It seems a forgone conclusion that, by the end of the upcoming Summerslam PPV, Brock Lesnar will be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Though he has a few key feuds left to engage in (namely against Cesaro, Daniel Bryan and possibly Batista), winning the gold is the last major obstacle he has left to achieve. He has conquered Triple H (eventually), the opponent he famously avoided during his initial run with the company; he has conquered CM Punk (spectacularly), the wrestler who became the defacto “Paul Heyman guy” in his absence; he has conquered the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak (stunningly), occupied by the man who was among his two greatest rivals in his first WWE career. Really, the only hurdle he didn’t clear is to score a victory over WWE’s golden boy–having lost to Cena in his first match back, it seems that by the end of August 17th, Lesnar will have killed both birds with one stone.
It is also expected that Lesnar will be sticking around for September’s “Night of Champions” PPV. It is a show that has always had great potential, but which has never been treated as anything more than a B-show that is maybe 8th out of 12 in terms of importance (after Mania, Rumble, Summerslam, Money in the Bank, Survivor Series, Extreme Rules, and Elimination Chamber). When it first started, I thought it was a great concept (the idea that every title is on the line and that every match was a title match) that needed a little extra flair. For years I wanted to see the show moved to December (typically WWE’s worst month for a PPV) with the Starrcade monicker applied to it. The event, dubbed “STARRCADE: A NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS” would be a great way to boost December buys, use the best PPV brand WCW had and give the Night of Champions event something prestigious to live up to.
Instead it has been just another PPV, only now it is one that has some serious stakes. The WWE Network, which launched in February, will have its initial six-month commitment expire right around the time of Night of Champions. The Network has famously failed to catch on as quickly or as forcefully as Vince McMahon desired (and boasted). It receives high marks from those who use it, and the price is great even if you only have the service for the monthly Pay-Per-View broadcasts, but whenever a long-term commitment is set to expire you can be sure there will be people–satisfied or not–who choose not to re-up. Vince is in no position to have to announce to shareholders that the WWE Network is losing subscribers. He needs a September card that can show people that another six month commitment (which will expire just before WrestleMania 31) is a good value. He has to offer a card that is worth $60 dollars–not ten dollars–in order to show that the network is worth it even if you only watch the monthly B-PPVs.
With all of that said, it would seem that Vince is fortunate that the plans are aligning for one of his last box office draws (though a diminished one since 2012) is set to be walking into Night of Champions with both world titles in his possession. Where he goes from there, however, has his company on the precipice.
Since returning, Brock Lesnar has been an on-again, off-again attraction. He wrestled at the April 2012 PPV, and then left until SummerSlam. He was not seen again until the run up to WrestleMania a year later, after which he appeared on the April 2013 show before again taking time off until SummerSlam. He returned for what was supposed to be a proper match at the Royal Rumble (Big Show’s legit injury scrapped those plans and wasted one of Lesnar’s rare appearances) before splitting until the feud with Undertaker began in earnest. In his 2 1/2 years since returning, Lesnar has had only seven PPV appearances, taking a lot of time off after each one.
With him set to win the belt, fans have wishfully thought that Lesnar’s reign as champion would mean his sticking around for more dates. Not likely. First of all, he has no emotional connection to WWE, so he’s not going to work more dates out of some sense of honor in holding the world title. Second, he is being paid to work 4 PPV’s a year and that’s all they’re going to get out of him without paying him a hefty extra sum. Considering WWE’s recent budget cuts, I don’t see that happening.
Therefore, with Lesnar set to enter Night of Champions as (1) the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and (2) a wrestler set to take time off until at least January’s Royal Rumble, the WWE creative team has to decide what to do with their prized championship. There are, it seems, three options at their disposal. One of these we will call the “GOOD” option. One we will deem the “BAD” option, and a final one we will dub the “RADICAL” option.
Keep in mind these options are conditional in three ways.
CONDITION ONE: That Lesnar is going to be the champion at WrestleMania, as rumors indicate, and that he is set to defend against the WWE’s next big bayface. That babyface could be anyone from Cesaro, to Roman Reigns, to Daniel Bryan.
CONDITION TWO: That Daniel Bryan is not yet ready to return to ring action and will not be ready by the time Night of Champions rolls around. While he may be ready to go at the Royal Rumble, it is not looking good for him until then.
CONDITION THREE: That CM Punk is not coming back. CM Punk is not coming back to win the title from Lesnar at Night of Champions. That’d be awesome, but it’s not going to happen.
With that said, I see three options for what to do with the championship at Night of Champions (and beyond)…
Option One: BAD IDEA
Lesnar wins the belt from Cena at SummerSlam and loses back it to Cena at Night of Champions. The belt dances around until February when Lesnar returns to win the belt back, ultimately losing it to someone at WrestleMania.
There’s not enough words available to write how bad this idea is. And yet, because it’s Cena and the championship it has to be treated as a possibility. This option does nothing for the belt, and even if Rollins cashed in on the night Cena won it, it makes Lesnar’s championship reign a waste of time and kills the momentum he had with beating the streak. If WWE’s ultimate goal is to have a nigh-unstoppable Lesnar as champion going into WrestleMania 31, having him lose the rubber match to Cena is not the way to go about it. By the time Night of Champions rolls around, Lesnar will be on a five-match winning streak, dating back to April of 2013. He will have had victories over Triple H in a cage, Punk at SummerSlam, Big Show at the Rumble, Undertaker’s streak, and Cena for the title. He will be riding a tremendous wave; ending it with a loss to Cena sets him back farther than his initial loss to Cena did in 2012. This can not be the answer…
Option Two: GOOD IDEA
However, if you have to take the belt of Lesnar in September, let me propose an alternative: Lesnar wins the belt from Cena at SummerSlam, Ambrose wins the contract from Seth Rollins at SummerSlam, Lesnar retains the belt at Night of Champions but Ambrose cashes in thereafter. Accomplishing that final step can be done in a thousand ways. Personally, I would like to see a Cesaro v Lesnar face-off on the RAW-after Night of Champions. Lesnar attacks Cesaro, Cesaro gets the better of him and Ambrose comes in to cash-in. From there, you can have Ambrose carry the belt until Lesnar returns to take it. Or, if you really want to have some fun, you can have Rollins take the belt off of him sometime in the winter, and have Reigns win the Rumble, setting up a three-way Shield match for the title in the main-event of WrestleMania 31. And if you don’t think the crowd is ready for three newcomers in the mainevent, you haven’t been paying attention to the consistently great reactions all three now-solo Shield members have been getting.
What about Lesnar you ask? Simple, you book Lesnar v Cesaro as a non-title match at WrestleMania. If Lesnar must lose in September, then he isn’t going to have the kind of momentum you want to tell the story they want to tell. They can’t have it both ways. If WWE wants the WrestleMania 31 story to be “Lesnar the unbeatable champion is finally beaten by the new face of the company” then they can’t have him lose in September. If he must lose in September, then you might as well not even have him wrestle with the title on the line at Mania 31. If they really want Lesnar to be championship momentum going into WrestleMania 31’s main event, then they have only one option left…
Option Three: RADICAL IDEA
Lesnar wins the belt from Cena, retains at Night of Champions and then leaves and takes the belt with him.
The WWE is then without a world champion, forcing the writers to shake up the way the book their shows/PPV’s from the top down, at least until Lesnar returns in February or so. Top feuds would have to have compelling stories and week-to-week advancements (as opposed to having stuff happen on the day after a PPV, and then freezing the storyline for the next three weeks until the PPV, etc). The I/C title would automatically be elevated to top-tier status, as would the US title to mid-tier status. The Divas and Tag titles would get a boost as well, just by virtue of being championships. It would cause a trickle down effect that, if done correctly, could help the whole product, and then REALLY help things when the World title returns to an elevated product.
It’s a radical idea, but that’s precisely what WWE has been averse to since they bought out their primary competition almost a decade-and-a-half ago. They are slowly loses viewers as opposed to gaining subscribers like they need. They are no longer competing against WCW; they are competing against themselves. They need to force themselves to shake things up and upset the apple cart. One big change so can force them to try a dozen little new things, one of which might explode in popularity and bring them that next Pro Wrestling renaissance they have been dancing around for a few years now.
If they want to usher in a new era by having the leader of the next generation (be it Roman Reigns, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, or someone else) defeat the undefeatable Brock Lesnar, then let Brock be undefeated going into WrestleMania. Let him take the title with him and soak in all the heat that comes with it.
PS: A fourth idea just came to mind:
They could redo the Summer of Punk, only this time with Lesnar the villain instead of Punk the anti-hero, and this time they do it properly, with a long drawn out storyline.
The summer of Punk was a disappointment because Punk returned 2 weeks after leaving, he then lost to Triple H, and played second fiddle to Rock/Cena. Lesnar, however, could win the title and leave after Night of Champions, not to return until the night after Elimination Chamber. That would give him 5 months away (an ETERNITY in WWE). In the meantime a tournament could be set up to crown a replacement champion. Only, unlike the mini-tourney they did in mid-2011, this one would last more than two weeks. This one would stretch until Survivor Series.
Build up and play out the tournament in October, culminating in a final four at Hell in a Cell. Roman Reigns v Triple H and Cesaro v John Cena. Both matches take place in the cell. The final takes place at Survivor Series: Roman Reigns v John Cena. After Reigns wins, Seth Rollins can cash in and steal the belt, keeping Reigns busy until the new year.
At that point, with several PPV main events and big time singles matches under his belt, it will be clear if he is ready for the big push. If he’s not, someone else (Bryan, Cesaro, Ambrose, etc) can win the Rumble and challenge for the title at Elimination Chamber, leading to the title vs title match against Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Whatever they plan on doing, they need to think about more than just enticing subscribers in September. They need to think about keeping their ship afloat in March. They have options on the table, it might just be that a radical idea is what they need to try.