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Why Lesnar vs. Velasquez works in FOX’s WWE

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Photo by Mike Gonzalez
Don’t expect any high flying when Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez meet

It was made clear when the card was released for the first episode of Friday Night Smackdown on FOX that WWE was looking to pull out all of the stops to make this show as special as possible. And that became even more evident when WWE brought out its big surprise from that debut episode, with former UFC champion Cain Velasquez heading to the ring and going toe to toe with Brock Lesnar. And despite that move causing some controversy among wrestling fans, it could ultimately be one that makes a world of sense for WWE. 

A more sports-oriented product 

One of the most interesting things that came out of the decision to move Smackdown to FOX was the fact that the network stated that they wanted to handle the show more like a real sport than WWE had been in the past. It was unclear exactly how this was meant to be done at the time, but the presentation of the program with a pregame show and the introduction of athletes like Velasquez and Tyson Fury have made that intention more clear cut since. 

The introduction of athletes into the program may be seen as problematic to some wrestling fans, who may just want to see their favorite wrestlers compete without being overshadowed by the likes of boxers or MMA fighters. But the move to FOX has given WWE a chance to get in front of a larger audience, and those mainstream sports stars may be what drive new viewers to check out the product and become a fan in the long run. 

While hardcore wrestling fans may have been upset with the way that Kofi Kingston’s WWE Championship reign ended, following it up with two of the most dominant heavyweights in UFC history tangling for the belt is certainly not a bad direction in which to head if the goal is to get more eyes on pro wrestling as a whole. The fact that Velasquez and Lesnar had a history in UFC that led to Velasquez taking a championship from Lesnar gives them a built-in story that is compelling regardless of the level of familiarity one has with wrestling, MMA, or both. 

Photo by Skitterphoto
We could see a match modeled more like an MMA fight between Lesnar and Cain

Velasquez’s wrestling experience 

One of the big questions that were asked after Velasquez had arrived in a WWE ring on the first episode of FOX’s Smackdown was why the company chose to get him involved with Lesnar. The answer to that question actually goes beyond their history as shoot fighters and extends to Velasquez’s recent second act as a wrestler. In addition to training at WWE’s performance center, the former MMA star has been working with other wrestling promotions such as the Mexican AAA to sharpen his skills. With the rest of the wrestling world taking notice, it was only a matter of time before WWE scooped him up to work with them. Now he will square off with Lesnar at Crown Jewel in what looks like an interesting match. 

It was clear that some wrestling pundits and fans had no idea about Velasquez’s work elsewhere in the wrestling industry, as they were wondering why other MMA fighters weren’t chosen to occupy the same spot against Lesnar. While working with someone like Tito Ortiz would have been interesting given the charisma that someone like Ortiz has, the lack of pro wrestling experience compared to someone like Velasquez would have made that idea difficult to make work. 

Overall, there is no doubting that the end of Kofi Kingston’s WWE Championship run was disappointing. That isn’t because Kingston lost the title, but because of how quickly he lost his title and how inept he looked in doing so. But if there is anyone who there is no shame in losing to in recent WWE history, there is a good case to be made that it is Brock Lesnar. And if there is anyone who has proven that they can defeat Brock Lesnar in a real fight, making them a credible opponent in the wrestling ring, Cain Velasquez isn’t a bad choice. 

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