Two of the men who impressed me the most this past week on WWE Monday Night RAW were Brock Lesnar and John Laurinaitis.
I never thought I would be writing those words.
For Brock Lesnar, I had little interest in seeing the former WWE wrestler, but I admit I was interested in seeing the former UFC fighter. I believed WWE would be best to use him for his new strengths, to play him up as an outsider. They have done just that and, forgetting the night of the contract signing, Brock Lesnar has delivered each and every week.
As for John Laurinaitis, I am rarely a fan of any general manager, because so many of the GM stories have been done to death. Add to that the less-than-impressive vocal skills of John Laurinaitis, and he doesn’t exactly blow you away on first presentation (I also hated him because I had to learn to spell his last name again and again).
Yet, something has changed since John Laurinaitis seized both brands of WWE. Ever since he brought in Brock Lesnar and claimed he would legitimize WWE, something has happened.
John Laurinaitis and Brock Lesnar Are Legitimizing WWE and RAW
But here is the kicker—they are not legitimizing it in the way they’ve talked about on-air. I was not a fan of using the word legitimize to mean "make the fighting more real" (like when Brock Lesnar busted John Cena’s mouth).
To even point to the fact that something in Brock Lesnar’s fighting is more legitimate than the rest of WWE is to hang the big "Look At Us—We’re Fake" sign on the door of pro wrestling.
That is not needed.
So what are they doing to legitimize WWE?
They Are Bringing Chaos Back to RAW
As a fan of pro wrestling for more than 20 years, I know it is often better with the sense that anything can happen.
I like to think, on a roster of pro wrestlers, there would be at least one who cares so little or has such a bad temper that he will break the arm of the boss. I’d also like to believe that the mild-mannered general manager who kissed up to everybody could one day snap and attack WWE’s top guy.
I’ve been writing talking points in articles covering WWE shows lately, and I’ve noticed that those shows are often too controlled and too contained. You sort of already know what to expect.
The opening segment, the end of the hour and the main event will feature certain guys. The other guys will be splashed in between. Almost everything that happens will be contained within the same promo or segment in which it starts.
The problem with that formula is almost every other show on TV—drama, comedy, reality TV—features plots that unfold continually throughout the program. Many times I have watched shows that I like less than WWE over RAW because I flipped the channel and got caught up in the continual plot and how it mattered to the characters.
One example of WWE doing this right was CM Punk becoming CM Drunk. For the particular angle, I knew CM Punk was faking it, but I couldn’t prove it, could I?
The angle was playing out in the back throughout the night to build interest. And no matter what you believed or thought, the only way to know what was going on was to keep watching RAW.
Brock Lesnar is creating a heightened suspense because WWE is building him as a man who is capable of anything and may also get away with it.
He has changed the mood of WWE in only a month (this is not close to the same place it was before WrestleMania, when every night focused on a promo-versus-promo battle between The Rock and John Cena).
I liked the attack on John Cena by John Laurinaitis, too, because it raised the bar. It illustrated that this man will now do things he normally would not do because he is trying to save his power. Something is on the line, and he will now be more dangerous.
Plus, there's the added factor of Eve, a woman who knows just what to say to get John Laurinaitis to do things his character may otherwise never do.
All of that is a recipe for chaos.
I want to believe anything can happen when I’m watching WWE Monday Night RAW. I want those things to unfold throughout the night and not in the neat container of one slotted segment. I want women and men to have something to lose and for them to sometimes grow more dangerous because of it.
When it's done right, wrestling does it better than anything on TV. And this past Monday night, WWE took a step in the right direction.
Thanks to Brock Lesnar.
And, yes, thanks to the current-permanent general manager of RAW and SmackDown, John Laurinaitis.