Now that Brock Lesnar has overcome Braun Strowman, by far the biggest hurdle of the WWE Universal Champion's six-month reign, fans are curious who his next challenger will be. Bray Wyatt? Seth Rollins? Finn Balor?
Here's a suggestion: How about none of them?
After Lesnar's match with Strowman at No Mercy Sept. 24, WWE would be wise to keep as many of its stars away from Lesnar as it possibly can.
It's because of him, and Vince McMahon's handling of him, that the heavily hyped showdown of big men wound up a big dud. Lesnar was in peak paycheck-collecting form, spamming German suplexes and pinning The Monster Among Men after one F5. Not once did Strowman, WWE's most talented new giant in years, look close to conquering the conqueror. On the contrary, Strowman has never looked so ordinary.
Structurally, the match was almost interchangeable with Lesnar's Great Balls of Fire defense against Samoa Joe. Both programs compellingly built Lesnar's challengers as bruisers who could have the former UFC Heavyweight Champion's number. But in the end, both barely left a mark on him.
This pattern of Lesnar's dates back further. He ran through Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32 and Seth Rollins at Battleground 2015 in the same fashion, shrugging off their attacks between barrages of German suplexes. And after doing the same to Joe and Strowman, the latter a wrestler who checks every conceivable box on McMahon's "future star" list, it's once again worth asking: Is Lesnar worth it?
We can only guess at the actual calculus, but it sure seems like Lesnar's effect on WWE business isn't commensurate with his warrior god presentation. If he was responsible for arenas selling out and TV ratings and WWE Network subscriptions rising, then maybe it'd be worth him throttling the Ambroses and Strowmans of the world. But, again, it sure seems like WWE could be doing the same numbers by virtue of its brand alone.
An argument could be made that Lesnar's presentation is necessary to produce the parts of his output that are worthwhile, like the builds to his matches with Joe and Strowman, or his recent program with Goldberg. If Lesnar wasn't The Beast, it wouldn't have been so shocking that the former WCW wrecking ball laid him to waste in seconds at Survivor Series, or so fun to watch them throw five minutes of bombs at WrestleMania.
Even Lesnar's SummerSlam title defense against Joe, Strowman and Roman Reigns falls into the same category. Strowman brutally powerslamming the champ through two announce tables was the best part of a long, long night in Brooklyn. But why couldn't the giant get the same treatment at No Mercy?
The answer, as always, is McMahon. The WWE head is reportedly hellbent on Reigns being the one to conquer Lesnar at WrestleMania and redeem himself in the process. Feeding Joe and Strowman to Lesnar — and Undertaker and Cena to Reigns — is part of that process. And Lesnar, ever the businessman, is all too happy to be fattened up. But if he's going to go through the motions like he did with Strowman, I pity the wrestler who gets fed to him next.