The third installment of John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar on pay-per-view is not being treated as a trilogy.
Per current storytelling, their history only dates back to Lesnar’s 2012 return match at Extreme Rules, which occurred nine years after their 2003 tilt at WWE Backlash.
WWE promoted that bloody encounter Monday on Raw, hyping its screening on the WWE Network with a “parental discretion advised” disclaimer. This continued the theme of another violent, UFC-style fight that will exist in stark contrast with the PG era.
"I’m going to leave [Cena] in a pile of blood, urine and vomit," said Lesnar in a recent promo package similar to UFC Countdown.
The vignette has since been posted on WWE’s YouTube channel under the title "A Special Look at the Rivalry Between John Cena and Brock Lesnar."
Lesnar’s original match against Cena in 2003 is not relevant to this era or the story, and therefore it is rendered null and void. The match received no mention throughout the five-minute hype video.
The word "special" ought to have been replaced by "contemporary."
In WWE’s alternate universe, this feud will not be a true trilogy unless there is another rematch at next month’s WWE Night of Champions pay-per-view.
What is the best outcome for the Lesnar-Cena rivalry?
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc.com), Lesnar is currently advertised to appear at the event.
Coming off a monumental victory over The Undertaker—one that WWE has spent months promoting through Paul Heyman—a Lesnar loss at SummerSlam will almost be as shocking as Lesnar’s win at WrestleMania XXX.
A Lesnar win at SummerSlam, however, will mandate another showdown should Cena exercise the familiar championship rematch clause inherent in every kayfabe WWE contract.
Next month’s Night of Champions pay-per-view is far more important than its pedigree suggests. This will be the critical junction where subscribers of the WWE Network will be able to decline renewals following a six-month commitment.
Cena and Lesnar, arguably the two biggest draws in professional wrestling today, are currently the most enticing option to keep subscribers locked in.
If the SummerSlam main event is truly the biggest fight of the summer, as is being advertised by WWE, completing the WWE "trilogy" at Night of Champions is a must.