Wednesday 25 March 2015

The Re-Signing Heard Around the World

"I was born to be an entertainer" - Brock Lesnar

Yesterday evening Brock Lesnar revealed during an interview with Michelle Beadle on ESPN that he had re-signed a fresh WWE contract. This happened sometime on Monday while he was in LA for RAW and the WWE champion confirmed that the decision officially draws his MMA career to a close. He will presumably continue to work a similarly light schedule and has confirmed that the new agreement will see him with the company for a number of years.

A man done with MMA.
This is, obviously good news for WWE. They've retained the services of a significant ratings force and the outcome of the WrestleMania 31 main event is now about as far from obvious as it can get. With Lesnar staying put there's every chance he'll retain the world championship against Roman Reigns on Sunday.

The news does raise questions about the closing moments of the Monday 23 RAW though. The show went off the air with Lesnar and Reigns playing tug-o'-war with the championship belt, looking like a pair toddlers squabbling in the playground as they did so. It was an unimpressive finish that will remain memorable for all the wrong reasons. As Lesnar had almost inked his new deal by this point you have to wonder why this was what closed one of the most important RAWs of the year. The suggestion that WWE didn't want to commit to making one man looking overly strong in case he left doesn't cut it with this news.

But that's by the by. With the re-signing WWE has been given an opportunity to do something spcial with Brock Lesnar. They can make him the most dominant world heavyweight champion the company's ever seen.

This doesn't have to mean he's the longest reigning or has the most defences. Neither of those things would hurt but they're unlikely. Bruno Sammartino's eight year run seems insurmountable in the modern era and Lesnar's light as a feather schedule means it would take him decades to rack up as many televised defences as other champions. The way WWE should make him dominant is by having him beat anyone and everyone of note. Pick a successor (Danie Bryan, for example) and keep him away from 'The Beast' until the build-up to the title change is going to begin.

In the meantime have Lesnar go over everyone. A page could be taken from the more real-sports approach taken by New Japan and Ring of Honor with a story being told across Lesnar's reign. In ROH it's been common in the past (less so in recent years) for world champions to become worn down over time until when they finally drop the belt they're completely knackered (something which works so well because it's usually true). The inverse of that should be true for Lesnar. He should get stronger as time goes on, wrestling shorter matches and winning them more decisively.

Would this make the roster look weak? No, not necessarily. They'd still be having competitive matches amongst themselves and could be booked as strong as was liked going into their title challenges against 'The Pain'. The idea would be to emphasise how Lesnar's on top of his game and is at the peak of professional wrestling ability, not to make people look weak for the sake of it. If someone's been built up as a juggernaut it doesn't make people look weak to lose to them. It simply affirms that juggernaut status.

Of course this approach would make Lesnar a popular guy. But that's nothing new. He's more popular than supposed hot young babyface Roman Reigns as we trundle into WrestleMania 31. This is because people know they're not getting an act with Lesnar, he essentially plays himself on-screen. That believability makes him relatable on a roster of childish, wafer-thin gimmicks and overly rehearsed acts. In fact believability itself gives Lesnar an appeal. Lack of it is what's giving Reigns problems: people know his lines are scripted and they don't like it. For a company happy to say they're giving us the Reality Era WWE really don't seem to understand what reality on a modern wrestling show needs to be.

The alternative is to have Reigns or Rollins take the title from Lesnar. Either of them would benefit from that victory, but they or someone else could benefit more if accolades and victories continued being heaped on 'The One' for another year or more. The longer Lesnar's reign lasts the more it's going to mean when the time finally comes for it to end.

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