Is Brock Lesnar’s return good for the wrestling business?

Well – here comes the pain! Last night on Raw, the rumours that had been circulating all week pre-Maniacame true: former WWE and UFC Champion Brock Lesnar returned to World Wrestling Entertainment. But, Ben Veal asks – is it a good idea?

In a moment when time seemed to stand still, last night Brock Lesnar interrupted John Cena‘s challenge to The Rock, entering Miami’s American Airlines Arena to his old music, and looking (almost) identical to the way fans remembered him. Taking in the moment and basking in the thunderous ovation which greeted him, Lesnar methodically made his way to the ring, stood face to face with Cena, seemingly accepted his extended palm for a welcoming handshake … and then delivered an F5 to close out the show.

It was a scene reminiscent of Goldberg‘s debut against The Rock on the same show nine years previously – and it was every bit as memorable. Lesnar needed know words here to send an emphatic message: BROCK IS BACK.

A truly dominating force

In his short WWE tenure, Lesnar was given a monster push the likes of which few – if any – have ever known: King of the Ring winner. Three WWE championships. WrestleMania main event. Clean wins over The Rock, Hulk Hogan and Kurt Angle, amongst others. Lesnar arrived in the WWE at a time of transition for the company – the mismanaged WCW Invasion had fizzled out, Hogan’s nostalgia act was losing its sheen, and Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock’s full-time careers were drawing to a close. Lesnar was a breath of fresh air for fans in need of a new superstar, and he quickly was elevated to the very zenith of the wrestling mountain.

Yet it was after losing his first WWE Title to The Big Show (yes, that really happened) that Lesnar really came into his own, in his terrific feud with Kurt Angle which spanned much of 2003 and was a dream come true for amateur wrestling fans.

Sadly, Brock’s final outing for WWE was anything but a highlight – the long-awaited Goldberg v Lesnar WrestleMania XX clash of the monsters was anything but, a truly dire swansong for two of the sport’s greatest big men.

Of course, that’s all but forgotten by most fans now – thanks to Lesnar’s highly documented run as the UFC Champion which defied critics and left fans in no doubt whatsoever that Brock was one very tough fighter indeed.

But what does this now mean?

Lesnar has signed a one-year deal with WWE which will see him make a minimum of two appearances every month all the way up to WrestleMania 29, according to Mike Johnson of PW Insider.

It’s more of a commitment than most were expecting; many (myself included) doubted that we would ever see Brock in a WWE ring again.

Having him back is a huge addition to a roster starved of main-event talent, and not just in terms of marquee attraction value: there are very few bonafide WWE main-eventers right now capable of pulling off a five-star match.

It’s a different landscape now, but some of the old faces from Lesnar’s run are still major players in the WWE:Randy OrtonKane, The Big Show, The UndertakerChris JerichoTriple H and, of course, John Cena (who was wrestling in the opening match of Mania on the night of Lesnar’s last match. How times have changed).

But there’s also a run of new faces, and the prospect of Lesnar facing some of these is very tantalising indeed: The MizSheamusCody RhodesDolph ZigglerDaniel BryanCM Punk.

And then, of course – there’s The Rock.

Few fans are going to forget Brock vs Rock from SummerSlam 2002 – a night when Lesnar shocked the wrestling world by pinning The Great One, clean, just four months after debuting with the company. With the ten year anniversary of that match fast approaching and both currently in WWE, surely there’s a strong-possibility of this rematch taking place in August.

Following Raw, it looks like Lesnar will be going straight in at the top with a feud with Cena. Whether that’s a good idea or not remains to be seen – the same strategy didn’t work with Goldberg nine years ago, and WWE needs to remember that the post-Mania arena crowd is not their usual audience: a lot of new fans have come to the WWE since 2004, and will need to be educated on Lesnar and the impact that he had on the sport. Going immediately into a one-on-one bout with SuperCena may not be the best way to re-introduce Lesnar as a dominant monster.

That being said, whilst I’m wary of WWE’s current reliance on nostalgia acts and part-time performers, Brock Lesnar, used correctly, should be a tremendous addition to WWE programming in 2012, and hopefully beyond. Lesnar left too quickly for most fans – he was just coming into his stride as a heel in his feud with the late Eddie Guerrero in early 2004 just before he left, and many felt that he had a long future ahead of him in the squared circle.

Now that he’s proved his critics wrong and dominated in UFC, it will be interesting to see whether the addition of Lesnar will be able to freshen up the WWE product. I for one am certainly pleased to have him back.

Oh yes, I almost forgot – Lesnar wasn’t the only one to make an impact last night. Lord Tensai also debuted last night at Raw, destroying Alex Riley. Funny, even though he’s from Japan, he looks an awful lot like A-Train