Friday, 31 December 2004

The Life & Times of Brock Lesnar

There are those who would have you believe that the Internet is a powerful force in the professional wrestling industry. I for one had always thought that this was not the case. However, upon seeing Wrestlemania XX this past Sunday, I've been forced to re-evaluate this way of thinking a little.

A week ago, new broke on the Internet that former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar had had enough, that he had handed in his notice to Vince McMahon, and that he wanted to pursue a possible career in the National Football League.

While this story was widely reported on the Internet, no mention was made of it on the WWE website. As it was discussed all around the world, the powers-that-be were keeping quiet. After a couple of days, many began to think that it could be nothing more than a work, an angle. Many thought that Vince McMahon was playing the Internet, having been heavily critical of the medium a few weeks before.

So come March 14th, Madison Square Garden, Wrestlemania XX, and the evidence was clear. Everyone around the world could see it. As Lesnar made his way down to the ring for his much anticipated match with Bill Goldberg, the crowd were clearly against him. As he eyed his opponent up, the chants began. "You sold out. You sold out." It died down for a few moments, only for it to begin again.

As the fans waited for the match to actually begin, it became obvious that Lesnar was feeling uneasy. Essentially, the reception he had been given had spooked him. And it showed in his performance. One of the most eagerly awaited matches of the year so far was a severe let down. While Goldberg proved to be more than capable in his performance, Lesnar's performance was far below par, and as the match progressed, things didn't get any better. It made you wonder just why you had bothered to stay up so late in the evening.

When the match ended, it came as a welcome relief. Lesnar went down as Goldberg made what looked like his last match for the WWE. Even with everything over, The Pain still didn't look like a happy man. After taking a Stunner from special referee Steve Austin, Lesnar crawled backstage, with twenty thousand people baying for his blood.

When one thinks of Brock Lesnar, one thinks of his first appearance on WWE television two years ago, the day after Wrestlemania 18, this man mountain of a monster suddenly appearing on television, with Paul Heyman at his side, destroying all before him. One thinks of him defeating Rob Van Dam to become the final King of the Ring. One thinks of him dominating The Rock at Summerslam, before signing an exclusive contract with Smackdown which caused the end of the so-called undisputed championship. At a time when business was really down, at a time when the fans were calling out for the creation of new superstars, the WWE creative team gave us a monster of a superstar who won the title within six months of his debut.

But you have to ask yourself, was it all too much, too soon? Was giving the title and the enormous push so soon after his entrance into the WWE a mistake? Did it all go to his head?

Think about the stories concerning Lesnar that have arisen over the past few weeks, of his complaints about travelling all the way to South Africa "just to" wrestle Hardcore Holly. His complaints at having to drop the WWE title to Eddie Guerrero. His complaints that he was being pushed down the card, and having to feud with the Undertaker after his WMXX match with Goldberg. His complaints about the travel schedule, and his purchase of a private plane so his schedule would be eased. In hindsight, it was obvious that this was all pointing to one thing. The youngest WWE champion in history was developing the kind of ego Hulk Hogan would have been proud of.

When you take into account all of the facts, Lesnar's departure from the WWE is not really that surprising. Nor was the negative reaction he received not only on the net but also at MSG. When Lesnar made his debut, they needed a new star to capture the imagination of the fans. Now, they feel let down, betrayed by a man they had supported during his brief stint in the company.

The question everyone is asking now is will Lesnar ever return? Unlike certain other champions, Lesnar is not in love with the wrestling business. He thinks he can live without it. Only time will tell if he can. But if he does return, one thing is obvious. Wrestling fans can be an unforgiving breed at times. They won't forget the way that Brock Lesnar apparently betrayed them, and they'll pay to see him get his backside kicked by whoever happens to be the biggest star when he returns. He may make a few enemies in the locker room when he does come back, but one thing is certain - his return will be money in the bank