Brock Lesnar stepped through the curtain in the closing minutes of Friday's WWE SmackDown like a conquering hero there to save the day. Not just from the arrogant, conceited Theory and his beatdown of Madcap Moss, but also from the uncertainty that surrounded his status for the company's second-biggest premium live event of the year, SummerSlam.
F-5 on the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MITB?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MITB</a> briefcase! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SmackDown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SmackDown</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/BrockLesnar?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BrockLesnar</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/_Theory1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_Theory1</a> <a href="https://t.co/EzSJ2unmKM">pic.twitter.com/EzSJ2unmKM</a>
Earlier in the day, F4WOnline.com's Bryan Alvarez reported that, upon the news of Vince McMahon's retirement from WWE, an angry Lesnar departed the arena in Boston. Furthermore, the former WWE and universal champion said something to the tune of "if he's gone, I'm gone" before leaving, forcing rewrites of the entire SmackDown broadcast.
His return at the end of the show is a great sign for July 30's SummerSlam, but the circumstances surrounding his Friday create serious questions about his future with the company and what that means for a company that relies heavily on his box office appeal.
Lesnar's Effect on SummerSlam
Despite a lessening desire to see Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns headline any WWE event at this point, there is no denying that the match is the biggest, most star-studded available to the company at this point and exactly what it needs to help sell one of the most important cards of the year in a sizable NFL stadium in Nashville.
Lesnar is a proven draw and a star with appeal beyond the world of professional wrestling. Fans both casual and die-hard know who he is and what he is all about. He is also massively over, as evidenced by the pop he received in Boston as he made his way to the ring and proceeded to pummel Theory with his own Money in the Bank briefcase.
Had he not returned and ensured the security of the SummerSlam main event, WWE would have been in a real bind to find a replacement suitable for that spot on the card against its top star in Reigns.
Cultaholic reported shortly after Lesnar's departure from TD Garden Friday night that overtures had been made to Goldberg to replace The Beast.
While the name appeal is there based on fans' love of nostalgia and all things Monday Night Wars, we have seen that match in the past. It was not suitable for the show-closing finale of any premium live event, nor is Goldberg in a position at this point in his career to deliver a suitable main event brawl in a Last Man Standing match against someone in his athletic prime like Reigns.
The history between the competitors is what necessitates that particular match type, so only Lesnar would really make sense in that spot.
Could WWE have turned toward its full-time roster and plucked someone like Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Sheamus, Riddle or AJ Styles for a shot at dethroning The Head of the Table? Sure, but the star power would not have been there, nor would have a casual interest.
For better or worse, Lesnar is the guy the company turns to when it needs to pop a buyrate or drum up interest. The spontaneity of his departure Friday afternoon and business relationship with McMahon, though, creates very real questions about his long-term future in WWE.
And, for that matter, WWE's future, too.
What Does the Future Hold for Lesnar in WWE?
Without McMahon around for Lesnar to do business with, it remains to be seen how long Lesnar will stick around. If The Beast did draw that line in the sand by saying if McMahon is not around, he will not be either, there is a very real reason to believe he will be out the door as soon as his latest contractual obligations are completed.
Even if he does find it easy to work with Stephanie McMahon, Nick Khan and Triple H (or some combination of the three), there is no guarantee that he will not take another walk. There is also no guarantee that those three executives will value Lesnar at the same dollar figure that McMahon did, and that could cause a rift between the two sides.
It certainly helps that Paul Heyman is still present, given his relationship with both sides, but Lesnar is his own man and will make the decisions he thinks best suit him and his interests.
For WWE, a future without Lesnar could be problematic.
Over the last 10 years, it has struggled to create its own new and exciting box office attractions thanks, at least in part, to its overreliance on bringing back part-time stars like Lesnar and Goldberg for big shows.
Without anyone with that sort of appeal ready to step up and consistently fill that role, WWE would find itself in a situation where it would have to focus on quickly and efficiently doing everything in its power to strengthen the talent it has.
The aforementioned Rollins, Riddle, McIntyre, Sheamus and Theory all have been in prominent positions, only to fall victim to the dreaded 50-50 booking that never really allows anyone to get truly over. Bobby Lashley has been presented as a genuine star but has taken a backseat while WWE focuses on those part-time stars.
The company also has a wealth of talented, popular competitors in its women's division that it could easily push to the main event on a more consistent basis while trying to fill a potential hole created by Lesnar's absence.
WWE has an immensely talented roster of performers, all of whom are capable of creating red-hot stories and matches; of becoming bona fide stars that fans will want to tune in and check out. Until the creative forces adjust or completely blow up their methods, though, the promotion will find itself in a real jam should Lesnar ever decide not to walk through that curtain at the final hour, saving the company from chaos and uncertainty.