Sunday night at SummerSlam, CM Punk and Brock Lesnar waged war against one another in a legitimate match of the year candidate.
They beat, battered and wore each other down with high-impact offense and chair shots. Lesnar tossed Punk around the ring with relative ease while Punk made up for his lack of size and strength with his intelligence.
Unfortunately for the man who touts himself as the “Best in the World,” Paul Heyman was lurking around ringside, and he ultimately played a major role in the outcome of the match.
He would break up a pin attempt by Punk late in the match, but would fall victim to a hard right hand to the face and the Anaconda Vise. The momentary distraction, however, allowed Lesnar to recover and deliver the F5 to Punk for the win.
With the battle of “The Best” and “The Beast” over, where does that leave both Punk and Lesnar? What is next for two of the shining stars from the 2013 SummerSlam pay-per-view?
Find out inside.
Sunday night at SummerSlam, CM Punk and Brock Lesnar waged war against one another in a legitimate match of the year candidate.
The victory over CM Punk at SummerSlam came in what is easily Brock Lesnar’s best performance since returning in April of 2012. Since that post-WrestleMania 28 episode of Monday Night Raw, in which Lesnar returned to WWE programming for the first time in eight years, the beast-like athlete has mixed it up with some of the sport’s most recognized stars.
Triple H, John Cena and the aforementioned Punk have all experienced the rage of the former UFC and WWE heavyweight champion, more so than others.
With his win over Punk Sunday night, the course Lesnar’s career takes throughout the rest of 2013 becomes somewhat unclear. There are many different routes for him to travel before the road to WrestleMania officially kicks off at the Royal Rumble next January, but which one he takes will dictate how much time he spends on television and whether or not fans are treated to another phenomenal fight between now and then.
Unfortunately, a very specific contract limits the number of dates Brock is obligated to work, so scheduling a program for the man once known as the “Next Big Thing” is not always the easiest. It limits the options for the most gifted and physically-imposing athlete in WWE history.
What are those options, you ask?
Let’s take a look at each of them, individually.
After defeating CM Punk, Lesnar could take a few months off and return in late-February, early-March to begin building to a match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania.
The two have history with one another, dating all the way back to 2002. The Dead Man was then-WWE champion Lesnar’s first challenger and the two waged war in two very physical bouts. The first took place in September of that year, at Unforgiven, and the second is the much more memorable Hell in a Cell match from October’s No Mercy event.
They beat the hell out of each other, with the grizzled veteran Undertaker teaching the newcomer Lesnar a few tricks along the way. But at the end of the brutal, bloody Hell in a Cell match, it was Lesnar standing atop the steel structure with the WWE title in his grasp.
They would meet again over the years until Brock shocked the wrestling world by quitting the sport in the spring of 2004.
Fast forward nine years and there is potential for a history-making match at WrestleMania 29.
Every year, The Undertaker’s undefeated streak is tested by a Superstar looking to add to his legacy by knocking off the Phenom at the “Granddaddy of Them All.” Imagine for a second the one man who has always managed to get the best of the legendary performer, stepping up and challenging the iconic streak. Imagine the 280-pound mammoth fighter stepping up the plate and attempting to put an end to the one thing that The Undertaker returns every year to defend.
A few years back, The Undertaker attended a UFC fight and, after the match, had a brief interaction with Brock. Many expected a major match to come out of that interaction, but nothing did.
Now, some three years later, World Wrestling Entertainment has the opportunity to promote a match that has far more interest, intrigue and importance surrounding it than it did way back in 2002. Brock Lesnar is an internationally recognized star, while there is a no more respected superstar in the history of the company than The Undertaker.
The storyline essentially writes itself.
Lesnar challenges Undertaker, video of their previous matches is shown and a single brawling segment on Monday Night Raw occurs—during which Brock gets the upper hand on the Dead Man—is all the fans would need to create some doubt, even if it is the faintest bit, that Undertaker’s beloved streak may be in jeopardy.
The match would be fantastic and Brock would finally get that WrestleMania moment, one not involving him nearly breaking his neck in front of thousands of fans in Seattle.
But a potential WrestleMania showdown with The Undertaker is not the only option for Brock Lesnar following his SummerSlam win. There is another direction, again centering around a WrestleMania 30 match, against a superstar of both sports-entertainment and film.
At SummerSlam 2002, Brock Lesnar stepped into the squared circle for his very first WWE Championship match. His opponent? The Rock.
The match was a passing of the torch of sorts as The Rock did everything in his power to put Lesnar over as a tremendous athlete with the ability to defeat anyone at anytime. The build to the match alone was phenomena,l but the match was a showcase of two performers in the prime of their individual careers. On that night, inside the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, Lesnar proved to be the better man when he pinned The Rock after an F5 and captured the top prize in the industry.
The loss ushered The Rock out the door, never to return to the sport as a full-time performer. It was a loss The Great One was never able to avenge.
What better way to bring two legitimate box office attractions together in the same match by, again, playing on the history between them. Here is The Rock, a cross-industry icon who has accomplished so much in both of his careers. He is a million dollar man in the movie industry and one of the most decorated and beloved performers of any generation in the pro wrestling business.
But for all of his accomplishments, be it records or championships, the one thing The Rock has never done is beat Brock Lesnar. A mouthpiece like Paul Heyman getting under The Rock’s skin, egging him into a match at WrestleMania, would provide for great promo segments on Monday Night Raw leading up to the bout.
A refocused Rock, one who leaves the jokes and concerts at home in favor of knocking off the man who ended his full-time wrestling career, would be a welcome change after two years of trading insults with John Cena.
The match would be a huge attraction at WrestleMania 30, especially if promoted correctly. With Heyman involved, there would be little chance that would not happen.
A match against Undertaker or The Rock sounds like a wrestling fan’s dream come true, but what if those same wrestling fans did not have to wait until 2014 to see Brock Lesnar again? What if they could see him as soon as October or November in another potential Match of the Year candidate?
That brings us to the third option for Brock Lesnar following Sunday night’s SummerSlam.
After the tremendous performances by Brock and Punk at SummerSlam, there is clearly more money to be made from rematches between the two in the near future. Yes, WWE management must be mindful of Lesnar’s schedule and the number of dates he is available that are shrinking with every appearance.
With that said, the company has two golden opportunities to test the waters for a rematch coming up in the next three months.
The first would be in October at Hell in a Cell. Considering the level of brutality Lesnar and Punk unleashed on one another Sunday night, a simple rematch would be considered lackluster. What better way for Punk to try and gain a measure of revenge against the beast and his manager than by challenging Brock to a Hell in a Cell match.
The two performers could bring back the brutality that has been missing from recent Hell in a Cell matches as of late, all the while providing a proper culmination to their critically-acclaimed program.
There was a time when the specialty match was saved for the end of a heated rivalry and in recent years, WWE has not used it as such. Hell in a Cell has become yet another gimmick match, a pit stop in the middle of a blossoming rivalry.
Lesnar returning to dish out more pain to Punk, who is attempting to right a wrong from SummerSlam, would be a proper addition to Hell in a Cell and would possibly help to increase pay-per-view buys, especially considering the strong word-of-mouth surrounding their first battle from 24 hours ago.
The other possible destination for a rematch between the two would be at Survivor Series in November. One of the original five pay-per-view events for WWE, the annual event has seen lackluster pay-per-view buyrates in recent years and could definitely use the boost that a Lesnar-Punk rematch would provide.
While they would not battle inside Hell in a Cell, the potential for another type of specialty match, perhaps a Last Man Standing match or a Falls Count Anywhere match would be a sufficient way to end their feud.
Now that we have covered what is possibly in store for Brock Lesnar in the coming months, that leaves CM Punk with a cloudy future.
We have already covered one possible scenario, that being a rematch with Lesnar at Hell in a Cell or Survivor Series, but there are several others that would allow for his rivalry with Paul Heyman to continue, all the while providing him with fresh faces to work with.
Who would these fresh faces be? What good would it do Punk and, most importantly, where would it leave him to finish out the year?
As one of the top stars in the industry, and one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s hardest workers and most marketable performers, having so many questions surrounding Punk may not be ideal.
When those questions lead to the potential elevation of new or young stars, however, they could turn out to be beneficial to all involved.
Yes, replacing Brock Lesnar with third-generation star, and current Intercontinental champion, Curtis Axel may seem like a downgrade for a superstar with the stature of CM Punk, but doing so would give Punk a rest from the title picture and would allow him to work with someone he does not have a long history with.
Axel is a solid in-ring worker who is missing that spark that would immediately elevate him up the card. Paul Heyman has been a tremendous addition, working as his mouthpiece, but he has failed to deliver that one performance that makes the common fan stand up and notice.
CM Punk can help him to deliver that one career-defining performance.
Working with the Intercontinental champion would also allow Punk to continue his rivalry with Heyman and would instantly make Axel a bigger star and a more serious threat to other main event performers.
The program between the two could conceivably stretch for months before Punk got his potential rematch with Brock Lesnar or began the long road to WrestleMania and, win or lose, Axel would be better off because of it.
A rivalry with Axel, well outside of the WWE title picture, where Daniel Bryan is trying to continue growing his own main event star, would also help to keep Punk fresh and make the next time he squared off with John Cena, Randy Orton or Alberto Del Rio, all men he has had numerous matches with over the last two years, that much more special.
Whether the company would feel comfortable having Axel in that role would be the question. Having him pitted against one of the most visible stars in the industry for months at a time would require a lot of trust from management and that may not be trust they are willing to give.
So what better way to solve that problem than by taking a page out of old school professional wrestling booking by having Punk tear through a stable of Heyman guys in order to finally get his chance at revenge?
With questions surrounding Brock Lesnar’s availability for any potential rematch, what better way for Punk to remain involved with Paul Heyman than by having the former ECW owner recruit new clients to do his dirty work for him?
There is a roster full of young, talented individuals that are left with nothing to do on a weekly basis. Men such as Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Darren Young and Titus O’Neil would benefit tremendously from mixing it up with Punk on Raw or SmackDown and the association with both he and Heyman would immediately boost their proverbial stock.
Drew McIntyre, one of the most talented and under-utilized talents in the sport today, would be an excellent choice to represent Heyman by breaking away from 3MB and setting his sights on Punk.
Someone such as Big E. Langston, who has proven to be a really solid worker since arriving on the scene in December of 2012, could work well as the muscle for Heyman.
And those are just a few of the stars already on the roster. What about the young talent in developmental? The stars of NXT, a few in particular, have been raising eyebrows with their performances on television and could be called up to the roster any day now. What better way to introduce them to the audience and have them make immediate impacts than by having them work with one of the best, most respected wrestlers on the planet?
Adrian Neville, Corey Graves, Rick Victor and Sami Zayn are only a few of the talented individuals who could learn so much from working with Punk. Kassius Ohno, known to most as Chris Hero, has worked with Punk so many times on the independent circuit that they could probably wrestle a four-star match in their sleep.
The point is, there are a number of ways to keep the ultra-hot angle involving Punk and Heyman going while utilizing some misused, talented stars the company has under contract and giving them the rub in the process.
In the end, the payoff would be Punk having to defeat all of Heyman’s guys in order to finally get his hands on his leach of a former friend. It is a story that has been done before, but never ceases to catch the attention of the fans.
As you have seen, there are many different routes the stars of Sunday’s SummerSlam can take. While each would be interesting in their own way, some are more realistic than others.
Brock Lesnar will likely face either The Undertaker or The Rock at WrestleMania. Those two matches have been speculated upon since WrestleMania 29 wrapped up and are the most logical choice for Lesnar’s participation at the event. CM Punk, conversely, will also be in a high profile match at the biggest show of the year because he has reached that level of superstardom, where it is a given.
But as both recover from a physical battle just 24 hours ago, the most realistic path for them to take is that which leads to a rematch. WWE rarely misses out on the opportunity to make money. After fans witnessed the phenomenal contest Sunday night at SummerSlam between the two savage warriors, they are more than willing to pluck down their hard-earned money to see it again.
And the company will be more-than willing to give it to them.