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Brock Lesnar used to be the biggest draw in combat sports entertainment. He used to be the most dominant fighter in the world. Brock used to be really scary. That was two entire presidential cycles ago.
Eight years ago Brock Lesnar was legit, the baddest man on the planet. Back then he was dominating the Heavyweight Division in UFC by running through top contenders and eventually brutalizing the champion, taking the title for himself, and setting pay-per-view buyrates as he did it. All while being genuinely the most hated fighter by the UFC fan base.
Four years later Brock had tumbled down the heavyweight rankings, lost his championship in spectacular and somewhat embarrassing fashion, had a foot of his colon removed, and almost died. Through all of that he still had the aura of baddest man on the planet very much still intact. Fans were still willing to plunk down good money to see him battle on PPV. Whether it was in the Octagon having shoot fights or the squared circle of a pro wrestling ring where he originally gained his mainstream notoriety. And wrestling fans got that second chance to see a Lesnar run on top.
Here we are at the end of 2016. Almost five years since Brock returned to WWE. Nineteen PPV matches, not including the actual Royal Rumble match. Championship matches, title defenses. Traditional triple threat matches, “impromptu” triple threats. Cage matches, Hell in a Cell, no DQ, asylum matches, no holds barred. Brock has broken arms, ended a streak, and an opponent had their career on the line. Hiding though in all those gimmicks, beneath all those different stipulations,
has frankly been some of the least inspiring story telling. Stories told in the ring and especially in the build to matches.
Brock has faced a dozen different opponents in those 19 matches. Of those 12 different men, the story leading to the big match was decent to good with maybe four of them. The first two matches against John Cena, the WrestleMania 31 build against Reigns, the story headed into this past Survivor Series vs Goldberg, and maybe – maybe – the build against Randy Orton. The most memorable finish hands down is Brock ending Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania 30. That match had a horrible build bordering on pathetic. The highlight headed into that match was a guy getting stabbed in the hand with an ink pen. And for such a monumental finish, it wasn’t even fully capitalized on. Not even close.
What about in the ring, though? Surely just because WWE Creative dropped the ball so many times with the storylines before the matches, Brock and his opponents have shined come Sunday PPV day, right? Wrong. You’d think a man getting paid probably five times the pay of that of the top full time worker and is only required to do a tenth (I’m being generous) of the work, he’d be sure to bring his “A” game each time out and give fans a compelling physical story to get their money’s worth? Wrong again.
Brock seemingly goes out of his way to have dull, one-dimensional, one-sided, even one-move matches. Lesnar couldn’t even have exciting weapons matches against C.M. Punk and Dean Ambrose at huge events like Summerslam and WrestleMania. We got two giant stages versus two very creative in-ring performers and dud city. Mania 29 against Triple H, I left my seat to go charge my phone in the corridor of Met Life stadium. Bor-ring.
This is less about actual moves than it is psychologically compelling matches. This is about a guy getting paid an ass load of money and no longer driving business. Of course, I don’t have access to WWE metrics, but I don’t hear folks clamoring for Lesnar feuds and matches. It is because we’ve been there and done that. We all know we most likely aren’t going to get anything special out of a Brock Lesnar feud or match besides possibly a fire Paul Heyman promo or two, but lately even those seem lackluster and uninspired.
WWE should not invest millions of more dollars into keeping Brock around once his current deal is up. The man is clearly not interested in doing anything more than showing up a few times a year, doing the bare minimum, getting paid, and going home leaving most if not all of the heavy lifting and promoting to someone else. Squeeze whatever is left out of the guy in hopes that he can elevate someone that will eventually bring in more that he takes out.
Just my take.
(Travis Bryant, the newest PWTorch staff columnist, co-hosts the PWTorch Livecast every Friday night with senior columnist Bruce Mitchell, is often part of VIP Post-PPV Roundtables, and hosts the PWTorch East Coast Cast.) ###