I’ve been trying very hard lately to stoke the fire that is my anticipation for Wrestlemania. Because of my work schedule I wasn’t able to finish watching Raw until Tuesday morning. I stayed away from the internet entirely until then so I didn’t accidentally run into any spoilers. The go-home episode had some great moments (opening with Sting, Heyman, et al), but ended so horrendously, nauseatingly badly (adverbs) that the overall positive impact was lessened. Two grown men fighting over the belt like toddlers fighting over a toy...sigh... I’m an optimist, though, and want us all to get a great show this Sunday. I turned off the tv, grabbed my phone and logged on to our Dirt Sheet app (I’m a company man) and the first headline I read finally threw enough gas on the flame that I’m genuinely, organically excited for Wrestlemania this Sunday. “Lesnar is staying?! This changes everything,” I thought.
There’s been a lot of criticism aimed at the WWE recently over the treatment of some of its belts. Give them credit where it’s due on this one because the Heavyweight championship gains legitimacy when it’s in the hands of a real, decorated shooter. It generates interest in the brand. It creates water-cooler discussion about “wrestling being fake” and how “Reigns doesn’t stand a chance” between all level of sports fans. For all his faults, I’ve always given McMahon credit for being overall a great businessman and promoter. You can see how they continue to evolve The Network in order to draw in more subscribers. That’s McMahon’s baby. He’s going all-in with it. Don’t be surprised to see a spike in subscribers over the next couple days, by the way. You will be able to get both Wrestlemania and Extreme Rules in one pay cycle. Lesnar was on ESPN telling Michelle Beadle that he re-signed. It wasn’t released on just the Network. It was bigger than that because Brock Lesnar transcends WWE and pro wrestling. It’s free marketing. It’s an easy connection to make to say that a future now including Lesnar involves him as champion, working part-time, and defending with a frequency similar to boxing and UFC champs who only defend their belts a few times a year at most as a way to further elevate the prestige of the World Heavyweight Championship belt.
I understand the critics of part-timers, but I counter with this: it’s an homage to the territory days when there were wrestlers who were considered “attractions”. Andre the Giant wasn’t seen often. It contributed to how special he was. It gave him an extra aura and mystique. Like Andre, Lesnar is visually striking; something out of a comic book. When he shows up it’s a big deal and part of that is because it’s infrequent. He sells tickets. It’s must-see tv like we had in The Attitude Era that the current WWE product desperately lacks.. There is a disconnect due to the way they utilize Lesnar when he does appear that I think can be easily rectified, but we’ll get to that later. Call me an outdated traditionalist; I can acknowledge that I’m a fan of sticking with what has worked in the past if it still plays in modern times and with Lesnar it does. You also have to think about the wrestlers, themselves. The schedule for most of the main roster is brutal. The amount of days they wrestle takes a toll on their bodies. I question how necessary this is and it’s something I’ll be asking good ol’ JR about when I meet him this Saturday at his show. Do we really want the talent wrestling as much as they do? Abusing their bodies and shortening their careers, bump by bump. High spot by high spot. We’ve been robbed of too many breathtaking moments because great wrestlers were injured, preventing potential storylines and cutting careers short. Less is sometimes more. Recent events in AAA remind us that no one knows when they’ll wrestle their last match (RIP Aguayo Jr.) Lesnar has had health issues in the past so if this helps keep him healthy I’m all for it.
I mentioned that I think there is a disconnect in the way they are handling Lesnar being part-time. People would buy into it more if when he did show up he cut his own live promos once in a while. Heyman is amazing, that’s indisputable. Some people think he’s doing his best work right now, but when Lesnar is on tv he has to do something. He can’t just make smirks and look menacing. They need to get back to what he was doing leading up to the Rumble with Rollins and Cena.
The previous, assumed Wrestlemania booking was based on Lesnar not being around past following night’s Raw. That McMahon invested so much, financially, to keep Lesnar leads me to believe that there are creative plans they have in store for him that they see as lucrative. This creates a chance that they go a different direction in the World Heavyweight Championship match. /r/SquaredCircle was flooded with fantasy bookings following Brock’s announcement. There was overall more positive buzz about the main event at Wrestlemania. For those of us desperate for WWE to improve the quality of their product, this is the glimmer of hope we needed. The outcome doesn’t need to change, but that it could is what matters. I’m giving Reigns the benefit of the doubt that if he wins he will give us the match of his life in the process. Where before there was all, but certainty now there is a seed a of doubt. That provided all the intrigue I needed to be in full mark-out mode come Sunday. Wait until you see my predictions later this week...I know, I’m a tease. Don’t act like you don’t like it.