Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton is certainly a big enough bout to be near the top of any card. Some will be disappointed upon discovery of the news, and many others will be extremely pleased and interested in the match. I'm not sure where you fall on that spectrum, but let's get into the nitty gritty of the choice to pair these two with one another and look a little deeper into the pros and the cons of what's to come - barring disaster tomorrow night in Las Vegas - at SummerSlam.
Randy Orton can be somewhat vanilla in presentation and is always a few steps away from lackadaisical in his own involvement. However, he's also one of the great workers of this generation, when inspired. I've always compared him to Barry Windham, and again it fits here. Tully Blanchard once told me Barry's biggest fault was that he could make what was difficult look insanely easy. He was so crazy talented that nothing ever looked tough, and thus it was possible to view him as lazy. He didn't have the mental check-out problem that Orton has displayed at times through the years, but both guys have every tool you want in a top pro.
If you want a prime example of Orton's ability and acumen, go back and check out Night of Champions 2014, which took place in my town of Nashville, Tennessee. He worked Chris Jericho on that card, another all-timer, and those two guys basically had no angle. Equipped with the thinnest of storylines, it was just a crisp wrestling match. Without any rooting interest, Jericho and Orton laced up their boots (or pulled up their kickpads), made their entrance, and performed. It was solid, the in-ring crescendo was impeccable, and both guys went out and did their job. Despite a fairly telegraphed finish, it proved how good they are, even when they're just out there having a match with nothing whatsoever on the line.
The Orton we're likely to get next month is going to be a ravenous, hungry Randy; the kind of guy who will be out to leave his mark on that show. Plus, he knows he has the added benefit of the "heart grows fonder" idea, as we haven't seen him work in 2016 and some of us have had a chance to miss his presence. I hope WWE limits him on television, or keeps him off entirely until the actual match. It could be special to see him walk down the aisle for the first time in many months, rather than having him slammed down our gullets on the USA Network every week in the run-up.
The match announcement has a very UFC feel to it, in that there's no storyline, but there's a match. Orton and Lesnar become rivals because they know they're set to collide, and so it works in reverse. Rather than write something flimsy, especially with the Draft coming up and a strained, changing creative team, they put the brand on our foreheads and said, "That's your damn match right there, folks." I like it, because it's new. It feels big, because WWE is telling us they don't even need to give us a reason. Here's Randy Orton, here's Brock Lesnar, now pull out your wallets.
Speaking of UFC, what would be wholly unique would be for WWE to go outside of its comfort zone and let Orton and Lesnar's match be sold in something akin to what we've seen with the Embedded series. Let us watch the combatants train and go about their lives, doing some smack talk but also shoot a few things with family, friends, colleagues, and of course with Paul Heyman. Film them doing interviews and media appearances the week of the show and release them on the WWE Network. This is one where the goal should be to make it different in every way.
Very rarely do we have a match in the total absence of an angle. So, treat it like a booked fight, where both guys desperately want to win, and don't manufacture the usual WWE tropes or recycle the same angles. We know they're working each other, so do something more real with this one. It will then stand out, and that's exactly what the promotion should want from Lesnar vs. Orton.
If we'd seen Orton all year long and he'd wrestled on all the rest of the PPV's, this wouldn't be anything particularly noteworthy, and maybe it still isn't, but it's got an added chance to resonate because we haven't had a chance to be burned out by long-running, go-nowhere feuds with the likes of Sheamus. Right now, Randy's fresh, and because of it, I'm optimistic about the match, and when I saw the splash image with the two of them, I wanted to see those two guys go at it. They worked with one another during Lesnar's first WWE run, but not at all since the molding of the new Brock character. These factors all play to Vince McMahon's advantage, and taken together, they should make the bout far more inviting than it might be at any other time, whether past, present, or future.
There's a worry about Orton's health, and it bears mentioning. Here we have a guy returning from major shoulder surgery, with a weak neck, and the first thing he's asked to do is step into the ring with an albino gorilla whose claim to fame is his propensity to toss people through the air in ways where they land on their necks and shoulders. Randy could end up severely screwed physically here, but anyone put in his role could also be in trouble. For Orton, what he knows is his match is big-time, and he's finally getting a one-on-one chance to work an enormous crossover star. Though it's dangerous, my guess is he's weighed all options and come to the conclusion that the inherent risks are not nearly terrifying enough to balk on this opportunity.
For now, the match is up in the air, and it will remain a little shaky until the UFC 200 lights go off and the patrons head home from Las Vegas. We have no idea what's going to happen on Saturday night, which still brings me back to the belief that making the announcement yesterday, rather than next Thursday, makes no sense. However, this is the decision WWE made, so we all have to hope everything goes well, and if so, it's full speed ahead to SummerSlam. The secondary hope should be that Vince keeps Brock and Orton off as much television as he's capable of, in order to preserve the confrontation's primary asset: Novelty.
Whether you're excited for the match or not, it has the star power to be treated with an extra layer of shine. It won't be the main event, but it has the potential to be an excellent piece of business, and with so many things in its favor - provided Brock doesn't see his flame snuffed out in Vegas - WWE could have done a lot worse here. It may not cure infectious disease, but it's by no means a dud.
There are names I'd have been more jazzed to see booked with Lesnar, but there's always time to get to those. This one makes sense, the timing couldn't be better, and it's a definite sleeper for those who might not ordinarily be enamored with Orton. It's a good way to bring him back into the fold.
Now it's up to WWE not to oversaturate, not to overbook, not to reinvent the wheel. They have plenty of time to take us completely out of this thing before we ever get to it. To them, I say less is more. Be discerning. Be smart.