88. BROCK LESNAR
Aliases – The Next Big Thing; Super Fun Happy Brock
Hometown – Webster, South Dakota
Debuted – October 2000
Titles Held – WWE Undisputed Championship; WWE Championship; IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
Other Accomplishments – King of the Ring in 2002; won the Royal Rumble in 2003; won the NCAA Championship in 2000
I almost feel like apologising to you, the readers, and to the countless other wrestlers who contributed so much more to the industry between 1980 and the present day, for Brock Lesnar’s presence on this countdown. Almost but not quite, since I never voted for him. I’m not sure why various other members of our staff did, considering he made his WWE debut in March 2002 and wrestled his last match in North America to date in March 2004, doing little of lasting consequence in between those dates besides inadvertantly giving a name to John Cena’s finisher.
Still, in the interests of fairness, let’s have a stab at extolling Lesnar’s virtues…
Well, for starters, he did rack up a plenty impressive amateur record. He finished 33-0 at his high school, got a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota based on his wrestling prowess, wound up winning the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s wrestling championship in 2000, the year after he finished as the runner-up, and became a four-time All-American by the end of his college years. I don’t know what an All-American is, to be honest, but presumably it refers to something more impressive than the Rougeau Brothers song.
Then again, how relevant is anybody’s amateur record to judging them as a professional wrestler, which we are doing here? Moving swiftly on…
Lesnar signed a developmental deal with WWE at the turn of the century and was sent to OVW alongside Shelton Benjamin, his former college room-mate and assistant coach. The pair became known as the Minnesota Stretching Crew, which is a hilariously lame name (“Oooh, look out, they’re stretching!! I’s can’ts stand’s the sight!”), and made a good showing of themselves. Sadly, their interaction in later years would be reduced to Lesnar beating up Benjamin as Kurt Angle’s lackey rather than getting the chance to put on a multiple-snowflake match with one another.
He debuted in WWE proper on the 18th March 2002 edition of Raw, getting to throw around such luminaries as Spike Dudley, Al Snow and Maven for a bit. Ain’t that the dream. Although he wound up being the ‘face’ of Smackdown, he was actually a Raw guy after the initial brand extension and, backed by Paul Heyman, threw around many other people on that brand en route to becoming the King of the Ring. After that he continued to practise his throwing skills all the way up to chucking The Rock at SummerSlam 2002, becoming the youngest WWE Champion of all time – a record that still stands, thanks to Randy Orton winning ‘the other one’. He was also the last person to hold the Undisputed Champion moniker, as he became Smackdown-exclusive almost immediately afterwards, resulting in Triple H being awarded the aforementioned ‘other one’. His next major development came when Heyman stopped telling him who to throw around, which made him want to throw Heyman around as much as possible, but to do that he had to throw around the Big Show, Angle, Benjamin and Charlie Haas, as well as several others in the Royal Rumble. Most of 2003 saw him doing much of the same, although he did have the dubious honour of facing John Cena in Cena’s first PPV title match at Backlash. Various forgettable heel turns, title wins and even a reunion with his beloved Heyman ensued, with nothing of particular greatness happening until Lesnar tapped out to Chris Benoit at Survivor Series, setting Benoit on the way to the main event of WrestleMania XX. Also that night, Lesnar met Goldberg backstage and had a polite discourse to calmly build towards their, er, special match at that same show. Before then, he got to very carefully throw Bob Holly around – unlike the time when he dropped him on his head, which, despite Holly’s surly sandbagging antics, Lesnar still has to be held partly accountable for – and then fail to throw Eddie Guerrero around to full effect, dropping the WWE Championship to him in February 2004. One month later, Goldberg beat him with a Spear, Austin dropped him with a Stunner, and Madison Square Garden dumped on him from great heights. He never returned to professional wrestling in North America.
Were there any virtues extolled in the above? I don’t suppose it matters. Not enough Benoit. For the record, Lesnar did have some good matches against Rock, Taker, Angle and Eddie. Oh, and the F-5 was a decent finisher for him. Also, if he had not flaked out and quit the business then Bradshaw would perhaps have never become JBL and thus we would now have some numpty like The Miz on Smackdown’s colour commentary. Other than that meh. He was just another over-pushed big guy, albeit one with greater potential than most. The important thing to note is that I’m not about to bash the guy for his career decisions. Had it not become public knowledge before WM20 that he was leaving, then the general fanbase would not have been so quick to turn on him. At the end of the day, Lesnar was simply following his heart and fair play to him for that. It could have been handled better but it wasn’t, so we should all be over it by now. It still doesn’t change the fact that Lesnar’s WWE days ranged between Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcompetent’ and Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdecent’ and his body of work as a whole does not stand up as being the 88th greatest wrestler of the modern era.
But don’t blame me for it.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.