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 AliFrazier100; 10-15-2019 at 05:50 PM.