermore the Cage match is undoubtedly the best match of the three as it looks like they are really laying into each other with the overbooking really adding to the fun.
But the thing is...Brock at the end of Extreme Rules 2013 isn't really any better off than he is one year earlier. His record is 2-2 and one could argue both of his wins are tainted ones. Furthermore, the so-called faces he had feuded with were both guys with...mixed receptions with the WWE Universe. It wasn't until the feud with CM Punk that WWE began to look at Brock long-term, rather than a band-aid for numbers.
And that's article 60! Next time we look at a guy who could have added a bit of colour to the mid card. Think I'm lying? All you have to do is Bo-lieve...
See you then.
The InVasion Saga
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?