Is It Time for a New WWE Universal Champion? – by Mike Sanchez

There’s been talk this week of Brock Lesnar possibly returning to UFC, but even if these rumors prove to be true or not, I seriously believe his time as WWE Universal Champion could (and perhaps should) be up. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped WWE’s attention at the amount of negative press an absent champion is having on the fans. While it’s true that Raw has gotten better these last few weeks, it’s safe to say not that entire rise in popularity has been down to the champ. With Summerslam looming large on the horizon, is this the time for Brock to drop the belt? I say yes, but WWE must be cautious in how they proceed.

Has Brock Lesnar been a good champion? I say no, purely for his lengthy absences and sparse title defences. I said the same about The Rock when he took the belt from CM Punk in 2013 and carried it to Wrestlemania 29, all to lose to John Cena. I strongly believe the Universal Title should be on every Raw TV show and should be defended regularly. It did wonders for the United States Title.

Is Brock a credible champion? Yes, of course he is. He’s a legit bad-ass that beats people up mercilessly, but though his rare appearances and matches are spectacles in their own right, I feel their rarity and his own absence from TV does more long-term damage to the product and to the title itself.

Like it or not, Brock is probably the biggest name in terms of a draw in WWE right now. Yes, John Cena will always retain his own popularity for some fans, but seeing Brock Lesnar really is a spectacle in itself. Paul Heyman isn’t lying when he praises his client in that way. Even if he’s advertised just to appear on a live Raw, fans will buy tickets just to catch a glimpse of Brock. He probably won’t say anything and he doesn’t wrestle on Raw, yet he’ll always be a draw.

This is what WWE will risk if they take the belt from Brock. He doesn’t draw in fans because he’s the champion, he draws them in because he’s Brock Lesnar. To have him toppled from the top of the pyramid probably won’t dent his pride very much, but it does remove him from the storylines and therefore he’s not likely to appear on TV as often. There’s no spectacle or wonder to advertise for WWE, so they have to rely on the talent that appear week in week out, both on and off TV. As much as you think that would make sense by having faith in your own guys, we all know little makes sense in the wacky world of wrestling.

For me, it’s a no-brainer to have Brock drop the belt. Yes, he’s an attraction. Yes, he’s a draw, but how long can WWE realistically continue down this road? His feud with Goldberg was fun in parts, but it didn’t do much for the title – hell, that feud didn’t need a belt involved at all. You can have epic feuds and matches without belts and they’ll still be successes (Shawn Michaels/Undertaker being an example). Summerslam just gives the ideal opportunity to get the best of both worlds for WWE. It’s billed as the second-biggest event of the year, after Wrestlemania, and with Brock advertised will surely generate additional revenue as well as a good attendance. It’s on this grand stage that WWE should capitalize and crown a new champion for the world to see.

How WWE can go about that is another matter. Whether you want Brock to lose the belt or not, he must go into the PPV as a big star and therefore must leave as one. If he returns to UFC or not, there’s certainly mileage in him and his character that’s only a big fat contract away from headlining more PPVs. But as one star may flicker and fade for WWE, another should be born. I understand WWE wanting to protect their biggest stars by not having them lose too often, so I can only see Brock losing in a multi-man match at Summerslam. It gives him protection by either not taking the pin or could see him ganged up on to eventually collapse under too much pressure.

Regardless of how WWE proceeds, this part of the year is traditionally slow for business. It’s the summer months, the new sports seasons are due to start in the coming weeks and WWE will find itself struggling to attract viewership, dipping slightly in the ratings up until the turn of the year when business picks up with the Royal Rumble and the road to Wrestlemania. It’s the ideal time to begin building storylines and feuds for the fans who watch week in and week out, creating moments for the wrestlers who appear week in week out. It’s time for a fresh change.

As for the wrestlers themselves, there’s ample talent on display to carry the show and title forward into 2018. The return of Braun Strowman and his ongoing feud with Roman Reigns has been a highlight of the year for me so far. Samoa Joe has more than stepped up to the plate and is quickly becoming one of the better heels on WWE TV. Though he may have ultimately lost his title match with Brock, he came out of it with his star power still intact and perhaps shining a little brighter than it was before. Couple this with the players waiting in the wings; Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor etc. and there’s plenty of scope to build towards 2018. Don’t get me wrong, Brock would be a draw for Westlemania, but it doesn’t need to be a match for the Universal Title. You can give Brock a formidable opponent, a real spectacle of a match, much like Undertaker’s were, and also have a star-studded title match. Imagine Brock vs Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania. Would that need a belt to elevate it? No way. It stands on its own two feet.

What do you think? Should WWE have Brock drop the belt at Summerslam? Will he retain and go all the way to Wrestlemania as champion? What would that do for ratings or fan opinions? Would you like to see Brock and Kurt Angle go again? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.