When WWE named their post-Summerslam pay-per-view Night of Champions, they probably didn’t mean it quite literally. They definitely assumed their champions would appear in their weekly televised shows as opposed to only the major events. That’s not the case for WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. Since winning the title at Summerslam, he’s been absent from Monday Night Raw more often than he’s appeared on the telecast.
This creates a problem for WWE and their goal to hype up a main event championship match.
Brock Lesnar’s opponent for the Night of Champions pay-per-view is John Cena, who is seeking retribution after losing one of the most one-sided wrestling matches in recent memory. it was a proverbial train wreck; the older wrestling crowd gazed at the brute force and reality that was projected while the younger fans sobbed as they watched their once-invincible icon get beat.
John Cena requested the rematch not because he is looking to win the belt back from Lesnar. He is merely seeking revenge, and to a certain degree legitimacy from fans. But with Lesnar at home while Cena painstakingly carries the day-to-day occurrences in the squared circle, WWE has very little room to promote the rubber match.
WWE managed to promote the rematch without either participant present with the help of people who don’t even wrestle anymore. In one case, Paul Heyman, the person never wrestled. At the start of an episode of Raw, WWE held a panel in the middle of the ring with Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, and Hulk Hogan in order to discuss the main event match. Flair and Michaels begrudgingly sided with Lesnar despite their positive opinions on John Cena, the person. Hulk Hogan disagreed. And why would he side against Cena, the Hogan of the current generation? Cena would show up later and would promise to prove Michaels and Flair wrong.
Aside from the panel, Brock Lesnar’s advocate, Paul Heyman, carried the little momentum that the match still had with Lesnar and Cena not being at Raw (Cena missed the Raw after his beatdown at Summerslam). Heyman took his role as the arrogant orator of the champion and got fans riled up as much as he could before being stopped by John Cena and given an ultimatum by the former champ: either Lesnar shows up on the Raw before the Night of Champions or Heyman gets his comeuppance courtesy of John Cena.
The way that was executed spoke volumes of the direction—and misdirection—leading up to the pay-per-view event. John Cena announced that Brock Lesnar needed to show himself by halftime. Now, unlike professional sports, there is no halftime in professional wrestling. There has never been an acknowledgment of one. But lo and behold, halftime coincidentally happened during the end of the first half of Monday’s NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts. WWE was working around someone else’s schedule. They were working around the NFL, as well as the limited availability of their main event participants.
Lesnar would eventually show up to save Paul Heyman from an imminent thrashing. And unlike the Raw before Summerslam where the only interaction between the two was an intense stare down, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and the number-one contender got into a brawl that was eventually separated by WWE officials. The crowd booed as the fight stopped, with Cena gaining the moral victory.
Expect that same physicality to continue in Night of Champions. In fact, the lack of action throughout the past month will most likely mean a pro wrestling clinic at the pay-per-view this Sunday. Don’t expect this rematch to be as one-sided as it was on Summerslam. Expect a fight where neither of the competitors will be able to get up on their own free will. Expect the momentum to finally pick up.