WWE Payback 2017: Will Brock Lesnar’s Absence Hurt the Show?


Brock Lesnar won’t be defending the WWE Universal Championship at Payback, but will his glaring absence harm the show?

This Sunday, WWE hosts Payback – its first pay-per-view event since the spectacle that was WrestleMania 33 – and the deck is pretty stacked to say the least.

Having come out of the “Superstar Shake-Up” with Raw boasting an undeniably better roster, as the likes of Dean Ambrose, The Miz and former WWE Champion Bray Wyatt joined the flagship show, there are a whole host of match-ups on display this Sunday that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen on the red side of the spectrum.

What’s more is that we also have two of SmackDown Live’s top champions in Randy Orton and Kevin Owens both participating in high stakes matches which, while maybe a little easy to predict, will hold the fort down nicely in terms of in-ring standard and that “big fight feel” a WWE pay-per-view is supposed to evoke.

Newcomers aside, there is one distinct elephant in the room with regards to Sunday’s lineup, and it’s the fact that the Universal Championship will not be up for grabs.

This is a concern that many fans have had since even before Fastlane in February, when Goldberg captured the title from Kevin Owens so he could sweeten the deal for his and Brock Lesnar’s inevitable grudge match in the Citrus Bowl.

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Part-timers have a history of being off television for prolonged periods of time, and often miss the “B-shows” like Payback when the full-time guys are going to be busting their humps like any other night. So, it’s always a valid concern to have when your world champion is nowhere to be found until it matters most.

That said, if you look past the initial horror of the champion being absent, you may find that this could actually benefit the show – as well as the competitors involved.

With Kevin Owens now in the U.S. Title picture on another show, and the customary rematch clause from his loss to Goldberg seemingly in the wind, who else is there to stand up to “The Beast Incarnate” so soon after WrestleMania?

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Obviously, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman have become the leading candidates, what with Strowman staking his claim the night after ‘Mania and Heyman pin-pointing Reigns himself as a worthy foe.

However, there’s not a whole lot of good that would have come from either of those men facing Brock Lesnar with only four weeks to build the match.

First of all, Strowman was barely a footnote in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, being eliminated in ridiculously quick fashion despite being the favorite.

Heck, based on WrestleMania, Jinder Mahal deserved to face Lesnar over Strowman, seeing as he was the Raw star that lasted the longest in the battle royal.

That analogy is a little less effective now knowing that Mahal is, in fact, the #1 contender to the WWE Championship on team blue, but that’s a lot more forgivable – seeing as SmackDown has no top heel challengers aside from Corbin at the moment, and WWE doesn’t quite want to pull the trigger on his push just yet.

In the build-up to Payback alone, Strowman has redeemed his loss at WrestleMania by not only stepping up to Lesnar face-to-face, but by single-handedly destroying Roman Reigns along with The Big Show, and several of Raw’s undercard performers.

Throw in a potential victory at Payback and you not only have a worthy challenger for Brock Lesnar, but Braun Strowman starts looking like a worthy champion.

On the Reigns side of things, the obvious endgame here is Brock vs. Roman.

Like it or not, it makes sense that we’re going to see the only two men in history to have beaten The Undertaker at WrestleMania, square off for Raw’s holy grail.

Plus, there’s unfinished business here since the only time Lesnar and Reigns have gone one-on-one, it ended with Rollins as the victor. The rematch virtually promises a decisive winner, and to deliver that so soon after WrestleMania would just derail the momentum of one of the two biggest names in wrestling today.

One could argue that Strowman’s attack on Reigns has already done that job to no fault, but the way WWE sees it, if you get attacked from behind it doesn’t really count.

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When Roman is at his A-game is when it really matters, so there’s a good chance he beats Strowman come Sunday – as sad as it will be to see.

Reigns and Strowman both needed Payback so they could build themselves up to become an underdog and a monster respectively, so that alone should excuse Lesnar’s absence.

If you need anything further to sweeten the deal, the idea of a crazy match between Orton and Wyatt fits in place of a world championship match.

Okay, so they took the WWE Championship out of the equation for the rematch, but this was still one of the best-built rivalries heading into Orlando, and the prospect of a fitting end that we wanted four weeks ago is something to be invested in.

It also means this is any man’s match, which could work well in Wyatt’s favor.

It’s only natural to expect the WWE Universal Championship to be defended whenever Raw hosts its own special, but given all of this – and the fact that there’s nothing Brock can offer the brand right now aside from a swift burial of one of its stars – the lack of a world title match at Payback isn’t going to do much harm.

Next: What Will The Future Hold For Roman After Payback?

Do you agree that Lesnar’s absence helps build up his first opponents, or is it unforgivable to have a world title if you’re not going to defend it at the big events?