While some are frustrated that the man who ended the streak is not working a regular schedule, the real beneficiary of “21-1” is still here and hasn’t gone anywhere.
There was talk in the immediate aftermath of WrestleMania XXX that Brock Lesnar might be working a more involved schedule than he has since his triumphant return in 2012. Those who think that way have missed the point. In the sentence “Brock ended the streak” the word “Brock” is only the third most important word. The story of the night was not “Brock” ended the streak, it was “the streak was ended…”
Certainly Brock Lesnar played a key role; recall that Undertaker desired a match with Lesnar while he was still with UFC, and offered up the streak to him on a silver platter. Reports are that both competitors were willing but that it was Dana White (head honcho of UFC) who put the kibosh on it, not wanting his shoot fighting to intermingle so obviously with the world of sports entertainment.
When Lesnar returned to WWE, a little over a year later, one of his first presumed opponents was Undertaker. The two had a brilliant feud in late 2002, culminating with a Brock Lesnar victory inside Hell in a Cell. The chemistry between them and the fact that Undertaker never got his win back led many to believe a streak match was a foregone conclusion. It didn’t happen at WrestleMania 29, however, as Undertaker faced off against CM Punk and Lesnar battled Triple H.
Yet before WrestleMania 29, back in the summer of 2012, Undertaker was at an autograph signing and was asked how many streak matches he had left in him. His response was startlingly candid (though perhaps only now in hindsight): He said, to paraphrase “Not many, I’m getting old you know, I think I have maybe one more in me for this guy.” That “guy” whose magazine picture he was pointing at, was Brock Lesnar.
So with all of that said, why was it that no one gave Lesnar a chance? Again, Taker had offered the streak to him a few years prior, was older and more run down, Lesnar was back, Taker had pointed out that Lesnar was a preferred opponent for “maybe one more” streak match. I wrote about this in an article on CagesideSeats: They gave us every indication that this was the end, so why didn’t we want to see it?
Maybe it’s because Lesnar had lost so much luster since he returned. He came back hotter than he had ever been in his first run with the company (and if you don’t recall, he was hot and pushed to the moon). His match with Cena at Extreme Rules 2012 did a staggering buyrate for the April PPV. Raw’s ratings in the run-up to the match had not dipped like usually happens in the most-Mania weeks. Anticipation for his in-ring return was at a fever pitch.
And then he went and lost.
Let’s not rehash Cena beating Lesnar in his first month back. That’s for another article. The point here is to notice how little Lesnar gained by beating the streak. Had he gone into the match undefeated (which, considering his schedule, could have easily happened), his victory over Undertaker might have elicited deafening boos. At the very least the match might not have been so tepidly received as it was happening.
So with Lesnar failing to be a great beneficiary to beating the streak, you might think the streak was wasted, but you’d be incorrect. You might think the heat went to one undeserving guy, when in fact it has been channeled on any number of potentially-deserving guys. You might think “It was all for nothing!” And you would be forgetting one other important player, the guy who is still around.
You see, it’s wasn’t “Paul Heyman’s guy” who beat the streak. It was “A Paul Heyman Guy™” who beat the streak. Paul Heyman got the rub, or—more importantly—his fictitious managerial status got the rub.
A year ago, the problem with bringing Curtis Axel and later Ryback into the Paul Heyman family is that those guys lacked charisma (Axel) and credibility (Ryback) to be seen as equal to Heyman’s other recent guys: CM Punk and Brock Lesnar. That no longer matters. Now Paul is not just a manager, he’s THE manager. He’s the guy who “managed” to beat the streak. A guy like Cesaro is a future World Champ and top guy for years to come but he’s only broken out into arena-wide popularity very recently. Paul Heyman “beater of the streak” gives Cesaro instant credibility with casual fans who typically react to new guys at a slower pace than more smart fans.
Paul Heyman is often called this generation’s Bobby Heenan but that may not be an appropriate comparison anymore. Heenan’s shtick was that he could manage a guy to the top but couldn’t keep him there. His highlight was probably Ric Flair’s WWF championship run in 1992, but that was short lived, ending at WrestleMania VIII. Had Andre the Giant beaten Hogan at WrestleMania III he might have put a lock on the title of “greatest manager.” Instead he left the Silverdome with his head bowed in disgrace. That’s Heenan’s legacy: the manager who “almost had ‘em.”
Unlike Heenan, Heyman’s the manager that did it. Heyman’s the manager that won the big one. Now EVERY superstar he adds to his stable (and hopefully he adds more), not just Lesnar himself, will reap the rewards and the heat that comes with beating the streak.
Lesnar is gone right now and he probably won’t be back until SummerSlam. In the meantime, however, the real conqueror of the streak is on TV every week to remind us all why he’s the greatest.
It’s Paul Heyman’s world, ladies and gentlemen, and we’re just living in it.