To close out SummerSlam 2014, Brock Lesnar devoured John Cena in what was more of an undressing than a title bout.
Lesnar spent much of the match toying with Cena like a cat does a stunned mouse. WWE toyed with the audience's expectations in similar fashion.
The result was a shocking and enthralling main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that veered off the typical path and proclaimed Lesnar as the company's most dangerous monster.
On his blog, Jim Ross called it a "jaw dropping main event." On his Facebook page, Mick Foley wrote, "That was exactly the type of match I was hoping for at #SummerSlam—but didn't think I'd ever see. In my opinion, this was definitely #BestForBusiness."
WWE had billed this as the "biggest fight of the summer." That felt like underselling it.
Cena, a 15-time world champ, was set to face the man who ended The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania. A pair of bulking brawlers with star power to spare made for the kind of match that could potentially save the limping WWE Network.
The champion had defeated the powerhouse in their last meeting, connecting chain-wrapped fist to Lesnar's brow.
SummerSlam's marquee clash was supposed to be another collision of titans. It was far from that.
The Shock of the Rout
Lesnar kept Cena on the mat for much of the night. He tagged him with right hands while straddling him. He hit German suplex after German suplex, barely giving Cena enough time to breathe in between.
The Pro Wrestling Illustrated Twitter account did fans the service of counting how many he hit:
A lone boy's voice echoed through the arena as shock flooded the Staples Center. He cried, "Let's go Cena" as the hero to many suffered a beatdown.
This was not how this was supposed to go. This was Doomsday smashing Superman until he could no longer move. This was Germany piling on against Brazil at this year's World Cup.
Of all the possible directions fans must have expected this story to go, few could have predicted Lesnar's win would come with so little resistance.
That alone made this a smart move. From the earliest moments of the battle, fans' jaw widened. Lesnar pounced on Cena and hit the F-5 in just a matter of seconds.
When the referee's hand neared the canvas for the third time, one had to wonder if we were seeing Ultimate Warrior make history against The Honky Tonk Man all over again. From that point on, Lesnar did not let up.
Fans had to keep hoping for or expecting a flurry from the champ. They had just seen Roman Reigns mount a fiery comeback after taking a beating from Randy Orton. Cena's charge never came.
While nothing can measure Lesnar knocking off The Undertaker in terms of shock value, this came close.
Cena overcomes the odds. He fights back against giants and opportunists. He does not spend the majority of his match flailing on his back.
At one point, he responded with an Attitude Adjustment, his best weapon, his best hope. Lesnar kicked out of it. That glimmer of hope faded and the story shifted back to the unexpected trouncing of a megastar.
WWE was smart to do something unique here. Extended squash matches don't happen in main events, title matches and especially not to Cena.
Will Pruett of ProWrestling.net summed up how that added to its entertainment value:
That was a completely different and completely enjoyable Cena vs. Lesnar match.— Will Pruett (@itswilltime) August 18, 2014
The audience kept waiting for the narrative they are used to unfolding, but a stunning new one took its place.
The Beast Now Appears Unconquerable
The nature of his victory gives Lesnar an aura that no one else in WWE has. Ending Undertaker's streak had him come off as a destroyer of immortals and doing what he did to Cena made him appear even more dangerous.
That's not something that seemed possible before SummerSlam. At least not to this extent.
He was already a legit badass, but that has been amplified at SummerSlam. WWE's booking allowed Paul Heyman to tell TMZ that Lesnar ate Cena for dinner and for that statement to have weight:
The decision to make this contest so one-sided is going to make every one of Lesnar's future title defenses far more compelling.
It suddenly feels as if Lesnar is the unbeatable one, the tank rolling over a line of cars. Anyone is susceptible to defeat, especially when the outcomes are scripted. Still, WWE has given Lesnar a vibe of invincibility with his recent feats.
No one had ever beaten Undertaker at WrestleMania. No one had ever made Cena look like he didn't belong in the ring with them.
Lesnar's resume now boasts both those accomplishments.
The Beast Incarnate is turned into a monster like no other with his win over Cena. Eventually, someone will fell that monster and that act has more star-making capabilities than it did before.
Should WWE go with Roman Reigns to dethrone him, that victory elevates him, making him the man who did what Undertaker and Cena couldn't. If Daniel Bryan returns and pulls out a win against Lesnar, it will mirror the power of Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson.
Give Cesaro the win over Lesnar and it would erase every bit of stumbling WWE has done with him recently.
Beating Lesnar will be transformative. Now that The Undertaker's streak isn't around for anyone to conquer and now that Cena has suffered his worst loss, a win over Lesnar is the richest prize in WWE.
That wouldn't be as true were he just the next man to win the world title. That's been done several times over.
The way he thrashed Cena not only made for a captivating ending to SummerSlam, but a way to make his next defeat one that changes a career forever.