Brock Lesnar has had a stranglehold on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for nearly five months. In all that time, he has defended the title only once. On January 25, he will defend it against John Cena (the last challenger) and Seth Rollins.
But while many fans are likely looking forward to this match, the fact is that many are looking past the Royal Rumble event. The reason for that lies with the question of whether or not Lesnar will decide to leave the company this year.
If he does, it will be a good thing for WWE.
It may seem curious to argue that a big-money player like Lesnar not being in the locker room would be a positive. After all, Lesnar is such a presence and talented worker that he would surely be a valuable asset whenever he's on the card.
Just his name alone is enough to warrant attention, and it has surely brought more eyes to the product whenever he's booked. That's a good thing for the company; the bottom line is making money, and using Lesnar has surely facilitated that.
And there can be no doubt that Lesnar is perhaps the most physically impressive champion that WWE has seen in years. The Beast Incarnate is a throwback to the old-school days of the business, when the top champion was often the most dominant talent on the roster. Guys like Vader in WCW and The Undertaker in WWE were great examples of this. Both men were big, strong and looked unstoppable.
Lesnar's booking as an elite prize fighter sounds good on paper. But the problem is that the execution has been sloppy at best.
Lesnar's title defense against Cena came back at Night of Champions on September 21. The next time he appeared on WWE programming was December 15 on Monday Night Raw. Nearly three months had passed—three months of big matches and important storylines, none of which revolved around Lesnar or the championship.
This was likely not what many fans expected when Lesnar won the belt back at SummerSlam.
The Beast destroyed Cena on that night, laying waste to the company's top guy and leaving him for dead in the middle of the ring. It was a night that Cena's critics were almost certainly overjoyed to see, and it seemed to be the dawn of a new era in WWE.
But that just never happened.
Lesnar won the title and disappeared, leaving behind a company without a top star and a roster full of talent with no championship to compete for. The intent behind it all may have been to build Lesnar as the most dominant champion possible, but it backfired with fans who grew tired of waiting for The Beast to return.
Of course, the question of why Lesnar's possible departure would be a good thing is not just about what the fans want.
The fact is that the WWE World Heavyweight Championship has basically been nothing more than a paperweight since Lesnar won it. It disappeared and with it went any chance for full-time Superstars to shine on the worldwide stage.
Two of those stars are Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. Reigns is believed by many fans to be the next top guy, and that ascension could actually come versus Lesnar at WrestleMania 31. Bryan recently returned to WWE and announced his entry into the Royal Rumble, an event that gives the winner the main event match at Mania.
WWE has two different opportunities to bring the top prize back to the fold, to re-establish the championship as the most important element of weekly programming and pay-per-view events. If Lesnar remains with the company in 2015 as the WWE world heavyweight champion, then a renewed focus on the title will not be possible.
Lesnar is a draw, and using him occasionally may be good for a payday. But it does nothing for the Superstars who are left out of the title picture. Lesnar works veteran talents in big matches, but he does not give the rub to anyone on the way up in the company.
Lesnar's presence every three to four months just does not justify his continued employment in the company. He is an impact player, but he cannot make an impact if he is never there. 2015 could be the year that WWE finally begins moving forward with the roster, but that will not happen if Lesnar still has a grip on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship or is holding a spot that could be earned by someone else.