WrestleMania 31 was made a lot more interesting on Tuesday night when Brock Lesnar announced that he re-signed with WWE, officially putting an end to any rumors that he might return to UFC. With Lesnar’s contract status uncertain, Roman Reigns was likely to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Sunday’s PPV. But the recent news could change WWE’s plans for the match and the rest of 2015.
"It's fair to the fans to know that, on Sunday, at WrestleMania, I'm going home with that damn belt," Lesnar told ESPN’s Michelle Beadle.
Prior to Lesnar’s announcement, Bovada.lv listed his odds of retaining the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at +130, making Reigns a -170 favorite. Now that Lesnar will stay with WWE, both wrestlers have been given -120 betting odds.
Reigns has appeared destined to win the title at WrestleMania 31 for months, since WWE views him as their next big star. Ending The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak and giving John Cena the worst defeat of his career at SummerSlam has turned Lesnar into one of the most formidable wrestlers WWE has seen in years, and losing the belt to Reigns could help elevate the former Shield member even further. But Lesnar’s increasing popularity and Reign’s mixed crowd reactions could force WWE to keep the belt on the current champ.
Keeping the belt on Lesnar would set up several potential interesting matches in 2015 and beyond. A large portion of the fan base craved to see Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 31. While that won’t be the case on Sunday, Lesnar’s new contract has renewed that possibility, perhaps at SummerSlam this year.
WWE was unable to have The Rock vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania 30, as was originally planned, but that match could be on for next year. The Rock has admitted that he could return to face the former UFC champion at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas.
Re-signing Lesnar also gives WWE the opportunity to turn the champion into a babyface, which appears to be the next logical move. Even though he’s positioned as a heel, Lesnar’s dominance in the ring and Paul Heyman’s promos have helped turn him into one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE. Many of the “smart” fans turned on Reigns when he won the 2015 Royal Rumble, and they’ll almost certainly cheer Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania 31.
Turning Lesnar into a babyface would allow him to have matches with a whole new group of opponents. Seth Rollins still has his Money in the Bank briefcase, and a feud with him would make sense for the next couple of months. A match with Rusev could also be in Lesnar’s future, as the two wrestlers have been the most dominant WWE superstars over the past year.
WWE will benefit from having Lesnar under contract, but the news might not be the best for Reigns. Having Lesnar under contract allows WWE to keep the title on the current champ, potentially changing their plans for the Royal Rumble winner.
In an era where few things in WWE are unpredictable, the finish to WrestleMania 31 is anyone’s guess.