Summerslam Preview: Brock Lesnar vs Randy Orton
At Summerslam, two men who came up together in Ohio Valley Wrestling will be squaring off in what may be one of the WWE’s biggest matches ever. While the hype has been unquestionable, the winner is not so crystal clear.
Fresh off the heels of his victory at UFC 200, Brock Lesnar will be fighting his first WWE match since the real life MMA fight at the WWE’s second biggest PPV of the year. By defeating Mark Hunt, Lesnar proved that he still had the skills to be able to legitimately defeat opponents in the ring and this real world example only adds to his mystique as a WWE performer. The company took a chance by letting him go back to UFC, as they have built him to be a undefeatable monster in their own company. If he had lost, his gimmick, being a real-world tough guy would have reinforced the notion that the WWE is filled with men who only appear to be rough and tumble.
In fact, before the event, WWE put all their eggs in one basket, even marketing the newest iteration of its gaming series WWE 2K17 with Lesnar gracing the cover. Lesnar has become a major player as a part-time performer and it is that status as a part-timer that both allowed him to avoid suspension and makes him that much more impactful when he does appear.
Failed Drug Tests
After UFC 200, reports surfaced that Lesnar failed two drug tests prior to competing at the event. The United States Anti-Doping Association reported that during a June 28th out of competition test, the UFC and WWE star tested positive for an anti-estrogen drug called hydroxyclomiphene, which is taken after a cycle of testosterone based steroid to counteract the overproduction of estrogen. Despite the WWE’s hardline stance on it’s full time stars, most recently Roman Reigns, Alberto Del Rio, Paige and Eva Marie, Lesnar himself was not suspended for what would normally be deemed a wellness policy violation. In fact, the WWE announced that as Lesnar is a part-time employee, he is not subject to suspension.
Randy Orton, Lesnar opponent for Summerslam was out with an injury stemming from a match back in October of 2015. The shoulder injury required surgery and extensive rehab which kept him away from WWE rings for what will turn out to be ten months. With his in ring return looming, the WWE announced, before UFC 200, that Orton would face Lesnar at Summerslam. Then, with the draft, both men were taken by different shows, Lesnar being drafted to Monday Night Raw and Lesnar to Smackdown Live.
Invading Other Shows
The results of the draft would not keep the two men apart, as both appeared on the other’s show to send a message and in Randy’s case, deliver an RKO out of nowhere. Orton and the WWE have managed to create doubt about Lesnar winning the match. Logic would dictate that the first person to beat Lesnar would be the company’s future and not its past, but with the failed drug test looming over Lesnar like a dark cloud coupled with the elevation of Orton, all bets might be off.
Both Orton and Lesnar began training together in Ohio Valley Championship Wrestling and both have emerged as real stars in a class that touts John Cena, Shelton Benjamin and Batista as fledging wrestlers who, at least for two of those three, grew to become major stars in and out of the industry. Lesnar was the youngest man to hold the WWE championship at 25 years of age until Orton unseated him from that accomplishment by winning the World Heavyweight Championship at the tender age of 24.
The two came from very different backgrounds-Lesnar an accomplished NCAA collegiate wrestler and Orton the third generation athlete following in the footsteps of his father, Cowboy Bob Orton, whose arm was broken for unhealthy period of time during his heyday. As the two prep to do battle on Sunday night, the notions of real versus fake, NCAA wrestler pitted against a professional wrestling lifer, UFC versus WWE imbue this match with a sense of bragging rights that goes beyond these two; it epitomizes the battle between the “real” fighting company and the sports entertainment brand whose banner both will go to war under.
Can Lesnar Lose?
Last Word on Sports own Tom Terzulli argued, can Brock Lesnar lose clean? The question is a fitting one, given the gravitas that will be afforded the man who does beat him in such a fashion. Lesnar ended the Undertaker’s streak. Lesnar publicly went on hiatus from WWE to prove that he could tackle the UFC, even after he was forced to leave the sport due to a battle with diverticulitis during his first stint. Brock Lesnar, by not being suspended, appears to be the WWE’s golden goose.
The answer may lie in how the men have been booked. Lesnar’s treatment of Heath Slater seemed to indicate that he is the heel, as he brushed away Slater’s pleas for employment on Monday Night RAW this week. Rumors have circulated that Goldberg may look to rekindle a feud with Lesnar, aiming to erase the horrible memory of their ignominious Wrestlemania 20 match. Both men being announced as cover boys for the next WWE video game and although not a guarantee, the WWE has proved in the past with wrestlers like Sting and the Ultimate Warrior that those associated with the game’s release have in some ways reached agreements to appear on WWE programming.
All of this discussion may be naught. Lesnar has transcended the world of professional wrestling. His name carries more weight inside and outside of the industry than Orton’s does and that could indeed lead to him winning again, adding Orton to the list of foes vanquished by the Conqueror. But without ever intentionally planting the seeds 15 years ago, the WWE has done a remarkable job of making us all think that there is a chance that when the Viper arrives at Suplex City he might just take the town over, reigning in Viperville forever more.