With Summerslam just around the corner, excitement is starting to build for the second biggest show in WWE’s calendar. The card has some tantalising matchups, with AJ Styles taking on John Cena, fan favourites Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler doing battle for the WWE World Championship as well as the mouth-watering prospect of Seth Rollins facing off against Finn Bálor to crown the inaugural Universal Champion.
However, one of the biggest draws of the night has me more annoyed than excited, and could prove to be divisive among fans. I’m talking, of course, about the return of “The Beast Incarnate”, “The 1 in 21-1”, or, in the words of Mark Hunt, the “Juiced up freaking monkey”, Brock Lesnar.
To begin, it must be said that Lesnar’s athletic career to date has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. A decorated high school and collegiate wrestler, he went on to sign for WWE, where he is a four-time world champion. After he left in 2004, he had a brief professional football career, before wrestling for NJPW, where he became the IWGP champion on his debut. Since then he has added UFC Heavyweight Champion to his list of achievements. The man seems to excel at anything he tries his hand at.
Along with the success and praise he has received, however, allegations of steroid or PED abuse have followed Lesnar throughout his career. In a 2008 interview with ESPN, when the interviewer seemingly began to broach the subject, Lesnar walked off, saying “That’s it. We’re done. Thanks, guys”, and later said “I have never failed a f**king drug test.”
In the lead up to his UFC 200 fight against Mark Hunt in July, speculation again began circulating about his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs, to which Lesnar responded “I’m a white boy and I’m jacked- deal with it.”
His dismissal of these allegations and apparent disgust at even being asked about them has come back to bite him though, with Brock failing two drug tests taken by the USADA in the run up to the July 9 event. Lesnar now faces a fine and a 2 year ban from competing in UFC, most likely ending his MMA career, as well as his victory over Mark Hunt by unanimous decision being overturned and ruled a No Contest.
All eyes were on the WWE after the announcement, with Lesnar set to return for Summerslam on August 21 against an also-returning Randy Orton. With the event coming so soon after the failed drug test and with Hunt continuing to attack the UFC and Lesnar over the violation ( https://youtu.be/_Lg7b1P550g ) , the WWE found themselves in a sticky situation. Do they cancel the match between Orton and Lesnar, wait for things to die down and bring Brock back at a later date when much has been forgotten, or go ahead with the match, knowing in this day and age that the vast majority of wrestling fans will be aware of Brock’s recent transgression, and hope for the best?
Personally, I feel the WWE should have pulled the match. Brock has always been touted as a beast and an unbeatable monster, but is that anything to be proud of when it’s just been proven he used banned performance enhancing substances, intentionally or otherwise, in the run up to an MMA fight? Why should his unsportsmanlike and potentially dangerous conduct be tolerated, especially so soon after Roman Reigns’s suspension? It seems like double standards, and is very unfair to more deserving and honest performers on the roster who I’m sure would do anything to be in Brock’s position.
As it turns out, the match will go ahead. Lesnar was not suspended, with the reason given by the WWE being that part-time wrestlers are not subject to testing under their wellness policy. I can grudgingly accept this decision since Lesnar has always been a massive draw, both for the WWE and UFC. And of course, money talks.
This brings me, however, to my main reason for disliking this matchup: the WWE have not acknowledged Lesnar’s violation on air. Paul Heyman, one of the best in the industry on the mic of all time, and an expert in treading the line between real life and kayfabe appeared on Monday Night Raw, and did not acknowledge Lesnar’s violation. The only reference to it in WWE’s programming was one line by Randy Orton in his interview on the Highlight Reel with Chris Jericho at Battleground. If any wrestling fan searches the name “Brock Lesnar” right now, they won’t have to look far to see him being called a drug abuser and a cheat, yet the WWE are acting like it didn’t happen. In my opinion, it’s patronising to fans and a missed opportunity. With Lesnar being a part-timer and Orton recently returning from injury, this could have been a chance to give some meaning to a half-baked feud in a very short time but the WWE, I feel, have dropped the ball.
Going in to Summerslam, I am expecting another win for Lesnar. I do hope that his astronomical push is soon coming to an end, but I’m not convinced Randy Orton is the man for the job. I can get behind a wrestler being booked as an unstoppable force, but with Lesnar’s recent actions I look forward to him meeting an immovable object in the near future.