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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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Retrospective: Brock Lesnar's 2nd WWE Chapter

By @TrueGodImmortal

Sure, you're reading the title, assuming this will be negative from jump (you're mostly right) and you're probably thinking "how could there be more bad than good, Lesnar is a huge star and a huge name", and sure that's correct. Lesnar is a star and a huge name with a draw ability that should equal buyrates, bigger ratings, and more attention all around. If you're really into the numbers, Lesnar and his salary is somehow justified by the fact that he earns big money for WWE, but does he really? I'm certain he generates income for the company and likely some profit, but is it really worth it? Is his 2nd chapter of WWE a failure? Is it middle of the road? I'd personally consider it a failure. How? Am I talking business wise or creatively? Or match wise? Or entertainment value wise? Or all of the above?

All of the above.

From the moment Brock made his earth shattering return to WWE in April 2012, we were so excited about the prospects and possible matches he would have going forward. I mean, we had CM Punk killing it at the time, Sheamus on the rise, Chris Jericho was back, Daniel Bryan was growing, Randy Orton was still in his prime so to speak, and there were a lot of cool options for the WWE to give us against Brock even back in 2012. What did we get when he came back? Brock vs John Cena. Certainly the purpose of this was to reintroduce Brock as a monster who destroys Cena and beats him after Cena suffered a huge loss to Rock, furthering the building storyline of Cena doubting himself, right???

Wrong. Very wrong.

Extreme Rules 2012 was a glorified squash for the first 85% of the match, then as usual Superman Cena came back and actually won over Brock. It made absolutely no sense and halted the momentum of Brock right as it started. The WWE brought this man back literally to lose to Cena after dominating the match for the majority of it. Was that a smart decision? I don't really think so. Cena needed to lose. He needed to have that loss and get dominated in the match to further his whole "can I still do this, have I gotten too cocky" story that would lead to redemption. Brock would lose to Cena, then break the arm of Triple H basically the night after to start a feud with him going forward. Now, let me put this in perspective for you to explain why this is a failure in a way: for Brock to come back 8 years after leaving and his first two opponents are guys who he defended the title against 9 years prior (Cena), and the man who ran Raw opposite of him when he was no. 1 on Smackdown (Triple H), showed that WWE hadn't truly progressed enough in the time since his departure. To make matters worse, Lesnar was only on a limited deal, so he would only work a few dates at a time then disappear for months. Having this occur in the first year truly knocked down his draw ability and messed up a chance to have the business see a slight boom due to the big return. Brock was challenged by Triple H and declined the match, making him look weak instantly. Then he would be on the losing end of most of the confrontations with Triple H, making him and Heyman look like chickenshit heels, something that made no sense for a guy you needed to build back up like Brock.

What happened next? Well, there's the terrible Summerslam 2012 match, in which there was really nothing showcasing any chemistry between Brock and HHH. At all. So, after this match, which Brock won, he once again left for MONTHS, from the post Summerslam fallout all the way to the Wrestlemania end season time. Where does one really get a chance to show their draw ability if they missed 5 months of programming? Many were hoping for a Rock vs Brock match at Wrestlemania 29, some even wishing for another encounter between Taker and Brock with the streak on the line, but instead we got.... another Triple H vs Brock match. No one asked for this. No one wanted this. Adding Shawn Michaels into the fray did absolutely nothing, and when Brock lost to Triple H at Wrestlemania, it once again took any chance of momentum away from him. With Brock having limited appearances as is, why waste him on rematches since he's barely around? WWE Logic.

After the Mania loss, Brock went against Triple H in a cage match at Extreme Rules, but to be completely honest, the feud and match was so boring, no one cared that Brock won. After four matches back in a year, Brock sat at 2-2, with a loss to Cena and Triple H, and two wins over Triple H. His merchandise sales were decent, but nothing out of this world like when The Rock returned or when CM Punk set the wrestling world on fire. So, Brock went away for a few months with no momentum and no real heat until he came back and executed the best feud of his entire 2nd chapter with CM Punk. A dream match of sorts, Punk vs Brock was intense and structured like a David vs Goliath thing, but was also secondary to Punk vs Heyman. I enjoyed this dichotomy. It made Lesnar a silent killer with Heyman getting him to do his dirty work for him, while Punk came to take them both out. Now, I would have liked to see Punk vs Brock get a tad more build up, but their match at Summerslam 2013 remains the best singles match Brock has had since returning and one of his best matches period.

After Brock picked up the win, he left again. This time, Heyman put Curtis Axel and Ryback in his stable, but that failed miserably. When Brock returned, it was admittedly a little earlier than expected, and he would have a brief feud yet unnecessary feud with Mark Henry then The Big Show. How this was supposed to make Brock look stronger and a bigger threat is beyond me, but they went with Brock vs Big Show at the Royal Rumble 2014. Here's the biggest issue with that: 11 years ago at the Royal Rumble 2003, we saw Brock vs Big Show..... so here we are 11 years later and we are getting it again. The match in 2014 was a squash, intended to build Brock up for the streak against Undertaker at Wrestlemania 30. With the horrible placement of his matches and segments, Brock had little momentum for Mania and yet, he ended up defeating Undertaker and breaking the streak. It was a shocking moment and garnered headlines. Finally, a moment that could push Brock to become the draw he always was supposed to be. With the whole "Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat" tagline, Brock was watching his legacy grow even in his part time work. He was now the MAN once again, and after consecutive wins over Triple H, Punk, Big Show, and breaking the 20 plus year streak of Taker, he seemed poised to fight for the WWE World Heavyweight Title. That would occur one year after he beat CM Punk at Summerslam 2014, when he faced John Cena for the title in the main event. I was nervous that the WWE would have Cena go over, but what we got instead was something interesting: a massacre and a squash. Lesnar beat down Cena and ended up winning the title in convincing fashion. Brock looked unstoppable FINALLY. There's no way that the WWE could ruin this now right? Right???

Wrong. It was after this match that we saw what I consider a slight slip in Brock's in ring work, mainly due to his imaging as a beast who can't be stopped when unleashed versus an actual wrestler who is just unstoppable. However, I was fine with Brock being unstoppable until he faced the returning Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 31. That was the big draw. The match we all wanted. There was no other choice at the time IMO. Of course, WWE seemed to have different ideas, so shortly after Brock wins the title, he nearly loses it in the rematch with Cena. This was a mistake. Cena should have been dominated by Brock again and lost the match before being tormented by Seth Rollins to continue their feud. Brock left with the title for months, something that bothered me a bit, as it did absolutely nothing for the business, and I think this is where things got worse yet again. Brock was coming up on the end of his initial three year contract, and as champion he still had leverage, so he barely showed up. A show without a champion was honestly weird, and who knows, maybe Brock wrestling a few more times, even if only at Survivor Series, could have boosted the product some. For some reason, the WWE seemed dead set on having Brock defend the title at the Rumble against Cena again, but for the sake of the match, they added Seth Rollins in it. The result? One of the best triple threat matches ever, with the bulk of the credit going to Seth for being so great during this match. Brock retained the title and unfortunately, Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble, so we were stuck with a main event none of us wanted to see, with the harsh reality setting in that Brock was supposed to put over Roman. Disgusting.

As Wrestlemania 31 approached, Brock made news by re-signing with WWE for another 3 years. After this announcement and after his Rumble win, it seemed as if Brock as champion and being unstoppable got him even more over with the fans. This combined with a strong resistance to Roman was making Brock the face going into the match and despite the best efforts, Roman was being booed out of the building on a regular basis by the crowd going into Wrestlemania. When Mania arrived, I had to laugh a bit, because I knew what to expect. Neither Roman nor Brock could lead a match, and as expected, we got a match that saw a bunch of suplexes and finishers. However, something special happened during the match that would change the whole path of Brock and his 2nd chapter. After hitting Roman with a ton of suplexes, Brock utter the phrase "Suplex City, bitch", and the sky opened up even more. Brock would lose the title in an interesting fashion as he would see Seth Rollins cash in the MITB briefcase and pin Roman Reigns to win the WWE Title. Brock would go ballistic the next night on RAW, and the crowd loved every minute of it. However, as usual, just like that, the momentum of Brock was slowed down, as he would go away for a few months until Battleground 2015, where he got his title rematch against Seth Rollins. The match was a short clusterfuck that saw Undertaker come back and cost Brock the match and title. This is where I realized how much WWE is wasting Brock.

Where there was a chance to book Brock vs a ton of people who needed the opportunity to face a big time star and even in a valiant loss could be elevated, we saw them book Undertaker vs Brock TWO times in a row.... just to make up for what I guess was a disappointment in their Mania 30 match. Okay... that's pointless. So, if you're keeping score, here's the Brock return so far:

*Match Against Cena at Extreme Rules (someone he beat 9 years ago on PPV)
*3 Matches In A Row Against Triple H (none of them were great)
*Match Against CM Punk (pretty much a classic)
*Match Against Big Show (who he beat 11 years prior)
*Defeats Taker For The Streak (good idea, but once again, Taker was a big opponent of Brock 11-12 years prior to this)
*Beats Cena For Title By Destroying Him At Summerslam (good call)
*Fights Cena in Rematch (booked badly and marks their 3rd match in 2 years)
*Defends Title Against Seth Rollins and Cena at Rumble 2015 (classic match)
*Loses Title At Wrestlemania 31 (Seth wins, elevating a rather boring Brock vs Reigns match)
*Suplex City Is Born
*Returns to Fight Rollins (could have went right... but Taker coming back ruined it)
*Fights Taker two more times at Summerslam and HIAC (I like the HIAC match, but it's unnecessary)

So at this point, the only fresh opponents he had were Seth, Punk, and Reigns. Everyone else is someone from either his old era or the era before him. Did this gain anything for the WWE? Did it do anything in general? Aside from the Cena title win and the initial return, Brock hasn't done as much as you'd think he should have. So, he fights Taker twice.... then what? He enters into the Rumble... he's winning right? Right? No. He gets thrown out by the Wyatt Family. So, as expected we are building to Wyatt vs Brock at Wrestlemania 32 right?

Not exactly.

Brock vs Bray got halted for a Fastlane match between Roman, Ambrose and Brock that would determine the no. 1 contender for Mania 32..... and Reigns won. Now, Brock would end up going on to face Ambrose in a match at Wrestlemania 32 that was built well.... but fell short of expectations due to lack of action in the match. Brock won fairly easy and it was at that point that we all seemed to be bored of him and his big time matches. There was nothing really to speak of, until we heard he was going back to UFC for a presumed one time bout. So let me get this straight: Brock can barely put effort for a match at Wrestlemania, but he can fight in the UFC? Of course. Brock doesn't care about wrestling. It's a job. His need to go back to UFC was tugging at him and sure enough, he went back and won.

The most recent match we witnessed was the atrocity of a main event between Randy Orton vs Brock at Summerslam. Brock and Orton hadn't faced each other in 14 years of being in the WWE except one in a very insignificant match. If there was ever a dream match from his era left over, this was the one. Well... we got a squash match instead and Orton got little to no offense. Yet again.... another wasted opportunity to make Brock legit. He doesn't look like a beast anymore. It's boring. Orton vs Brock could have been a great back and forth match, instead we got the same ol' bullshit from the WWE with a marquee match up. Fans were even pissed at that ending and sure enough, Brock was gone yet again after Summerslam. Here we are now, staring down a possible and likely disaster of a match with Brock vs Goldberg at Survivor Series. This is likely to be a clusterfuck yet again. Why? Well, aside from the fact that Brock does nothing but suplexes and F-5s, no one wanted this match again, and Goldberg hasn't wrestled in 12 years and is basically 50.... I mean... the match will suck pretty badly. Plus, who really asked for this again? No one. Sure, Goldberg returning was cool, much like Brock's return was, but nostalgia wears off. Brock vs Goldberg is a strange rematch, but WWE is out of touch and refuses to give us what we want.

What might be better than Brock vs Goldberg? Well to me, there's a lot of matches, but apparently WWE might be sold on doing Brock vs Shane McMahon, another terrible idea. Why? What is the issue with Brock facing someone he has to work against? How about Brock vs Cesaro? Brock vs Rusev? Brock vs AJ Styles? Brock vs Bray Wyatt? Brock vs Sheamus? Or better yet, Brock vs Kevin Owens, the WWE Universal Champion? How about Brock putting over someone since he's leaving after Wrestlemania 34? How about working well with these younger guys so they can get over more? How about Samoa Joe vs Brock Lesnar? Give us matches of quality and matches that we can appreciate for him. Will we ever see Brock do something great? Productive? He has a year and some months left on his contract, so can we just get a glimpse of brilliance before he walks away from wrestling again and forever? Only time will tell, but the clock is certainly ticking.



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