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Raw general manager Kurt Angle announced Monday night a Fatal 5-Way match at Extreme Rules will determine the No. 1 contender for Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship.
WWE shared a graphic with the five combatants:
.@WWERollins. @SamoaJoe. @FinnBalor. @WWEBrayWyatt. @WWERomanReigns.
ONE of these men will face @BrockLesnar for the #UniversalTitle! #RAW https://t.co/7VwlCDePYX
5/16/2017, 12:09:29 AM
The American Airlines Center in Dallas already announced Lesnar will put the title on the line at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.
The Fatal 5-Way may have always been WWE’s plan for Lesnar’s first title challenger after he won the belt from Goldberg at WrestleMania 33. But one can’t help but wonder whether Braun Strowman’s injury forced an audible.
WWE announced Monday afternoon Strowman underwent elbow surgery and could be out for up to six months.
Any one of the five wrestlers in the main event at Extreme Rules could be an intriguing opponent for Lesnar on paper. Even Reigns vs. Lesnar could be entertaining after they put together a great match at WrestleMania 31.
With that said, WrestleMania 31 was a turning point of sorts for Lesnar in his second stint with WWE. That was the night “Suplex City” because a popular phrase among the WWE Universe, and most of his subsequent matches have focused more on him hitting as many German suplexes as possible rather than telling any sort of story in the ring.
His WrestleMania 32 battle with Dean Ambrose was underwhelming, and his win over Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2016 was only notable for Orton getting busted open and bleeding heavily, forcing a referee stoppage.
The fact Lesnar hasn’t wrestled since WrestleMania 33 has also hurt the appeal of the Universal Championship to a certain extent. If WWE can’t be bothered to have the champion defend the belt regularly, fans may start seeing the title less as a status symbol to truly signify the best wrestler on Raw.
Keeping Lesnar off WWE programming makes his matches even more of a spectacle, but that strategy has arguably come at a larger cost to the Universal Championship and Raw as a whole.