Nothing has been better in 2017 for Vince McMahon than the build to tonight’s Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe WWE Universal Championship match. Whether he knew it when Joe won the number one contender bout at Extreme Rules or whether he’s come to understand it over the past few weeks, it’s now an incontrovertible fact that Samoa Joe has arrived.
WWE has no choice now but to strap a rocket to this man’s back and allow the cash register to fill with greenbacks. He can talk, he can work, he looks legit, he knows the psychology of a match, his intensity is off the charts, and his facial expressions are just flawless. He should have been here years ago, but he did it when it was right for him.
But he’s here now, and finally it appears the decision-makers have realized just what a commodity he can be.
Those same people have known for quite some time how valuable Brock Lesnar is to a wrestling show. While he may not pop a rating like he once did, his matches remain the most intriguing parts of any WWE event. There’s a sense of danger within each, and also a palpable sense of mystery. What’s going to happen? Will there be blood? How many suplexes? Is (insert opponent here) going to come out of this okay? This is going to be a war!
Every one of those questions or statements is something people have either said or thought in the run-up to a big Lesnar match. I would argue that with the possible exception of the Royal Rumble 2015 triple threat match with John Cena and Seth Rollins, tonight’s bout (or a rematch in the future) might be the one I’ve anticipated most in his entire second run with the company.
So few people can stand across the ring from Brock and be taken seriously. Shinsuke Nakamura could do it, Braun Strowman could do it aesthetically, and someone like Cesaro could also do it. And, because it’s WWE, Roman Reigns, John Cena, and AJ Styles could also do it. But, now that Kurt Angle isn’t in the equation, no one can stand across the squared circle and stare at Lesnar with quite the “Yeah, let’s do this” vibe like Samoa Joe.
I couldn’t possibly care less who wins the match, though I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the title change and the interest level that would be created by Joe defeating Brock and carrying the Championship onto RAW tomorrow night and into SummerSlam next month. What I do care about is how the bout is presented, and how both men are cared for during the proceedings. It would be easy to botch this tonight with a terrible finish that serves as a brake pedal on this Samoa Joe ascension. It would be just as easy with a bad finish to leave a bad aftertaste from Brock.
Luckily, Paul Heyman has his hands all over this build, these promos, the “realism” of the angle, and this match. I foresee a non-finish tonight, and honestly that’s exactly what should happen. Here’s how the main event should go down, in order to protect both men and not affect what may be planned for SummerSlam.
It should be back and forth, but with Brock finding himself unable to fully control Joe. Suplexes from BOTH men, submissions from both men, heavy strikes in the corner from both men. Lesnar and Joe should trash talk, audibly enough that the microphones around the ring can pick up the words, and perhaps we get a new catchphrase out of just that portion of the match. Both should look winded at one point, as if they’re killing themselves trying to one up the other.
And then it should spill to the floor. Barricades must be destroyed, tables crumpled into heaps, and perhaps it should enter the WWE Universe. Here, there’s an option for the referee, or for Kurt Angle, to stop the match for the safety of the ticket-holders. I don’t know exactly how that would play live, and it might result in a cavalcade of boos. Another option is the two guys knock each other out and neither can answer even a 20 count. Still a third would be to put a few rows of planted fans just past the dasher boards and have Joe and Brock spill into them, again causing chaos that might have to be curtailed.
If Joe chokes Lesnar out after a 15 minute classic, that’s absolutely fine. If Lesnar pins Joe with an F-5, I wouldn’t love it, but it’s basically fine. If Joe passes out in the Kimura Lock and we have a Steve Austin-Bret Hart WrestleMania XIII situation, THAT might be the answer. WWE does far too many matches where they’re afraid to have either man lose, which begs the question why you’d book that pairing in the first place. Here, I feel their pain. There’s plenty of sense behind Joe winning the Championship tonight, plenty of sense behind Brock remaining the unstoppable monster, and plenty of sense ensuring both still have shine all over them going forward.
What this means is we have a main event tonight where almost anything could happen. There could be a finish, but that’s by no means a certainty. There could be multiple run-ins and points of interference, or it might just be two guys beating the hell of each other for 20 minutes. The bell could ring, Joe could catch Brock with a standing enziguri, then lock on the Coquina Clutch, and that’s all she wrote. Or, the bell rings, Brock grabs Joe, drops him on his head with one suplex, F-5, donezo.
If you want to up the measured, serial killer vibe with Joe, he immediately rolls out of the ring and grabs Heyman, leaving Brock to decide what’s most important to him. If he uses Paul as a distraction, he’s a heel. Joe has been the babyface of the two, but the reason this feud has worked so well is because neither has been positioned as anything but a bad ass. It’s basically WWE’s newest “Choose Your Preferred Beast” and root for him scenario. And it’s tremendous.
Usually we have much more of an idea how things will play out in a big match than we do tonight. That makes it even more special. Even on a show with the dumbest name in the history of history, this main event is can’t miss. We may be able to infer a bit more before the match starts, based on the time the bell rings, but because it’s the WWE Network, that’s not necessarily accurate either. This one’s going to be fun.
The key tonight is to make sure we love Samoa Joe when its over, and still adore Brock. I wish we could just hit pause on the plans and just rematch this in August, but that’s probably not going to happen. Maybe Joe gets added to the main event and we have a three-way or a four-way for the Universal Title? So many options exist. We’ll find out soon enough. How they get where they’re going will be fascinating, and it will require proper strategy.
Whatever WWE comes up with, rest assured both Joe and Lesnar will be up to the challenge. These two boys are going to put on a show for us tonight. I haven’t cared more about a WWE match in a long time than this main event.
Get excited. I’m geeked. Let’s freaking do this.