As a 15-time world champion and the most popular worldwide star in wrestling, John Cena knows a thing or two about winning. When he faces Brock Lesnar Sunday night in SummerSlam's main event at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, however, a victory would be unacceptable.
Cena has his detractors, but he is equally beloved. Because of that, he will always be viewed as Mr. Reliable. He is a guaranteed draw against a credible opponent, and he is someone WWE can always turn to if it has any doubt in terms of who should be world champion.
That is precisely what WWE did when Daniel Bryan injured his neck and was forced to vacate the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Cena has done his job and been a solid bridge, but The Beast Incarnate is waiting on the other side.
Lesnar is the biggest attraction in wrestling right now, and his match against Cena is the biggest moneymaker WWE has to offer. One of the biggest reasons behind that is the notion that Cena will meet his match and get battered by The Conqueror. WWE has no choice but to deliver in that regard.
Lesnar's advocate—Paul Heyman—has gone so far as to suggest that SummerSlam could play host to Cena's final match, according to WWE Universe on Twitter:
That obviously won't be the case, but the sentiment is well taken. Cena is a guy who constantly overcomes the odds and is rarely manhandled, but Lesnar is the perfect, ruthless individual to change all of that.
Not only is Lesnar respected across the world as a legitimate wrecking machine, but he has more momentum in a storyline sense than ever before. The Beast ended The Undertaker's 21-0 undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXX, and Heyman hasn't let anyone forget it.
He has even made sure to send some not-so-subtle reminders in Cena's direction:
Even stars from other sports—such as UFC's Daniel Cormier—are taking notice of what Lesnar is doing in WWE right now:
Beating The Undertaker is something that only one man can stake claim to. Squandering that would be among the worst decisions in WWE history. Lesnar is bound to lose eventually, but losing in his first match since breaking the streak and losing to a guy who doesn't need the rub would accomplish nothing.
Lesnar lost to Cena in his first match back in WWE at Extreme Rules 2012. That booking decision made very little sense, but losing to Cena at SummerSlam would be egregious on a much higher level.
Since Cena has been champion so many times over the past decade, there is no doubt that Lesnar holding the title would be far fresher and more exciting. The one variable that might make some fans trepidatious, though, is Lesnar's status as a part-timer.
If Lesnar wins the title and holds it, then it is likely that he'll appear on Raw infrequently, and he may not even defend the title at every pay-per-view. That type of situation irked fans in 2013 when The Rock was champion from Royal Rumble until WrestleMania XXIX.
Despite that, Heyman believes that utilizing Lesnar in a similar manner as WWE World Heavyweight champion would be a lucrative maneuver on WWE's part, according to Scott Fishman of the Miami Herald:
I think the WWE Championship is defended too often and lost some of the prestige because of the beast of monthly pay-per-views. The champion having to defend on every single pay-per-view, let alone at every single arena, has taken away from the special event that is when a champion defends the title. ... If you present Brock Lesnar 52 weeks a year and you have Brock Lesnar defend the title 12 times a year, you're losing money. You're not making money because you are watering down the unique opportunity that the audience can have to see an once-in-a-lifetime athlete on the rare occasion that he dons the tights and laces up the boots and goes into the ring to beat people within an inch of their lives.
Fishman's point is a valid one, but that isn't the only positive behind Lesnar as WWE World Heavyweight champion. In a recent interview with Ring Rust Radio (h/t WrestlingInc.com), Heyman listed a number of potential challengers whom Lesnar could very well lock horns with moving forward:
I see Brock Lesnar defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against all comers. That could mean Randy Orton, that could mean Seth Rollins, that could mean Roman Reigns, that could mean Dean Ambrose, that could mean Big Show, that could mean Daniel Bryan. If there is anyone that wants to step up and try to take the title away, because that's the key. You're not going to just luck a victory over Brock Lesnar. You're going to have to beat Brock Lesnar in order to take the championship from him.
Essentially all of those matches are more interesting than anything Cena could conceivably do at this point. The fact of the matter is that Cena has been at the top of the ladder for so long that he has worked a program with pretty much everyone of note.
Lesnar being gone for so long means that essentially every match he is involved with is new and exciting. Whether it is his fault or not, there is a certain feeling of staleness encompassing Cena.
Truth be told, Lesnar doesn't even need to hold the championship past the post-SummerSlam Raw in order to make winning it a logical decision. Lesnar has made it clear that winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is his goal, but he has never expressed a desire to have a long reign is champion.
Which wrestler do you want to see leave SummerSlam as WWE champion?
If Lesnar beats Cena for the title on the heels of ending The Undertaker's streak, perhaps he declares that he has done it all in WWE and hands the title over to The Authority. That would allow Lesnar to go away until he is needed closer to WrestleMania, and it would also set up an exciting tournament at Night of Champions for the vacated title.
Another theory that has been bandied about is that Lesnar will destroy Cena to the point of disqualification, allowing Seth Rollins to cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Cena. Not only would that make Lesnar look foolish for falling short of his stated goal, but it would make Heyman look like he isn't in control of his client.
Everyone is well aware of how vicious Lesnar is, and a pointless disqualification isn't going to prove it any further.
A Lesnar title win gives WWE myriad options and an interesting aftermath to SummerSlam. Cena retaining would be the status quo, and Rollins cashing in simply wouldn't mesh with the narrative that is being told right now.
Fans always clamor for WWE to provide them with something new, and it simply can't pass up the opportunity to do precisely that by making Lesnar WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
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