A once in a generation athlete. This quote has been used on numerous occasions to describe Brock Lesnar. A man who left college with multiple accolades as an NCAA powerhouse, becoming NCAA Division 1 Heavyweight Champion at the age of 23. Brock Lesnar will forever be synonymous with the world of professional wrestling, and has had one of, if not the most, incredible careers of any man or woman who has ever been involved in professional wrestling (aside from Dwayne, of course). It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but below I will detail the peaks and troughs of Lesnar’s unique journey.
I kind of feel like we have to start with Lesnar’s television debut. On March 18th, 2002, Lesnar debuted on RAW with a returning Paul Heyman, attacking and obliterating three mid-card talents in Spike Dudley, Al Snow and Maven. My memory is a little fuzzy during this time, but I did remember being quite impressed at his size and agility. His finish was a real treat on the eyes too, so I quite liked that as well, although, like most people, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it and whether it would last. Boy was that ever egg on my face. The first time I remember really taking notice of his character was in his first Pay-Per-View match against Jeff Hardy at Backlash 2002, where his character was booked to be Hardy via knockout. I know wrestling matches aren’t won by knockout usually, you’d just pin your opponent and that would be that. But it was as though he didn’t want to pin Hardy. He wanted to inflict damage, and this did more for his character at this time than anything else I can remember.
On August 25th 2002, at SummerSlam, Brock Lesnar became the youngest WWE Undisputed Champion of all time when he defeated The Rock in the main event. Ironically helped by the fact that the fans in attendance knew that the Rock was leaving to work on another movie, Lesnar was actually cheered during the match and got a huge pop when he won the match. The significance of this particular moment would have a seemingly large knock on effect later in Lesnar’s WWE career as many questioned whether he got to the top of the company too quickly.
Skip forward some years (because this isn’t a linear story, folks), there I was, sitting in the American Airlines arena in Miami Florida, the night after attending WrestleMania 28, the show was fantastic and there was a buzz everywhere. On the same night that the infamous rise of Daniel Bryan started, John Cena finished the show and called out the Rock, who had opened the show two hours earlier. Lesnar’s music blared from the PA system, and, ifin my lifetime I’ve heard some loud reactions, this was quite frankly incredible. The stands turned into pandemonium as Lesnar entered the ring and dropped Cena with the F-5. In terms of returns, you don’t get much bigger than that. It was a surreal moment that most people thought would never happen.
Walking into the Octagon and standing in front of another human being who wants to legitimately hurt you is not only ballsy but takes a hell of a lot of training (ask CM Punk). On November 15th, 2008, Brock Lesnar defeated UFC Heavyweight Champion and Hall of Famer Randy Couture to become the Heavyweight Champion. Not to understate this, but Lesnar, a pro wrestler, walked into the world of ‘real’ mixed martial arts fighting, and walked out with their biggest title beating one of the biggest fan favourites of all time. Being a champion across two very different sports takes a special kind of athlete, and this was proof that Lesnar is a different kind of machine.
I’ll finish the highs with something that didn’t feel like a high at all. At WrestleMania 30 (you already know where I’m going with this), in a packed SilverDo…I mean SuperDome in New Orleans, The Undertaker stepped into the ring and put his WrestleMania undefeated streak on the line against Brock Lesnar with his advocate Paul Heyman in his corner. The match was partly marred in controversy and it was widely reported that the Undertaker suffered a concussion early on in the match, but it continued. It wasn’t the best outing for either man, but after three consecutive F-5’s, Brock Lesnar pinned the Undertaker to become the man that broke the Streak. This was quickly followed by minutes of a crowd that didn’t know how to react. After an awkward couple of minutes, Lesnar was declared the winner, and the reality of the story began to sink in to the fans in attendance. It’s a moment now etched into the annals of WrestleMania and will be remembered.
So the first thing we should bring up in terms of lows includes a WrestleMania main event and a shooting star press. Sunday March 30th, 2003. WrestleMania XIX, Safeco Fields in Seattle, Washington, Brock Lesnar was challenging Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship. With Angle needing neck surgery, this was to be Lesnar’s career defining match. The match went well, even Angle with a really bad neck managed to carry a great match, and then came the finishing sequence. Lesnar ascended to the top turnbuckle. He stood there for a moment, taking in the anticipation from the crowd, and took to the air. He had rotated into the move just over half way before…he landed on his neck and head, smashing into Angle’s back and shoulder. After assuming that he was very badly injured, he somehow recovered, went straight into the finish, and won the WWE Championship. The match though, will always be remembered for the botched shooting star press that was supposed to become a different kind of WrestleMania moment.
Well I guess the best place to go next is something that perhaps Brock himself wouldn’t consider a low in his career. But WrestleMania XX has to be considered just that given the circumstances surrounding both Lesnar and his opponent at that time Goldberg. Goldberg was on the last day of his one year contract and Lesnar had decided to go and try out for the NFL, so this would be both men’s last match with the WWE (at the time). The crowd in New York had been smartened up to both men leaving and absolutely dumped all over the match. The match itself wasn’t great, with both men phoning in a passable near 14 minutes match, and the only person that the crowd were invested in was the special referee for the match ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. The match itself left a bad taste in many fans mouths, but fans were roundly forgiving for Lesnar’s return to the company eight years later.
Failed drug tests. Who’d want them eh? In late 2016, Lesnar was handed a one year suspension from the UFC and fined $250,000 for allegedly using performance enhancing drugs and failing a USADA drug test. Interestingly, Lesnar was making an absolute mint on his limited dates WWE contract by this point, and I’m sure the fine was a mere drop in the ocean. In late 2018, Lesnar took another drug test and passed with flying colours, but given that he had numerous big money matches on the table at the time of his original failure, and also given that he has now retired from the octagon, we will be left wondering what if on dream fights like Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones.
And finally…Brock is Universal Champion again… yay! At Extreme Rules 2019, Lesnar cashed in his Money In The Back contract on a weakened Seth Rollins to become a three time Universal Champion. Boredom doesn’t even cover how this is being received. Let’s check the timeline again. At WrestleMania 35 this year, Rollins was booked to beat Lesnar in a couple of minutes. That was supposed to be the crowning of the new face of the company, slaying the unbeatable beast (who had held the title for over a year) for a title he hardly defended. Fast forward three months…THREE MONTHS and the same man who was beaten soundly in just a couple of minutes comes back and wins the title back from conquering hero. Storyline insanity ensues. Maybe it’s the move to FOX in three months’ time, maybe its Vince thinking he’s got some ‘good shit’ with Lesnar. It doesn’t matter. Lesnar as Champion in any facet is stale and unnecessary. The irony of everything here is that come SummerSlam, with the recent booking of Seth Rollins’ character, chances are Brock will end up being cheered. Oh so fickle.
There is no doubt of the legacy of Brock Lesnar. A multi-sport athlete and one of the most over characters in the recent history of the WWE. What is next for the beast? Probably more titles. At times like these, one of Simpson’s character Rainier Wolfcastle’s quotes comes to mind. After another flop of a movie, an interviewer on one particular episode asked him ‘how do you sleep at night?, to which Wolfcastle replied in a dull Schwarzenegger like tone ‘on top of a pile of money, with many beautiful women’. If you replace ‘many beautiful women’ with ‘a beautiful wife’, that pretty much sums up Lesnar. It’s a hard knock life.
All pictures courtesy of WWE and UFC