We’re just a few days away from “Royal Rumble 2015” which means the Road to Wrestlemania is upon us. Well actually we’re upon it but you get the idea. Along with the Royal Rumble match, the co-main event is a triple threat match with Brock Lesnar defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena and Seth Rollins. With some luck, this Sunday will start to correct the horrible misuse that has been the majority of Brock Lesnar’s second WWE run. Today we’re going to be looking back at Lesnar’s return to the company and how much better it could have gone.
One note before we start: I’m well aware that Lesnar appeared on TV in between his matches, so whenever I mention a return or an absence, I mean from the ring only and not television as a whole unless otherwise mentioned.
Lesnar returned to the WWE back in 2012, appearing at the end of “Monday Night Raw” after “Wrestlemania XXVIII”, laying out Cena with an F5 to a huge ovation. This led to the main event of “Extreme Rules 2012” with Lesnar facing Cena in an extreme rules match. Lesnar dominated from the opening bell and beat Cena up for the better part of fifteen minutes, looking like the beast that his advocate Paul Heyman had promised he would be. Cena FINALLY got in a shot with a chain to the head though, setting up an Attitude Adjustment onto the steel stairs for the pin.
Yes Lesnar, the guy who hadn’t been around in eight years but returned to beat Cena from one side of Chicago to the other, lost his return match on a fluke. It felt flat and like nothing more than a way for Cena to gain redemption for his loss to The Rock earlier that month at “Wrestlemania XXVIII”, leaving Lesnar looking like he choked the first night back in the ring.
With Lesnar at 0-1, he opted for an easier target: 43 year old WWE COO Triple H. The night after “Extreme Rules 2012”, Lesnar broke Triple H’s arm with his Kimura Lock, putting Triple H on the shelf for months. Lesnar wouldn’t be seen for the rest of the summer, finally returning to face Triple H at “Summerslam 2012”, defeating him with the Kimura. How does the show end you ask? With Triple H standing tall in the ring for a standing ovation after Lesnar is long gone.
The next night, Lesnar said he was the new King of Kings and was ready to leave the company again. In other words, with Lesnar at 1-1 in two matches, he’s lost to Cena and beating a guy who had wrestled six times in nearly two years, only to have the loser take the spotlight to end the show. Now clearly he gets to make it up next month right?
No actually as he wouldn’t get back in the ring for about six and a half months. Going into “Wrestlemania XXIX”, there was a very real case to be made that Lesnar hadn’t had a big moment yet. Yeah he beat Triple H, but is that really supposed to make Lesnar feel like a superstar? Of course he was in the first place, but WWE wasn’t really doing anything to make him any bigger.
So Lesnar had to do it himself and his next chance was on the biggest stage of them all: “Wrestlemania XXIX”. His opponent: Triple H. Again. After a match that felt forced in the first place, the solution was to have a rematch. As soon as the rematch was announced, it felt like it was more about Triple H than Lesnar, and that became even more clear when the stipulation was announced: Triple H’s career would be on the line in the match with no holds barred.
At “Wrestlemania XXIX”, Triple H got his win back after nearly making Lesnar tap out three times to Lesnar’s Kimura Lock and eventually Pedigreeing him on the steel steps (a common enemy for Lesnar) for the pin. This feud still wasn’t done though as Lesnar would return a few weeks later and challenge Triple H for a third match at “Extreme Rules 2013” inside a steel cage, where Lesnar won to finally end the feud.
Overall, the trilogy with Lesnar fell flat for one reason above all the rest: it wasn’t his story. The feud was almost all about Triple H, from Lesnar breaking his arm and Triple H swearing revenge to the big sad moment after the loss at “Summerslam 2012” to getting his win back to finally wrapping it up with a loss inside the cage. Lesnar could have been any given heel for this feud, which defeats the purpose of his return. The whole point of Lesnar is that he isn’t every other wrestler. He’s a beast with an unparalleled list of accomplishments but instead he’s there to give Triple H a monster to slay. Again, the return isn’t being handed so well.
This puts us just over one year into Lesnar’s return and his record is 2-2. Triple H and Cena beat him in the highest profile matches he’s had so far and the general consensus for the trilogy with Triple H wasn’t the most positive. In short, Lesnar wasn’t exactly white hot like he was when he returned thirteen months earlier. Maybe his next story would make up for the first year slump.
Next up for Lesnar was one of the top stars in the WWE in CM Punk. Shortly after “Wrestlemania XXIX”, Punk had started to have some issues with Heyman, who managed Punk in addition to advocating for Lesnar. This led to Lesnar returning and leaving Punk laying after an F5. Punk and Heyman split, setting up Lesnar vs. Punk for “Summerslam 2013” in a no disqualification match. In what might have been the Match of the Year (but maybe not even the match of the night depending on who you ask), Lesnar defeated Punk to give himself a winning record for the first time since he returned.
This was the beast that Heyman had promised since Lesnar returned. He threw Punk all over the ring and gave him one heck of a beating. It was clear that the dark days were over for Lesnar, meaning it was time for him to stay out of the ring for another five months. Finally returning to the ring at “Royal Rumble 2014” and annihilated old rival the Big Show, crushing him with several steel chair shots, being staggered but not knocked out by the KO Punch and hitting a huge F5 for the pin in just over two minutes.
With this win, Lesnar was clearly in beast mode and ready for his biggest challenge to date: the Undertaker at “Wrestlemania XXX”. In possibly the biggest shock since Ivan Koloff defeated Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Heavyweight Title in 1971, Lesnar pinned the Undertaker, finally snapping the Wrestlemania winning streak that had run for 21 wins, dating all the way back to 1991. The win was so devastating that grown men ran out of the Superdome in tears and didn’t come back for the main event of the show.
The following night on “Monday Night Raw”, with Lesnar at his side, Heyman gave one of the greatest victory speeches in wrestling history, talking about how no one could touch Lesnar and there was no one with his accomplishments. Included in the list of men that could pose no threat to Lesnar was new WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan. The original plans called for Lesnar to challenge Bryan for the title at “Summerslam 2014” but a neck injury forced Bryan to vacate the title.
Instead, Lesnar (now 5-2) got his chance for revenge on Cena. The showdown for the title at “Summerslam 2014” wasn’t exactly a wrestling match, but rather the complete and total destruction of Cena, who could barely muster any offense against Lesnar. After an F5 in the first thirty seconds of the match and a remarkable 16 German suplexes, Lesnar defeated Cena to win the title in a glorified squash match.
This was the full on beast that everyone had been afraid of since his return. He looked invincible and had done the impossible at “Wrestlemania XXX”, followed by becoming the official top man in the company. The next month’s rematch with Cena at “Night of Champions 2014” was much more competitive, with Cena fighting back against everything Lesnar had and even having Lesnar in trouble near the end, only to have Seth Rollins run in to give Lesnar a DQ loss.
And that’s it for Lesnar. He was still champion, but he wouldn’t wrestle for the next five months. That streak will finally be broken this coming Sunday night and hopefully Lesnar loses the title. The experiment of having the champion on TV only once every few months has been little more than a disaster with everyone else on the roster having nothing to fight for. What are they supposed to do? Fight for a chance to get to fight someone who is never around?
The way the title has been used during Lesnar’s reign really shouldn’t be a surprise. Due to the constant leaves of absence due to his unique contract, it’s almost impossible for him to hold any real momentum. His first year with the company was a waste of time and was more about getting Cena and Triple H over while relying on the momentum Lesnar brought to the company with him. He finally got on track with the Punk feud and the win over the Undertaker, capping it off with the title victory.
However, with a record of 5-3 and taking the title hostage for months on end, I would call Lesnar’s return much more of a failure than a success. This isn’t Lesnar’s fault as his matches have all ranged from good to excellent, but the way he’s been used, especially in his first months back, have been a disaster.
Lesnar should have defeated Cena, defeated Triple H once and been done with him, then taken on whatever name was thrown out there for his next two matches. Sheamus or Randy Orton for example would have been good choices as neither had anything to lose and would have been fresh matches with natural stories (Sheamus wants the ultimate fight and Orton wants to hunt the top animal). Instead, he’s been used to get other stories over, including Punk, whose issue was really with Heyman.
It wasn’t until the victory over Undertaker that Lesnar had a story about him and look at what Lesnar has become since. Instead of just being the monster brought in for feuds, the feuds are now about him and he’s become a top player since. If he leaves after “Wrestlemania XXXI”, the final victory over Lesnar will mean something, but due to mismanagement it’s taken nearly two years to get where Lesnar should have been the day he came back to the company.
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