That is great defense from David Vanterpool! Kuzma has made some clutch shots this season but the Wizards second-leading scorer missed a potential game-winner and was clearly still frustrated afterwards with an earlier moment in the fourth quarter.
At No Mercy this coming weekend two of the WWE’s biggest names of the last 10-15 years John Cena and Brock Lesnar will face current stars Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman in what can only be seen as a potential passing of the torch from one generation to the next.
If it was Wrestlemania season in April this would seem like a monumental pair of match-ups but truth be told it seems strange to be considering such a milestone in September, at No Mercy of all places.
However the similarities between each set of combatants and the way these two face offs have been built up it leaves us with only a hop, skip and a jump away from the conclusion that this weekend may see the two biggest players of the last generation handed definitive, defining losses.
The flip side is that this weekend we may see the ascension to the top of the company by Braun Strowman and the final confirmation of the positioning of Roman Reigns as The Guy moving forward.
Let’s look at each match-up and see what is the likelihood the WWE will be passing the torch at No Mercy.
The Monster v The Beast
Even though the popular consensus is that the WWE is set on pairing Lesnar with Reigns come Wrestlemania the far more natural match-up and the one that everyone is clamouring to see is Lesnar v Strowman for Lesnar’s WWE Universal Title.
In large part I think it is the simplicity of the match that appeals. While Regins is a complicated mess of character inconsistency with Strowman it is a lot more basic: he wants more competition! And he’s not done with you yet!
Now this wrecking ball has gone through everyone that can be put in front of him all that is left is the WWE’s final boss Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar himself has thoroughly earned the title ‘the Beast Incarnate’. Since his debut back in 2002 and return in 2012 no man has been able to truly master this brooding hulk of strength and aggression.
Some have taken wins over him but he has always been the conqueror never the conquered. His feats inside the UFC Octagon have only added to the legend.
Putting these two seemingly unstoppable forces up against each other to see who is left standing has already had spectacular results in the main event of Summer Slam. The crowd has exploded every time these two have come face to face in the match build up and it is clear that the WWE audience has never been more ready for someone in the current generation to truly take down Lesnar.
Strowman’s cartoon character like proportions of two metres by 150kg, make him the perfect person to become the next unconquerable monster on the roster and are also the dimensions Vince McMahon craves in a wrestler.
If it was simply a matter of the WWE jumping on the person who is white hot with the audience this match would be an easy prediction but the WWE has developed a frustrating habit in recent years of squashing their own creations just when they are most popular in favour of ‘long term plans’ which currently is strongly rumored to mean Reigns taking the mantle from Lesnar at Wrestlemania.
At No Mercy I want to see Strowman grab the torch and force feed it to Lesnar. Of the two match-ups it is the most likely to provide a big once off win that would constitute a passing of the torch from Beast to Monster.
However I just do not trust the WWE to seize the moment and roll with it despite Strowman’s tremendous popularity right now.
The Old Guy v The New Guy
In many ways Roman Reigns run at the top of the WWE has been consistently dogged by the mistakes of John Cena’s first run at the head of the company in the mid 2000s.
Reigns has had to try to establish his name in the aftermath of Cena’s wildly divisive time at the top: a perennial ‘underdog’ who always won, someone who fought through adversity but never acted like he was up against anything and a wrestler who claimed to be and was portrayed as being loved by the fans but was audibly despised by a growing segment of them.
Despite the hatred of that audience segment and in spite of the character contradictions Cena was eventually able to become a true superstar in both the wrestling and mainstream world but the WWE’s attempts to force Roman Reigns into that same slot have been met with even more resistance.
Cena was a unique individual who could make those contradictions work but you only need to listen to the crowd booing to see that their ham fisted attempts to fit Reigns into that exact mould have clearly not achieved the desired results.
Now these two ‘faces of the company’ are set to square off the WWE is doing everything they can to make people think there is legitimate dislike between them. They have been allowed open slather on the microphone with Reigns and Cena falling over themselves to point out each other’s shortcomings and run each other’s achievements into the ground.
Some have loved the reality based story the WWE is carving out but the problem is it is leaving many wondering who they actually want to cheer for: The Guy they’ve hated for over ten years or the guy they’ve despised for 3?
Furthermore if Reigns gets the win, instead of him taking the mantle of the ultimate face of the company, in his own words it is just a triumph over a past it part timer who is can’t match his ability. On the other hand if Cena gets the pin it only solidifies his words that Reigns will never be able to replace him and make it as The Guy at the top of the company.
On the bright side the match itself is something to look forward to, in spite of what you might read elsewhere both have a track record of shining in big matches.
Hopefully instead of passing the torch at No Mercy this is the start of something more long term between these two that can move beyond the petty cycle of trading of insults they are currently stuck in and try to establish it as the monumental rivalry it should be.
But what do you think, will John Cena and Brock Lesnar pass the torch to Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman at No Mercy this weekend?