At UFC 226 last weekend, Brock Lesnar made a surprise return to the promotion and in a scene reminiscent of Monday Night Raw, challenged new heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. Though we had heard rumblings that Lesnar’s new WWE contract included a clause that would allow him to return to UFC competition, it was a true shock to me on Sunday morning to see the headlines and video of Brock’s reemergence. While this may be the shot in the arm the UFC needs right now, it begs to question what implications this will have on his current WWE commitments.
You might not remember, and who could blame you, but Brock Lesnar is the reigning WWE Universal Champion.
In my mind, the ruckus at UFC 226 puts two potential WWE scenarios in play.
The first is the simplest, safest, and perhaps the best for all involved. This scenario would simply involve Lesnar dropping the Universal Title at SummerSlam (challenger TBA) and taking a long sabbatical as he prepares for his UFC return. Dana White all but confirmed Saturday night that a Cormier/Lesnar match WILL take place. Lesnar has been confirmed to have reentered the USADA testing pool, allowing him to complete the remainder of his suspension from a failed drug test prior to UFC 200, and a potential showdown with Cormier for the heavyweight championship could take place as early as late December or early January. Allowing for a 6-12 week training camp for Lesnar to prepare for the fight, the timing would seem right to have him work SummerSlam in August, drop the title, take some time off to heal and recharge the batteries, and begin UFC training in October or November. It would make for a clean break for Lesnar and the WWE on good terms, with the obvious potential for a future return. As for the present, Lesnar moves on, WWE can move on (with a full time Universal Champion to boot), done and done!
Scenario B gets a bit more complicated. Without getting to heavily involved in the how, the end result of this scenario would ideally conclude with Brock Lesnar carrying the Universal Title all the way into next year’s WrestleMania, with the hope that he also walks into MetLife Stadium as the UFC Heavyweight Champion as well. There are already reports out there that Vince McMahon and WWE are very interested in this potential prospect. Granted, there is an allure to the visual of seeing Lesnar walk down the ramp at the biggest show of the year with both the WWE Universal and UFC Heavyweight championship belts over his shoulder. However, there are a few big red flags with going in this direction.
For starters, regardless if Brock Lesnar works SummerSlam or not, going in this direction would all but guarantee that Lesnar would not again defend the Universal Championship until WrestleMania 35, perhaps Royal Rumble 2019 at the absolute earliest. He would obviously need that time from September to late December/early January to train for his UFC fight. You’d have to assume all WWE engagements would be off the table at that point. So if Lesnar leaves (or simply remains) that title holder after SummerSlam, there would be no top title on RAW for the entire fall and majority of the winter. That’s nearly seven months! We know Lesnar has been an absentee champion, but surely over half a year without a champion to promote would be too much even for Vince, right?
Additionally, we can’t forget about the biggest variable in this scenario- the UFC fight itself. Lesnar might beat Cormier; Cormier might also beat Lesnar. Each outcome comes with its own set of issues.
First let’s look at what the ramifications if Brock Lesnar walks into his UFC fight as Universal Champion and loses. If that happens, the preceding seven months are a total waste. The lack of a visible champion, the lack of a Universal Title defense on any major show, etc. All done in the hopes of having a “dual champion” at Mania, now up in smoke. Plus, what effect would it have on Brock’s drawing power? Would there be much interest, both from traditional wrestling fans and the casual viewer that Mania draws in each year, in watching a guy in a “fixed” fight for entertainment sake when he just lost a real, legitimate contest just two months prior? And if the end game was for Brock to ultimately drop the title anyway, why take the risk? Why not have him drop it early, while his name is hot again and it will make newsfeeds across the sports and entertainment realm, rather than take the chance of him dropping it much later when no one cares anymore?
Now, what if Brock Lesnar were to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship? The scenario becomes even more problematic in my opinion! You have to assume that the WWE and UFC have some sort of working relationship and an understanding of what both parties are wanting to gain from Lesnar’s participation in their promotion. You would also have to assume there are a few strings attached on both sides. So WHAT IF Lesnar wins the UFC Heavyweight Title at the start of the year. He rolls into Mania as a dual champion. Do you really think the UFC, a legit fighting company, would be keen on the idea of their champion losing a “fake” match to a wrestler/entertainer? I don’t think so! Now I am taking nothing away from any WWE performer or the wrestling business itself, but I don’t think anyone could argue that it would do the UFC no favors to have their Heavyweight Champion get “pinned” in front of a multi-million member audience and then also promote him as the baddest man in the fighting game.
Would Dana White have the stroke with Vince to tell him he will not allow Lesnar to lose in WWE while he is the reigning UFC Champion? Would Vince even entertain that? Would the WWE be at the mercy of Lesnar’s UFC career and be forced to keep him as the Universal Champion until he dropped the UFC title first? Would Brock even agree to wrestle anymore if he wins the UFC title, for fear of injury? It’s a fascinating rabbit hole to go down.
In the end, all things considered, I think SummerSlam is the right place and time for Brock Lesnar to drop the Universal Title. At this point, I don’t even care who he drops it to. While the idea of a crossover champion is interesting, it offers way too many potential obstacles to overcome and chances to have to take. If Vince wants to do what’s “best for business,” it’s time to put the Lesnar Era to bed and move on.
Stone Cold Fever: Is Kevin Owens the Next Big Thing in WWE?
Is this rendition of KO Mania real?
Kevin Owens is quickly becoming the hottest Superstar in WWE. The former Universal champion is embarking on a war with Shane McMahon and while that war is only just beginning, KO is already reaping the benefits.
Owens is getting over and there’s no denying that. Many fans believe that this is just the beginning of something epic for KO and it’s hard to argue that point. But as with everything in WWE, Owens’ future depends on his booking and how much the company truly wants to invest in him. So will Kevin Owens be the next big thing in WWE?
It’s as if WWE suddenly flipped a switch and activated this new KO. The man that so many felt was on his way to superstardom in the company has always been just on the verge of greatness, but he always seemed to fall just short. It’s been through no fault of his own however as Owens has consistently always delivered, both in the ring and on the mic.
But despite how much he’s accomplished, there always seems to be an asterisk by his name. The same is true of other potential main event stars as well, like Finn Bálor and Braun Strowman. All three men have excelled on the worldwide stage but for whatever reason, none of the three have truly achieved legendary status in WWE.
While the men involved may not be too concerned with such positioning, the fans have been all too consumed with it. In their minds, the time for these talents and many more, is now. Why wait, when the business is experiencing such a resurgence in popularity? The time to strike seems to be now, so why not move ahead and make a massive impact with guys that can handle the pressure?
Perhaps that is exactly what the WWE faithful are seeing right now with Kevin Owens. Owens is capable of rising to the occasion and he’s done it many times before. Maybe there’s no better time for him to prove what he can do and maybe the company finally recognizes that.
But nearly every time fans depend on “maybe,” they wind up disappointed. WWE has not always been the most reliable company when it comes to doing right by hardworking talents, especially those who deserve a shot at the next level. Owens has been counted among those talents for far too long and now he’s getting a chance to finally step up.
The good news is that so far, it’s working. The live crowds are loving what he’s doing and no one can do it quite like he can. The comparisons to Stone Cold Steve Austin are coming like never before and KO, as well as WWE, obviously see that. The fact that Owens uses the Stunner as much as he does is proof that the entire angle is a tip of the cap to The Texas Rattlesnake.
It’s not that Owens needs to use anyone else’s finisher, just as he doesn’t need to mimic anyone else’s gimmick. KO can succeed based on his own merit and everyone knows that. But he’s saluting Austin and in doing so, reminding a legion of fans why they fell in love with WWE in the first place. There is no way to really revive The Attitude Era, but that’s not the point.
Kevin Owens is bringing back a taste of the past and making it relevant to his cause, as well as to the company’s current climate. The Stunner is as much of an anti-authority move as the middle finger, both of which keep Stone Cold on the minds of fans who love him for what he did in the business.
So is WWE truly headed for a new era of relevancy in the industry? Vince McMahon’s company has always been at the forefront of the business and for many fans, they’ve been the only game in town for a very long time. But with the rise of New Japan, Ring of Honor, as well as various promotions around the world, the wrestling world is becoming a much bigger place.
Of course much of the focus on the business right now is due to the birth and evolution of AEW. Cody Rhodes’ fledgling company is making waves and turning heads, just as everyone knew it would. But AEW has also captured WWE’s attention, despite any belief to the contrary. If Owens’ new run is a result of WWE going against the grain and trying something familiar, yet new, then that’s definitely a good thing.
But the bad news is that this is still WWE, which can change plans at a moment’s notice. Things can fluctuate at any time and when they do, an entire storyline can either twist in a different direction, or end altogether. Could this happen with KO versus Shane McMahon?
Much of what happens from here depends on just how long WWE can keep the fans invested in this angle. The live crowds are connected and the same is true of the audience at home. Everyone seems truly intent on following this story and they’re all rooting for Kevin Owens to keep rising higher on the card. If KO continues to get hot and if the company really gets behind him, then the entire landscape of WWE could change.
Kevin Owens is not the next Stone Cold Steve Austin and he surely does not want to be. KO has fought his entire career to be the best he can be and this new storyline is just the latest avenue for him to rise up. Maybe it will only go up from here and maybe Kevin Owens will finally realize his potential in the company that desperately needs the next big thing.
Andrew’s G1 Climax 29 Ratings & Analysis: Night 7 A Block
KENTA and Okada may start pulling away in A Block! Who falls first? The Rainmaker or The NOAH Outsider?
KENTA and Okada may start pulling away in A Block! Who falls first? The Rainmaker or The NOAH Outsider?
Aside from the big names being stuck in the middle of the pack, we’ve got poor little Zack Sabre at zero points. Can he twist Fale into a pretzel and figure it out?
Then we have Okada facing a banged up Ospreay, while KENTA takes on a rising EVIL.
Do we still have any undefeated participants in A Block after today?
- Yota Tsuji & Juice Robinson vs Jon Moxley & Shota Umino: Shooter wins via Boston Crab @3:55 – ** 1/4
- Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto & Yuya Uemura: Kanemaru wins via Deep Impact @8:50 – ***
- Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Jay White vs Jeff Cobb, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare: Chase wins via Package Piledriver @9:50 – ** 1/2
- Shingo Takagi, BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito vs YOSHI-HASHI, Ren Narita & Tomohiro Ishii: BUSHI wins via MX @7:35 – **
- A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Bad Luck Fale: Sabre wins via Countout @6:30 – ** 1/4
- A Block: Lance Archer vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: Tanahashi wins via Victory Roll @12:00 – ** 1/2
- A Block: KENTA vs EVIL: KENTA wins via Go 2 Sleep @15:05 – *** 1/2
- A Block: Kota Ibushi vs SANADA: Ibushi wins via Kamigoye @19:15 – *** 3/4
- A Block: Will Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada: Okada wins via Rainmaker @21:55 – **** 1/2
Still a lot of heat from their NXT past and Moxley’s debut match in NJPW. Juice and Mox don’t face each other until the end of their block schedule, but if this needed more heat…well this was gasoline. Juice and Mox stay on each other, brawl to the back while the Young Lions fight, but Mox apparently gets the best of the brawl. He returns to the ring to help Shooter, hit their Hart Attack tandem move and Shooter sinks in the Boston Crab.
There’s history between Taichi and Goto centering around the NEVER Openweight Title, Yano and Suzuki have fun history and it looks like Uemura is stepping up to Suzuki. So there’s a lot of fun moments, Uemura has a death wish trying to fight Suzuki, but it’s still fun. A lot of moving pieces in this one that kept it very entertaining.
Honma got put through the paces, Jay White got tossed around a little bit by Jeff Cobb, but the Bullet Club tag partners proved to be more useful than Cobb’s. Chase has picked up a few wins in the tag matches, so he might get some kind of push coming soon.
BUSHI continues to pick up pinfalls in these tag matches, and this sort of builds for Ishii and Naito, but not a ton happens. YOSHI-HASHI is there, Shingo looks like a million bucks and BUSHI wins the match, LOL. This was very paint by numbers.
Sabre jumps all over Fale at the start and tries a plethora of submissions to no avail. A kendo stick shot from Jado pushes the action to the outside. Fale and Bullet Club look to have an advantage, but Sabre dodges some double team tactics, grounds Fale with a Triangle Arm Bar, and then races to the ring to beat the 20 count. Fale couldn’t make it back fast enough, so Sabre gets the first Countout win of this year’s tournament.
Tanahashi is really showing the age and injuries this year, so all of these flukey wins just come off as forced. The match was slow, had moments of being interesting, but Tanahashi not even being 50% of what he used to be makes these hard to watch at times. Archer is getting over well, but Tanahashi winning at this point does hurt the credibility a little. I get the story they’re telling, but unlike last year where Tanahashi could push through injuries, this year, they are much more obvious, and he’s much more hampered.
EVIL took the fight to KENTA and then they went to the outside. Through the back and then into the crowd area next to the ramp. EVIL went for Darkness Falls on a bunch of a chairs, but KENTA stopped him and suplexed him onto said chairs. When it got back in the ring, EVIL tried to weaken the legs and KENTA went after EVIL’s upper body to mitigate the power advantage. Heavily booed, KENTA played up heel nicely (I guess WWE did help for something), and eventually he gets the best of EVIL and lets him take a nap. KENTA moves to 4-0.
We get a solid match between two guys who are right on the precipice of the Main Event scene. Kota outsmarts SANADA early by not going for the stupid dueling Dropkick spot, and from then on it was an interesting struggle. Between fan support and the general “anything you can do, I can do better” pacing, this was entertaining, yet slow and felt too long in some spots. Both looked pretty good, but this could’ve been told faster and SANADA’s perpetual struggles are a little frustrating for anyone who is a fan of his.
Okada and Ospreay were expected to blow the roof off, and well I’d say this was a damn good shot. Ospreay is obviously dinged up, but he fought through the pain and pulled off numerous flipping counters and found a few different ways to hit the Os-Cutter. They both let their personalities fly and this was a lot of fun to watch. Okada always has this older brother aura since he’s the one that brought Ospreay to New Japan and Chaos, so whenever they get together, it’s very much like two siblings trying to outdo the other. Ospreay had a great flurry at the end, flipping through a Rainmaker attempt, to try his Stormbreaker, but Okada flipped through that and hit a short arm lariat. Rolling Rainmaker and a normal Rainmaker later, Okada edges out the little brother. Great match.
Overall Score: 7/10
Well this night struggled cause the first two Block matches were really weak. The next two amped-up the intensity a little, but fell short of a memorable match. The main event was fantastic, but generally speaking this felt like it was slow, plateau’d for a while and only picked up at the end. Nothing out right awful, but a lot of matches that could’ve been a little better.
Still a solid enough night if you’re following it all, but only the main event is worthy of seeking out individually. It is nice to see that everyone is on the board with some points. So if Okada and KENTA stumble a little, the rest of the block could plausibly catch up.
Block A Standings:
- Kazuchika Okada: 4-0 (8 Points)
- KENTA: 4-0 (8 Points)
- Lance Archer: 2-2 (4 Points)
- EVIL: 2-2 (4 Points)
- Kota Ibushi: 2-2 (4 Points)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi: 2-2 (4 Points)
- SANADA: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Will Ospreay: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Bad Luck Fale: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Zack Sabre Jr: 1-3 (2 Points)