Summerslam 2014 was a very good wrestling pay per view. Almost every match advanced characters and storylines, made things interesting that were previously NOT interesting. That’s what you want if you’re a fan of this grown-up, violent soap opera called pro wrestling. You want to wonder what’s happening next. You want to be surprised.
To wit: Last night, part-time wrestler and full-time meathead Brock Lesnar defeated All-American Boy and 15-time (15-time!) champion John Cena to capture the dual-belted WWE championship.
Did I say defeated? I meant he destroyed John Cena, the man who WWE has spent about the last decade building up as an unbeatable, indefatigable, never-give-up hero who always overcomes adversity, always finds a way to fight back and secure the Happily Ever After. The match was played out like a frustrated video game player just mashing the same buttons over and over again to crush his opponent. Brock Lesnar delivered 16 German suplexes to John Cena and two of his finishing moves, the twirling headsmasher called the F-5. The first of those finishing moves happened about 30 seconds into the match.
This was a weird, weird, amazing match. And yes, I know it’s fake, it’s scripted, which actually makes it all the more amazing. In order for Brock Lesnar to win in this fashion in the main event of one of WWE’s largest PPVs, everyone had to agree to it. Vince McMahon, the road agents, the writers and John Cena himself had to all say “yep, this match should be literally nothing but German suplexes and John Cena looking like a corpse for 20 minutes while the announcers speak in hushed tones about Cena’s career as though he’s literally dead.”
Usually wrestling matches are intended to be visually entertaining. There’s generally a variety of moves in various spots in and around the ring, a give and take between the combatants. There was none of that in this match. It was like a real prizefight where one of the participants was horribly outmatched and lacking proper training.
Earlier this year, Lesnar had another stunning match in which he ended Undertaker’s 21-year winning streak at WrestleMania. The annual “Undertaker wins, even when he’s old and out of shape” match at WrestleMania had become a foregone conclusion. In that match, Lesnar and a decrepit-looking Undertaker fought back and forth in a somewhat competitive match before the surprise ending: Lesnar standing victorious as eyes bugged out in the crowd.
They say the past is prologue, and for Brock Lesnar’s accomplishments this year, the saying is especially apt. Even though Undertaker is older now and can’t move like he used to, Brock’s victory was a sort of rebuke to the 20 or so wrestlers who had tried and failed to beat him before. Here, in this way, he bested Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Edge and many other Hall of Fame caliber talents. He succeeded where they failed.
With his win over John Cena, past is REALLY prologue. Cena beat Lesnar earlier this year in an Extreme Rules match. Cena has also beaten every WWE wrestler of any note who has worked for the company over the last 12 years, including The Rock. Cena is continuously presented as an inevitable force. The triumphant horns that kick off his theme music are a constant at the end of PPVs and Monday Night Raw episodes. It’s accepted as a given that the main reason Cena never had an Undertaker match at WrestleMania is because it would have been too unbelievable for Cena to job to Undertaker. And when Cena does lose, it’s only after a hard-fought battle in which Cena has given everything and all combatants are spent.
For Lesnar to beat him so handily defies the major narrative for the most important figure in WWE for a decade. It turns the whole power structure of the roster on its head. For those of us who have been hoping and waiting for some new development in Cena’s character, this match represents our best hope yet for a realignment, a different attitude, a less inevitable personality. It’s an amazing result and I’m excited to see what WWE does next.
Of course WWE could just write it so Cena wins his belts back next PPV and effectively torpedo this whole thing. So there’s that.