By Chuck Carroll
WWE had a monster on their hands. Check that. They had a BEAST.
Brock Lesnar was an unstoppable force. A larger-than-life mountain of a man with legitimate beat-down credentials thriving in a world that is constantly criticized for being fake. Even the biggest critics of the fantasy world of professional wrestling had no leg to stand on when lobbing verbal haymakers at the man.
He was already a master grappler before stepping inside a WWE ring. While wrestling for the University of Minnesota, he became a national champion. That’s Division I. We’re not talking about a small DIII school tucked in the middle of nowhere (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
The wrestling pedigree served him well. At the tender age of 25, he became the youngest man in history to capture the WWE Championship.
It’s not uncommon for NFL players to join WWE after their playing days end. It is uncommon for a three-time champion to leave WWE to try to become an NFL player. That was Lesnar.
His gridiron dreams didn’t pan out, but it really didn’t matter. He reached legendary status after defeating Randy Couture to become UFC heavyweight champion in 2008.
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It was no surprise that Lesnar received a monster push when he returned to WWE a few years ago. Remember his upset of the Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX? Of course you do.
He was like a magician of sports entertainment and mixed martial arts. And for his next trick he would combine the two. He somehow received WWE’s blessing to return to a rival company they won’t acknowledge is actually a rival.
His domination of Mark Hunt at UFC 200 put WWE in a prime position to cash in on their second biggest pay-per-view of the year — SummerSlam. Seizing an opportunity to generate beast-like revenue, WWE began promoting Lesnar’s match against Randy Orton before he even stepped back into octagon. They even had aired spots for SummerSlam and the forthcoming WWE 2K17 video game on the UFC pay-per-view itself.
And then the other shoe dropped. Following Lesnar’s convincing win, UFC announced he twice tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs leading up to the bout.
Oh, no. Not even close.
The amazement that is Brock Lesnar’s career continued when WWE ignored the controversy surrounding the alleged PED use and pushed him full-throttle. As it turns out, part-time performers like Lesnar are exempt from the company’s Talent Wellness Policy, which clearly outlines automatic suspensions for PED use for its full-time performers.
WWE completely scoffed at the idea of any punishment despite sending Roman Reigns home for a month not long ago. From all appearances, WWE has not and will not change their storylines for Lesnar heading into SummerSlam.
Or will they?
All may not be as it seems. Here are five ways Lesnar’s failed tests may have forced WWE to alter its original plans.
1. The Elephant in the Room
Give credit to WWE for having Randy Orton tackle the controversy head-on when he returned. During his first appearance in WWE in months, Orton blasted Lesnar’s failures by mocking his opponent’s signature phrase.
“About 20 suplexes. That’s how much it takes to get to Suplex City, right? But it only takes one RKO to Viperville… no enhancement needed,” he boasted to Chris Jericho at Battleground.
Even though there have been allegations of steroid use in the past, there is no way WWE would ever have green-lit that line a month earlier. Truth be told, the failed tests have given WWE creative a ton of ammunition, although they haven’t gone back to that well again.
2. “Suplex City” Domination Unlikely
Two years ago at SummerSlam Lesnar suplexed John Cena an incredible 16 times en route to becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion for a fourth time. The following year at WrestleMania he suplexed the bejesus out of Roman Reigns and coined what would his signature catchphrase, “Welcome to Suplex City, b*%&#!”
Despite selling tens of thousands of “Suplex City” t-shirts, WWE may opt not to have Lesnar put on such a dominating performance against Randy Orton. A complete and total annihilation would only add more fuel to the fire. Even though this is the world of sports entertainment, millions would still question whether Lesnar would truly be able to destroy a man without some sort of PED. And wrestling critics would be quick to say “not only is it fake… their top guy’s muscles are too!”
It will be no surprise if this match is pretty even.
3. Go All-In as Super Heel
With all the heat surrounding him outside of WWE, it would make sense for the creative team to subtly acknowledge the controversy by basically turning him into a super villain. I’m talking scum-of-the-earth type of evil. And it doesn’t get much more evil than telling a man that you don’t care about his kids.
On Monday night, that’s exactly what Lesnar did. After feigning sympathy for “free agent” Heath Slater’s unfortunate situation (he needs a job to support his family), Paul Heyman’s destroyer destroyed Slater.
Kicking a man while he’s down = super heel. If WWE are smart, they’d keep pushing Lesnar in this direction.
4. Lesnar Loses
It would have been unfathomable for Lesnar to lose at SummerSlam following a clean triumphant return to UFC. But his victory now appears to be about as dirty as his blood samples.
That puts WWE in the unique position to have Orton come out on top here… and cleanly at that.
Smackdown Live! wound up on the short end of the stick following the recent talent draft. Yes, there are some tremendous performers on the “blue team,” but the roster could still use an infusion of A-list talent.
Orton is already a top-tier guy, but a win over Lesnar would put him in prime position to become a number-one contender for Dean Ambrose’s title.
5. Lesnar Loses Again
His mistakes may just cost him at SummerSlam, and the punishment may continue on for a while longer. WWE may give him the proverbial slap on the wrist by having Lesnar drop a couple of matches in a row.
Take a look at Roman Reigns who has been jeered and cheered as the heir apparent to John Cena’s throne. It didn’t matter how deafening the boos were from the WWE Universe, he was always given a push. It seemed as though there wasn’t anything that would get WWE to reverse course on his path to superstardom.
Then the company suspended Reigns for 30 days for violating the WWE Talent Wellness Policy. Suddenly it didn’t matter that he was firmly in the title picture and in the midst of a feud with his former brothers in The Shield.
He was sent home.
And when he returned? He lost. Rather than battling to regain the WWE Championship, he’s been demoted to battling Rusev for the United States title. It was a one-two punch most didn’t see coming.
Because Lesnar is not subject to suspension like Reigns, WWE may opt to give him a couple of losses to teach him a lesson.
But that scenario seems unlikely. WWE is a cash business, and Lesnar is the cash cow that keeps giving. Anyone want a Suplex City t-shirt?
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.