Since each man’s return in 2012, both Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar have made waves online and on television. Both have had a sporadic role in the WWE (Lesnar due to his limited contract and Jericho due to his Fozzy commitments) and have each drawn criticism and praise. Given the similarities we do have, I pose the question: Who had a better return?
I don’t think this question can be answered in one sit in, so I’ll take a few to develop a good analysis of the return of each man. We’ll look at “The Big Return,” “The Short Term Impact,” and “The Long Term Impact” of each man's return.
Stage 1: The Big Return
Chris Jericho’s return was actually a letdown to many fans. Six weeks of videos that seemed to point in a specific direction really meant nothing come January 2, 2012. When Jericho finally came out, all he did was troll the fans for a few weeks. He made tons of promises (End of the world as we know it, anyone?) and found himself on the losing end of the Royal Rumble. He then won a battle royal to win the right to challenge CM Punk at WrestleMania. The build for the match started off well, until drug and alcohol accusations came into play—taking the focus away from being the Best Wrestler in the World (and WWE Champion) and creating a blood-feud that didn’t need a title. Their match at WrestleMania delivered big time, but the build was full of false starts and stalling.
Brock Lesnar’s return program was the polar opposite of Chris Jericho’s. On April 2, 2012 he answered John Cena’s call to The Rock, and blew the roof off of Miami’s American Airlines Arena. Thanks to the way he was booked for the prior six months, fans were growing tired of John Cena. The possibility of a program that had some teeth to it—teeth named Brock Lesnar—was appealing. Much was made out of Lesnar’s contract situation, and he was booked as a cross between a loose cannon and a calculated manipulator. His match against John Cena was brutal in a good way. There were many heavy fisted punches thrown in the match (and during the build) and Cena was left legitimately battered and bruised. But Cena also came out the winner, to the surprise of many.
This is an easy call: Brock Lesnar. The crowd in Miami was practically begging for Lesnar’s return, and they got it. Unlike Jericho’s first night, there was no reaction of “What the hell?” It was one of “that was awesome!” All the way through the John Cena match, Lesnar was entertaining and was the character you wanted to track.
Want some proof that Lesnar’s return was bigger & better? At the site I wrote for during Lesnar’s return, it was “suggested” that we throw as much coverage Brock Lesnar’s way as possible after that return. And we did. That “suggestion” was never made after Chris Jericho’s return.
Check out Part 2: Short Term Impact!