Although Vince McMahon took an absolute hammering for choosing Roman Reigns to win the 2015 Royal Rumble match over crowd favourite Daniel Bryan, the biggest booking mistake of that event may turn out to be the decision to keep the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on Brock Lesnar despite WWE only having one match left on his contract before it expired.
In this scenario, McMahon is like the poker dealer who stacked the deck to give his opponent a royal flush. Not only did he keep his top title on Lesnar, but he also had him be the man to break The Undertaker's legendary WrestleMania streak last year and completely squash his top babyface draw John Cena at SummerSlam 2014. Basically McMahon has put himself in a position where he could be held up to ransom by Lesnar, who holds the fate of the WrestleMania 31 main event in his hands.
Brock Lesnar upped the pressure on Vince McMahon's shoulders this week by walking out before Monday Night Raw after getting into a shouting match with his boss over WWE's latest contract offer. What exactly caused Lesnar to lose his cool is still unknown, but as Dave Meltzer mentioned on his radio show today, WWE of late has been trying to insert unusual stipulations into their talent contracts like extended non-compete clauses, and has also gotten the reputation for verbally agreeing to terms with wrestlers only for the written contract to come back different. Those tricks might work with the average WWE wrestler, but clearly Brock wouldn't put up with such crap.
The stakes were raised further by Lesnar being photographed speaking to Dana White in a business suit at UFC 184 yesterday. The message couldn't be clearer: Lesnar will leave WWE unless Vince McMahon caves into his demands, whatever they may be.
Unsurprisingly, according to Meltzer, UFC management are more confident than ever that Brock Lesnar will return to the Octagon later this year, but I agree with him that we shouldn't read too much into his UFC appearance other than Lesnar is clearly playing both sides against each other to achieve the most financially lucrative offers possible. His true intentions won't be known until he puts pen to paper with one of the two groups (or even Bellator, if he wants easy fights for big money).
But there's plenty of Doomsday scenarios that could play out. The obvious one is that Lesnar quits WWE before WrestleMania 31. Indeed, Meltzer claimed that the WWE writing team has already asked Vince McMahon whether they need to come up with an alternative WrestleMania card without Lesnar just in case that did actually happen, but Vince was adamant that wouldn't be necessary as they'd sue Lesnar for breach of contract if he didn't wrestle on the show as planned. Vince's reasoning is sound, as I'm sure Lesnar wouldn't want a lengthy legal battle that could stop him from making money elsewhere, but that is hardly the end of the WWE owner's problems.
Lesnar could hold McMahon up for more money on the day of the show, refusing to perform unless he gets the payoff he desires. He could make Roman Reigns look bad in the ring before doing the job. If his mind is already made up that he wants to leave WWE again to return to MMA competition and that news leaks before WrestleMania 31, then Lesnar becomes a lame duck champion and the hardcore fans in attendance at Levi's Stadium would likely crap all over the match, as they already don't like Roman and would now hate Lesnar too for being a WWE traitor.
I wouldn't say the situation is unsalvageable just yet, but this has all the ingredients of a disaster waiting to happen. At the very least, Roman Reigns looks to be caught up in the crossfire of the war between Vince McMahon and Brock Lesnar. What should have been a huge milestone in his career, defeating the all conquering Beast Incarnate on the biggest stage WWE has at their disposal for his first World title run, could be derailed by Lesnar's gamesmanship and McMahon's shortsightedness. What could have been the perfect coronation for WWE's new franchise star looks like it will be anything but perfect.