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I have written on multiple occasions on how WWE needs to stop relying on older stars from generations past to anchor their big events. Particularly during Wrestlemania season, WWE rolls out the carpet for the part-time wrestlers to come in and wrestle marquee matches that otherwise would have gone to younger talent. The argument against the part-time wrestlers is that WWE relies on them to buoy their big shows, and at the same time the young guys don’t get a fair chance at the greater exposure that comes from Wrestlemania or Summerslam.
That being said, there are always going to be exceptions. The Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker feud has been magnificent since The Deadman returned at Battleground. Both men are such special performers, besides their obvious physical size, their personalities and the way they portray their characters. Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker are a perfect pairing for a mega-match because of that. The term “larger than life” is thrown around constantly in the wrestling business, but the WWE roster, especially now that we are in the “reality-era” of wrestling, is pretty much empty of any of those characters. The guys are talented and marketable and all of that, but their characters are all essentially people you could meet in real-life. Just look at the ring names for their top talents: John Cena, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, etc. That just sounds like a bunch of white guys. The only men on the roster who truly have that larger than life appeal are The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar.
Brock will never get enough credit for how great of a performer he really is. Sure, everybody admits that he is a great athlete, a great suplex artist and is crazy-strong. But Brock has a mastery of the subtle nuances that make pro wrestling pro wrestling. When the gong hit and the lights went out at Battleground, the crowd came alive and even though I figured it was going to happen, I was still excited to see it. But what really stole the moment for me was Brock Lesnar’s reaction to The Undertaker’s presence. Despite the fact that he was in a championship match, Lesnar had gone through the match on suplex-auto pilot, casually tossing Seth Rollins all over the ring. When The Undertaker appeared Brock’s appearance went from one of passive concentration to one of sheer shock and horror. Nothing in Lesnar’s wrestling career had managed to get that kind of a reaction out of him, and that sold the program for me. This wasn’t WWE hot-shotting an angle to help increase WWE Network subscriptions, this was a feud a long time in the making.
The next night on Raw was icing on the cake. Paul Heyman came out and cut a terrific promo, culminating in Heyman spitting out the words “You might have sold your soul to the Devil, but your ass belongs to Brock Lesnar” while staring right into the camera, jowls swinging from side to side. In the brief moment between The Undertaker’s church bell and the lights going out, Heyman’s face made a complete about-face, from fiery confidence to abject misery. It was only for about half a second, but again it was masterful acting.
The giant brawl that followed was also perfect. WWE tends to overdo these things and often times they come off as cheesy, but because of the star power of the two men involved, it felt right. As soon as Lenar’s music hit and he started running to the ring, there was no doubt what was about to take place. My favorite part of the brawl was the camera shot after Lesnar had escaped out of the ring and ran around the outside area to attack The Undertaker from the apron. When the rest of the roster had caught up to Lesnar and began restraining him again, the camera shot up to above the apron, where both men were being pulled apart by a sea of wrestlers. The result was a feeling of surrealistic charm that is missing from WWE’s normal programming.
My only complaint about this set-up was that if this was the plan all along, WWE should not have brought The Undertaker back for Wrestlemania 31. His unimportant match against Bray Wyatt in April just looms over this feud was a giant question mark. As great as the feud has been so far, it would have been even better if the last time the audience had seen The Undertaker was when Lesnar had defeated him at Wrestlemania 30. If The Undertaker had remained dormant since that loss, his reappearance would be much more significant than it already is. WWE knows this as well, which is why so far nobody has made any mention whatsoever of The Undertakers match against Wyatt.
Lesnar’s victory at Wrestlemania 30 is the perfect catalyst for this feud. Wrestling fans have been seething about the streak being broken for nearly 18 months. In a time where kayfabe is dead and fans don’t really get that upset with wins and losses, this is an extremely rare occurrence. The fans have loved Lesnar over the last few months, but anytime Heyman mentioned that Brock conquered the streak the raucous cheers would quickly dissipate into boos. Even though Brock was the top babyface in the company, the mere mention of something he did was enough to get more heat on him than anybody else in the company. That just shows how sensitive of a scar that match is on fans’ psyche, and they will be delighted to watch The Deadman seek his revenge at Summerslam.
That is all why I am okay with WWE having Summerslam be main evented by two part-time wrestlers. The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar rematch feels bigger than anything WWE has done over the last several years, and that it is because it has captured both tremendous star power and great storytelling to craft a match that just feels right.
You can follow Jesse Collings on Twitter @JesseCollings