Tonight at the conclusion of WWE Monday Night Raw, a brand-new WWE Universal Champion will be crowned. Of the names eligible—Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns and Big Cass—one sticks out like a sore thumb. Two of the names listed (Reigns and Rollins) have multiple World Title reigns under their belt, while a third (Kevin Owens) is a two-time WWE Intercontinental Champion and a former Ring of Honor World Champion.
The point being, all three of those men make sense as the next WWE Universal Champion, they are safe, smart picks to take over the throne left by the injured inaugural champion Finn Balor.
But what about Big Cass?
One of the more shocking entrants into last week’s micro-tournament, Big Cass, is an illogical pick to win the title. He’s clearly not ready and despite being 30 years old he’s hardly a veteran of the sport only making his debut in 2010. His act is in large part fueled by the popularity of his tag partner and de facto manager Enzo Amore.
Amore’s boisterous pre-match promos launched the team team to prominence in NXT and are now doing the same on the main roster. Neither man has ever been lauded for their in-ring prowess instead relying on tried and true tag team wrestling formulas, basic match structure and undeniable charisma for the crowd’s admiration.
Big Cass isn’t ready. We, the viewers, aren’t ready. But maybe that’s the best plan.
In April 2004, WWE was in crisis mode. In particular—a year out from the initial WWE Brand Extension—WWE’s SmackDown needed help. After a grueling WrestleMania XX match with Eddie Guerrero, SmackDown’s lynchpin Kurt Angle was once again suffering neck issues and needed time off. WWE obliged but understanding the tremendous value Angle provided the company, transitioned Angle into an on-screen General Manager role.
SmackDown had lost not only one of their best in-ring workers, a man capable of rolling out of bed and having a spectacular match (broken freakin’ neck or not), but one of their greatest characters—a man capable of taking any role, any persona, any mild character change and making it work. Whether a hated heel, delusional former olympic hero or crusading pro-American, Angle made it work. In a flash, he was gone, with no timetable for his return.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a week before WrestleMania XX, WWE received word that another one of SmackDown’s best workers and characters, Brock Lesnar, was leaving the company. Citing issues with travel and a “lifelong” desire to play in the NFL, Lesnar announced he would depart the company following his WrestleMania XX match with Bill Goldberg.
The infamous match, which saw both men actively loafing and a smarter than usual crowd well aware that both men (Goldberg’s contract was up and he would be departing as well) were on the outs, was a trainwreck.
In an instant, SmackDown had lost two men that carried the brand to new heights in 2003. Poof. Gone.
WWE’s answer wasn’t a smart, sound or logical one. Instead, they found a wrestler with tremendous potential who had been masquerading as a tag team worker for years. Almost overnight they transformed Bradshaw, the beer-swelling, Texas brawler and one-half of the APA Tag Team, into JBL, a JR-Ewing inspired businessman backed by Bradshaw’s legit, real-life financial prowess.
Two months later, JBL became the WWE Champion in a Texas Bullrope match at WWE Great American Bash 2004. What followed was an uninterrupted nine-month championship run and a nearly two year run as a top heel on the brand.
No, Big Cass isn’t the level of worker JBL was in 2004 nor is he as good of a promo. I’m not looking to do a 1:1 comparison of a burgeoning talent ready to explode onto the scene as a result of injuries or other circumstances. Rather, I’m simply asking why not?
Necessity became the mother of invention in the 2004 brand split era, where risks such as making Bradshaw a World Champion seemed illogical.
Tonight, necessity is once again rearing its ugly head. Again, I ask… why not Big Cass?