Brock Lesnar could be done and dusted with WWE - at least for a while, according to reports. The Beast hasn't been seen on WWE programming since losing his WWE Championship to Drew McIntyre in the main event of WrestleMania 36.
While an absence of Lesnar on our screens at this time of year isn't necessarily rare, speculation is now mounting that we may actually have seen the last of him as a WWE Superstar, at least for the foreseeable future.
Much of the concern in respect of Lensar not being around for a while was sparked by Vince McMahon earlier this week.
According to WWE news and rumors, the WWE Chairman spoke during the company's Quarter 1 Financial conference call and was asked about the declining ratings on Monday Night RAW. These figures had been particularly notable given that WWE was only just recently given the green light to continue producing live content.
Despite widespread restrictions on sporting activities and gatherings in the Orlando area, WWE was granted dispensation to carry on operating shows - meaning they're providing a product that many people watching at home can't get elsewhere.
Vince McMahon admits WWE 'no longer has' Brock Lesnar
With ratings still sliding despite that, McMahon hinted that Lesnar's absence was a contributing factor. Tellingly, he said, "We no longer have Brock Lesnar anymore, obviously."
McMahon's use of the phrase 'we no longer have...' in reference to the multi-time former world champion does seem to suggest that his conspicuous absence is more than a short-term thing.
In the past number of hours, however, that speculation has been taken a step further by Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Veteran reporter Meltzer himself posed the question: "Does that mean he’s not coming back?”
Alvarez then followed up with the fair assumption that The Beast may be deterred from making his WWE comeback in the present climate, given the company are having to host their shows without one of their most crucial elements - a live crowd.
While Lesnar is still WWE's highest earner, there can be no doubt that he revels in the thrill of performing in front of live crowds, especially given he is a Superstar who always elicits a powerful reaction. His WrestleMania defeat to McIntyre was historic and significant, but would no doubt have carried even further weight had it played out in front of the 60,000-strong crowd that we could've witnessed at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay.
Should that theory end up being on the money, it may be that Lensar is considering making his absence an indefinite one, given that there is no defined end in sight for the restrictions that prohibit live audiences from attending sporting events in the US.
There is precedent to suggest that the absence could be a good thing for Lesnar's standing in WWE and with the company's fans. While there's nothing to suggest the gap in his active career will be years in length, he did achieve one of the biggest reactions in modern history when he returned after some eight years away, planting John Cena with an F5 back in 2012.
Breaks of up to six months have been common enough in Lesnar's WWE career, but it remains to be seen whether this one will be even longer.
Vince McMahon added in the investor call that the company was now investing time in establishing new talent at the top of WWE, adding: "...we have a new champion and a lot of new performers coming in. So it takes a while..."
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