With roughly 30 days remaining before WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, it looks like WWE has put most of its eggs in the Brock Lesnar/Bill Goldberg basket. The next biggest name in the company, John Cena, appears to be headed for a mixed tag match, and The Undertaker’s opponent hasn’t been set yet. As it stands, the clash between Lesnar and Goldberg appears to be the focus.
The feud has been nicely booked. The two haven’t had a ton of contact, and WWE has done a good job of making Goldberg appear strong in two relatively short clashes. Now, it appears that Vince McMahon and company will send Goldberg into his next (and presumably last) battle with Brock as the WWE Universal Champion. While having these two behemoths square off in a spotlight match in Orlando isn’t a bad idea, having Goldberg best current champ Kevin Owens at Fastlane is. To present the most compelling WrestleMania card possible and ensure momentum following WrestleMania, WWE needs to keep the big red belt on Owens. Here are five reasons why:
5. Owens is a full-time wrestler while neither Lesnar nor Golberg is– For more than a year, WWE has been touting its New Era. We’ve seen the rise of stars like Owens, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins and many others over the past 18 months. Much of that momentum will be lost if Owens drops the belt to Goldberg at Fastlane. Since it seems unlikely that Goldberg can hold a sustained match, having the current champion drop the belt in a glorified squash match is a bad plan. Neither Goldberg nor Lesnar is going to appear on Raw every week, and neither is at his best in the types of matches the WWE universe has gotten used to. Owens is there every week, and has demonstrated his ability to tell a story in the ring over and over. It might make for a great “WrestleMania moment” to see the Lesnar/Goldberg winner hoist the belt over his head, but the magic will run dry before May turns to June. WWE needs a champion that can represent (and defend) the belt more frequently than that.
4. Keeping Owens as champion gives WWE more booking flexibility down the road – Since Goldberg wasn’t originally expected to have more than one match in this latest return, it’s unlikely that he’ll be around much, if at all, following WrestleMania. WWE already tried putting the belt on Brock and having him disappear for months at a time. It didn’t work out that well. Goldberg is a pure babyface, and nothing WWE can do will turn the crowd against him. Owens is equally strong as a face or a heel. This gives the company a myriad of booking possibilities. A heel Owens could defend against Chris Jericho (who became a babyface simply by taking a few bumps from Owens during the Festival of Friendship), Seth Rollins, Finn Balor or even Roman Reigns. As a face, Owens could face off with HHH, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman or anyone else the creative team wants to throw out there. Picture Goldberg trying to have a match with Balor, or even Strowman. It’s hard to do. Lesnar could have a good match with anyone, too. There just aren’t enough opponents on the Raw roster deemed “big” enough to deserve a match with The Beast Incarnate.
3. Match quality will be better with Owens as champion – This is something of an extension of the previous point. Owens has had great matches with just about everyone on the Raw (and Smackdown) roster. He knows how to work a squash match, a 60-minute Iron Man match, and everything in between. Neither Lesnar nor Goldberg can perform as well in such a variety of situations. Even in his heyday, Goldberg wasn’t going to give you 20 minutes. Lesnar can compete in longer bouts, but is booked in such a way that it would damage his credibility to have to fight for so long. Owens is the prototype vulnerable champion. As good as he is, it’s still feasible that he could lose the belt any time he steps into the ring. Part of what makes a great match great is the anticipation that anything can happen. You don’t get that feeling with Goldberg and Lesnar. Owens provides it in every match.
2. It seems like Owens is invincible – During his tenure with WWE, Owens has never missed significant time due to injury. There’s no way that Goldberg would hold up under a heavy match load. He’s in remarkable shape, but he’s also pushing 50 years old. This isn’t a business for men that age. When younger, more agile performers like Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and Daniel Bryan have all spent significant time on the shelf due to injury, does WWE really want to take a chance that their top titleholder will disappear for an extended period? There are those that would argue that Lesnar is very durable. This is true. However, how many wrestlers would Brock put on the shelf with his stiff style? If WWE wants to keep its roster intact, Owens is the right man to come out of Orlando with the title.
1. Owens is one of the best talkers in the business – As demonstrated by his long-term run with Chris Jericho, Owens can do comedy. His last two promos on Raw are evidence that he can also show his serious side. Goldberg has intensity. He doesn’t have much else going for him with a mic in his hand. He never did. There are only so many times that a person can scream, “You’re next!!” before the crowd tunes him out. Lesnar is very effective in a sit-down situation. However, there’s a good reason that WWE hands the mic to Paul Heyman and has Brock stand glowering in the background when any live talking needs to be done. Owens doesn’t need a catchphrase or a mouthpiece to get over. As good as he is in the ring, he’s even better on the mic. Not since C.M. Punk has WWE had a champion who was at the top of his game in the ring and on the mic. It would be a shame to waste Owens’ talent.
Maybe even more importantly than any of the reasons previously stated, the Goldberg/Lesnar match doesn’t need the title belt to feel like a big deal. Goldberg is the single biggest star WCW ever produced, and Lesnar has made a living off his nasty persona. Just putting those two in the same ring will turn on casual fans and prevent a backlash from the savvier members of the WWE Universe. Let the big guys have their fun, but let the regular guys carry the load…and the belt.