Brock Lesnar will defend the WWE Championship against former UFC rival Cain Velasquez at Crown Jewel on Thursday, October 31. The Beast Incarnate was challenged by Velasquez on the FOX premiere of Friday Night SmackDown and from that point on, the fans have been anxious to see what will happen in Saudi Arabia.
But those fans are likely expecting that Brock will walk away with the title. Lesnar won the belt on the aforementioned FOX premiere and even though WWE is often criticized for Brock’s absence, he’s still the man. Cain just arrived in Vince McMahon’s company and his booking for the WWE Championship is nothing more than a matter of right place, right time. But what if something bigger is in the works and Cain wins the title?
SmackDown’s ratings have slipped since October 4. This was to be expected of course, as many diehard fans were joined by a great number of casual fans, in the first week. They wanted to see what WWE had to offer and they obviously wanted to see legends like The Rock, as well.
But the ratings have dipped down further than what many insiders initially predicted. WWE’s billion dollar deal with FOX was huge for both sides and the network is certainly aware that the program will trend differently than other shows. But unlike AEW, which is still finding its way on national television, WWE is a firmly established product.
Relieve Cain Velasquez’s WWE debut!
Fans know what they’re getting and they’re extremely familiar with everyone on the roster. Those Superstars work hard to entertain and WWE knows precisely how to deliver an entertaining program that will keep fans coming back for more. Of course longtime fans know that WWE doesn’t always deliver.
Storylines end abruptly, characters act out of character and angles often lead nowhere. Many were hopeful that this would not be the case after SmackDown’s debut on FOX but thus far, very little has changed. WWE is still doing what it typically does and while it’s not unwatchable, the blue brand does tend to misfire at odd moments.
The fact is that this may not be the show that WWE advertised to its new Friday night home. So if the company is not going to change the way it does business during that two-hour span, why not go for the ratings grab with a Cain Velasquez win over Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel? Some would say it would be a silly move on WWE’s part. But is that the case?
Velasquez is not a full-time professional wrestler, at least not yet. He’s reportedly signed a multi-year deal with WWE, but he’s seen no action in the ring just yet. The fans have not fully embraced him as of yet either and there’s a good chance they may not. But even with all of these issues surrounding Cain, there’s no doubt that a WWE Championship win would bring more mainstream attention to the belt than it’s had in a very long time.
Watch Cain and Brock at the Crown Jewel press conference!
Cain’s status as the newest roster addition is tough to ignore, that much is true. Fans would likely turn on him even more than they have now and if that happens, the entire experiment would probably fail. But a fear of failure has never prevented WWE from making drastic moves and that may very well be the case now.
WWE believes that Cain Velasquez is money. If not, then he would not be there in the first place and he definitely wouldn’t be in a WWE title match on a major event. So if WWE’s faith in him overrides their common sense, then Velasquez could be the next man to wear the gold. Just how important are SmackDown’s ratings to the McMahon Family? The answer to that question could come at Crown Jewel.
But what will the match between Cain and Brock look like? It’s safe to assume that both men have worked out the match in a ring somewhere. If so, then they’ve planned their spots, they know what they want to do and everyone behind the scenes has likely signed off on it. But if fans are expecting a 20-minute instant classic, they will probably be disappointed.
Watch Velasquez talk about facing Lesnar at Crown Jewel!
The best way to protect Velasquez is to keep this bout short. Unless he comes in like a natural and attacks the mat the way Kurt Angle did when he first came in, there’s just no reason to keep Cain between the ropes that long. WWE has invested in Velasquez and the best way to ensure a return on that investment is to deliver him in short bursts. But have fans been down this road too many times already?
Booking a Cain Velasquez WWE title run sounds suspiciously like booking a Brock Lesnar WWE title run. In both cases, the champ is not always around. He’s also not defending his championship for several weeks, or even months, at a time. Hasn’t this been the major complaint from fans concerning The Beast Incarnate? Is replacing Lesnar with Velasquez such a good idea, or will it just lead to more of the same from a fan’s perspective?
The fact is that WWE wants to elevate Friday Night SmackDown like never before. The company has a lot to prove, not only to fans but to the FOX Network, as well. Putting its top championship around the waist of a highly respected MMA fighter may be a step in the desired direction. Fans are ready for anything, that much is certain. Whether or not WWE is ready and knows where to go afterward, remains to be seen.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes,YouTube, iHeart Radio, boinkstudios.com and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live