Ding dong the witch is dead, or at least he almost is. It has been said as of today that chances are, Brock Lesnar is no longer part of WWE after WrestleMania 34 which means an end to a whole lot of things. For one, his run as Universal Champion which has been perhaps the least useful Championship reign in history. The fact that a man held a title for several months before defending it even once shows anyone with rudimentary grasp of simple logic that booking today sucks. He has shown the wrestling world that he is a complete waste with the title that should be gaining importance not even a year after its inception. The worst part is that some good in Florida shouldn't have to bring this up for someone to act.
Don't get me wrong, Brock is a mega star and an incredible athlete. Perhaps the most incredible athlete in my lifetime from any sport ever in fact. When he came to the WWE tv screens for the first time in 2002 I was a huge mark for the guy. He was one of the few men that could destroy several all alone. He was huge, fast, and scarily crisp which meant he got the Roman push before Roman graduated high school. The difference was that it wasn't long until Brock got over. Super over to the point that within 3 months he beat The Rock for the then Undisputed World Championship. The world was his oyster and for nearly 2 years he dominated but it wasn't what he wanted in life. He hated people and travel and thus he decided to try the NFL out for size. That was perhaps Brock’s first failure in life and before training camp ended for the Vikings he was cut. Brock quickly went to New Japan Pro Wrestling where, again, he dominated.
Japan is another world in a lot of ways and Brock clearly wasn't in love with the sport the way a gaijin should to succeed there. Of all people, Kurt Angle would find himself the man to beat Brock and take the IWGP title so that Brock could begin yet another venture, a fledgling sport that had just caught fire called Mixed Martial Arts.
Brock was immediately a top prospect simply from his amateur wrestling history as a former NCAA national champion at Minnesota. Yet again, Brock flourished in his new environment even with a couple of losses on the way. The main advantage was his superior strength, which single handedly won him the UFC Heavyweight title within a year and thanks to his brutally honest post-fight interviews he became the top draw in all of MMA. Brock’s title defense against Frank Mir at UFC 100 was a record breaker for the company and aided the boom period that mma was having. All was for the taking it seemed.
Brock defended his title against Shane Carwin in spectacular fashion but this would be his last decisive win. Shortly after his defense he became ill. What first seemed like a minor issue quickly became life threatening and in the end Brock was diagnosed with diverticulitis, a rare disorder caused by high red meat diets that basically means your guts rot out and you could die. Many believed he would be stripped of the title and retire and perhaps that was the smart move. Instead, Brock continued on and defended his championship against Cain Velasquez, a Young up-and-coming fighter that had been on fire in the weight class. Brock came in and despite his courage and comeback he was beaten in brutal fashion. Brock Lesnar’s aura was lessening for the first time really ever and it felt rather sad.
Brock tried to win yet again in the UFC but was stopped in embarrassing fashion by Allistair Overeem and thus retired from the sport. Most would sit at home and live off their winnings but Lesnar immediately made a big move. The night after WrestleMania 28 felt like a funeral because of a rather lackluster card top to bottom so RAW had to deliver. The show came and went as John Cena came to the ring to discuss losing to The Rock at WrestleMania. His promo went on without a hitch and as the show ended, a familiar song interrupted things and out came Lesnar on a WWE show for the first time in 8 years. He walked to the ring and proceeded to lay out Cena to the adulation of all. It was epic and it felt fresh.
Lesnar was used as an attraction from the beginning. Even though he lost to Cena in the first match back (lolcenawins?) he bounced back by feuding with Triple H for the months going into the next year’s WrestleMania. Along with Brock came Heyman, the biggest story in ages after his nasty exit from WWE thanks to the failed ECW relaunch. Things felt as if they were evolving and Lesnar was treated as a true monster going over any and everyone (other than Triple H or Cena). As all this was happening, Lesnar wasn't anywhere near the top titles on either brand or eventually the unbranded WWE. Again, it can't be stressed enough that he was an attraction and an attraction shouldn't need a title to be deemed legitimate. That was never clearer than when he was announced as the opponent for Undertaker at the 30th WrestleMania.
I'd been a fan for about 20 years the weekend of WrestleMania 30. I'd seen a lot and felt that I could just about figure out any angle or build within reason so it felt like an afterthought to say that Lesnar was yet again going to be on the losing end at the biggest show of the year. Undertaker looked different though even in his limited appearances before the show. He looked old and human for the first time in ages and worse than ever before. That didn't matter though because he never could lose right? Millions of us were wrong though.
Some will say that Lesnar beating Undertaker and ending the WrestleMania streak was the biggest win in history and I definitely wouldn't go that far. To me there are countless examples of biggest win and while this was huge it wasn't on that scheme to me. Had it been 2003 I'd say otherwise but by WrestleMania 30 all us longstanding fans expected it to end long ago and if we were honest we wanted it to be. It had become a horribly outplayed move for the biggest show of the year and that kind of thing hurts a mega event after a while in my view. Nonetheless I have to say it is one of the largest WrestleMania moments ever so really who cares either way? This was the beginning of the Lesnar we see today which isn't really a good thing.
SummerSlam came only months later and the landscape was horribly disheveled. Daniel Bryan was finally the top star and unified World Champion yet unhealthy to keep things rolling. This was the beginning of the end of his entire career sadly and thus, yet another reset was made meaning….lolcenawinsthetitle! It was decided that Lesnar would get his big title shot a month later and again, it all felt wrong. It didn't matter and Cena was thrown around like a sack of shit before being pinned and again, Lesnar shocked the wrestling world. It was his first WWE title win in over a decade and it would be assumed this meant a full time commitment and again, we would be wrong.
Lesnar went home and rarely appeared. This led to Seth Rollins having to take the ball and be the top heel on weekly tv and helped him tremendously. The title? It looked like shit. In it’s place was feuds between younger stars that were doing all they could to climb the political ladder. Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, and yes even Roman Reigns began getting their first chances in main events and while that helped a lot it also felt like a placation in replacement of having a World title to vy for.
Brock’s first and only effective defense in my mind was at the Royal Rumble show of 2015. There he faced the tried and true mega star John Cena as well as the latest youngster to try his hand at fame Seth Rollins. On paper it looked like it would be good and all but few felt this could be truly memorable. Those three men showed the world they are top notch and especially Rollins, who took wild bumps and delivered some incredible offense as well. It felt as though Rollins was a peer in that moment with the two huge names left in wrestling.
WrestleMania 31 was lackluster much in the same ways that the 28th edition was. There were big stars and all but the card was disjointed. The legendarily failed Sting and Triple H match is just one of the many missed marks that were left on that crowd in San Jose. The main event however was intriguing with Lesnar in the spot of infalliable champion to the challenger Roman Reigns’ short rise to success. Even at that time, Roman was getting heat for simply getting a push but was not nearly as damaged as he is today. It did feel ok as a main event, even if I didn’t think it was going to deliver much and in that vain I was horribly mistaken.
Right off the bat, it was physical and bloody. Roman was beaten to absolute shit by Lesnar who did every possible suplex and striking combination you could imagine. In one of the wildest spots, Roman went for his drive-by from the floor and Lesnar took his head almost completely off with a clothesline that left Roman in a heap. Roman brought things back with a very solid comeback and just as he was going to win the big one, his former friend from The Shield pulled off the biggest surprise in WrestleMania history since lolHoganbeatsYokozuna. Seth Rollins ran down the long ramp to the ring and within a matter of one minute he was the new WWE World Champion. It felt like something that shouldn’t have been broadcast in a bizarre way and it felt like wrestling used to when I was a child: absolute chaos.
Rollins had a damn good run for what it was going forward. Lesnar was again back at home for the rest of the spring and Rollins used that time to get some heat. Rollins was unlike a lot of heel champions in this era because he genuinely attempted to be hated. He would do his tried and true, scripted bullshit lines but his delivery was the key. He could say stupid things but sell them to make you believe he really was that damn pompous. A stellar program with Dean Ambrose was stunted by, guess who? Battleground 2015 felt like a death sentence but in the end, Rollins survived only thanks to a rogue Undertaker return. In perhaps the dumbest thing that WWE did in 2015, Undertaker ran in on Lesnar and proceeded to be a nasty, 1974 heel. Look, I get what some would think about this whole thing: Undertaker lost his streak to this man and logic would say he’d be very angry about it. He would want to pull out all the stops to beat the “conqueror” but to me if the Deadman has to cheat to win he’s useless. It’s different when he’s the biker Undertaker because that Undertaker is human but this is mystical Undertaker and mystical beings should be above low blows and shit.
This led to a rather...blah kind of run through the rest of 2015 between the two. Some loved it and yes, it drew some more interest for the short term but in my book it didn’t move the needle in the way that kind of thing should have. This felt like a WrestleMania 32 situation but was thrown onto side events for what seemed like no reason. Lesnar would go on to win the feud and again, left in the dark without a partner it seemed. Naturally this meant he went home for months on end and when he came back, it was an unlikely foe that met him head on in Dean Ambrose.
To say I was excited about the No Holds Barred match between Ambrose and Lesnar at WrestleMania 32 is an understatement. I made a point to drive several hours deep into the Ozarks to see this shit with my mark friend PJ because it felt like a must-see event. Would Lesnar be beaten by the young star or would Ambrose be left in a bloody heap like he was back in his old CZW days? It wasn’t built the best, with a notoriously dogshit angle that included Ambrose dragging a red wagon with weapons down to the ring like some school child. In hindsight, that should have tipped me off to how things would be. How were things you ask? Short. That’s the best word for that situation and it left me both angry and confused. If Ambrose spent 2015 in a marquee position either in the main event or right below just to be dominated by Lesnar in a matter of a few minutes what in the fuck was WWE’s plan here?
The plan it seemed was Lesnar over everything and everyone. Even though that WrestleMania closed with Roman Reigns holding the title high, he wasn’t the real star. The real star was clearly Lesnar because all the others were either positioned as not good enough or not smart enough. The summer of 2016 brought us this recent brand split and with that came the announcement of Lesnar’s new home and unsurprisngly it was the flagship show RAW. Great, RAW uses one of their first picks on a part-time guy and again it was positioned as the biggest move of all the moves.
The brand split did help everyone and I can’t deny that. If it weren’t for the split who knows if we would have seen so many people elevated that clearly deserved it. AJ Styles was the biggest winner of anyone and became the franchise player of the new SmackDown Live and I can’t say that would have happened the same way without a split roster. The same can be said for Finn Balor who within a month became RAW’s first ever Universal Champion however yet again it was an injury, in the same way that Bryan’s injury in 2014 altered things, that led to that title being vacated after just one night. That void was filled by Kevin Owens rather than Lesnar but we would learn that it was all in due time.
Lesnar spent 2016 in the shadows for the most part until an old face came back ino the WWE fold. WWE’s 2K game franchise has become its own entity over the last few years, becoming a huge part of the WWE year. In prior years there were the mending of fences between several old stars and the company and so the decision was made to focus the game around Goldberg as a playable character for the 2017 edition. The plan was simply game related and no plans were originally made for him to even be on WWE tv in any major capacity but the fans got so into Goldberg again. It was like seeing bellbottoms come back into style in the 90’s and wondering why everyone got so high all the sudden. So because of this groundswell of popularity, he was instead given the marquee position and who do you think that was working with? You’re getting better at this game.
So it was announced after countless, generic promos that Goldberg would make his return to WWE against the man he beat last Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series in Toronto. This was surrounded by a rushed SmackDown vs RAW feud throughout the card and that helped this situation tremendously. Because almost all other matches felt flat or all around useless that meant that Lesnar vs Goldberg was instantly bigger and better. It felt to me like when the old guys fight in Bellator: sure it is fun to watch and all but where does this go? The match ended within a minute when Goldberg beat Lesnar into powder and yet again I was left wondering how Vince saw any long-term positives in this?
The rest of the build to WrestleMania was all about these two and in February Goldberg both shocked and angered the wrestling multiverse when he beat Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship. This made the big rematch against Lesnar for the title and as said before, attractions shouldn’t need any belts. Now we had two attractions fighting each other for one and it felt like time went back 20 years just for the sake of it. The match happened, and Lesnar won his first Universal Championship. That pretty much puts us to today, only weeks after Lesnar’s only defense of the title since against Samoa Joe in a winning effort. Joe, a guy that has become an organic star simply because he can’t be denied was thrown to the shark as they all are and now it feels sillier than ever before with the recent news. I wonder what Vince is thinking now as he has to realize that the last 24 months or more of his company was invested in someone that had no plans to make this a priority. He gave the keys of his castle to a brute that only wanted a meal and one of his daughters. It feels so beyond insane and sadly, on par with WCW’s thinking. Thankfully for him, there are young guys that can pull the wagon once he finally invests in them but the problem is that the fans may have already given up on those names. You can only fail so much until the fans look at you as a failure completely and go elsewhere. That’s much of the issue with Roman Reigns. When he worked with someone like Lesnar who felt like they could eat him alive he thrived and did well. When he was challenged to put his working boots on by AJ Styles, he thrived. When he was tasked with working the same guy for a whole year again and again, a guy that is massive compared to him yet also is more over he failed. He failed not because he sucks but because he’s another guy Lesnar beat.
Everyone else is in the same boat. There’s your Lesnar Effect: the moment that Vince realizes that all these men that were used to make Lesnar the unstoppable god aren’t just recyclable. They have shelf lives just like they all do and that includes Lesnar. It feels so much like it did when Hogan left in 1993 because Hogan also sacrified so much of the youth for his own causes. It took that company almost 3 years to even gain profits back again and I worry this could happen again. In a climate where The Elite’s merchandise is in stores all around North America, a group that works out of Japan the clock is ticking. The whole of the wrestling world is growing while WWE feels like it is shrinking and losing luster but I’m sure Lesnar will be very concerned with that while he sits in his deer stand in Canada this fall. Good riddance, buddy. Thanks for the few years of interest that immediately died once everyone realized it was a lost cause to watch. Much like your MMA career, you came, you saw, and you fizzled the fuck out.
Like this blog? Good - it's by our new pal Corey over at Not Another Wrestling Podcast. He also does stuff on his own blog at http://rassletribune.blogspot.co.uk/ and he's also chilling on Twitter @wrestlecorey