At SummerSlam, Brock Lesnar defends his WWE Universal Title. He’ll have Paul Heyman by his side and will take on a fiery babyface that intends to return the red strap to weekly TV programming. After all, how can a product be its best with a “part-time champion” right? Well, Seth Rollins will look to right that wrong in Toronto, bringing a competitive main event scene back to the flagship show. In a vacuum, that direction feels interesting enough but in truth, it’s nothing new.
Instead, that sequence of sentences could relate to most of the Universal Title’s history. Since memorably dethroning Goldberg, Lesnar has had a virtually immovable grip on RAW’s major crown, initially holding the title for over 500 days. In that time, Lesnar faced fresh foes, defeating Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman as well as AJ Styles in a remarkable all-champion clash. Before things extended though, there appeared to an obvious endgame in motion. After winning the title at WrestleMania, it seemed that Lesnar would lose it there too, with an obvious rematch looming.
Years prior, Lesnar was in the midst of a main event classic on that very stage, battling Roman Reigns until Seth Rollins’ unforgettably intervened. Now three years later, those two would run it back, providing a likely finale for Lesnar’s reign of dominance. While certainly criticized, that route was logical if nothing else and best of all, Lesnar had rarely missed in his year as titleholder. Instead, ‘The Beast’ seemed almost revitalized at times, thriving against Joe’s ferocity as well as Styles’ brilliant, contrasting style.
For better or worse, his schedule would always be a topic of conversation but in fairness, this apparent plan had been relatively effective. Lesnar’s major matches had mostly delivered and he’d now allow an easy transition to Reigns’ inevitable title win. Though the product’s established central figure, Reigns’ ascension had been far from simple and as a result, a lengthy title reign still eluded him. Since the brand split’s re-implementation, Reigns had been a figure of consistency, regularly headlining RAW in lengthy TV main events. However, he’d never filled that role as Universal Champion.
That looked quite obviously set to change though, with Lesnar’s WWE days appearing numbered as WrestleMania arrived. However, a shock awaited the wrestling world, as in the main event, Lesnar simply won. WrestleMania went off the air as it entered, with Brock Lesnar as the Universal Champion while after a year of seemingly waiting, Reigns was still left well, waiting. Nonetheless, he’d eventually score his victory, dethroning Lesnar at SummerSlam and finally bringing an end to a lengthy saga that in truth, had far extended the general interest surrounding it.
That page still wouldn’t turn though, as Reigns’ shocking battle with leukemia left WWE understandably scrambling for a new direction. In reality, that direction came in the form of a replay, as the Universal Title returned to the only place they seemingly trusted it: around Brock Lesnar’s waist. The move left many fans frustrated but Lesnar’s proceeding performance didn’t waver, sharing quite gripping with opposite Daniel Bryan and Finn Balor. Lesnar’s style wasn’t for everyone but the outcome was often undeniable, with evidence suggesting that genuine value still surrounded his PPV affairs.
However, this felt more like a brief extension than a new chapter. Circumstances may have made him champion again but with WrestleMania around the corner, the same perception surrounded his status. At some point, this now seven-year stint would have to end and with Seth Rollins acting as his fresh challenger, this seemed like the exit route. In execution, that seemed even likelier, with Rollins swiftly vanquishing Lesnar as a long awaited UFC return appeared as feasible as ever.
Lesnar’s second spell in WWE had very much divided people but overall, it was hard to argue his best work. Not every outing had been a hit but on quite a few occasions, Lesnar had provided a uniquely violent and dramatic element to the modern product. Some would miss him more than others but his output certainly had peaks that in a vacuum especially, will stand out as some of the best of this particular era or two. That would all figure itself out in history though as for now at least, many fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Regardless of their individual reasoning, the audience seemed generally excited by a potential new era for RAW’s main event scene. Whether it was Lesnar or simply his polarizing execution, he’d been the status quo for years now and with a new champion crowned, it simply felt like time to move on. Then again, maybe not as just three months later, Brock Lesnar was Universal Champion again. In fact, he was back after only six weeks, becoming Mr Money in the Bank and finally closing the book on a UFC return as once again, his never ending WWE chapter was extended.
That brings us back to where we started, a staggeringly familiar position. Against Rollins, Lesnar’s presentation is obviously unchanged but in truth, the real story here lies in the outcome. Considering the stature of this event, a Lesnar victory increases the likelihood that for a third year straight, he’ll walk into WrestleMania with the Universal Title around his waist. That’s still quite some time away of course but considering Lesnar’s well-publicized schedule, it’s actually far closer than it appears.
It’s hard to logically dismiss Brock Lesnar’s value. He remains a genuine star and still provides WWE with a unique marquee attraction. However, it feels equally tough to maintain interest in another Lesnar reign of dominance. That doesn’t mean that as we’ve often expected, Lesnar must go away but it may mean that sooner rather than later, a new chapter simply has to begin. The truth is that regardless of how good Lesnar’s match with Rollins is, frustration will still firmly surround his presence within the title scene.
That doesn’t make his performance any less important though, with Lesnar’s best outings consistently making his presence all the more worthwhile. Even still, a change feels necessary and while that feeling somehow seems to always lead us back to where we began, this feels like a particularly pivotal point in Lesnar’s WWE presentation. This story clearly isn’t yet complete but at some point, a new chapter simply has to begin. Whether that’s at SummerSlam or not though, well that remains to be seen.