Although a pair of losses at the end of his mixed martial arts career and a very serious battle with diverticulitis had stolen some of his invincible aura, Lesnar made an immediate impact upon his return to WWE, boosting the Extreme Rules pay-per-view buyrate.
His Extreme Rules match with John Cena was a hard-hitting classic, the likes of which is rarely seen in this "PG Era" in WWE, where you are more likely to see an anti-bullying PSA than a bloody, physical brawl.
Cena and Lesnar, two multi-millionaires, hit each other with chains and steel steps. Lesnar used the point of his elbow to open up a cut on Cena's forehead.
The finish of the match saw Lesnar leap at Cena, who nailed him in the forehead with a chain-wrapped fist, leading to a Cena victory, by pinfall.
There are arguments to be on both sides as to whether WWE should have beaten Lesnar on his first night in. At the time, many argued that the loss would kill whatever aura Lesnar had left, and hurt his drawing power going forward. As it turned out, Lesnar went on to draw very well at SummerSlam last year with Triple H.
But the Lesnar vs. Triple H program, which will likely conclude at Extreme Rules 2013, may have done what the loss to Cena did not do to Lesnar last year. It has cooled Lesnar off, and if early WrestleMania buyrate estimates prove accurate, the bloom may be off the rose.
WWE can get some of that back at Extreme Rules, if they have Lesnar soundly defeat Triple H in their Steel Cage Match main event.
Lesnar may main event WrestleMania with The Rock next year, provided The Rock decides to wrestle again, and will most likely have a featured match at SummerSlam this year as well. Unless the plan is to turn him babyface, it makes no sense to have Lesnar go into two main event matches coming off two straight losses, particularly to a part-time performer like Triple H.
This is WWE, though, and the rule of thumb generally is that when trying to guess the finish to a Triple H match, it's hard to go wrong prediciting that Vince McMahon's son-in-law will win clean in the middle of the ring after hitting his finishing move.
In addition to Triple H vs. Lesnar in a cage, the card will also feature John Cena defending the WWE Championship against a freshly-turned-heel Ryback.
Ryback has not gotten over to the degree that the company would like in his new role, and booking a victory over Cena might be the only thing that they can do to get some steam behind him. It seems awfully early to take the title off of Cena, particularly with Cena coming off a year-long title chase and torch-passing program with The Rock.
But with no other top heel opponents on the horizon for Cena, that may be the best thing for business going forward. Plus, with the Last Man Standing stipulation, the loser won't have to do a clean job. You could argue that the ten-count finish should be more devastating than a pinfall, but there's something about the visual of a pinfall that's very different than failing to beat a ten-count in wrestling, and the opposite is the case, in my opinion.
Here's the full Extreme Rules card:
The Miz vs. Cody Rhodes
Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H Steel Cage match
John Cena (c) vs. Ryback Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship
Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger "I Quit" match
Sheamus vs. Mark Henry Strap match
Randy Orton vs. Big Show Extreme Rules match
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango Singles match
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Dean Ambrose Singles match for the United States Championship
Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane) (c) vs. The Shield (Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins)Tornado Tag Team match for the WWE Tag Team Championship