I would like nothing more than for Brock Lesnar to score a convincing and emphatic win over John Cena at Extreme Rules.
Ridiculous match name aside (really, what's the difference between an Extreme Rules match, a no-DQ, no-countout match, a Chicago Street Fight, a No-Holds Barred Match and a match where “anything goes” other than the name?), Lesnar scoring a clean win at the upcoming pay-per-view has multiple benefits.
For one, it solidifies Lesnar as a killer, the anti-superstar that fights and wins. Him losing so early in his return would befuddle many fans and would seemingly derail his monster persona before it has a chance to breathe and grow. I keep thinking back to Lesnar vs The Rock at Summerslam 2002, and how important and clean that victory was. F5 in the center of the ring, 1-2-3, new champion. Simple, effective ... a star is born. If in fact Lesnar will be with WWE for a year, I would like to see a series of wins from the former “Next Big Thing” before we see him lose, which at that time would mean so much more.
The bigger reason that Lesnar going over strong at Extreme Rules makes sense is because I find myself interested in the franchise player experiencing a slump.
It's no secret Cena is the face of WWE. Much like Sidney Crosby, LeBron James and Albert Pujols, Cena is the franchise player for his “team” today, if not the entire league. Perhaps the most simple and compelling story in sports is when a top player, seen by many in some ways as unstoppable, suddenly shows signs of weakness. Fans begin to wonder, “Will he be able to turn it around? Are his best days behind him?”
This becomes especially intriguing when there is an external circumstance. When Crosby took a head shot and suffered a concussion, it took months for him to recover and finally step on the ice. Fans wondered if he would ever reach prominence again. His counterpart in the NHL, Alexander Ovechkin, hasn't produced the numbers we are used to seeing from him because of changes in the Washington Capitals playing system. The same questions begin to surface.
Cena lost the most important match of his life at WrestleMania. This alone would imply that what comes next is a question of confidence. In storyline terms, will Cena be able to shake it off? Will he resume his winning ways after the Grandaddy of them All?
This is why I thought his loss against Lord Tensai was a good move. First, it came out of the blue. Based on what the man formely known as “A-Train” was doing in the past few weeks on Raw (mainly defeating lower-level WWE superstars), you wouldn't guess Lord Tensai would pin the face of the WWE in the center of the ring, but he did. Not only did this raise Lord Tensai's stock, but it also raised further questions about Cena's. My only concern regarding Tensai is that no further elevation comes out of this win and we will find him losing to, say, Kofi Kingston in a few weeks on Raw.
How interesting would it be if Cena, after losing soundly to Lesnar at Extreme Rules, gets a rematch with Lesnar, loses that also, and continues to lose matches on Raw and Smackdown -- losses to Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Alberto Del Rio, CM Punk ... Cena spirals deeper and deeper into a place where his self confidence doesn't exist.
The reason this won't tarnish Cena's reputation as the most important WWE superstar is because most of the WWE Universe has watched Cena become the face of WWE for the past several years. No amount of losses would be able to turn him into anything but the polarizing mega star that, whether you love him or hate him, you care about what happens next with him. The more he loses matches, the more surprised fans will get and the more they will wonder how he will dig himself out of this hole.
But it's not just the losses; it's his attitude. For this to work, we need to believe that the losses are affecting him at a core level. Based on his promos post-WrestleMania, it feels more like he's moved on past his loss to The Rock and is focusing on Lesnar. This would be the natural course of action after suffering one loss, no matter how big. After his loss to Lord Tensai, maybe he can even shun that away because Lesnar is still the focus. After losing to Lesnar at Extreme Rules, now we begin to see some lack of confidence. What happened? Why did I lose that match? Am I as good as I used to be? Perhaps the match is such a violent fight that Cena acts on emotion and loses a possible rematch. Now he's on at least a four-match losing streak. During this time I would personally even enjoy live-event footage of Cena losing matches. How interesting and unexpected would it be to see a highlight recap, much like when Epico and Primo won the WWE Tag Team Titles at a live event a few months ago, of Cena losing to Ziggler at a past weekend's house show.
If Cena doesn't win a match on TV until Summerslam, I would be happy. If he decides to take time off to try and recuperate, I wouldn't mind either.
Keep in mind Michael Jordan and his first NBA championship three-peat. He retired and then came back to achieve another three-peat. Let's fast forward to Summerslam: Cena has found his mojo again, and finally, after a four-month losing streak, he scores a victory. CeNation is elated and Cena gains some confidence back. Now, he starts a winning streak. He keeps winning matches, often against guys he lost to during his slump. Cena looks stronger than ever, and his winning streak lasts for months, all the way until the Royal Rumble, where he enters the match and wins it.
The next night on Raw (now riding a five-month winning streak), Cena decides that he would like to relinquish his WrestleMania championship opportunity and instead, face the Undertaker for a chance to end The Streak.
There are several plot lines. Cena, at this point, is on a streak, so it gives this match an almost “streak vs streak” feel. In my opinion, the last time I truly felt The Streak was in danger of being broken was by Randy Orton at WrestleMania 21 (Legend vs. Legend Killer). I would truly believe that Cena could be the guy to break the Undertaker's streak.
Cena then remains unbeaten until WrestleMania, and the match is on.
So that's how I enivision Cena's career unfolding until WrestleMania 29.
Having said all this, it's easy for a guy like me to put thoughts to paper and play fantasy booker, because I have no say in the creative direction of WWE, nor would I be scrutinized if my ideas bomb on TV or aren't used. In many ways, I think the creative and booking departments at WWE have a thankless job. But for fans (and weekly WWE columnists), it's always fun to predict and speculate.
Arda Ocal is an on-air personality with theScore Television Network. Check out his posts on the #AftermathBlog.