Brock Lesnar’s WWE career is nothing less than exceptional. For a man who has wrestled on TV for only two years full-time and three years part-time, he’s accomplished a lot. He’s delivered some of the biggest, most decisive victories to the likes of Hulk Hogan, John Cena, the Undertaker, and the Rock. It’s even more impressive considering he was a heel during all of that and was booked to win clean each time. As Paul Heyman’s personal golem, Brock Lesnar has become something of a legendary final boss character in WWE and he’s currently on his way to defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania against Roman Reigns.
There has been controversy about the upcoming WrestleMania main event on both sides. It’s not all that surprising to me and I wouldn’t be shocked if the whole thing ends up becoming a big trainwreck. Why? Because when it comes to WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar is cursed.
Now, you might be thinking that that’s nuts. WrestleMania has been really good to Brock, hasn’t it? He’s the guy who ended the Undertaker’s epic undefeated streak! He won his second world title in the main event one year! Even his two losses were against huge, high-profile opponents that any wrestler worth a damn would give near anything to go up against (well, except CM Punk, but that’s another story). Yes, on paper, Brock Lesnar has done all right for himself at the Grandest Stage of Them All. In practice, though, it’s been a constant disaster.
Let’s start at the beginning. Brock Lesnar made his TV debut the day after WrestleMania X8, where he got one hell of a first appearance. With Paul Heyman barking orders, he interrupted a hardcore match and absolutely destroyed Al Snow, Maven, and Spike Dudley, causing the crowd to go from slightly confused to super pumped. From there, he had easily the best rookie year in wrestling. He won the King of the Ring. He beat Hulk Hogan into paste and actually won with a bear hug (shows how different a Hogan match could be when he doesn’t have creative control). He defeated the Rock at SummerSlam and proceeded to repeatedly win in a feud with the Undertaker.
Hell, his year would have been even more impressive if Steve Austin hadn’t walked out when they wanted him to face Lesnar on Raw. Austin felt that the match was a waste of money and boycotted it. He was right, but it’s a shame we never got to see those two actually have a match.
Anyway, Lesnar turned face, lost the belt, won the Royal Rumble, and got a shot against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX. Not only was it the only time he was chasing the belt as a face, but he was also getting the last match on the WrestleMania with the most star power ever. Really, look up the list of talent who were at that show. It’s incredible.
The match almost got cancelled leading up to the show due to Angle’s bad health. At one point they were considering scrapping it and just having the title change hands in a short TV match, but Angle decided that he was good enough to go through with the PPV. This would be some harsh foreshadowing for Angle’s eventual split from the company years later and his problematic inability to know when to dial it down that has plagued him in TNA.
Lesnar vs. Angle was still every bit as good as it should have been, even if Angle was horribly shaken up after the match. He still performed well, but the problem came from the horrific ending. Lesnar dropped Angle with his second F5 and decided to end it with a big WrestleMania Moment. He climbed to the top rope to do a Shooting Star Press. It’s a move he did all the time in developmental, but never on TV, so it was a bit of a shocker for the fans. Unfortunately, due to fatigue, sweat on the ropes, and Angle being too far out, Lesnar botched the move, didn’t get the full flip, and landed right on his head, missing Angle. Out on his feet, he had enough wherewithal to pick up Angle for another F5 and pin him.
Afterwards, his head was grossly swollen and red with Angle half annoyed and half concerned. He suffered a concussion, but merely having his brains scrambled actually felt like a miracle. If his neck wasn’t an oak tree stump with flesh around it, this list would be an awful lot shorter.
Lesnar continued to be a big deal in WWE for the year that followed. He and Angle continued to trade the belt back and forth and at the PPV No Way Out, Lesnar dropped the WWE Championship to Eddie Guerrero. Eddie won with the help of Bill Goldberg, helping set up Lesnar’s WrestleMania XX match, which was in the making since Survivor Series. It was a perfect matchup as not only was it a dream match, but with the two so regularly compared, Lesnar was going to get a nice torch-passing out of it.
Goldberg was coming up to the end of his one-year WWE contract. During that year, Goldberg was shown to be dominant over everyone in his path, won the World Heavyweight Championship, beat up the entirety of Evolution singlehandedly (while Triple H had a sledgehammer in hand), and only lost due to cheating in the few times he actually ate a loss. Still, Goldberg and various fans felt that it was never enough and Goldberg was ruined forever because Goldust put a wig on his head for several seconds one time.
Anyway, Goldberg wasn’t going to re-sign and wrestling logic dictates that the guy leaving goes out on his back. It didn’t help that much like Lesnar these days, Goldberg was only available for a fixed amount of dates, meaning Lesnar had to build the feud alongside special referee Steve Austin because Goldberg simply wasn’t there for most episodes of Raw leading to the show. Then a wrench got thrown into the plans about a week and a half before WrestleMania XX. Lesnar sat down with Vince McMahon and explained that he wanted out. He was tired of all the travel and it was killing him inside. While he still had his youth and health, he wanted to try out for the Minnesota Vikings. McMahon let out the biggest sigh in the world and relented. WrestleMania was going to be Lesnar’s last match with the company.
Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg should have been the main event. It should have been the biggest match at the longest of all WrestleManias. Instead, it was relegated to the middle of the show because neither guy was going to show up the next day. The fans there knew about all of this and shit on the proceedings like you wouldn’t believe. Numerous, loud chants calling the two sell-outs, singing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” at them, yelling that they both suck, cheering for Austin instead, and so on. What could have been a pretty great match was deep-sixed when the negative response got to Lesnar and Goldberg. They instead put on one of the most boring matches in WrestleMania history out of pure spite and the fans just would not let up.
After almost 14 minutes that felt like 30, Goldberg finally put Lesnar away. Sure, Goldberg was leaving, but at least he gave the correct notice. Lesnar’s would-be win was turned into a loss out of punishment. With the fans still chanting, “YOU SOLD OUT!” Lesnar looked visibly shaken and genuinely angry as he flipped them all off. Steve Austin dropped him with a Stunner, delivered one to Goldberg, and WWE wiped their hands of it all.
Not only was it a disaster of a match, but it had some terrible ramifications. The fact that Brock Lesnar was given such a push only to sneak off two years later left a really bad mark on Vince’s psyche. The same thing happened a couple years later when Bobby Lashley left after getting his own strong push. After that, WWE became lousy at creating main event talent due to their classic “start-stop” booking where in order to succeed, you’d have to endure a lengthy stretch of getting buried. After all, how can they know you’re worth throwing into the main event unless you really want it and don’t cry and go home when you’re constantly losing and being humiliated on TV?
Lesnar’s attempts at football didn’t amount to anything, but he became a big success in the UFC octagon. Once he couldn’t do that anymore due to health problems, he returned to WWE in 2012 and got a nice, cushy contract out of it where he’d get paid millions and only make a handful of appearances. Coming off the big Cena vs. Rock main event of WrestleMania XXVIII, there was some fantastic momentum in Lesnar appearing the night after to murder Cena. Then, in a moment of booking that made everyone scream, “WHY?!” they had Lesnar job in his first match back against Cena at Extreme Rules. The same Cena who was supposedly experiencing the worst year of his professional career.
Lesnar bounced back with a win at SummerSlam, where he made Triple H tap out. It was a pretty good match with a hilarious ending where Triple H stood sadly in the ring, hoping for a, “THANK YOU, HUNTER!” chant, only to get, “YOU TAPPED OUT!” The two would face each other again at WrestleMania 29 in a match designed for Triple H to get his win back. Their luck was already off to a rough start when Triple H’s entrance went screwy and his torso was covered in solidified dry ice, which had to hurt like hell.
The first minute or so was fine and all, but things went wrong when Triple H did a rising knee into Lesnar’s jaw. Lesnar went down and seemed out of it. In only his third WrestleMania match, he was suffering a second concussion and this time it was in the very beginning. He did an amazing job going through the motions for the next twenty minutes, but it was still a perfectly viable excuse for what was a crappy match. As good as their SummerSlam showdown was, this felt like it was half the pace and the obvious ending didn’t help.
The next night on Raw, the plan was to have Brock Lesnar attack the Rock and injure him so as to set up a singles match at WrestleMania XXX. Unfortunately, Rock really was injured from the previous night and didn’t even show up for Raw, causing them to scrap the plans. Instead, they just finished off the Lesnar/Triple H feud, had him go over CM Punk at SummerSlam, and then set up a match against the Undertaker for WrestleMania XXX. At the time, it was absolutely inconceivable that Lesnar even had a chance to win. Why would he? He was a part-timer and being the man to beat the Streak (TM) was for someone they wanted to build the company’s future around.
It was a lot like Lesnar/Triple H, only this time Brock Lesnar was fine. It was the Undertaker, who was knocked loopy. A few minutes into the match, the two brawled on the outside. Lesnar picked Undertaker up by the leg and just kind of shoved him over in a really unnatural way. Undertaker hit his head hard on the mat and was out of it. It was up to Lesnar to carry the match for the next 20 minutes and it was not a fun time. After so many years of fantastic Undertaker matches, we got this plodding mess. When Lesnar hit his third F5, it was hard to keep count because that meant paying attention. Finally, he pinned the Dead Man and we got the montage of people in the crowd who couldn’t comprehend the idea of the Undertaker losing.
Lesnar went on to have a great year where he slammed John Cena around like he was trying to put out a fire and then…fought Cena again…and again. But hey, Seth Rollins was there one time, so that’s better! Between breaking the Streak and breaking Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Lesnar’s become the new guy to beat. Since the company sees Roman Reigns as the next face of the company, he’s going to get to do the honors.
Murphy’s law appears to be waiting in the wings. The crowd hasn’t exactly been accepting of Roman Reigns ever since WWE’s been pushing him like he’s a square peg in a round hole. And while there are certainly exceptions – or pershaps the angry crowds themselves are the exceptions – the people in the audience for WrestleMania 31 (or WrestleMania Play Button) will certainly give him hell in what should instead be the highlight of his career.
At the same time, Brock Lesnar was meant to be on a recent episode of Raw to the point that the commercial they air five minutes before the broadcast hyped it up. Instead, he had a huge argument backstage and apparently stormed out. While there has been speculation and hearsay about why, the most likely reason appears to be pay-based due to the confusion of how wrestlers are supposed to get their cut in the new Network-based PPV system. It’s the same confusion that helped CM Punk decide he was out the door.
After WrestleMania 31, Lesnar is likely done with WWE. He hasn’t had enough of an impact on the business to justify what they pay him and after losing to Roman Reigns, he’ll have no unfinished business outside of maybe a match against Daniel Bryan or possibly that rematch with the Rock they wanted for a year ago. Lesnar will probably be punching out his time card one last time against a guy the WrestleMania crowd won’t want as champion.
This could get really ugly.
Gavin Jasper just discovered that his full name is Brock Edward Lesnar. One has to wonder how he feels about Spider-Man. Follow Gavin on Twitter!