Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What IS a Special Attraction Anyway?

Is Lesnar a special attraction? Maybe.
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SummerSlam is right around the corner, so that means Brock Lesnar is scheduled back for the run-up to the event. Lesnar, who holds the Universal Championship, is a controversial figure anymore. His output has been erratic in the ring. Right now, he's in a good spot, coming off a tremendous WrestleMania match against Bill Goldberg and heading into WWE's next RAW-exclusive event, Season of the Witch Great Balls of Fire in a much anticipated HOSS FIGHT against Samoa Joe. But is the excitement worth the investment? How much can the intangible excitement be worth if it isn't translating into real numbers? People more interested in things like subscriber numbers and buyrates and other fiduciary concerns have shown time and again that Lesnar doesn't move the needle more than the average big star WWE has.

Meanwhile, divorced from those numbers, what has Lesnar meant for the narrative? This title reign is his second where he's tying up a top Championship from afar without showing up. When the show has other things cooking, it's not that big a deal, but when everything's in a holding pattern, well, the lack of the top title hurts. The RAW brand has seen a tale of two extremes. Payback was built around several strong feuds, including Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman at the top, and it was an easy build-up and event to take. Conversely, Extreme Rules could've been subtitled "Where's Brock?" and the makeup of the serials and the pay-per-view followed suit.

Yet, people still claim that Lesnar is a "special attraction." My question is, can someone who has been as decidedly average as Lesnar since his return in 2012 be considered special? Is he really a special attraction, or is he just a roster member who happens to get the privilege of working fewer dates than everyone else? Or is the definition of "special" completely changed in an era where numbers are becoming harder and harder to decipher thanks to new media, recording ability, and increased pirated streams?

The worst definition of special attraction is that an attraction is special because WWE said it is. Lesnar only works a few dates, goes over everyone not named Goldberg with ease, and gets paid the most money. Obviously, he's the guy the company builds its tentpole events around. If you're positioned as a special attraction, does that mean you are? Does that mean the company should run its entire narrative through you, or are things like the title reigns you're given end up hurting the company in the long run? In a narrative sense, it might not be Lesnar's fault since a lot of his absences with the title have been bland because of production and direction. So back to square one everyone goes.

The bottom line is that someone can't just be a special attraction because capital says they are. Lesnar may very well fit that bill, but it's not just because WWE says so, or presents him like it superficially or booking-wise. He gets big, consistent reactions, maybe second only to Reigns (albeit not in the same makeup as Reigns) in the company, and that makes me think that he's deserving of his attraction moniker. But it's important to weigh in other factors, especially the business side. When guys like Andre the Giant in the territories or even Hulk Hogan in World Championship Wrestling moved the needle in their rare appearances, it was easier to label them as special attractions without any rider. Don't readily dismiss people citing Lesnar's numbers, or lack thereof, as haters.