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  1. #1

    Hardtime: What Cain Velasquez's Signing Means To WWE

    Hardtime: What Cain Velasquez's Signing Means To WWE


    Two Fridays ago, we witnessed the star-studded debut of Smackdown! on Fox. It was a huge affair with celebrities and wrestling legends in attendance to watch the return of WWE programming to network television. WWE went all out with this show with a fantastic Rock promo, the 4 Horsewomen having a great match, a fun ladder match between Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens, and a WWE Title match between Brock Lesnar and Kofi Kingston. The night was capped off by the first WWE appearance of Cain Velasquez, who got the better of Brock Lesnar in an impromptu brawl. In this column I will analyze what the addition of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez means to WWE.

    First off, Velasquez joining WWE detracts from the negative image WWE has in the media that their wrestlers are not tough in real life. In reality, WWE actually has a good handful of legitimately tough men and women, but before Cain signed with WWE the only names non-wrestling fans recognized on the current roster as being truly tough were Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey. And while Cain Velasquez might not be as recognizable of a name as either of those two, enough people know who he is, and many will eventually at least hear that WWE signed another former UFC Champion. The addition of Velasquez to the roster is a significant increment towards changing people’s minds that all WWE wrestlers are only good at fake fights.

    The second point I want to make is that Cain’s presence on WWE programming is taking away from the special aura that Brock Lesnar once had. Let me give you an example of how this happened before in WWE history. When Kane first arrived in WWE in 1997 he was destroying everyone. Billed at 7 feet tall and a muscular 320 lbs., Kane had the distinction of being the most dominant big man in WWE. This continued until February of 1999, when Big Show came to WWE. Big Show was booked as a main eventer as well, was clearly bigger than Kane and was perceived to be even stronger. Kane was no longer the most credible big man in WWE. Big Show was. This hurt Kane’s aura to some degree. Don’t get me wrong, Kane was still more over than Big Show, but it hurt Kane’s image a little bit in that people could no longer call him the biggest, most dominant big man on the roster.

    You can probably see how this relates to Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez. Up until Cain signed with WWE, Brock Lesnar was seen as the most legitimately tough male wrestler on the roster. He was a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and had two successful title defenses under his belt. There was no question in anyone’s mind that Brock would win a shoot fight against anyone on WWE’s roster. He was the most believable wrestler in WWE. Until now. WWE is not hiding Cain Velasquez’s first round TKO win over Brock whatsoever. When people think about how tough certain wrestlers in WWE really are, they think to themselves “He’s tough, but he wouldn’t beat Brock Lesnar.” Now Brock is no longer the name that people will compare everyone else to in terms of their abilities in a shoot fight. Cain Velasquez is, and at best they will say Cain and Brock’s names together.

    This is obviously a positive for Cain, but overall it is a negative for WWE. Lesnar just has much more charisma than Cain, who is not all that charismatic. I regularly watch the sports talk shows on FS1, and they do not feel obligated to talk about all major sports the way ESPN does. They only talk about sports stories they feel are the most interesting to talk about, They talk about football and basketball all the time, baseball during their playoffs and never hockey. They only talk about combat sports when someone big has a fight coming up, like Connor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather, Ronda Rousey, and sometimes Manny Pacquiao. They didn’t talk about Cain Velasquez’s fights. (I wasn’t watching FS1 when he fought Brock Lesnar, so I assumed they talked about that fight. But not his others.) Cain is not bringing the same star power with him to WWE that Brock did when he returned in 2012. If boxing was predetermined, Muhammad Ali would have won all his fights because he was probably the most charismatic boxer of all time. But WWE is predetermined and they are bringing in someone who has defeated Lesnar in a shoot fight and that is only going to take away from Brock’s aura.

    Will Cain Velasquez be a success in WWE? Like I said in my previous Ken Shamrock column, combat sport credentials will only take you so far in WWE, and they are not a substitute for charisma. Even someone like Dan Severn, who himself was a former UFC Champion, didn’t get very far in WWE because he lacked charisma and personality. Velasquez should get a pass for having a somewhat flabby physique, because a good physique is supposed to make fans perceive you as being tough. But Cain already proved himself in the UFC, so no one is questioning his toughness. However, Dan Severn did hold the NWA World Title and was a champion in Japan, so I would say that having believability can take you very far in the industry of professional wrestling. But believability in and of itself is not enough to get you very far in WWE, a largely sports entertainment product. I can see Cain being successful in other wrestling organizations, but I wouldn’t bet my money that he’ll be very successful in WWE. But I hope I’m wrong on that.

    Back when Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn were wrestling in WWE at the same time, I feel there was a lot of potential interest in seeing the two of them working a program together. They had fought each other twice in UFC and each won one fight. I think a lot of people were anticipating a Shamrock/Severn match in the KOTR Finals in 1998 when the two of them both made the semi-finals in different matches. The closest we got was when Shamrock was feuding with Owen Hart and Severn was training Owen for the Lion’s Den Match, and Shamrock and Severn had a throwaway match on the go home Raw before Summer Slam 98. However, WWE is not making the same mistake twice. Cain and Brock have a built-in storyline the people genuinely want to see, and WWE is capitalizing on it. They’ve shown still frames from the fight where Cain dethroned Lesnar as the UFC Heavyweight Champion and made a point to mention the permanent scar on Brock’s face. Unlike how WWE handled Shamrock and Severn, Cain and Brock are having an actual hyped match on pay per view. I don’t know what happens to Cain after this storyline is over, but for now this is leading to an intriguing match.

    Cain Velasquez making his first appearance in WWE by beating down Brock Lesnar was certainly an interesting way to end the first Smackdown! on Fox. I feel Cain is going to add more legitimacy to WWE, but he is also going to take away from Brock’s aura, which is overall a negative for WWE. I think Cain can be very successful in other pro wrestling organizations, but I don’t think he’ll have much success in WWE. But in the meantime, at least WWE is capitalizing on Cain’s history and built in storyline with Brock Lesnar, which I feel is something people are genuinely interested in. I don’t see much in Cain’s future in WWE after this, but I really hope I’m wrong on that.
    Last edited by RIPbossman; 4 Weeks Ago at 04:49 PM.

  2. #2
    The Brain
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    I think you're greatly underestimating WWE's desperation to look "legitimate" by using these MMA stars. Just look at the way Brock has utterly dominated nearly every opponent since coming back, regardless of their importance to the WWE hierarchy. Since they've seemingly lost the ability to make new stars of their own, all they can do is attempt to import them from the past or other sources. Judging by the way Smackdown's initial rating dropped off a cliff after their debut on FOX, I don't think the strategy is working very well, but they seem dug in on the attempt. If anything having Cain come in and manhandle Brock only exacerbates WWE's problem that nobody takes the wrestlers seriously. Juxtapose the way Brock utterly embarrassed Kofi Kingston only second before and I think at least part of the problem comes into focus. I honestly don't think MMA fans will crossover anyway to see former fighters have fake battles, but I suppose time will tell if their strategy will start to be more effective or not. Interesting column, don't think I agree but as always I appreciate the perspective.

  3. #3
    Member #25 SirSam's Avatar
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    In 2019 I just don't think the people who are turned off by WWE being predetermined will suddenly flock over and look past that because it is Brock v Cain. They know the score and no one is going to be fooled by the thought they once fought for real.

    Also with toughness the WWE onky has themselves to blame for that perception, they turned guys who could have had that 'tough' feel like Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman or even Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose into cartoon characters. Even someone like Shinsuke Nakamura could have been made into an assassin but instead they made him into a joke.

    I think you do make some good points Bossman and my negativity isn't a reflection of the points you brought up. It is a great PR move for the company but it just reeks of short term thinking that has made it so they have to rely so heavily on outside stars in the first place.
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  4. #4
    LOP's part time glass ceiling DynamiteBillington's Avatar
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    Nice column, well argued, but I don't see this new fat bloke as anything but a negative for WWE. It's just another way of saying they're inferior to UFC.

    If they brought this guy in and champion Kofi kicked his ass, maybe they'd have come out of it looking good. As it is, on their debut show the WWE champ lost to a UFC guy who then got beat up by another UFC guy.

    I hope you are 100% correct in saying fat UFC guy doesn't have a future in WWE.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    I disagree that former UFC guys brings legitimacy to WWE. It just weakens the other wrestlers on the roster and shows that wrestling is incomparable to real fighting. To me it just shows that wrestling is faker than ever before, especially if they're losing against these guys in short matches like they've not been wrestling for the past 15 years, etc.

    I'm not behind this at all and I'm happy that this match is happening at Crown Jewel. The only people that want to see this match are UFC/casual fans who will not watch WWE once this match transpires. Only wrestling fans who actually watch MMA will be into this. Screw both these guys and UFC making WWE wrestlers look weak in comparison and screw WWE for sacrificing Kofi Kingston for this.

    I mostly agree with your columns but this time I can't agree with you one bit. Nice read, though.

  6. #6
    Hey Bossman, fun read. Fun, and yet I'm in all sort of disagreement! Your position seems to indicate that "people," presumably the mainstream/casual fans/non-wrestling fans, spend any amount of time thinking about what happens when pro wrestlers meet legitimate opposition. My guess is that a majority of people look at wrestlers and have a good understanding of what they're looking at: highly trained and conditioned performers who pretend to fight. As fans we'll say call the act something more dignified like "presenting a dramatic and athletic representation of combat" or something, but the mainstreamers are pretty close to right: it's a pretend fight. The athletes are strong and well conditioned and could probably beat the holy hell out of joe schmo walking down the street. But they're not trained killers like UFC fighters. I don't know that too many people are invested in seeing how this plays out, because however it plays out on TV tells us nothing about how tough WWE wrestlers are or are not.

    What WWE could do within the context of their show is say "yeah, UFC fighters are badass. But watch what happens when they step into our world." And then a UFC fighter like Cain Velasquez shows up and doesn't do so well within the context of WWE, at least to start. That would give the impression that WWE is another sport, once that has to be learned. Cain can become good, I see no problem with that--it just smacks of WWE defining its roster down if they have Cain come in an defeat Brock when the rest of the roster has been decimated by him for years now.

    Having said that, I don't see any reason for Brock to sell Cain's arrival with a little fear. The one time they've competed Brock lost. So naturally he'll be a little intimidated, especially when Cain appeared out of nowhere, basically, to cnfront Brock. As long as Brock "gets his win back" by defeating Cain in Saudi Arabia, I don't think anything is damaged by giving too much to a UFC transplant.

    For the record, though, I think they've rushed this to make their friends in Saudi Arabia happy. This could have been really interesting if Cain had come in and worked his way up to face Brock.

    Well done column--I do appreciate the enthusiasm for this angle and match. As an MMA guy, I'm interested in seeing it. I just don't think that interest extends to very many people outside of those in the intersection of the WWE/UFC fanbases.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    You write great columns. Even if it is something I disagree on, you always put forth a very clean, thought provoking piece.

    I do disagree on this one, but your enthusiasm is really nice to see. I'm glad someone is enjoying it. Someone above said that guys like Cain and Brock lower the ceiling on all full timers, and I have to agree. Same thing as the Rock, these guys show up for a bit, and in order to push them, WWE buries everyone else. If WWE could book to protect much better than they do, I'd be more on board, but in my experiences they don't really plan ahead much, which leaves the roster in shambles when these part timers exit scene.

    Regardless, I very much enjoyed your take as always. I always look forward to reading your columns.


  8. #8
    mizfan- As far as WWE being desperate to look legitimate, the only MMA stars they gave extremely favorable booking to have been Ronda and Brock, and I feel that's because they were huge draws in UFC. Bobby Lashley doesn't get any star treatment and Vince didn't even rehire Jack Swagger after he won a few MMA fights. Cain is not that charismatic and therefore when this program with Brock is over I don't see him having much of a future in WWE.

    Sir Sam- I agree signing Cain is only a short term gain, but he does have a built in storyline with Lesnar and I think there is some genuine interest to see them wrestle each other.

    Dynamite Billington- I feel bringing an MMA guy kicking ass in WWE helps with suspension of disbelief. I actually hope Cain succeeds in WWE, I just don't think he will.

    Don Franc- Fair enough about Cain making the rest of the roster look bad, but still, WWE can say that they have another UFC champion on their roster.

    Pennycook Mills- I agree, WWE should be presented as another sport that needs to be learned, something someone coming from MMA needs to take some time to adapt to. I agree that it made sense for Brock to act a little afraid of Cain.

    Kleckamania- Yes, Cain decimating Brock in his first WWE appearance makes all the other wrestlers look bad, but the whole world already saw him beat Brock in a UFC fight, and that shouldn't be ignored.

  9. #9
    LOP's part time glass ceiling DynamiteBillington's Avatar
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    So you think it's OK that WWE present themselves as being inferior to UFC?
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by DynamiteBillington View Post
    So you think it's OK that WWE present themselves as being inferior to UFC?
    It would be nice if WWE let more of their homegrown wrestlers be competitive with the former UFC champions, but it's just much more believable to watch the UFC guys be more dominant. Its important to be able to suspend your disbelief.

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