You may have noticed, despite the rest of the Internet Wrestling Community's collective heads exploding after Monday's Raw, it's now Friday morning and I'm just posting my thoughts on it. That's because I really didn't like the show -- well, not the things everyone else loved at least - and I couldn't put my finger on exactly why. I think I've finally figured it out.
Brock Lesnar's return to the WWE is a huge deal. I recognize that and I look forward to see what story part two of his WWE career will tell over the next year. As it stands, Lesnar is scheduled to make two or more appearances each month, with the contract expiring at WrestleMania 29. He is expected to get back in the ring soon, which is good. We can't have another situation like the Rock over the past year where he did nothing but cut promos when he did show up. Lesnar's best attributes are in the ring, not on the microphone.
His return, however, which saw him F-5 John Cena to a raucous ovation from the live crowd, left a sour taste in my mouth.
Nostalgia pops are one thing, and Lesnar is a huge crossover star, so the reaction he generated wasn't surprising, especially coming off a great WrestleMania and in front of a "smart" crowd that doesn't care much for Cena. The problem was Lesnar's reaction to the crowd. He played to them. And I'm worried that Vince McMahon heard that pop and will push Lesnar as a top babyface. That would be a monumental mistake for a guy who is only going to be around for a year.
Lesnar is a natural born heel. He's a jacked-up monster with ridiculous tattoos, he's ugly and even scarier, he's got a lot of in-ring ability. And he's arrogant about his skills. Fans in UFC hated him because he took the sport by storm without formal training. He's a natural athlete and genetic freak. It's why he was able to leave WWE and make it to the final cut with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL without having played collegiate football, then win the UFC title in his second fight.
Lesnar is a lightning rod for controversy. It's why he had such appeal in the UFC and when he fought, you could pretty much count on 1 million buys. Part of that was that WWE fans from the pre-Lesnar and early Lesnar days began gravitating to MMA when WWE adopted its so-called "PG" era. Many wanted to see if Lesnar could hack it, including some hardcore MMA fans who hoped to see the "fake wrestler" fail. He created more controversy when he cut his infamous "Coors Light" promo after defeating Frank Mir at UFC 100 for the Heavyweight Championship.
So it's odd to see WWE fans cheering him, especially when last he was in a WWE ring, they couldn't help but to boo him out of the building. Perhaps it's the whole concept of the prodigal son returning that elicited the cheers.
Lesnar needs to deflect the cheers as soon as possible and become a monster heel like he was when he debuted in WWE. He should remind the fans that they booed him when he left the company in 2004, and that he had no problem leaving them behind. And now that he's back, he's back for himself, to win championships, make a ton of money and dominate the competition in WWE. Boom. Congrats, you're a heel.
There will still be a segment of the so-called "smart" fans who will cheer him, but WWE can't achieve its long-term goals of creating new top stars with a babyface Brock Lesnar overshadowing them. He needs to be the super villain that WWE has lacked for years.
Yes, that means a huge push early to give him momentum. That might even mean a major clean victory against John Cena, who as the WWE's resident Superman needs to face some adversity to get the crowd back on his side. It's why he was booked to lose to the Rock on Sunday. It also means that Lesnar will likely take the WWE Championship from CM Punk.
Ultimately, Lesnar has to be doomed to fail. Expect 2012 to be his year. By 2013, the months prior to his exit from the company after WrestleMania 29, expect to see his momentum come to a screeching halt and Lesnar putting over WWE's top stars on his way out the door, including Cena. I just hope Lesnar takes his job seriously and doesn't sandbag these guys on the way out.
The rest of Raw
The other thing I really didn't like about Raw that all the other "experts" seemed to was the crowd. Their enthusiasm was amazing, but at times, the crowd overshadowed the story WWE was trying to tell in the ring, and ultimately, that hurt the show. I, for one, hope they don't pull the plug on storylines involving Sheamus and Daniel Bryan because a bunch of smarks decided to chant "Yes!" for everything because Bryan lost so quickly at WrestleMania.
If WWE is regretting the decision to job Bryan so quickly, it has nothing to do with them thinking "Oh, he's more over than we thought," and has everything to do with, "Who knew we'd incite this storm?" The story being told with Bryan and his overconfidence was a good one. Here's hoping they get to tell it and don't have to book on the fly because of the reactions.
Bryan's been an incredibly entertaining heel. As a babyface, he was dull. As a heel, he is one of the top guys on Smackdown and Raw. As a face, he's a middle-of-the-pack jobber-to-the-stars. Be careful what you wish for, smarks. ...
The Rock's vision to once again be WWE Champion I guess means, like Frosty the Snowman, he'll be back again one day. Lots of speculation has surrounded whether he'd return for SummerSlam this year, which is the 25 anniversary of the event. It would also be exactly 10 years since he last held the WWE Championship, dropping it to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2002. Hmmm. ...
CM Punk and John Laurinaitis seem to be resuming their feud that had taken a bit of a backseat during WrestleMania season. With Laurinaitis now in full control of both WWE programs, Punk made his feelings for him very clear at the start of Raw. For his trouble, he was forced to defend his WWE Championship against Mark Henry.
Punk survived with his championship, but lost via count out. He was then attacked by Chris Jericho, who continued to chide Punk about his straight-edge lifestyle, pouring a bottle of liquor on him, then busting a (gimmicked) bottle over his head. It was a cool visual, and signals that their feud isn't quite over.
However, what I found most interesting was Laurinaitis emerging after the match to tell Punk that he'll be defending his championship a lot more. With an essential merging of the rosters with Laurinaitis in charge, as well as several debuts and returns, I'm extremely excited about this, as there are an infinite number of opponents for Punk. It also means more WWE Championship matches on TV.
I was never a huge fan of Bret Hart, but one thing I always really liked about his title runs was that he seemed to defend the championship on television often, and against mid-carders. Cena has been more of a Hulk Hogan type that only defended the titles against big names at big events. It's all about exposure. Cena, while I think a very good wrestler, is somewhat limited. Punk, like Hart, can do a lot more, and can have very different matches against wrestlers of all shapes, sizes and styles.
The match with Henry was a perfect example. It was one of the best TV matches I've seen in quite a while, and the count-out ending didn't seem flat because of it. That goes to Punk's in-ring abilities and Henry not overdoing it. I'd love to see them clash again.
In the meantime, I think Jericho, Bryan, Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Kane and even Cena (Extreme Rules rematch in Chicago anyone?) would be excellent opponents for Punk as Laurinaitis tries to take down the champion, before he runs into a couple of "natural disasters" as promised. ...
The first natural disaster could be Lord Tensai, which is Japanese for disaster. The return of the former Prince Albert/A-Train was overshadowed by Lesnar's return later in the show. Michael Cole did acknowledge Tensai had previously been in WWE before going to Japan and becoming a star. I was wondering how they'd address that.
Tensai squashed Alex Riley (A-Train vs. A-Ry... huh.) and attacked him with a "claw" maneuver after he spit some mist on his hand after the match. Tensai won by referee stoppage, so we'll see if that's a trend that continues.
Oh, the other natural disaster could be an F-5 -- Lesnar's finisher, which takes its namesake from the highest category hurricane. Just sayin'. ...
Another overshadowed return was that of Alberto Del Rio, who interrupted new World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus. It's probably good that Del Rio came out so quickly. The pro-Daniel Bryan crowd was likely going to lay in to Sheamus. Del Rio informed him that Laurinaitis made a match between Sheamus and Del Rio on Smackdown, which should Del Rio win, would earn him a future championship match.
Interesting that WWE might feed Del Rio to Sheamus right away. My understanding was that Del Rio was held off WrestleMania so he could get a huge push afterward. I can't imagine Sheamus is going to drop the title this quickly. A victory over Del Rio would give him some credibility though.
Backstage, Bryan gave Josh Matthews the silent treatment when asked for a reaction.
Also announced for Smackdown was a WrestleMania rematch between Kane and Randy Orton. ...
Santino Marella successfully defended the United States Championship against both Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler in a Triple Threat match to start the show. The two double-teamed him until Ziggler tried to pin him while Swagger was bragging, then Vickie's two clients got into it. Swagger ended up eating the Cobra and getting pinned. Ugh.
Post-match, Ziggler and Swagger stalked Santino to the back but were met by Brodus Clay. The two decided to attack together, but Ziggler ran in and got a headbutt for his troubles while Swagger backed off. Guess we should book a tag team match for next week's Raw? I'm not thrilled that Swagger and Ziggler will likely be the first "name" stars to do the job for Clay. How did two former world champions with legitimate collegiate wrestling backgrounds become jobbers for mid-card comedy acts? ...
In a rematch of sorts between Team Johnny hero The Miz and Team Teddy goat Zack Ryder, the Miz won easily. Nothing to see here. Glad the Miz seems back on track, but I'm worried where Ryder is going. I've given WWE creative a lot of passes on how they handled Ryder pre-WrestleMania, but I can't help but feel like they are trying to bury him now. ...
Kofi Kingston picked up a victory over former Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, despite Rhodes dominating the match, when Big Show came out to taunt Rhodes for his WrestleMania loss the night before. I was really expecting a Cody bounce-back moment, but I guess we'll have to wait for Smackdown. I do expect Rhodes to reclaim the title by defeating Big Show at Extreme Rules. ...