This is a unique time for the Monday Night Raw brand, ladies and gentlemen.
Through every fault of their own, the brand's top champion is nowhere to be seen, having not defended the Universal Championship since winning it at WrestleMania, which is coming up on two months ago.
Through no fault of their own, the man who many felt was the brand's next contender for the title, Braun Strowman, is now out of action for a while after elbow surgery.
This has left Raw in a weird spot of needing to find someone... anyone... to challenge Lesnar. Reports have said that Lesnar will be making his return to the company in June, setting up his match for the "Vince McMahon is just so hip and modern" Network event, Great Balls Of Fire. As you probably should have seen by now, Raw has decided to take five top contenders and put them in a Fatal Five Way match at Extreme Rules, with the winner of the match getting the next shot at becoming Universal Champion. Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns, and Bray Wyatt make up the list of competitors in the match, and the internet is already buzzing about the possibilities. Everyone has their thoughts and opinions on who they want to see face Lesnar, as well as who they don't want to see face Lesnar, but let's try to look at things a bit objectively here. This isn't going to be about what I want or do not want. This is going to be about what I feel should happen and shouldn't happen. Let's start by looking at the Fatal Five Way participants, in no particular order.
Finn Balor: When the competitors were announced, it was Balor who received the biggest face pop. Say what you will about his heavily kick-based offense or a lack of character development outside of The Demon, but the man is over with live crowds everywhere they go. That's enough to even be considered for a spot like this. The problem I see here is how a match between Balor and Lesnar would go. Lesnar matches are viewed, and treated, as more MMA fight than pro wrestling bouts. We've seen him in physical wars with opponents that are much bigger and stronger than Finn Balor is. Yes, Balor is used to the rough and tumble world of Japanese pro wrestling, but Lesnar is a different beast entirely (pun clearly intended). This talk goes back a few years, to when fans were wanting to see a match between Lesnar and Daniel Bryan. The people on the "pro" side of that said that Bryan was much smaller, yes, but he enjoyed a physical style and his own background with MMA training would allow him to go toe-to-toe. The people on the "con" side of it said that Bryan was much smaller. Period. End of argument. I have a hard time believing that a Lesnar/Balor match would look as "legit" as the company wants it to look. How would Lesnar not just rag doll Balor from pillar to post, as the saying goes? I just can't picture it working. With everything that Lesnar has done, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to have him take a lot of punishment from someone like Balor, unless the plan was to give Balor the ultimate push and have him as the one who sends Lesnar into retirement. Let's be real here... that probably isn't going to be happening at WWE Great Balls Of Fire.
Bray Wyatt: My roller coaster of emotions about the Bray Wyatt character continues on here. At some points, I'm a big fan, thinking that he needs to get a big main event push and be used as a major top tier player. At other points, I'm disappointed in his booking, watching him talk big and go on to lose every big match he participates in. That seemed to finally come to an end when he won the WWE Championship. It looked like things had begun to turn the corner for him. Then he got caught up in the insanely dumb story with Randy Orton, the burning down of houses, the desecration of Sister Abigail's ashes, and so forth. Then we got more talking, and more talking, and more talking... and another loss in a big match. Then we got even more talking, and even more talking, and even more talking... and another loss in a big match. Now, he's essentially back to square one. Bray is a physical wrestler, and that could make for a really good match with Lesnar as far as styles are concerned. I can't deny that whatsoever. Here's my problem with it, though... again, Bray's character talks a big talk, only to fail when everything is on the line. Brock Lesnar is billed as an almost God-like entity. He is billed as being someone that is pretty much impossible to defeat. Well, if Bray can't even defeat a "mortal" when the chips are down, how are we supposed to believe he has any chance of beating the "unbeatable"? Someone will inevitably say that Bray has control of some weird "supernatural" powers that could come in handy against Brock, but, uh, how well did that work for The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30? I'm not buying it.
Continued on Page 2 ...
Samoa Joe: You see, now here's an interesting choice. I've seen people label Lesnar/Joe as a "dream match" for years now, long before Joe was under any sort of WWE contract. If you remember Joe's time with Ring Of Honor, you could say that he was booked as the "Brock Lesnar" of the company for a multi-year stretch. Nobody could beat him. He was just mowing through opponent after opponent by sheer power and brute force. Now that they're in the same company, and on the same brand, folks are salivating over the thought of this one. Joe, in his brief main roster stint thus far, has been pushed as a big deal. He aligned himself with Triple H from his first night, and has been involved in nothing but high-profile matches and segments ever since. Yes, he's smaller than Lesnar, but most are. He's a believable enough badass for fans to see him as a serious threat. Paul Heyman has been a fan of Joe's work for years, and there's no doubt that he would paint a great picture of Joe during the promos that would lead up to the match. Without a doubt, this would be my choice if I got what I wanted, but is it what should happen? It wouldn't be the biggest marquee match, simply because of how new Joe is to a lot of people in the WWE Universe. Then again, we're talking about the main event to Great Balls Of Fire, not the main event to WrestleMania. Mania might need a "bigger" match as its main selling point, but Great Balls Of Fire could easily get away with Lesnar/Joe, in my opinion.
Seth Rollins: Rollins and Lesnar have been involved in three matches together. One was absolute magic (Triple Threat, including John Cena, at the 2015 Royal Rumble). One featured an absolute magic moment (Rollins cashing Money In The Bank in at the end of WrestleMania 31). One was derailed by a nonsense ending involving someone else's "magic" (Battleground 2015, when The Undertaker returned to attack Lesnar). If you take out the match at Mania, you have two really good matches. Rollins, although on the smaller side, has matched up well with Lesnar, using his speed and athletic ability to occasionally "confuse" Brock, allowing him to get in some offense before inevitably getting hit with another suplex. Unless you're God Goldberg, you're just not going to have too many lengthy stretches of offense against a man like Lesnar, and we've accepted that as fans at this point. Rollins could be viewed as something of a "sure thing" by WWE officials. He's someone that can be trusted, not only to go out and have entertaining matches, but to have them against the opponent we're discussing here. Hell, Rollins should be viewed as a "sure thing", because when it comes to his in-ring work, he's about as close as it gets to that label in the entire WWE. The fact that we have yet to see a true one-on-one between Brock and Seth that lasted more than ten minutes is a shame, as they would be more than capable of putting on a classic.
Roman Reigns: I'm well aware that fan response to Roman Reigns isn't where WWE would like it to be. I'm well aware that many, many people in the WWE Universe are sick and tired of Roman receiving push after push. I'll be the first to tell you that his current character is booked horribly, and that there isn't a single trait of his that is worth liking. However, I'll also be the first to tell you that, despite a limited moveset, the man just goes out there and has fun matches against anyone he steps in the ring with. His brawls are great, and you know what a match with someone like Brock Lesnar is? A brawl. Their match at WrestleMania 31 was so much fun. At first, I thought it was merely fun because I was in attendance and the atmosphere was a blast, but I rated the match even higher after getting to watch it on the WWE Network after the fact. They were just two big, badass dudes beating the hell out of each other and not backing down from a fight. That's an attractive reason to want to see the rematch (one-on-one rematch, as I'm aware that they were involved in a Triple Threat Match at Fastlane 2016). Even if you have a great amount of dislike built up inside of you when it comes to Roman Reigns, you'd be happy for this match to watch Lesnar hit him with a couple dozen suplexes. Everybody is a winner!
In case you have a short attention span, those last few paragraphs mean that I'm on board with Lesnar facing Joe, Rollins, or Reigns at Great Balls Of Fire, but who should get the shot?
Find out on Page 3 ...
Let it be known that I'm one of those who feel we wouldn't even be having this conversation if Braun Strowman were healthy. Perhaps his injury is a blessing in disguise, though, as his rumored title shot went from being at Great Balls Of Fire to potentially being at SummerSlam, which will be a much bigger deal. His return is the key to all of this. If you're going to operate under the assumption that we're getting Lesnar vs Strowman for the title at SummerSlam, that kind of means Lesnar will come out victorious at GBOF, no? Well, if the next contender is going to lose, it has to be someone who probably won't be hurt too much by the loss.
Finn Balor is clearly one of Triple H's "pet projects", and you would think he'd want to protect Finn as much as he can with whatever stroke he has, so I would count him out right away.
Roman Reigns is in the same category, but instead of Triple H, it's for Vince McMahon. Vince doesn't give a rat's tiny backside about what anyone thinks of Reigns. Vince loves him, so Vince pushes him. Putting him in a spot where he loses to Lesnar doesn't seem like something Vince is exactly frothing at the mouth over, so let's eliminate him.
I truly believe that Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins will feud for the rest of eternity. Well, at least for another couple months. If Joe is someone that the company views in good regard, and it sure seems like he is, you'll want to protect him, too. Building him up as a monster in his own right, only to feed him to Lesnar, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Let's eliminate him from this discussion, too.
Bray Wyatt, as mentioned, is someone who is booked as a "loser" already. It doesn't matter how many matches he loses, apparently, because he'll still get pushed as something of a big deal. That's rare air for a wrestler to be in, unless he's someone like a part-timer or a nostalgia act. Wyatt is neither of those things, so perhaps he's special. He must have a pretty big fan backstage, since he's approximately 2-113 in big matches over the last few years, but is still a part of this conversation. He makes a lot of sense in this role, whether you like it or not.
I think you can kill two birds with one stone if you have Seth Rollins be Brock Lesnar's opponent at Great Balls Of Fire. You'll give the WWE Universe a highly anticipated match that will deliver the goods, but you also have an easy "out" for Rollins when he loses the match, and that "out" is none other than Samoa Joe. Rollins wins the Fatal Five Way at Extreme Rules, maybe even "stealing" the win away from Joe. That continues their feud, and gives it extra heat. Joe, unable to sit back and watch Rollins succeed in a spot that he (Joe) feels belongs to him, costs Rollins the match against Lesnar. Rollins loses, but has a built-in excuse for it. Rollins and Joe can finish their blood feud at SummerSlam. Lesnar gets to keep the Universal Title, just as Strowman makes his return to WWE programming (if you're of the belief that his six-month recovery window is a work) to set up a summer blockbuster.
Yeah, that works for me.