Word on the street is that WWE is trying to make this year’s Summerslam on par with Wrestlemania to celebrate the promotion’s triumphant return to live events.
Back in 2016, WWE announced Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton to celebrate The Beast Incarnate’s triumphant semi-annual return to the ring.
WWE clearly felt that the novelty of the match alone would draw viewers to the event, as the two OVW Class of 2002 graduates had never wrestled in each other in any high-profile match. The two did wrestle once on TV in their rookie year, but that match isn’t on Peacock yet, and even if it were, you would never, ever be able to find it, so for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say that this was the first time they had ever wrestled.
Immediately, the match was mired in controversy, as Lesnar was found to have failed two drug tests before his latest UFC fight, testing positive for masking agents used to hide steroid use. The Nevada State Athletic Commission took swift action, vacating his victory against Mark Hunt and fining him $250,000. The US Anti-Doping Agency suspended him for a year. And WWE…
…told TMZ via a spokesperson that Lesnar would not face any consequences at all. No fine, no suspension, not even a “Wellness strike”.
See, Lesnar was only a part-time WWE performer and thus was exempt from the Wellness Policy. Obviously, this exception could have set a bad precedent for other part-time performers.
Imagine if The Rock or Triple H showed up to a big event, juiced to the gills?
At least the controversy created a buzz, which Randy Orton only furthered when he bragged that he could beat Brock with one RKO, “no enhancement needed”. Not anymore, anyway.
Given how rarely Brock Lesnar appeared on TV, WWE could have easily “suspended” him for 30 days and no one would have noticed, but instead he showed up on Raw with Paul Heyman.
Randy crashed this segment by RKOing Brock, in the process (in Michael Cole’s words) signing his death wish.
Going into the match, Brock made clear that he and Randy had nothing in common, other than having trained in WWE developmental at the same time, and having benefited from some creative enforcement of the Wellness Policy. Orton simply wasn’t in Brock’s league.
Randy, on the other hand, used to think highly of Lesnar, but lost respect for him when Brock dropped everything and quit WWE. How dishonorable.
And while Brock might take him to Suplex City, Randy would send him straight to somewhere called “Viperville”, a place no one has mentioned since, and which I can’t find on any maps.
The match closed out Summerslam…
…and played out exactly as expected. Like this:
Randy Orton then took down Brock with an RKO and tried to pin him, which, as everyone watching knew, did not work.
Then, after Orton kicked out of an F5, Brock got mad and basically said the gloves were off.
Lesnar proceeded to pound Orton with his fists, then caught him on his hairline with elbow strikes…
…busting the Viper wide open. And this was the planned finish.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, Doesn’t WWE have a no-blood policy? Well, not quite. They have a no blading policy. Razor blades are barbaric, but accidents do happen…
…and so does splitting a wrestler’s wig on purpose.
I mean, would you let a surgeon cut you with a scalpel instead of just opening you up with his bare hands?
WWE doctors rushed in and, after an unnecessarily long wait…
…gave Brock a surprise urine test, this being their only chance to ensure the WWE part-timer was drug-free.
Kidding! They stopped the match. The only thing “pissed” was the crowd, who reacted to this mediocre main event with chants of “Goldberg!”
And sure enough, who should step into the ring but…
…whom Lesnar F5’ed to close the show.
The next night, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon addressed the attack on her brother, with whom she was feuding at the time, promising “repercussions”. If she had also promised a bewildering television segment for the following week, she would have at least been half-right.
See, the next Monday night, Stephanie McMahon sought justice for her beloved brother. Sure, lots of people speculated that she, a conniving heel, wasn’t being sincere, but she put those rumors to rest with this deliberately insincere denial.
But then came Paul Heyman, interrupting Stephanie, at which point she shifted right into no-nonsense girlboss mode.
“I’m not here to indulge you, you’re here to indulge me. Now get in this ring and apologize.”
“Madam McMahon – ”
“Don’t call me Madam!” Stephanie snapped.
Contrite, Heyman humbly announced that he was there to pay Brock Lesnar’s fine – a “most reasonable fine” – of $500.
So Stephanie really was only feigning concern over her brother.
But then Paul Heyman pulled out a stack of five hundred $1 bills to pay said fine and began counting them off one by one. This set off Stephanie McMahon, who wouldn’t tolerate Heyman paying off her sarcastic fine sarcastically.
McMahon slapped the money out of hand and told him that he provides no value to WWE, then invoked his children while threatening to fire him.
By the way, isn’t Heyman supposed to work for Lesnar, not WWE?
Stephanie demanded respect – respect for herself, respect for the three-figure fine she levied, etc. – and would stoop to any depth to avenge her brother, whom she had wanted ousted from WWE ever since he returned and would resume wanting ousted from WWE immediately after this segment.
At this moment, millions of viewers at home panicked at the thought of a Shane McMahon-Brock Lesnar match.
Paul Heyman then delivered a comeback that was defiant and ass-kissing all at once, claiming that it was Stephanie, not Shane, who deserved an apology. After all, Brock put Stephanie in a compromising position with the all-important Board of Directors (whom WWE really, really thinks viewers care about).
While Heyman tried to ingratiate himself to McMahon, he made the mistake of referencing a “female empowerment movement”, which Stephanie randomly took exception to. No, it was a Women’s Revolution™, and Heyman was staring it right in the face. Literally, of course, he was staring Stephanie McMahon right in the face, implying that Stephanie McMahon *was* the Women’s Revolution.
Heyman proceeded to effusively praise Stephanie as the rightful and deserving sole heir to the WWE boardroom and McMahon fortune, blah blah blah, and asked that she accept Brock Lesnar’s apology and $500.
So what did Stephanie McMahon do?
Did she bump up Lesnar’s fine to, say, five hundred *thousand* dollars?
Did she demand that Brock Lesnar show up in person?
No, she instead accepted Paul’s apology to Stephanie over what Brock did to Shane. Get all that?
And, as Heyman’s lemon face indicated, he wasn’t even sincere.
The whole segment felt more like two or three completely unrelated promos mangled and mashed together. By the time Raw viewers were done scratching their heads, they looked like poor Randy Orton.
And speaking of Randy…
In WWE’s effort to feature blood in a match while skirting its own no-blading rules, Orton had predictably suffered a concussion. This was never acknowledged on TV, however.
Instead, Randy went right back onto TV the next Tuesday and cut a promo while whacked out of his gourd.
He immediately began a feud with Bray Wyatt, leading to an advertised match just a few weeks later at Backlash – a match WWE knew Randy wouldn’t be cleared to compete in.
Instead, Randy was “injured” by Wyatt the night of the Pay-Per-View, forfeiting the match…
…before delivering an RKO later that night.
WWE made a lot of changes in the mid to late 00s:
- A Wellness Policy including steroid tests, in response to Eddie Guerrero’s untimely death in 2005
- A new concussion protocol, in response to the Benoit tragedy of 2007
- A ban on blading, in response to going “TV-PG” in 2008
And Brock Lesnar somehow managed to make a mockery of all of them in a single program.