Quick Takes: Lesnar vs. Lashley, End of WWE Brand Split, 1st AEW TBS Champ, MoreJanuary 3, 2022
Quick Takes: Lesnar vs. Lashley, End of WWE Brand Split, 1st AEW TBS Champ, More
A new year brings with it new possibilities for both WWE and All Elite Wrestling, and if WWE's Day 1 event Saturday night were any indication, 2022 is bound to be filled with as many twists and turns as the previous year.
The end of the evening saw last-minute entrant Brock Lesnar emerge victorious in the Fatal 5-Way to become the new WWE champion. Not only does it create a question of what his Road to WrestleMania will look like, but fans were also left wondering what will happen with Big E and Bobby Lashley moving forward.
It was an anticlimactic ending to Big E's four-month title reign, and the fact that he wasn't at all protected in defeat could indicate his days as a main event player are over. It's all about the aftermath and how he'll be handled in the weeks to come, but it's far from a guarantee that he'll be involved in the main event mix heading into WrestleMania.
On the subject of new champs, AEW will crown its first AEW TBS women's champion on Wednesday's edition of Dynamite. The best part about the bout between Jade Cargill and Ruby Soho is that it could easily go either way, and there are positives to either woman winning.
This installment of Quick Takes will tackle who should take the TBS title, why Dan Lambert is no longer needed on AEW programming, if the end of WWE's brand split is near and more.
Lesnar vs. Lashley Is a More Appealing WrestleMania Match Than Lesnar vs. Reigns
The biggest takeaway coming out of Saturday's Day 1 main event is that Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley is arguably the biggest bout WWE could book between competitors who are active on the roster.
Heading into the pay-per-view, Lesnar had been embroiled in a rivalry with Roman Reigns over the Universal Championship. Although they were scheduled to go one-on-one at the event, it was widely believed that the storyline was set to run through WrestleMania 38.
It still could, as Lesnar winning the WWE Championship may not change a thing, but the company should use this as an opportunity to pivot to Lesnar vs. Lashley.
WWE has run Reigns vs. Lesnar into the ground since 2015, and another match between the two at WrestleMania doesn't feel as special as it should do. Lashley vs. Lesnar, on the other hand, would be a first-time encounter and would give Lashley a marquee match at 'Mania for the second straight year.
The Lesnar-Reigns rivalry needs to culminate at some point, but it doesn't have to be on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Lashley winning the men's Royal Rumble to challenge Lesnar at 'Mania writes itself.
It's now or never for this long-awaited feud, and WWE must pull the trigger while interest is still sky-high.
The End of WWE's Brand Split Could Be Near Following Latest SmackDown Departures
SmackDown was already struggling with star power, but its depth is much worse in light of recent events.
Right before the turn of the year, Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com reported that Toni Storm was gone from WWE. Details on the situation are still scarce, but it appears she quit the company and won't be back—a big blow to the blue brand's women's division.
Days later, Roman Reigns announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 before Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reported that Drew McIntyre is suffering from a neck injury. Even if both of them are out temporarily, that leaves SmackDown with few top performers going into the Royal Rumble later in January.
Between those names being sidelined or leaving and everyone else who has been released lately, the odds of WWE doing away with the brand split are a lot shorter than they were previously. There are a finite number of true stars between the two brands to the point that having separate shows may no longer be justified.
That would allow Superstars such as Seth Rollins, Big E, Kevin Owens and AJ Styles to appear on Friday nights while guys and girls the caliber of Reigns, McIntyre and Storm aren't around. It may not be something that goes into effect anytime soon, but it's something for the company to consider post-WrestleMania.
Cargill vs. Soho: Who's the Stronger Choice for Inaugural AEW TBS Champion?
AEW's terrific TBS Women's Championship Tournament will culminate on the debut of Dynamite on TBS this Wednesday when Ruby Soho collides with the undefeated Jade Cargill.
Either outcome would be welcomed because both women have been riding waves of momentum for the past few months. The title will be in good hands regardless of who wins, but it may make more sense for Soho to be the inaugural champion.
Soho arrived in AEW at All Out and has only suffered one loss since then, against Britt Baker in a match for the AEW Women's World Championship. It's unlikely that she would come up short in yet another high-profile title bout so soon after the last one.
Baker is still in possession of the AEW women's title, and with her being a heel, the TBS title would benefit from being held by a babyface for the foreseeable future. Not only that, but the TBS Championship could also be more of a workhorse title for the women, and Soho fits that bill to a tee.
Cargill feels like the bigger star of the two with the way she's been built up and how she presents herself, but there is room for improvement as far as her in-ring work goes. Soho would be the smarter choice from the get-go, but much like when Nyla Rose avenged her loss to Riho two years ago to win the AEW women's title, nothing is stopping her from dethroning Soho later on in the year when she's even more experienced.
Dan Lambert's Recurring Role on AEW Programming Is Not Needed
When Dan Lambert debuted in AEW over the summer, it was apparent he was only around to put over Inner Circle and elevate Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky by aligning with them. His rivalry with the faction, while not riveting, served its purpose and saw Chris Jericho give Lambert his comeuppance at Full Gear.
It was barely a month later when Lambert resurfaced on Dynamite with Page and Sky still alongside him.
He has since transitioned into a storyline wherein he is aiding Men of the Year in their pursuit of the AEW TNT Championship. Not only was his verbal exchange with Brandi Rhodes on Wednesday night a mess, but the whole feud has also felt like a desperate attempt to get Cody Rhodes cheered.
As talented of a talker as Lambert is, he adds nothing of value to the product, and Men of the Year have hardly benefited from his support. What's worse is that there is a ton of directionless talent in AEW, and Lambert's continued presence takes away from their television time.
Perhaps Lambert's appearances would be a bit more tolerable if it weren't the same shtick every week. At this point, Men of the Year have nothing to gain from being by his side and would be better off focusing on their own endeavors.
The Aftermath of Big E's WWE Championship Loss Will Be Crucial
All signs pointed to Big E walking out of Day 1 with his WWE Championship reign intact before Brock Lesnar was inserted into the match at the last minute and won, much to the surprise of everyone watching both in the building and at home.
Although the frantic Fatal 5-Way left fans looking forward to a future clash between Bobby Lashley and Lesnar, Big E's booking should not be overlooked. The Powerhouse of Positivity reigned as champ for four months but saw his time with the title end in underwhelming fashion when he was pinned by Lesnar.
Kevin Owens or Seth Rollins could have easily absorbed the loss, so the decision for Big E to get beat was baffling. The only way it will be rectified is if Big E chases Lesnar en route to WrestleMania, but history has shown that WWE will sometimes move on from an angle without paying it off.
How WWE handles Big E from this point forward will be crucial. He needs to remain in the mix to ensure he doesn't lose his status as a main eventer.
WWE never booked Big E as a priority during his time as champion. He can bounce back from the loss at Day 1 provided the company puts forth more of an effort to position him as the top-tier talent he is.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.