So Brock Lesnar, questionable cowboy boots and all, is coming for Daniel Cormier at an undetermined UFC night when his drugs ban is lifted at the beginning of 2019. Big surprise. For the last six years the St. Peter of Suplex City has flip-flopped from the UFC to WWE and back more than Big Show’s bounce between babyface and heel, and it was well known that his time as Universal Champion would one day end in order for him to shuffle sideways back to the octagon. The sooner this happens though, the better. Lesnar, for all his drawing power, is currently a leech on the WWE, sucking a significant amount of life out of the company and in particular Monday Night RAW. This isn’t just some anti-Brock, throwing of toys out the pram either; a large number of the WWE Universe share the same view, to the point that even a Roman Reigns victory in their rumoured – and yet, inevitable – clash at Summerslam will be welcomed, even if in relief than jubilance.
The biggest factor here is the ‘ghost champion’ concept. It’s not always a total failure, but with Lesnar having considerable control over when he defends his belt, there’s no consistency or continuity to his bouts. As a result, the Universal Championship never feels like the Holy Grail for RAW’s roster, more just some bonus prize that pops up now and then like the mystery UFO that flies over the screen on Space Invaders. Consequently, any storylines leading towards a Universal Championship fight never develop anywhere NEAR the hype required for a big match feel because there isn’t a constant presence of the champion or the gold he has around his waist. On Smackdown, for example, champion AJ Styles is present at 9/10 of the shows either competing or at ringside for fights against potential contenders to his crown and this adds to the build because he’s there. The belt is there. That’s what the prize is, in front of the roster to take inspiration from, that maybe one day it’ll be in their possession. On RAW? Nothing of the sort. If Lesnar was defending his title at the majority of pay-per-views and appearing at every go home show beforehand then the problem would certainly lessen, perhaps not even exist. As it is, to paraphrase Hamlet, something is indeed rotten in the state of RAW and worsening by the week.
The knock-on effect of this as well is that most of the roster are growing stagnant whilst the wait for the belt to come back goes on. For sake of argument, let’s say it IS Roman Reigns who finally gets the better of Brock and takes his first Universal Championship at Summerslam. Immediately, a plethora of opportunities and potential storylines going forward open up to the Creative Team. Another SHIELD face off with either Rollins or Ambrose? A long-term tussle with Finn Balor? A tantalising back and forth with The Miz? With the added spice of keeping out of reach of Mr Monster in the Bank, Braun Strowman, every one of those has the potential to be a blockbuster of a feud, but whilst it’s in the gloved hands of Lesnar, a guy who clearly only fights and/or puts in effort against those he deems worthy of it (his match against AJ Styles at last year’s Survivor Series a perfect example of this), nobody mentioned above save for Reigns and Strowman are going to get anywhere near his belt, and that’s caused the entire division to suffer for far too long.
Speaking of putting in effort, it’s now bordering on disgraceful that when Lesnar DOES fight, fans have to an endure a match lasting less than ten minutes comprising of multiple German Suplexes, a couple of F5’s and one pin to retain the title before he swaggers off back to Sable with another half million in his back pocket. His movepool is so small you wouldn’t even get damp if you stood in it, and his entire attitude towards the bouts and WWE is shameful when you consider the people who could – and indeed, should – be in his place that work day in, day out for far less payout and reward. Yes, his gaining of the belt at Wrestlemania 33 was a nice end to his feud with Goldberg, but now his run is more boring than a Jason Jordan promo, which says pretty much everything.
The minute the Universal Championship changes hands and comes back to RAW on a weekly basis, everything changes. The belt’s value goes up, the feuds get more interesting and the build ups can reach fever pitch, along with the fact that a title opportunity not only opens up for a far larger proportion of the talent, but matches could realistically go either way and not completely destroy credibility or momentum, which is what will happen at present. Of course, nobody knows how long this will be, but if it happens before the end of August, WWE could end the year on a seriously strong note. Will it? Probably not, but we can all hope.