With the launch of SmackDown on Fox, it was announced that Kofi Kingston would defend his WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Fans immediately started sighing, fearing another absentee title reign from the “Beast Incarnate.” The match was short and a squash in favour of Lesnar who walked away with the championship to the dismay of fans around the world. Even though nobody was really shocked when he won, as Vince seems to love putting the belts on Brock, but what they were shocked by was the disrespectful nature of how Kofi dropped the title.
Then things suddenly took a turn when Cain Velasquez walked out alongside Rey Mysterio to face down the new WWE champion.
If you’re not familiar with UFC, WWE probably caught you up by now as they’ve told this story three times a night since Cain debuted on both Raw and SmackDown. But if you missed it, check out our full profile on the notorious UFC fighter here.
In storyline, Cain’s sudden appearance was a result of Lesnar’s unprovoked attack on Rey Mysterio and his son Dominick, who Cain is the kayfabe godfather to. Somehow, this ended up with Cain getting a title shot at Crown Jewel despite never having wrestled a WWE match. This isn’t his first wrestling match, though. Cain has wrestled for AAA in Mexico, including a six-man trios match alongside AEW founder, Cody Rhodes.
He donned a luchadore mask and actually did quite well in the ring, pulling off some impressive moves. If WWE lets him show off his range, this Crown Jewel match could be more interesting than a lot of people think.
It’s definitely going to be more interesting than Tyson Fury versus Braun Strowman, that’s for sure.
One match really isn’t the problem. The issue for WWE is what to do with him after Crown Jewel. He has reportedly signed a huge deal with the company, though what that means in the long term is questionable. Ronda Rousey signed a huge deal with the company but was gone after about a year. It might have been a relatively short run but at least she showed up to work during that year, unlike other certain former UFC stars who carried the Universal Championship for way too long. Ken Shamrock, a UFC legend, had an incredible WWE run years ago and is back wrestling in IMPACT. It’s not that UFC stars can’t be successful in the professional wrestling, but it helps when they do the work.
The first hurdle is the type of performer Cain is. Will he be a presence like Rousey was? Or will he show up for every bimonthly pay-per-view the way Brock used to? If Cain is around and wrestles on a weekly basis, he could be an interesting addition to the roster.
There’s no denying his power and his athleticism, what matters in the long run is his character in the ring. The unfortunate part of Rousey’s departure is that she was just finding her voice in the ring as a proper heel. She was reaching a point where she was becoming truly interesting on the mic. Lesnar, for better or worse, has a decent in-ring character in the form of being an arrogant jerk who doesn’t really care about wrestling. The line between kayfabe and reality is really blurry on that one. But for Cain’s run to be a success, he can’t just be another former UFC fighter fulfilling a childhood dream. He needs something more.
To his credit, Lesnar can wrestle. It was his world before he stormed UFC like the beast he is. Because of that, his path is not the best one for Cain to follow. If he looks to anyone, it should be Shayna Baszler. “The Queen of Spades” has carved out a solid career in NXT as one of their top heels alongside Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke. Regardless of your feelings about her still being champ, the fact is that she has absolutely done the work and made her way up the ranks of the NXT Women’s Division. She earned her spot. Cain needs to earn his.
If Cain is around week in and week out, the smart thing to do is to build his reputation through matches with truly renowned performers. He has the potential to have huge matches with talents like Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura and that would go a long way in establishing him as someone that can entertain the crowd and hang with some of the most talented performers in the industry.
Dropping Cain right into the title picture is the same mistake they made with Rousey. Winning the Raw Women’s Championship so quickly left her character with nowhere to go. It also turned the fans against her as they felt like she hadn’t earned the spot. Making Cain’s first match a championship bout has a similar vibe to it, like he’s getting too much too fast. The danger is turning the fans against him before he has a chance to prove himself in the ring. That would be a shame as, just like Rousey, Cain has huge potential as a wrestler.
Fans have to want it though, and the Crown Jewel match is not the way to bring him into the mix.
If he beats Brock, fans will have a rookie champion they know nothing about as a wrestler and might resent. If he loses, that chips away at Cain’s reputation and makes him look weak. If it ends in a draw or a DQ, fans are left unsatisfied and will likely make their voices heard.
So far, fan responses to Cain have been tepid at best. They don’t know what to expect from another UFC import falling into a WWE title picture out of the blue. If nothing else, hopefully Crown Jewel gives him the opportunity to show off his in-ring skills and get the fans behind him.
It would have helped if good ol’ JR was at the commentators desk the night Velasquez debuted, screaming, “That’s gotta be Cain.” It just sets the right vibe.
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