Samoa Joe is on his way to a fight with Brock Lesnar and it’s been a case of ‘so far, so good,’ for WWE. The Destroyer has looked like a million bucks to this point, while The Beast Incarnate has been knocked back on his heels. Each man is positioned perfectly, and there’s enough drama here for a long feud, instead of just a one-off match.
Joe as the fearless veteran stepping up against the unstoppable prizefighter is a storyline that writes itself, and it’s played out better than fans could have hoped for. But will the company drop the ball on this one?
The issue here is the booking, which should be simple. Take the two biggest monsters the business has seen in the past 10 years, and throw them in the ring together. It should be easy, and so far it’s worked. But it’s more delicate than anyone realizes.
Is Joe a heel or babyface? He’s getting cheered, which means he should be the protagonist. But he attacked Paul Heyman and was booed for it. Then he confronted Lesnar the next week on Monday Night Raw, and was cheered once again.
So he’s the babyface, right?
Then there’s Lesnar, who seems to get cheered despite who he works. But fans love to watch him fall, as he did to Goldberg. Lesnar may be an irresistible force, but fans want to see that force quelled by a man just as bad as he is. Samoa Joe is that man.
But while fans wonder which side each man is on, others are asking if it matters. The validity of the heel versus baby dynamic has been raging for quite some time now, thanks to WWE. Black is white and white is black in Vince McMahon’s company, and that’s just how it is.
Much of that can be traced back to Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The Texas Rattlesnake ripped apart the notion of good versus evil and right versus wrong. His rise as a popular heel challenged the time honored traditions usually held in the business, and the industry changed forever from that point. Austin was a heel, but got over. However when he turned face, he didn’t change. He remained the bad guy he had always been, except he played to the crowds a bit more than before.
From that point on, nothing has been the same in WWE or the business in general.
It’s harder for babyfaces to get over, so rather than just play those traditional roles, WWE instead books it’s Superstars against each other regardless of character. Heels work heels, and faces work faces. It’s been that way for quite some time as well, and because of that, the shades of gray are darker than ever before.
Samoa Joe could be the best heel on Monday Night Raw, but fans don’t necessarily want to see him lose. Rather than watch him get decimated by the hero, most fans would probably love to see him destroy Lesnar. But when a heel like Joe is fearless and does not back down, what does that make him?
That makes him Brock Lesnar.
Heels run from a fight. They say they want to throw hands, but when the moment comes to get crazy, they back down. It happens on my time, not yours. But that’s not Joe. When he says he wants to fight, he fights. Challenge him, and regret it. There’s nothing to hate about a guy like that; he’s a man’s man.
But is he really a heel, or the next big babyface? How will WWE handle that bit of business?
Then there’s the issue of who will go over when he and Lesnar face off at Great Balls of Fire. Joe has been booked well thus far, and he’s come out of every week looking better than the week before. He took out Heyman. He bucked Brock. He pinned Roman Reigns. He’s got all the momentum in the world on his side.
So that means he loses on July 9, right?
It’s the bait-and-switch, another time honored tradition in WWE. When a guy looks to have the advantage going into a pay-per-view, he slips and falls when it counts the most. Joe looks great right now, but Lesnar is surely not going to roll over and play dead.
But just how competitive will the match be? Will Joe be able to keep his momentum and stand toe-to-toe with Lesnar, or will he get mauled at Great Balls of Fire? Would WWE bring him up, only to bring him crashing down to nothing? What’s the point of that?
Reigns is waiting for the winner at SummerSlam, and logic says it will be Lesnar. The two men have unfinished business, and that business won’t wait forever. But maybe it should wait until WrestleMania 34, when many believe Reigns will cleanly pin The Beast. Should WWE wait for that moment, or make it happen this year?
If so, what happens to Joe?
Samoa Joe has become a real player in the biggest pro wrestling company in the world. That should be enough. He’s stepping into the ring against the biggest draw in WWE, and he’s doing so on an even level. That should be enough as well.
But the whispers continue. WWE has been known to take an ideal situation and ruin it before, will that happen with Joe and Lesnar? For the sake of both men, WWE needs to get this right. Fans want a great match with a satisfying outcome. WWE surely wants the same.