The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of WrestlingInc or its staff
Celebrities in wrestling have a complicated history. For every Mike Tyson and Mr. T, there is a Jay Leno or Master P. People tend to remember the successes and forget the failures, but as a general rule, when wrestling is hot, the celebrities tend to help and when the product is cold, the celebrities don’t turn the tide of business. In 1997, when WCW was hot, Dennis Rodman helped draw a big PPV buyrate for Bash at the Beach; when Rodman returned in 1999 when WCW was going down the tubes, his match with Randy Savage at Road Wild did poorly.
With Cain Velasquez, WWE is attempting to use his notoriety as an MMA fighter to push him as a major star. The fact that he had a legitimate domination of current WWE Champion Brock Lesnar back in 2010 makes him an attractive opponent for Lesnar in WWE.
Or does it? Do wrestling fans really care that Velasquez beat Lesnar in a “legitimate” competition almost a decade ago? Do MMA fans care about two retired MMA fighters having a fake re-creation of a memorable fight? Does Cain’s limited amount of mainstream appeal (significantly less than Tyson and Mr. T’s) get more eyeballs on WWE?
As a wrestling fan, I’m not that enthusiastic about their upcoming match. Velasquez is a rookie who had a few good spots in AAA matches, but getting the hot tag and doing some basic lucha spots is one thing; working a main event match against Brock Lesnar is a different beast.
I think perhaps in front of a hot audience, fans could buy into the “real fight feel” that sometimes takes place in Lesnar matches, and turn it into something memorable even if the work is poor, similar to the Lesnar vs Goldberg matches. However, with the show taking place in Saudi Arabia because of course it is, I expect the viewing experience to be a clunky faux-MMA match in front of an apathetic crowd.
WWE has signed Velasquez to a long-term contract, so I could see him actually winning this match and the title. From a booking perspective, you don’t bring in Velasquez as this “Brock killer” and then have him lose to Brock in his first match in WWE. WWE doesn’t have any stars that can move business, so why not try and give it to someone that real sports fans might recognize? I don’t think it is going to work, but I could see them trying it.
Some other thoughts from over the past week:
* AEW having a time-limit draw in their main event got some criticism because it felt like a flat finish, but I liked it. Establishing a draw as a real outcome adds additional drama to each match that goes longer than 10 minutes, and also is a way to further feuds by ending matches with no clear winner. I think because WWE doesn’t really do them, people aren’t used to seeing them, but time-limit draws have been a proven way to build feuds and wrestlers for decades.
* I liked on RAW that WWE took some time and effort trying to build new guys up, with Aleister Black, Humberto Carrillo and Buddy Murphy all getting a chance to look like stars. Not everyone that gets a little push is going to turn into a big star, but WWE desperately needs some new names to get over, and booking those guys in a respectable manner is a step in the right direction. I hope that continues and it wasn’t just a one-week deal.
* AEW is trying to establish a lot of new names, but they have a limited amount of time for a two hour show, especially one that is very match-heavy. I think it is kind of odd when someone like Darby Allin has a title match in the main event one week, and the next week isn’t on Dynamite at all. The same could be said for the women’s champ, Riho, who was also absent from Wednesday’s show. I’m not sure what the solution is outside of only featuring 10-12 wrestlers all the time, but it is kind of awkward, especially when you are trying to build new stars. I think they should recap AEW Dark more on Dynamite, as a reminder that guys like Allin are still wrestling each week even if they aren’t on Dynamite.
* King of Pro Wrestling is supposed to be one of NJPW’s signature events, but the show constantly being anchored by the IWGP World Championship match and the match for the Tokyo Dome contract hurts the show. The G1 Climax is too important for the winner of the tournament to just lose their title shot in one match, and since they often already start the build for the Tokyo Dome following the G1, it is hard to believe NJPW will crown a new world champion between the end of the G1 and Wrestle Kingdom. Ibushi vs EVIL and Okada vs SANADA were good matches, but nobody really bought that either EVIL or SANADA were actually going to win their matches.
* All-Japan Pro Wrestling has rebounded nicely over the last few years thanks to establishing Kento Miyahara as the prototypical babyface ace of the company. However, the company has failed to create a true rival for Miyahara. Yes he has lost the Triple Crown title to guys Shuji Ishikawa, Suwama and Zeus, but he hasn’t really had a guy that could beat him consistently and is young enough to be a rival for the next ten years. His recent victory over 30 year old Jake Lee was a chance to really make a career-long rival for Miyahara, but AJPW still had Miyahara go over. It is tough to make that decision when Miyahara has been so good for business since taking over; but Lee really needed that win.
Must Watch Matches
Kento Miyahara vs Jake Lee: ****1/4 – AJPW Royal Road Tournament Final