The main event of WrestleMania 31 was already a meta-fans dream. Whether or not you were into debating Roman Reigns' readiness, or whether Brock Lesnar could serve as a ring general - the booking and outcome of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match would provide endless grist for the internet discussion mill.
And the close of business announcement, via new friend-of-WWE ESPN, that Lesnar was re-upping with the sports entertainment machine rather than returning to UFC doesn't do anything to change that. Sure, the discussion has been re-framed, but all of the interesting takes and perspectives are still valid...but with the added dimension of considering the future of Brock Lesnar, the character, over the next several years of storylines.
Why wait for that time to pass? Heck, why even wait until Sunday to see who the champ is come the Raw after WrestleMania? We don't get on the internet every day not to talk out of our asses about stuff! Let's hash out the possible upsides, and downsides, of the once Next, now adjectiveless, Big Thing remaining on Vince McMahon's payroll.
On the one hand:
1) Brock Lesnar is very good at pro wrestling.
Yes, he was pretty swell at collegiate wrestling, and proved himself to be quite good at mixed martial arts, too. But I don't watch the former and the latter has evolved while Lesnar's been away.
At 37 years old and on a roughly four match a year schedule, there's no reason to think that Brock can't keep showing up and ripping $#!+ up for another five, possibly ten years. He'll make money, WWE will make money and you & I will get to see him work with current main roster stars like Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins, but everything from big money matches against the likes of John Cena and The Rock to smark wet dreams like Rusev or Kevin Owens.
There are certainly possible ramifications from Brock's commitment to WWE and official retirement from unscripted athletics that we'll complain about, and that might even be bad for pro wrestling. But if you say you don't want to watch him do the "Conquer" part of "Eat. Sleep. Conquer. Repeat.", I'm not sure you and I can be friends.
2) Paul Heyman will remain on our screens.
The Beast Incarnate's main, or some might say only, weakness is his skill with a microphone in front of a live crowd. While the man can scare you so badly from a closed set you end up in a pool of your own blood, urine and vomit, put him in the ring to talk and he'll tell you about feeling your feelings.
Combine that with the fact that all signs point to there being no increase in the number of dates that he'll work in the new deal, and Vince McMahon's most expensive investment that isn't an over-the-top streaming service will need a mouthpiece. An Advocate, if you will.
While you might not want him cutting paychecks for your wrestling promotion, the ECW founder has proven to be a huge asset to WWE in just about any way they've used him since he re-appeared to mask Brock's public speaking deficencies and help sell CM Punk's heel turn to his adoring fans. And while he couldn't quite get that Los Angeles crowd to boo the champ earlier this week, he hits home runs with everything else the programming executives have given him lately, from pre-show panels to editorial podiums.
Heyman might never top that promo from last April 7th, when he told us how he'd try to warn us that his client would break Undertaker's Streak. But I want to see him try. Lesnar sticking around means he'll likely get lots of chances to try while keeping Brock on our minds while he's tending to the farm and raising his boys in Minnesota. Even if they shift Paul away from the Beast and align him with someone else who may or may not be going on last with the former IWGP Heavyweight Champ on Sunday.
Who knows? Maybe he can even finally get another Paul Heyman Guy (Or Gal) over while he's doing it.
3) A rising tide lifts all boats.
Not trying to toot my own horn here - I'm wrong more often than I'm right in the predicting pro wrestling game - but I've long thought that this deal would get done. It's too much of a sweetheart deal for Lesnar, and Vince McMahon was not going to let another guy he believes he "made" go and help Dana White and the Fertittas rake in a ton of cash.
Following from that hypothesis, I sincerely doubt Brock spends much of this contract away for the WWE World Heavyweight title scene. And that means that not only does whoever else is a part of that scene automatically becomes a big deal, but hopefully, Creative will finally get serious about elevating the titles that can be featured on television and in arenas week in and week out.
Love him, hate him or just find him duller than insurance seminar, Roman Reigns is a hot topic because the powers-that-be told us he was. We really started to buzz about him when he got his shot at Brock, and the championship that's turned into a rare and precious gem in his possession.
Sunday night in Northern California, the United States title could end up in the hands of a man who's headline WrestleManias. And the Intercontinental belt has received more air time in the last month than it did in the six months previous, and also is positioned to belong to a star who's crossed over to the mainstream in part by headlining the company's biggest show.
That doesn't suddenly happen you're going to revert back to having the WWE champ show up every Monday night and defend his belt every three or four weeks. Brock Lesnar announcing his next career move got a featured spot on SportsCenter. The man is a big freaking deal. That forces the guys performing and competing with him to become the same, or get lost at sea.
On the other hand:
1) Part-timing it.
When we trotted this gimmick out following Brock's decimation of Cena to claim the WWE title at SummerSlam, I asked if fans raised on a decade of "The Champ. Is. HERE." were ready for a champ who wasn't. And if that was any way to sell the Network.
Well, the sky hasn't fallen and neither have subscriptions, so it seems like LOLVINCEISRIGHT(AGAIN). But that doesn't mean there aren't some real narrative holes and creative consquences to one of your biggest stars working ten dates a year.
As covered above, Brock as Heavyweight king makes the chase something special and just might force WWE's hand when it comes to the secondary belts. But it renders the Money in the Bank briefcase all but moot. A lot of folks might not consider that a bad thing...it might well be an idea whose time has past, or that could at least use a few years in mothballs. When you have bookers who don't like to use tournaments, an established precedent of big stars granting themselves title shots and a going-on-two-year-long authority angle based around "the face of the company", it makes it hard to convey an air of legitmacy - and that's one of the key things paying a former shoot fighting champ grants WWE.
Taking the belt off of Lesnar only exacerbates the problem. For one thing, you have to come up with a reason why someone would risk life and limb to tussle with a guy who doesn't have a title to take. Then, you have to create conflict and build tension between men when one of them isn't even around. It's possible, but it's not always satisfying, or even that fun. Pre-WWE title Brock has a few good matches and one shocking moment, but nobody's revisiting the builds to his bouts with Hunter, Punk or even Taker.
And those are concerns I can come up with without even considering morale issues among a locker room of folks who do travel millions of miles for a lot less pay.
2) Too many eggs in one basket?
We'll never know the specifics of what Vince is paying Brock, and we'll only ever get rumors about how much Lesnar will have to do to earn those checks. But it's undoubtedly a whole lot of cheddar.
The math has to work out, in some way that McMahon can justify it to his board. But in addition to the possibility of having a guy on the roster in his own tax bracket, there's also the opportunity cost of not using that money in other areas - like incentivizing the whole roster with something to replace their lost pay-per-view (PPV) bonuses, or the creative energy spent to create compelling programs for a marquee name that only appears in lights a handful of times a year.
What if something goes wrong? The Beast Incarnate has butted heads with WWE brass before; maybe he walks over a financial miscommunication or a creative disagreement. Heaven forbid, but what if he gets hurt?
This is a big commitment on the company's part to one man. That man is a huge star, but he's still human, and a pricly one at that, who'd still rather chop wood than get on a bus. I'm sure everything will be fine, but it's not out of the question that it could go sideways with little notice.
3) How petty and/or stubborn is Vincent Kennedy McMahon?
Couple of ways I could see this biting us fans in the behind. One, will the boss be hellbent on erasing a certain Chicagoan from the record books - pushing forward with a Lesnar title reign past when it makes good kayfabe sense just to clearly say someone else is The Best in the World when measured in terms of longest title reign of the modern era?
Or, two, is he so determined to build the next decade around Roman Reigns that he's willing to pull the plug on Brock's run with the strap for a WrestleMania coronation that some are against and many are indifferent to? Is there a plan in place for what the Conquerer will do now that he's re-signed, but still might be conquered himself on Sunday?
Final Analysis: As you may be able to tell, I had to reach a bit for the afraids this time. There's a pretty good chance that this might come out differently if I'd waited a month, but in the moment, I was not ready to see Brock Lesnar walk away from pro wrestling again.
I'm 95% Excited and 5% Afraid.
Eat. Sleep. Comment. Repeat.