WWE's decision to bring back Brock Lesnar as Roman Reigns' opponent at SummerSlam was reportedly made three weeks ago.
According to Fightful Select (h/t H Jenkins of Ringside News), a Lesnar vs. Reigns rematch had been in the works for quite some time, and people backstage began talking about Lesnar potentially appearing on Friday night's episode of SmackDown about three hours before the show started.
After Reigns beat Riddle in the main event of the show to retain the undisputed WWE Universal Championship, Lesnar confronted him and hit him with an F-5 to end the episode.
Shortly after SmackDown went off the air, WWE announced that Lesnar vs. Reigns was set for SummerSlam on July 30 in a Last Man Standing match.
The Beast Incarnate had not appeared on WWE programming since dropping the WWE Championship to Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 38 in April.
Lesnar's return and the subsequent announcement of the SummerSlam match came as something of a surprise because of reports of what WWE previously had planned for Reigns at the July 30 event.
Last month, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc's Sai Mohan) reported that WWE was planning to have Reigns defend against Randy Orton at SummerSlam.
That match would have made plenty of sense because Reigns and The Usos attacked Orton last month following a tag team title unification match that saw The Usos beat RK-Bro.
Fightful Select (h/t WrestlingInc's Dominic DeAngelo) reported earlier this week, however, that there was "fear" within WWE that Orton would require surgery for a back injury, possibly keeping him out for the rest of 2022.
Riddle has mentioned in promos since the loss to The Usos that Orton was dealing with a back injury, but the ailment may be far more legitimate than fans initially thought.
There had also been some speculation regarding WWE bringing Lesnar back for Friday's SmackDown as a means of overshadowing the controversy surrounding WWE chairman Vince McMahon.
McMahon temporarily stepped down as both chairman and CEO this week amid an investigation by WWE's board of directors into allegations that he paid a woman $3 million to not speak publicly about an affair they had while she worked for WWE.
While McMahon's daughter, Stephanie McMahon, is serving as interim chairwoman and CEO, McMahon has retained his role as head of creative, and he cut a short promo at the start of SmackDown.
Given that the allegations against McMahon were only made public this week, it appears as though Lesnar's return was in place far before that given the timeline provided by Fightful.
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