Top-Down Smackdown: The Part-Time Champ Is Here!


As a big Brock Lesnar fan, I was on edge throughout his big match yesterday. I’ve been around long enough to see the pattern, and what was unfolding before my eyes was essentially the Hulk Hogan formula. After taking a beating the whole match, Cena would surely “Hulk up” and suddenly become Superman again, making yet another challenger look terrible.

Except that didn’t happen. An attempt at a “Hulk up” completely crashed and burned, and in the end, John Cena, the guy who has steamrolled every major opponent in WWE, was made to look absolutely pitiful. For fans hoping a match at the level of Lesnar vs. Punk last year, it was a lopsided bummer that overused the German suplex (16 times, apparently). But for Cena haters, it was a long time coming. What happens now?

We know that Lesnar will almost certainly not defend the title at every pay-per-view, though he has to at Night of Champions, if that event is going to retain its gimmick of having every title on the line. Presumably the challenger will be John Cena again, though there’s a very slim chance Undertaker could attempt to take down Brock one more time, particularly after the new champ mocked the deadman’s sit-up and tongue lash. We also think we know that Lesnar’s contract extends through WrestleMania, at which point the rumors are that he’d either face the Rock in a non-title match, or Roman Reigns in a title match.

The Summerslam match did exactly what it should to protect a part-time champ – it took the good guy who’s beaten everyone on the roster, and had him be humiliated by one man, fighting fair. Storyline-wise, you can’t just now put someone like Kane or Bray Wyatt in a title match, because we know the guy who beats them regularly can’t even handle it. A new challenger must be built; one who can beat Cena and therefore is ready for Brock Lesnar. Daniel Bryan, incidentally, fits that bill. As does CM Punk, but good luck getting him back. With a bit of Marvel movie goodwill, maybe Batista might. Cena will probably take some time off to make movies, but the role he took on after WrestleMania as “the guy you have to go through to get a title shot” would be more meaningful now than it was then.

Night of Champions, Hell in a Cell, Survivor Series and TLC are the remaining supercards in 2014. NoC has to have Lesnar, while HiaC could probably survive if something like Cena vs. Triple H in the cell were to headline. Survivor Series can do a five-on-five battle as the main event if need be, while TLC could go any number of ways, but the ladder match format doesn’t play to Lesnar’s strengths, so he probably won’t headline that. He could also conceivably lose (unlikely) or give up the title at NoC, saying there’s nobody worthy to defend against, so he’s retiring as undefeated champion…then inevitably return at the Royal Rumble to confront a returning Rock.

I’m curious to see how it all plays out, but happy to have some guaranteed Lesnar main events in the future. As far as the rest of the show went…

-Rollins and Ambrose both came out of their match looking good, though I did argue with one guy on Twitter who said that Ambrose picking a lumberjack match only to lose because of it makes him look stupid. I don’t agree – the face picking a format he thinks will finally keep the heel from cheating in, only to have it end in a stolen victory anyway, is a classic scenario, one that that worked to perfection in the ’80s for Ric Flair and Lex Luger.

-Stephanie McMahon did well for somebody who doesn’t normally wrestle; still, the match’s point was to advance a storyline that keeps Daniel Bryan alive in the fans’ minds. It did that, while adding a wrinkle that’s more than just treading water by splitting the Bellas. The real curiosity factor here is how Total Divas deals with all this – will the “reality” show attempt to follow storylines somewhat and portray the Bellas as actually estranged? To date, the only attempts to mirror kayfabe have been portraying Summer Rae as a villain to match her TV character – if Nikki’s still involved with John Cena on Total Divas, but on the opposing side on Raw, things get complicated.

-Paige and AJ kept the other divas match from being a pissbreak. Nicely done.

-Randy Orton matches are now the pissbreaks. Reigns went over as he should, but unlike former partner Ambrose, he can’t make an Orton match interesting.

-Ziggler and Miz was fine. Ziggler bores me for some reason, but he did okay in this one.

-Wyatt vs. Jericho was unsurprising; the weird kneepad Wyatt wore with a picture of a ribcage on it was the most interesting thing about it.

And the WWE Network gave me the usual avalanche of glitches, freeze-frames, unintended instant replays and inability to rewind ALL FOR ONLY $9.99!

Seriously, WWE, make the product work before you hard-sell it.