On Saturday night, Brock Lesnar won the WWE Championship at WWE’s first premier live event (no longer called pay-per-views) of the year, Day 1. Confused? Let’s go down the rabbit of events that led to this unexpected occurrence.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns was scheduled to defend the title against Brock Lesnar. Two hours before the event, Reigns announced on Twitter that is tested positive for COVID-19 and pulled from the show.
Thirty minutes later, WWE announced the Fatal Four Way featuring Big E defending the WWE Championship against Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and Bobby Lashley was now a Fatal Five Way with Lesnar officially injected into the match.
The shake-up produced a plethora of burning questions heading into the match.
- How long will Roman Reigns be off television?
- Will Roman Reigns take another leave of absence since he’s immune-compromised?
- Will Big E walk out as WWE Champion?
- Is Brock Lesnar winning the WWE Title?
- Will Bobby Lashley and Brock Lesnar finally collide?
The last question burned like a wild flame as the possibility of finally seeing Lesnar and Lashley wrestle each other was a dream match finally coming to fruition. However, there was a problem. Lashley has been in WWE for over three years, and the match has never even come close to happening.
Early last year, reports stated that a Lashley vs. Lesnar match was “denied” without saying who made the denial. Other reports suggested that Lesnar was the one who rejected the idea of wrestling Lashley saying, “I’m not interested.”
Multi-man matches in WWE often exhibit a formula where some participants get taken out for a short time while others work the match for a few minutes. One of the sidelined wrestlers will recover and take out one of the active wrestlers to change up the tempo.
Such a match set up with multiple wrestlers along with reports canceling out a Lesnar/Lashley confrontation meant that the two goliaths might not even touch each other. There were more than enough talented performers in the match to provide plenty of action while ensuring Lesnar and Lashley miss each other at the dance.
The match was a fun, action-packed sprint that was less concerned with storytelling until the finish and more concerned with significant moments in rapid succession. Most of the time, a match with big action set pieces for the sake of action ring hollow. Not this one, which is a credit to all five wrestlers.
Not only did Bobby Lashley and Brock Lesnar collide Lashley won every exchange, with Lesnar not getting in a single shot. Their first-ever interaction saw Lashley spear Lesnar through the barricade, which garnered a huge pop. It was a pleasant surprise since everyone envisioned an O.K. Corral style stare down as the dust settled for their first encounter.
The closing moments of the match saw Lashley spear Lesnar for a close near fall and apply The Hurt Lock. In a surprising turn of events, Lesnar couldn’t break free until Big E broke up the hold.
Big E hoisted up Lesnar for the Big Ending, but Lesnar slipped out and delivered the F-5 to win the championship. Lesnar and Lashley had a post-match stare down, and the show ended with Lesnar celebrating with title in hand.
Two important things to examine here.
Whether the match happens at the Royal Rumble or WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley is clearly on the horizon! Lesnar dominated everyone but Lashley dominated Lesnar. Even though Lesnar won the Fatal Five Way, Lashley was the most protected wrestler in the match.
It was a smart move to heat up “The Almighty” by showing his credibility against the champion, such as Lesnar being unable to break free of The Hurt Lock. It’s a story WWE can tell when they start building up the match,
It’s been nearly five years since Lesnar, from a narrative perspective, has been in a vulnerable position. The program would be similar to Lesnar’s feud with Samoa Joe in 2017. Joe choked out Lesnar at will, leading to their match. It will be interesting to see it again, this time, against someone who is his physical equal.
Big E getting pinned to lose the title left many with a sour taste in their mouth. The champion doesn’t have to be pinned to lose the title. WWE could have protected Big E here by having either Seth Rollins or Kevin Owens serving as a saboteur of sorts, preventing E from getting back in the ring as Lesnar scored the win.
Lesnar could have beat Owens to win the title as Rollins kept Big E from breaking up the pin. Big E drops the title without losing and feuds with Rollins over the incident. Meanwhile, no one will care that Lesnar didn’t beat the championship because we’re getting the dream match against Lashley.
But WWE didn’t do anything like that.
A Day 1 results graphic accidentally released on Twitter lists Big E beating Lashley in the initially scheduled Fatal Four Way to retain the title. That must be a mind f%$# for Big E, who won the title in September, did WWE proud as champion in and out of the ring, only to be cast aside when panic strikes.
Lesnar pinning Big E means WWE felt it was more important for Lesnar to beat the champion than protect Big E. It similarly echoes Lesnar beating Kofi Kingston in seven seconds to win the WWE Title in 2019, and Kofi hasn’t whiffed another title run ever since.
Heck, Lesnar even came out last on Saturday, a role generally reserved for the champion.
Putting my tinfoil hat on, Roman Reigns may be taking time off until Omicron cases decrease. It is also possible WWE doesn’t know if Reigns will take an extended leave of absence. If so, that means Big E would have been WWE’s sole world champion on television for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps, Vince McMahon didn’t feel Big E was a big enough star to take on such a role in the brand split era. However, Brock Lesnar is a big enough star to helm such a position.
If Reigns is out indefinitely and Drew McIntyre’s reported neck injury keeps him out of action, that weakens the SmackDown side of things to an alarming degree. One idea is to vacate the Universal Championship and put it on the line in the men’s Royal Rumble match.
In the end, Big E was a victim of panic booking, but it’s hard to blame WWE considering the options at their disposal. Brock Lesnar is their biggest star, and his “free agent” status allows him to appear on both Raw and SmackDown.
It’s a tough pill to swallow if you’re a Big E fan; however, he will be back in the driver’s seat. If you’ve always wanted to see Lesnar/Lashley in what will be their first match against each other, the dream match is finally happening.