Survivor Series approaches this weekend, and with it, an air of expectation. Whenever the two main roster brands of WWE do battle, you can never really tell how the chips will fall.
WWE has vested interests in the top stars of both Raw and SmackDown Live. As such, having one beat another in an inter-brand match isn’t just a one-and-done affair. There is a pronounced carry forward effect that brings with it storyline implications and bragging rights for the rest of the year.
It was one of the reasons why Becky Lynch vs Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series – when it was still happening – garnered widespread interest and expectation. Both Champions were on a white hot streak and it genuinely felt like something had to give when they fought.
That sentiment is echoed throughout most of the card too. The result of the men’s and women’s traditional Survivor Series matches heavily contribute towards crowning the dominant brand, while the Intercontinental Title vs the US Title match is generally a purist’s delight. The tag teams always put on hard hitting, extremely watchable matches and even the Cruiserweight Championship match this time around feels rather important with the irrepressible Mustafa Ali in the mix.
But none of these matches, in theory, should hold a candle to the most determinant match of them all; the match pitting the respective faces of both brands and the most prestigious titles in the business, against one another. The WWE Champion vs Universal Champion should be the main attraction of Survivor Series.
The crown jewel amongst the eclectic selection of matches on the night. It should be the match with the most riding on it with both men representing their brands and holding the most important titles – neither of which can afford to take a loss and look weak. It should be a match where it genuinely feels like the WWE has backed themselves into a corner and absolutely cannot decide which way to duck.
Daniel Bryan vs Brock Lesnar should be the humdinger of the main event, the entire Survivor Series 2018 card is built around.
Instead, thanks to Brock Lesnar, it’s been brushed aside as an afterthought.
In theory, Brock Lesnar is still probably the biggest draw in the WWE. Here is a man who generated a million pay-per-view buys in the UFC way before it was cool to do so. He’s a tried and tested, monstrous eyeball puller and even at 41, seems to be at the peak of his athletic prowess.
Therefore, when Roman Reigns made the gut wrenching announcement that he had to leave the WWE to resume his battle against leukemia, reeling a UFC-bound Lesnar back in seemed to be a no brainer.
But perhaps that’s been the WWE’s greatest folly all along. Brock Lesnar, with his name value, star power, freakish strength and devil-may-care attitude has become too much of a convenient option for the company to fall back upon in their times of need.
In their efforts to plug a Big Dog sized hole, they’re willing to bend over backwards to accommodate Lesnar and all of his baggage. The ginormous sums of money he commands for making disinterested, sporadic appearances aside, that policy has only served to hurt the WWE’s long term prospects.
From the time Lesnar made his WWE return in 2012, there hasn’t been one Superstar barring – perhaps – Roman Reigns, who has been put over by the Beast Incarnate.
Even as fans complain about the metaphorical glass ceiling in the WWE that represses Superstars that may not fit a certain physical mould, Brock Lesnar is a 6 foot 3 inch tall, 285 pound real life manifestation of that.
And the fact that he clocked out of the WWE briefly in 2016 to pick up a victory over a top 10 UFC heavyweight at UFC 200 only pronounced that aura; the WWE felt that should they ever put a Superstar over Lesnar, they had to be extremely choosy with who it was for the sake of believability.
For his part, Lesnar also played the role of master manipulator to perfection, cleverly pitching the WWE’s big bucks against the UFC’s surging reputation whenever he felt his paycheck needed beefing up.
Every time, though, he would emerge with a juicier contract, lesser dates to work and a guarantee that the decision to put someone over him would not be one that the WWE made lightly.
And so, when Roman Reigns relinquished the Universal Title to be with his family, all it took was a phone call and a bunch of zeros signed off on a check to have Brock Lesnar pick up right where he left off – smack in the middle of the Title picture again. All the proposed plans to fight Daniel Cormier in 2019 for the UFC Heavyweight Title seemed to be pushed to the backburner in the time of WWE’s need.
Once again, Brock Lesnar was there to capitalize. As he has been for the past six years.
As Survivor Series nears, WWE Champion Daniel Bryan gears up for the fight of his life against Lesnar – or at least, that’s how the WWE chooses to portray the narrative leading up to the event.
But everyone who’s followed WWE’s modus operandi and Brock Lesnar’s career would know better. It really doesn’t matter who stands opposite him in the ring; Brock Lesnar’s going to walk into Survivor Series with the Universal Title, and he’s going to walk out with it – beefy paycheck in hand – after carelessly ragdolling another Superstar. At this point, it isn’t even a question of who will defeat him anymore.
Even Vince McMahon’s hand picked golden boy Roman Reigns took multiple attempts to finally get one over on the Beast Incarnate.
Instead, when Daniel Bryan likely loses at Survivor Series, it will, in fresh earnest, pose the same question many fans have been grappling with for a number of years now.
It’s not about who Brock Lesnar will lose to that matters anymore. It stopped being that when it became abundantly clear that the WWE wasn’t going to have him lose to another Superstar not named Roman Reigns.
Instead, it’s why the WWE seems so intent on taking the loss itself, that truly puzzles yet again.
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