Brock Lesnar the man has “it”. He is the perfect mix of fear-inducing physicality and freak show badassery, and as “real” as it gets in professional wrestling. Brock Lesnar the WWE character is a creative black hole, a place where ideas disappear into the void.
Brock Lesnar is also very clearly great for WWE’s bottom line, regardless of storyline. Why else would Vince McMahon and Co. continue to pay him such a massive amount of money for so few appearances, only to use “The Beast” in such an uninspired way?
When Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012, it was greeted with every last drop of fervor the pro wrestling fan base could muster. In Brock, WWE finally had a guy they hadn’t “50/50 booked” into indifference. We were all excited to see him return, largely because he’s an athletic marvel and legitimately frightening. There was simply no way WWE could mess this up, right?
Cut to 2018 and it’s become clear WWE has simply chosen to take the path of least resistance with Brock’s character. Brock wants to get in the ring, do nothing but suplex dudes for a few minutes, and collect his check? WWE seems just fine with that. It certainly didn’t seem that would be the case 6 years ago.
Early on, everything went swimmingly. Brock’s feuds with John Cena and Triple H were captivating. WWE followed it up by having Brock destroy “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry and Big Show, aka “The World’s Largest Athlete”. Those angles weren’t great, but they made sense because they got Brock to Undertaker at WrestleMania, where he ended the Deadman’s undefeated streak. Most figured that win would set about a massive run for Lesnar, but from that point forward, besides some excellent Paul Heyman mic work, a few intense stare-downs with Roman Reigns, and a handful of underwhelming matches, very little has gone right for the guy, at least where his character is concerned.
The last three years for “The Beast” have been an exercise in blandness. He’s collected massive paychecks (fair play to him for that), and though he’s apparently given WWE it’s money’s worth, he hasn’t given fans theirs. I don’t know that he’s entirely to blame, but his hands are plenty dirty.
Lesnar’s WWE schedule was initially something I thought could be used as a positive. If fans didn’t see him much, he couldn’t get stale. I wasn’t even bothered when they put championships on him, as I assumed it would be a nice way of going “old school” with the belt, saving him for big events. That idea works, but only if he’s invested every single time he returns. This has not been the case, and on a few occasions, he’s actually done harm to the overall product (staring hard in your direction, complete clusterf*#k that was the Goldberg feud).
In my opinion, Lesnar hasn’t mattered in years, and I think it’s too easy to pin all the blame on the much-maligned RAW Creative Team. Besides, I believe those poor souls to be the most stressed out bunch of people in sports entertainment. Imagine walking the artistic tightrope of attempting to please a locker room of jacked up, 300 lb. monsters, millions of impatient, know-it-all “Universe” members, fickle shareholders, and the almighty Vince McMahon, all while trying to piece together tight stories that flow and work both individually and as a collective whole? Now throw Triple H and Stephanie McMahon into the mix. Now throw Brock Lesnar’s extremely restrictive contract (and complete indifference) into the mix.
Dear God, what an undertaking.
When you consider all these variables, it’s really no surprise RAW Creative takes the easy way out with Lesnar, but the whole “Brock shows up once or twice a quarter to act indestructible” bit has long since been tired and stale. It’s gotten so bad, not even a legendary salesman like Paul Heyman can breathe new life into what has become WWE’s “rinse/repeat” way of dealing with Brock’s rare appearances.
“The Beast” is getting paid and good on him for that, but at this stage, he’s doing nothing to help the product from an entertainment standpoint. He didn’t help Braun Strowman, he hasn’t helped Reigns, and I’m hard-pressed to recall a single big moment he’s had in years.
If and when Lesnar bails on WWE for a return to the UFC (or to go back to his farm for good), I won’t miss him. You won’t miss him either, I promise, because for all his size, strength, and intensity, he’s become barely noticeable, even when he’s the most hyped thing in WWE.