Reigns Vs. Lesnar: Can It Work?

roman brock
Source: WWE

What can you do in thirty seconds? Text your mum? Clean the lint out of your dryer? Change a light bulb? Yes, we mere mortals are quite limited in what we can conceivably achieve in half a minute. But then nobody ever said that Brock Lesnar was mortal. You see, Brock Lesnar can do all these things and defend his Universal Championship against Kane in the time it took you to read this opening paragraph.

In the main event of a recent Chicago house show, the reigning and defending Universal Champion made short work of “The Devil’s Favourite Demon”. Two suplexes and an F-5 were all it took to beat the veteran Kane in one of the most dominant displays by a WWE champion in quite some time.

Reaction to the victory has been mixed. Many of the fans in attendance were pissed off by the brevity of the featured encounter, but then anybody hoping for a prolonged Kane match in 2018 is a glutton for punishment. There was a mixture of shock as well, with some pundits wondering why WWE would waste a rare Lesnar house show appearance on this non-match. Then, as the backlash began to spread around social media, a third mindset began to emerge.

People became convinced that WWE were playing a very clever yet incredibly risky game. They claimed that the WWE was well aware of the level of disdain this brisk in-ring appearance would cause. Not only that, but they were purposely trying to attain a negative reaction for Lesnar. The consensus was that if WWE couldn’t make the vocal, hardcore wrestling fan base cheer for Roman Reigns, then they would make them boo Lesnar instead.

reigns and heyman
Source: WWE

How do you make a largely anti-Reigns contingent of fans boo his WrestleMania opponent? By fostering a sentiment that Reigns is actually the lesser of two evils here. Roman Reigns’ promo on Raw two weeks ago may have come across as a first draft of the Cena vs. Rock feud, but he brought up some valid points. Reigns was playing to the section of the audience that holds him in the most contempt by pointing out that Lesnar is never on the show, rarely defends his Universal Championship and when he is around, does as little as he possibly can for the most amount of money.

This all builds into the theory that WWE are purposely presenting Lesnar in this way to annoy the fans. As I said, if this is the case, it seems like a big risk. Lesnar may not be quite as hot as he was a couple of years ago, but WWE have done a pretty good job of keeping “The Beast” as a special attraction. Yes, as Reigns claimed, Lesnar isn’t there every week, but that makes every Lesnar appearance feel like an event in its own right. If you then purposely short change the fans in the appearances he does make, you diminish their value.

Since the annihilation of Kane, Lesnar has made another house show appearance, this time decimating Miz and The Miztourage in under two minutes. As news spread once again throughout social media, the narrative seemed to become clearer. The theory that WWE are trying to make fans resent Brock is now being presented as fact. Not only that, but it actually seems to be working.

One of the oldest rules or wrestling storytelling is that you can berate and belittle your opponent as much as you want but, whatever you do, you don’t point out their actual flaws. WWE are telling the audience that they should hate Lesnar because he’s never around, and when he is, he’s working ridiculously short matches that aren’t worth your time. These things are presented as facts. Instead of the audience booing Lesnar because they want to see him get beat, the risk is that fans simply won’t care and will crap on the match altogether.

Brock Lesnar

WWE have long since stopped caring about babyface or heel reactions in their purest form. They just want a reaction, good or bad. In being so active in forcing the narrative of the Lesnar vs. Reigns championship match, I feel that they may have replaced what would have been a very heated crowd with fan apathy.

It could be Goldberg vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania 20 all over again. A match in which the fans in attendance became aware that both wrestlers would be leaving the promotion afterwards and so they collectively took a shit on it. Nobody cared. Both wrestlers were jeered every time they attempted a move. It was embarrassing to watch.

With a large portion of the WrestleMania crowd already apathetic to Reigns, his last minute attempts to gain fan support by pointing out his exemplary attendance record aren’t going to work. Trying to sour these same fans on Lesnar may well work, but at what cost?

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