Let’s set aside the contractual situation that allows for Lesnar to get into MMA again, and also set aside that Mark Hunt is probably the worst matchup for “the next big thing”.
Well, let’s touch on that – there really aren’t any ‘bigger’ guys than Lesnar, there is one with more inherent wrestling ability (Cain Velasquez), but a lot more with more training and all-around skills. On paper, Lesnar’s biggest weakness might be his ability to defend against top level submission artists, but then again, he has the size and the inherent wrestling ability to manhandle most of those. He’s also large enough to avoid getting taken down against his will against most but Velasquez, and not foolish enough to get trapped into the ground game unless he thinks he has an edge (which he did against Shane Carwin).
Others have said that Lesnar can’t take a punch, but the better description (which Frank Mir has a great perspective on) is that Lesnar has shown that he doesn’t want to take a punch. Maybe he’s not at the Matt Hammill level, but the image of Brock Lesnar stumbling around after getting tagged by Cain Velasquez still has to linger more painfully in the former World Champion’s mind than in the memories of his fans.
In that regard, a matchup against a guy who 1) has no fear and 2) is going to come out swinging and 3) isn’t likely to get fazed by Lesnar’s huge meathooks (of which, he hasn’t showed pure power as much as the ability to throw devastating hammer fists).
The big question in the Mark Hunt/Brock Lesnar battle is how quickly Hunt nails him and if it only takes one uppercut or haymaker to knock him out. I really don’t see a debate about Lesnar doing the same. The intrigue is going to be Lesnar’s ability to take Hunt down before it becomes a slugfest.
But Hunt has trained in this sport for decades and has fought more dangerous ground fighters.
Maybe Lesnar can out-muscle the legend that is Hunt, on the ground or in ongoing clinches, but those are big “Ifs”.
That being said, the biggest intrigue in my mind, as a professional wrestling fan and someone who wants to see the sport re-established in the mainstream, is what the WWE can do about all the media play that Brock Lesnar is enjoying.
The UFC must be paying him big time to be a potential knock-out victim, but like Lesnar said, he’s a prize-fighter. There’s a dangerous undercurrent with that statement, but one that Dana White is betting on in terms of drawing back a lot of pro wrestling fans to this significant Pay Per View event.
I’m just hoping his promotional counterpart in the WWE is scheming up a scheme to capitalize on this.
Especially considering that Lesnar could walk out of Las Vegas as a potential UFC Heavyweight Contender, or he could end up prone on the mat, victim of the K-1 Champion from New Zealand, and thus very much as an embarrassment to the WWE Universe.
Either way, the WWE must (here I go aping the current sports writing mentality) have contingency plans.
Now, if the McMahon family wants to cut some checks, I’ll be happy to spell out a dozen fully detailed and foolproof ways to take advantage of current events, a mainstream media figure and the likely internet/social media/worldwide attention that UFC 200 is going to produce.
If I want to ape the so-called columnists of this professional wrestling/mma era, I’d come up with some zany, half-thought out, fantasy booking that involves nothing of merit, creativity or consequence.
So I’ll take my own path and go against the current.
Obviously the big problem is that Brock Lesnar as one step away from contending for the UFC Heavyweight title (and a world famous sports figure) is a completely different beast than Brock Lesnar slinking away into unmarketability in either sport.
That’s the kind of contingency that the WWE has proven incapable of contemplating, but it must.
Either way, the WWE has to both build off of the media firestorm that likely ensues. Regardless of my opinion of Brock Lesnar’s chances, the best part of this matchup is that it is unlikely to be a snooze-fest.
Then again, it could be, but Lesnar needs to win and Hunt is going to be stoked to win, and it seems like Hunt is unlikely to want to get worn down and will more likely throw bombs to make it a first round KO. If that’s the case, weathering the storm becomes a great in-match story, the likes of which the WWE “Creative” team has no concept, but maybe they will learn something.
And that’s the first Key to the WWE’s “response” – they have to take their cues from what happens in this match, what happens with Jon Jones/Daniel Cormier, and what happens surrounding UFC 200.
It’s been said by better journalists and more famous ones than me, but the WWE can do whatever they want in the ring, taking elements of combat sports, soap operas and athleticism of its wrestlers and make it larger than life.
Nothing the WWE has done in a while has been larger-than-life, momentous or ground-breaking, so that’s Key #2 to what the WWE “response” has to be: the stage is set for something on par with the “Montreal screwjob” so it has to be big, game-changing and a paradigm shift in the professional wrestling business.
Yeah, I’ve been screaming for this for two decades, but wrestling is built on cycles (which Terry Funk told me) and wrestling is built on a single, credible Champion (which Bruno Sammartino told me) and by studying the writings of Dave Meltzer for a quarter-century I know that the professional wrestling world is so far removed from either of those strongly held perspectives of professional wrestling royalty that it would take something earth-shattering to re-align the basic concepts.
That can be done.
Whether it will be, is Key #3.
As for my take, we don’t need a squash match or a long build-up, and strangely enough the WWE can almost be business-as-usual in things… whomever they want to bring out in the opening to call out Brock Lesnar is up to “Creative”.
But the differences between MMA and WWE have to be laid out, a speech detailing that professional wrestlers fight every night, not 3 times a year, and that Lesnar better be prepared, because he has a match tonight.
A nice touch might be to do it immediately, or to note that it will start at 11:56, just to get the hype rolling, but the immediate response should be Paul Heyman clumsily taking the challenge and putting Lesnar in the match, no matter how Lesnar emotes in the background.
Who does Lesnar wrestle? What is Key #4?
That remains to be decided by better minds than mine, but I would avoid anyone on the roster (except for Dean Ambrose, Apollo Crews or Cesario) and would suggest a big splash by someone who can makes waves afterwards.
The WWE has talent in the pipeline, and surely someone could fill the role.
That person has to stand up to Lesnar, make a quick speech, and tell him that his time has passed.
And then, with Key #5, the moment must happen. In my opinion, the so-called “script” must be thrown out of the window, and Lesnar is at the core. His reaction to someone not playing along with the notion of professional wrestling is what makes it all happen.
I’ll leave the details and framework for others to take up, build upon and make work. But probably best to imagine someone in the background, smirking and ready to be the mouthpiece of the new force and the new era.
Or, we could imagine Lesnar flipping the expectations and changing the dynamics himself.
But no matter who, how or the next few chapters, there’s a window of opportunity here, and if the WWE misses it (I’d say they have two weeks to do it), then it will be one more milepost along the way to the oblivion of professional wrestling as we know it, instead of the entrance ramp to a new way of looking at things.
Joe Babinsack can be reached at [email protected] Looking forward to this being the start of another era of my pro wrestling writing career, after recovering from an accident.