SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Enough is enough. The uniqueness of Brock Lesnar being WWE Universal Champion, while also being seen on TV with the rarity of a Bigfoot sighting, has worn off. Whether it’s at Summerslam, by forfeit, or simply stripping him of that championship, WWE needs the Universal Title back on Raw full-time.
At one time, there may have been an advantage to having Lesnar hold the title in absentia. Lesnar was clearly the most dominating figure on the brand, so it made sense to have him as champion. The company hasn’t always done a good job of making big-name wrestlers’ appearances feel special, but by virtue of his scarcity, the times Lesnar does show up have felt special. By the same token, Universal Title defenses thus feel more special because they aren’t handed out every week or every month.
But there’s a law of diminishing returns associated with Lesnar as champion. WWE has exhausted the “I’m here every week and he isn’t” storyline for challengers to Lesnar’s throne. It’s not compelling anymore, it’s just…sad. With WWE’s record-low ratings for Raw last week and with football season right around the corner, can WWE afford to keep the title on a guy who’s training for his third or fourth “final” UFC fight?
The lack of a Universal Title, or an idea of what to do with Lesnar at this point, has become a creative handicap. WWE had to publicly scrap a #1 contender’s match for Extreme Rules, something they rarely do after announcing a bout. You’d think that Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley on Sunday would have #1 contender ramifications, but the announcers have been careful not to hint much in that direction.
So what of Lesnar and the Universal Title? What are WWE’s options? The easiest way would be to get Lesnar to defend it, and lose it, at Summerslam. That may be the most likely, though the idea of deciding against a #1 contender match at Extreme Rules lessens that potential. After all, why not have the focus on the Universal Title, even if it can’t be defended, and set up that anticipation for a big match on what has become WWE’s second-biggest show of the year?
If Lesnar can’t or won’t be wrestling at Summerslam, WWE should get the title off of him anyway. Have Kurt Angle declare that Lesnar hasn’t defended it within a certain window built into his contract (obviously more than the usual 30 days), and is thus stripped. Have Lesnar announce through Paul Heyman or whomever that he doesn’t see anyone worthy of challenging for the title (after all, if Reigns beats Lashley, Lesnar has already beaten Reigns enough times to make his point), and therefore will forfeit the title to focus on his UFC fight. Anything to get the Universal Title back in play on Raw.
Sure, there may be some advantage to having Lesnar hold the Universal Title while fighting in UFC, but that advantage will be mitigated by its lack of appearance on Raw – unless Lesnar and Daniel Cormier appear on the show to plug their fight – and by a potential Lesnar loss in the octagon. Is the potential upside worth all the damage being done to the title by virtue of its absence?
Muddying the waters is Lesnar’s contract in WWE, and how long/how many dates he has signed. He was said to have re-upped to a “short term” deal slated for after Wrestlemania, but details about that contract have not escaped the WWE/Lesnar camps. If we knew how many dates Lesnar had left, it would be easier to predict when and where a title change could happen.
In pro wrestling, and yes, even in sports entertainment, the top title on the brand is what every wrestler is gunning for. Sure, feuds may be personal, but there is an inherent agreement between the company and the fans that wins and losses matter in climbing the ladder of success, with the ultimate goal being, in this case, the Universal Championship. With that title not around to focus feuds and chases, it leads to wrestlers wandering aimlessly, tipping over porta-potties or arguing about who is THE GUY without having the belt that is meant to signify who THE GUY really is. Enough is enough. Bring the title back home.
Greg Parks hosts the “Wrestling Night in America” Livecast every Sunday night on PWTorchlivecast.com. Read additional columns from him at PWTorchVIP.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks. Comments, questions and feedback are welcome, and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.