It’s the same old story: Challenger wants Brock Lesnar. Paul Heyman puts them over, before sharing “spoilers”. Brock Lesnar grins, laughs at Paul Heyman then leaves. The challenger runs his mouth, wanting to bring the title back to Raw. Brock Lesnar sits at home without a care in the world, enjoying his family’s company. Almost every week, the challenger complains “It’s not fair! Why does he get preferential treatment?” A few weeks later, a big deal is made of Brock Lesnar emerging. He smiles after throwing his challenger down with the F-5. At the PPV, following a valiant effort from the challenger, German Suplex, German Suplex, German Suplex, F-5! Brock Lesnar retains. And all hope is lost, as The Beast returns to his slumber.
Working Within the Limits
When kayfabe died, the best kind of heat shut up shop as well. Remember when The Dudley Boyz caused riots in ECW? Remember how fans loved to hate Ric Flair (and still do)? They bought in to what they were selling, and with hardly any limits, heels had the freedom to do almost anything for their rewards. They gave us the passion to support those who never gave up hope in the face of evil.
On the other hand though, WWE has been setting limits since the mid-2000s, and the world of political correctness exacerbated this further (micro-managing promos etc.). How do we cheer a John Cena when he’s got no equal nemesis? How do we support a Roman Reigns when there’s no one who matches up? Where did all the villainy go?
It’s still there, but WWE’s had to adapt to more subtle ways of getting heat. They tap in to real-life situations, and often use other talent to spread their “outrage” via interviews and social media. In Brock Lesnar’s case, the part-time contract ensured he’d be their biggest heel so long as they’re willing. No chance of turning face though, because the WWE Universe would continue sharing their frustration over his (lack of) booking. Since returning under his part-time deal seven years ago, the contract situation has continued to be talked about among WWE fans and superstars.
After ending The Undertaker’s streak, Brock Lesnar was built up to be his successor as the undefeatable champion. He’s like an end boss of a game which is so difficult, you’ll only beat it once every twenty, thirty, fifty attempts. At this point, his retaining is so inevitable it gets under people’s skin. Some would be happy to see the back of him.
Convenience All Round
A couple of years ago in an interview on the “Stone Cold” podcast, Paul Heyman talked to Steve Austin about Brock Lesnar’s part-time status. Might be able dig it out for another article down the road, but it was agreed it made sense, not just for what Brock Lesnar wants, but also for what WWE needs to keep his character fresh. Over saturating him, much like what happened near the end of his first run, was something they needed to avoid. Also, keeping him part-time means he’s less prone to serious injuries, helping his career in the long-term.
Speaking of Paul Heyman, he’s always been a valuable asset. “The Next Big Thing” suffered tremendously after ditching Paul Heyman to be a standalone babyface champion in late-2002 (in fact it was the other way around, but it’s not important). WWE learned from their mistakes, and decided Paul must be by his side after his return in 2012. Even if Lesnar treats him like trash, Paul Heyman will endure his wrath without question. Why? Because he knows, and everyone else knows that the Paul Heyman character needs to be at Brock Lesnar’s side more than Brock Lesnar needs him. In reality, they are close friends who are bound to be remembered as an inseparable TV duo.
Brock Lesnar does his talking in the ring. Although, when he does get vocal, he gets your attention due to how rare it is. If the challenger isn’t worthy? They get laughed at, and it’s the same for the WWE Universe. Brock Lesnar is so good at showing he doesn’t care for any criticism. The Universal Championship was introduced to “represent the WWE Universe” but he is the antithesis of the title’s purpose. He is the anti-champion no one wants. We don’t care who beats him, we just want him out of our lives.
As much as it feels like Vince McMahon doesn’t know what he’s doing and as much as it seems like Brock Lesnar has him bent over backwards (with his contract), this negative situation has been encouraged for heat. Brock Lesnar doesn’t have “special privileges” Vince McMahon can’t control, and he certainly doesn’t have the last say on anything. But that’s what WWE wants you to believe. They want you to believe Brock Lesnar is so powerful, even Vince McMahon can’t stop him.
To this day, Brock Lesnar remains under the best tutelage. The Undertaker taught Brock Lesnar everything early in his career, and was putting him over in Hell in a Cell long before they ever met at WrestleMania. Brock Lesnar has been working everyone with a character so devoid of empathy, we can almost believe he’s like that when the cameras are off.
I’m sure Brock Lesnar does care somewhat about WWE and its fans. He could make money anywhere. He could fight, do movies, other projects, or easily retire on what he’s made. Yet he chooses to wrestle? Does he sound like someone who isn’t enjoying it? Not unless he needs the money I guess; although it could also be a matter of the light schedule being convenient at this point. The Beast is still an attraction, and so long as he draws, anyone who challenges him is better for it.
Each year we hear rumors that Brock Lesnar will certainly “leave WWE after WrestleMania”. There’s always something giving us a smidgen of hope, but it’s often exaggerated. It’s not a matter of if Brock Lesnar retains anymore, it’s a matter of when. And this year, we see Seth Rollins challenging, yet I cannot bring myself to hope. He’s the only credible opponent Brock Lesnar has not faced one-on-one, but it does not make me believe anything more than the inevitable will happen. It would be truly shocking if he did pull off the upset, but we know it would only happen if Brock Lesnar is on the way out.
I cannot remember another heel champion being as dominant as Brock Lesnar has. He had a small blip with Goldberg, and of course, there was Roman Reigns taking the title at WrestleMania (helped by Braun Strowman). But as soon as Roman Reigns needed to vacate, WWE wasted no time relying on him again. And they’ll keep doing so, until “The Big Dog” is ready to challenge once more. Only when Roman Reigns (or someone else) is ready to lead WWE in to the next generation, will The Beast step aside. I’m not a big Brock Lesnar fan, but the writing is on the wall. If Seth Rollins does somehow come out of WrestleMania as champion, it’ll be another massive moment I’m sure everyone will enjoy celebrating.
What do you think? Is Brock Lesnar the most dominant heel champion in WWE history? Will he keep the title hostage post-WrestleMania? Are we destined for more of the same? Because yeah, so long as Brock Lesnar enjoys playing the game, we can’t argue with WWE for making him the benchmark for future generations. His reign of terror will end someday, and it will never be forgotten. The Universal Title may be a joke for now, but it may finally live up to its potential when it returns home to Monday Night Raw full-time.
It's a formula that has dominated combat sports and sports entertainment since 2002. I talk the talk. He walks the walks. And no one since Sammartino has been such a consistent champion like the reigning defending undisputed @WWE Universal Heavyweight Champion @BrockLesnar! pic.twitter.com/xmHlZC1sRO
— Paul Heyman (@HeymanHustle) April 2, 2019