Timing is often everything in our world. Just ask the Golden State Warriors, who, because of the timing on the Stephen Curry contract, had enough money to lure Kevin Durant to the west coast. Ask Hillary Clinton, whose unfavorables are off the charts; historically bad, with one exception: Donald J. Trump. Ask any fan of a red hot pro sports team that dealt with ups and downs during the regular season but came together in the final month, made the playoffs, and then boat raced the rest of the league. Ask O.J. Simpson two questions, first how his murder trial would have concluded had all relevant LAPD officers been punished in the Rodney King verdict, and second, what his sentence would have been for armed robbery and memorabilia theft, had those crimes occurred prior to the double murder on Bundy Drive in 1994.
In pro wrestling, sometimes the same can be true. The nWo hit at a time when the audience craved something different, and Eric Bischoff was able to capitalize on those who dreamed of WCW vs. WWF. The idea coincided with the end of key contracts on the WWF side, plus Hulk Hogan's desire to stay relevant, which led to a reluctant reinvention of his persona.
Steve Austin would probably have been a star regardless, but the combination of the Stone Cold character with a new dislike of Vince McMahon - in the wake of the Bret Hart controversy in Montreal - provided the villain he needed to leave our orbit. Before that storyline was even a drunken glimmer in Austin's eyes, however, he first had to stumble his way into "Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass." All that took was the Curtain Call, which pushed Triple H's King of the Ring victory back a year, and opened the door for Stone Cold to take the first step on the BAMF stroll to the top.
Likewise, getting the timing wrong can be catastrophic. Our world is littered with a pile of missed opportunities, or moments where someone or something moved too quickly and overshot its intended target. Enter Brock Lesnar, one of the biggest pro wrestling or sports entertainment attractions of the decade.
The character, this "Beast Incarnate," was born in New Orleans at WrestleMania 30. Sure, he was a powerhouse during his first WWE run, but the stretch of matches with Triple H had done little to make anyone pay attention. Recall in the weeks leading up to Mania, no one gave him the chances of CM Punk, Shawn Michaels, or H, to defeat the Undertaker and end the streak. It was a throwaway match in a year where the right opponent just wasn't out there. Little did we know, minds were churning, and, eventually, one decision changed everything.
The run Brock Lesnar has been on since that day has been extraordinary to watch. He's drawn money, he's captured interest, and he's been built into a character unlike anything else in the industry. The value in a true Brock main event is still very real, which is why I've thought, since the second the UFC 200 news dropped, the risk was big. If Lesnar loses to Mark Hunt, that character takes a hit. He hasn't lost a fight since New Orleans. He hasn't fought in the Octagon since long before that point. So, THIS Brock Lesnar is undefeated in MMA, with a record of 0-0. He's a dominant, generationally important professional wrestler and entertainer.
But, what's done is done, and while if I'm Vince McMahon, I'd almost have to be assured of Brock's ability to beat Mark Hunt (take that statement however you wish) before I'd put my asset out there for potential humiliation, I'm not Vince McMahon. I don't know how he thinks, at least not in this instance. Keeping Brock happy means a lot, because an unhappy Lesnar is a volatile individual to deal with behind the scenes, especially when it comes time to negotiate or request something of him.
This Thursday on SmackDown, WWE will tell the world who Brock Lesnar will square off with in Brooklyn at SummerSlam, and while that's intriguing, it's also strange and poorly timed. Here's a classic example of jumping the gun. Vince could easily hold this very same announcement for next week's SmackDown, five days after UFC 200, thus equipped with the knowledge of Lesnar's status for the immediate future.
What if Brock gets concussed, or suffers some kind of major injury on Saturday, and now WWE has to backtrack and apologize for the match that won't be taking place in August? How about if Lesnar either knocks Hunt out or submits him in impressive fashion, leaving WWE to wish they hadn't been so hasty, when he could have been booked in the SummerSlam main event? Either one of these two things could happen, amongst other more obscure possibilities, and if they do, Vince is left completely exposed.
An old saying that still applies today about trial execution is to never ask a witness any question to which you don't already know the answer. Vince is asking the question, and he's telegraphing it, but the answers won't be there until late Saturday night after the happenings in Las Vegas. Flashing back to the O.J. analogy, right now he just asked Brock to try on the glove, but his confidence in a fit is far different from a certainty. Too many factors are out of his control, so why is he still stepping out on this ledge? He's walking the plank, but no one even invited him on the boat.
There's no reason to do it this week, unless you follow the logic our own Keith Harris posited via Twitter yesterday, when he asked if the announcement would lead to UFC pushing Lesnar vs. ??? on Saturday during the PPV. That's an interesting point, and we won't know until Saturday night whether there's any validity to it. It's the only argument that makes any sense at all, though, because there's plenty of time to reveal the plans for Brock prior to Battleground and the upcoming WWE Draft.
My question would be, though, if that's the case, does that really mean much of anything? Does it do significantly more for WWE to have UFC push Lesnar vs. Orton (as an example) than "Brock Lesnar returns to the WWE ring in Brooklyn, New York at this year's SummerSlam." Surely not, or maybe I'm wrong on this one. I can't imagine why it would be that much better to name the fictional opponent for the fictional wrestling match during the actual sporting event, rather than just push Lesnar's first appearance since WrestleMania. Well, unless that opponent is Conor McGregor or CM Punk.
News flash: It isn't.
Actually, here's a better idea for WWE. If UFC is planning to mention Lesnar and SummerSlam, have them announce, on the PPV, that his opponent will be named...
NEXT THURSDAY ON SMACKDOWN.
Then, there's actually a pull for whatever MMA fans get back into Brock after watching him this weekend, and maybe they decide to tune into the show just to get the news. It gives them a reason to watch WWE programming, even if we all know the information will be on social media within five seconds of the announcement. There's method behind that madness.
WWE's thinking here fails miserably, because again, it's no more effective this week than it would be next week, unless you believe a more specific UFC 200 plug means something. The risk of the match falling apart due to the Lesnar vs. Hunt fight, or the risk in under-booking Brock's role at SummerSlam - should he win convincingly - is impossible to ignore. There's a SmackDown next Thursday as well as this one, and Vince could have created the same buzz then as he is attempting to do now.
The difference is he'd have much more information next week with which to make a sound decision.
Right now, he hopes and prays everything goes right on Saturday night.
That's a tough spot to be in, and if the promotion ends up ensnared, WWE's predicament is entirely self-inflicted.