Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg at Survivor Series resurrects an ongoing question in WWE.
“When is the company going to build up the next round of major stars?”
These two men are going to meet on the big stage in Toronto in a couple weeks in what is being billed as a “fantasy warfare” match. Being fair, I understand part of the reason for this match theme is a marketing gimmick. WWE has a video game to sell, and both men are available as characters to play in the game as. But, fans who have been around a while know that Goldberg and Lesnar faced off in a less than memorable match at Wrestlemania XX. So, it’s not the “fantasy” that WWE wants you to believe beyond that.
Fantasy matches are just that – fantasies. They consist of people we’d never expect to see face off; talents of different generations or promotions squaring off for the first time ever. We’ll never get to see Sting vs. Undertaker due to injuries, but it’s a quick example. You could consider Andre the Giant vs. Big Show a fantasy because it would be a battle of giants, but Andre is no longer with us. The list could go on for days. Because Lesnar vs. Goldberg has happened before, it doesn’t fit the bill.
I understand fully that Survivor Series would need something to spice it up and booking Lesnar vs. Goldberg works for some fans. It probably works well for WWE’s pocketbook. But in that statement lies the inherent problem: the card needing some spicing up.
Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and others on this card are all extremely talented stars, but they’re not mega-stars. They’re not yet on the level of guys like an in-his-prime Brock Lesnar, a WCW-era Goldberg, Steve Austin, Trish Stratus, Lita, or The Rock. It’s my opinion that it’s for one simple reason – WWE has not built them up to be those mega-stars.
Believe me, I get it that Goldberg has the nostalgia feeling for some fans – myself included. I loved his no-nonsense “arrive, destroy, leave” style in WCW. His prior WWE run was not as nearly memorable, but he certainly had his moments. I thought his return promo in Denver a few weeks ago was spoken from the heart and came off well.
And don’t misunderstand me – Brock Lesnar also has “attraction” appeal because of his history with WWE. He’s a multiple time champion, and he has taken down the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Streak. He squashed 13-time champion Randy Orton at SummerSlam. He seems unbeatable, even if his gimmick has become stale and quite a bit one-dimensional.
So despite a great return promo and two pretty solid video packages, WWE ends up booking themselves into a corner. A guy who has been out of the ring for 12 years cannot beat a man who has done the things Lesnar has done. As a result, it exposes the bigger problem that WWE has begun to encounter. There are only two ways this match can end – a Lesnar domination, or a false finish that somehow protects both men but leaves fans unsatisfied. So, if not Goldberg, who deserves to beat the Beast Incarnate?
Undertaker only has so many dates left in him. John Cena is beginning to wind down his career in the ring, it would seem. Triple H has transitioned himself into an executive role where he only wrestles at certain times. These three men are all huge stars that have already faced Brock Lesnar, so you can’t go back to them and have it be meaningful.
From there, it’s a pretty big drop in star power that could realistically stand up to, and defeat, Brock Lesnar on today’s roster. To many people’s disdain, Roman Reigns was the closest to it at Wrestlemania 31, but even so he isn’t really in the conversation at the moment. Kevin Owens has recently spoken up in interviews that he wants that shot, but as much as I like Owens I don’t believe his current positioning would make it realistic.
Lesnar is much like Cena, Triple H and Undertaker – the clock is likely ticking on his WWE career, so that means at some point he is due for that “job” to make someone go from star to superstar. Right now, there’s no one positioned well enough for it to mean anything. There’s talk floating around that Lesnar will face off with Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania, and as much as that may mean something to WWE’s pocketbook it does nothing for the long term positioning of the full-time talent roster, either.
So the company decided instead to bring in Goldberg, who from all appearances is “one and done” following this Survivor Series appearance. Aside from the marketing of the video game, that’s an issue.
If I were to fantasy book both of these men, I would have held Goldberg’s in-ring return off until Wrestlemania. In the meantime, position both him and an upcoming talent in such a way that when they clashed at Wrestlemania, it would matter for that new star. Likewise, I would position someone else (Shinsuke Nakamura, anyone?) for Lesnar as well, so that he would be facing someone who seemed to be a legitimate threat to knock him off. It may have been a more effective use of talent in order to get two current full-time talents positioned as superstars, rather than this foregone conclusion of a match between part-timers.
I enjoy seeing former stars come back as much as anyone. It serves for nostalgia, generally offers a brief shot in the arm to the product, and when they’re used right it helps build up talent. But we need those big stars of today as well to draw people to the arena and give the product a “larger than life” feel again. Right now the company is brimming with talented stars, but no mega-stars. WWE’s next task has to be to create the next mega-stars, guys who completely change the feel of an arena or television show when they appear.
WWE excelled at one time at making mega-stars. They need to revert back to that magic again rather than depend solely on the men and women of days gone by to draw people to their product.