WWE has never really been all that good at sharing the spotlight. Even for most of the Monday Night Wars, they refrained from even mentioning WCW even when Raw was losing to Nitro in the ratings. Even though WCW called them out directly on a regular basis, WWF tried to promote an image that they were above all of that, and to show that WCW was an inferior company, even when it was anything but.
But recently, with the acquisition of global stars like A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Kevin Owens; WWE has seemingly changed their tune. Offering amnesty to outside talent admits that other companies exist and are successful at producing top tier athletes. They are embracing other organizations instead of pushing them away.
UFC shouldn’t be considered competition to WWE, but it is. There is still a mainstream stigma about pro wrestling, where I’ll occasionally hear people say something along the lines of, “Why would you watch pro wrestling when you can watch UFC? MMA is real. I can’t watch that fake crap.”
So, even though any wrestling fan realizes that they’re two completely different forms of entertainment, there are still a lot of viewers who will watch UFC instead of WWE, rather than alongside it. It looks as if WWE is deciding to confront this discussion head on by allowing a current superstar to return to the octagon.
Yes. The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, will be fighting at UFC 200.
The popularity of UFC is undeniable, and this will be a way to make both companies look good, especially if Lesnar wins. It’s still an unprecedented move on WWE’s part, putting a major main event name like Lesnar at risk of injury, but there are few men alive who are more durable than a tank like Brock Lesnar. After all, this is Brock’s passion. He has gone on record as saying that WWE is more or less just a job to him, and he truly desires to fight on a competitive level. That’s why he left the pro wrestling world in the first place back in 2004 following WrestleMania 20 (more on that in a bit). After being cut from the Minnesota Vikings, Lesnar found his true calling in MMA. He was soon picked up by UFC and won their Heavyweight Championship before the old diverticulitis started acting up, leading to his eventual departure. Nothin like a little ‘ticulitis to kill your dreams.
Once Brock was healthy again and was treated for his illness, he had a decision to make. He could continue to fight with UFC or return to WWE. Taking his age into his consideration, he swallowed the bitter pill of being more of an entertainer than a gladiator. Unfortunately, The Conqueror couldn’t have his cake and eat it, too… until now.
Of course, this brings to mind UFC’s other recently acquired WWE talent, CM Punk. It’s suspicious, indeed! Now that we see WWE working openly with UFC, could it be that CM Punk’s release and signing with UFC could all be a deep, elaborate work? As much as I would love the intricacies of such a long, drawn out storyline, Punk’s bad blood with WWE seemed as real as it gets. As skeptical as I am, I doubt that WWE would give Punk the green light to trash their Wellness Program as much as he did on his infamous interview on Colt Cabana’s podcast.
However, considering so many of Punk’s indie friends have been picked up by WWE in the past year, and that the brand has changed so much for the better, I can’t imagine there isn’t a burning desire inside CM Punk to begrudgingly return to the giant, oily open arms of Vince McMahon. Whether or not it’s all a big work, Brock’s ability to jump between the worlds of the squared circle and the octagon opens a portal for others to do the same. And hey, who’s to say that such a precedent couldn’t allow for an established fighter with a sharp tongue like Conor McGregor to appear on RAW. Maybe it’s just wild speculation, but now it’s completely within the realm of possibility.
Back when Brock left in 2004, he had one final match at WrestleMania 20 with a certain Bill Goldberg. Now, this match was notoriously bad, ending with special guest referee, Stone Cold Steve Austin, delivering a stunner to the both of them on their way out of the company. Thus was Goldberg’s final WWE bout, leaving the MSG attendees disappointed. Both superstars were leaving and put minimal effort into presenting a solid match. But there may be an opportunity to rewrite history and give fans the Lesnar/Goldberg match they deserve.
Last week, a new commercial for the next WWE videogame, WWE 2K17, was broadcast. The ad featured the return of Goldberg; a greyer less muscular Golberg, but a Goldberg nonetheless! It could mean nothing outside of Goldberg as a playable character being offered as a pre-order bonus for the game, but it also means that he must have some kind of contract with WWE to have been featured in the commercial.
Then, of course, we’re left with a little teaser. At the end of the commercial, Goldberg is being taken away in a cop car. He looks out the window, and when what to his wondering eyes should appear, but a big, green highway sign which reads “Suplex City.”
Ooooooo. Oooooo. Pretty sneaky, sis.
It was a subtle little easter egg, as you had to really be paying attention to the backwards reflection of the sign on the car window. Could this potentially be hinting at a Goldberg/Lesnar rematch? It would certainly be nice to see them put a little more effort in this time (he said, like a condescending high school teacher).
Goldberg was never the best worker, especially in longer matches (Just ask Bret Hart’s skull). But WWE is in a great position right now and has a lot of talented advisors who can help them put together a passable match for a big name pay day. It’s still a cool matchup on paper, since Goldberg was kind of billed as a mock MMA fighter, originally.
It will certainly be an exciting year in WWE, UFC, and in the life of Brock Lesnar. He has an upcoming fight with an unnamed victim-*ahem* opponent in UFC. And now there is potential for huge main event rematches with both CM Punk and Goldberg. It’s a whole new WWE Universe we’re living in, and truly anything is possible. What a time to be alive!