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Yes, WWE Wrestler Brock Lesnar Really Is Leaving Fox’s ‘SmackDown’ to Rejoin USA Network’s ‘Raw’ (Exclusive)

It’s not just storyline, folks

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar opened this evening’s “Friday Night SmackDown” with a big announcement: WWE Champion Lesnar is “quitting” the blue brand to go seek revenge on “Raw.”

Lesnar walking away from the Fox show in favor of the USA one is not just for storyline, a device commonly used in the world of predetermined combat. “The Beast Incarnate” is indeed leaving Fox’s “SmackDown” roster will again wrestle for USA Network’s “Monday Night Raw,” a person with knowledge of the plans told TheWrap exclusively.

We asked our source if Lesnar was always intended to be a short-term rental of sorts for Fox’s “Friday Night SmackDown” — a big name brought over just to help launch the show’s big move to broadcast. That was not the case, the person told us.

If tonight’s episode is an indication of anything, it is that in WWE, plans must constantly change. Almost everything planned for this week’s “SmackDown” had to be changed hours before airtime, as an airplane carrying more than 175 WWE wrestlers, staffers and production professionals was grounded for more than 24 hours in Saudi Arabia.

Pay-per-view “Crown Jewel” took place in Riyadh on Thursday.

The shorthanded “Friday Night SmackDown,” which featured a heavy presence from little-brother brand “NXT,” was generally very well-received by fans on social media.

The Lesnar-to-“Raw” move makes sense for a number of reasons. First, Heyman, who is Lesnar’s mouthpiece and on-screen “advocate,” is the executive director of “Monday Night Raw.” And with the WWE Universal Championship title now part of “SmackDown” courtesy of a Bray Wyatt win at “Crown Jewel,” each of Vince McMahon’s flagship weekly wrestling series will again have one heavyweight belt on TV.

In WWE’s writing room, the (fictional) motivation behind the move is so Lesnar can seek revenge against “Raw” wrestler Rey Mysterio, who attacked the former UFC champ with a steel chair after Lesnar defeated old MMA rival Cain Velasquez at “Crown Jewel.”

As part of a “brand split,” WWE wants its wrestlers — who are independent contractors — to be regulars in only one of its “Raw,” “SmackDown” or “NXT” locker rooms. Those designations are determined by an annual draft.

Watch Heyman’s Friday night announcement via the video below.

“Raw” airs Mondays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET/PT on USA Network, which was also the former home to “SmackDown.” Previously a Tuesday-night cable series, “SmackDown” shifted to Fridays on Fox’s broadcast channel last month. That one airs from 8-10 p.m. ET/PT.