On this week’s ‘Monday Night Raw’ Brock Lesnar picked up the microphone for the first time since his return to WWE the week prior. But before we had much time at all to tweet mean jokes about the timbre of Lesnar’s not-so-threatening voice, he was interrupted by a fired-up John Cena. What followed was a confrontation that saw Lesnar make an absolutely humongous impact…by socking John Cena right in the mush.

After hitting the ring, Cena marched right up to Lesnar and damn near slapped the flattop right off his head, prompting the former UFC Heavyweight Champion to respond with a double-leg take-down and some classic MMA-style ground and pound. Though the bulk of his punches seemed to concentrate on Cena’s body, at least one of the shots aimed somewhat higher, as evidenced by the bloody lower lip and mouth that Cena sported throughout the rest of the two-hour show. Next, things descended into one of my personal favorite wrestling tropes, the locker-room clearing brawl, and was pretty clearly a work from there on out. But the question remains: Did Lesnar potato Cena on purpose?

Generally, whenever “Is it a shoot!?” questions come up in professional wrestling, I try and maintain a skeptical attitude. It’s not the 1960s anymore, when a cagey wrestler might go rogue, attempting to forcibly remove a title from a competitor – hell, even classic “shoot” moments like the Montreal Screwjob have been subjected to a fair amount of scrutiny over the years regarding who exactly was in on how much of the plan. These days, professional wrestling is a pretty heavily scripted and planned out affair. Scripts for WWE events have run-ins, finishes, shocking returns and even much of the dialogue penciled in, so generally speaking, anything you see on your television has Vince McMahon’s stamp of approval on it. Even situations like CM Punk’s Pipebomb promo from last year are most likely more work than shoot (even if based in reality), as anytime the current WWE Champion stepped over the line, McMahon’s men in the production truck could have made good use of their delay, or even just switched over to a repeat of ‘Burn Notice.’

But, all that being said: It sure looked like Brock Lesnar was beating the legit hell out of John Cena on Monday night. His punches weren’t of the “wind-up-and-stomp” variety of your favorite old school wrestlers, and much more closely resembled the tight-quarters, brutally fast slugs you might see within the Octagon. What’s more, Lesnar had more than a few reasons to actually tag Cena. First up is that Cena certainly didn’t appear to hold anything back when he slapped his new rival moments before, followed closely by the fact that Lesnar likely has quite a bit to prove in the wake of his still-fresh-in-everyone’s-memory loss to Alistair Overeem last year. Of course, there’s also the fact that judging from the words of John Laurinaitis last night, this feud is going to be all about bringing “legitimacy” back to WWE – and what better way to do that than by legitimately punching the company’s biggest star right in his mouf?

But the “legitimacy” angle could just as easily be evidence that the entire thing was planned from jump street, as Cena is a savvy enough guy to realize that taking an actual punch from Lesnar would be a great way to build the feud, get people writing internet articles about it and hopefully goose pay-per-view buys for ‘Extreme Rules.’ Yet another big problem with the supposed “shoot” nature of the punch is that WWE not only let Cena show up on camera in a subsequent backstage interview with blood still on his mouth, but they even have pictures of his bloodied mug on their website.

Since embarking on their current TV-PG era, WWE has been absolutely psychotic of making sure blood doesn’t show up on their programming. They have cameras cut away during live television, re-edit taped shows, render photographs in black and white and even stop pay-per-view matches to get people cleaned up, killing absolutely all the momentum in the process. That wasn’t the case this week though, as WWE seems to be almost proud of the fact that Cena got a fat lip from a former UFC Heavyweight Champion.

The fact of the matter, however, is that WWE should be proud – in fact, that should be absolutely delighted – as Lesnar’s punch on Cena, whether planned or not, has already started paying dividends. It’s piqued the interest of UFC fans who are being shown that the guys in professional wrestling are still tough, and just as importantly, it’s gotten diehard fans chattering about whether the incident was planned, the result of Lesnar getting caught in the moment or just a happy accident – the same way people were arguing about whether there was legit heat between Cena and the Rock during their feud just a short month ago. Whatever the reasons behind Cena’s bloodied mouth on ‘Raw’ this week, one thing is for sure: It’s already selling pay-per-views.

Aubrey Sitterson is a professional writer and editor specializing in comics and professional wrestling. For GuySpeed, he writes weekly reviews of ‘Monday Night Raw’ and previews of ‘Friday Night Smackdown.’ Find him on Twitter and at aubreysitterson.com.

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