Since the return of Brock Lesnar to the WWE, I have been a small but outspoken voice against Brock Lesnar.
This stemmed from finding him overrated during his original run, and being unimpressed, to say the least. with the way his first WWE run ended. As a wrestler, his rise as “The Next Big Thing” was certainly striking, and his abilities in the ring were equally acceptable; and this, when mixed with the expert, respected management of Paul Heyman, destined him for the top. That was what exactly what he got – a direct route to the top, being handed victories against Hulk Hogan, The Rock (which saw him become the youngest WWE Champion ever, and to this day), The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, John Cena, as well as King of the Ring and Royal Rumble victories. All this happened in the space of roughly a year, which is absolutely unprecedented support for a superstar in this era. Lesnar was hot property, there’s no denying that, but as a character, he hadn’t impressed me. Weak on the mic, seeing him in non-fighting segments was always something rather forgettable, and rarely anything that would get me much invested in him as character, or in what he did or happened to him. In short, I saw Brock Lesnar as a man who had been given the keys to the kingdom, despite not really deserving it.
That was one thing, but my opinion of him lessened even more when he left WWE. Having being strapped to a rocket to the stars, Lesnar decided he would rather try NFL, and left. Just like that. The fans at least shared my disapproval this time, making his WrestleMania XX match with Goldberg a farce by booing them both out of the building and cheering only when Stone Cold Stunned them both back in their place. I don’t have a problem with Lesnar wanting to be in the NFL. I love the NFL. But wrestling is something I love more is wrestling, and that is because it engenders more respect, and more emotional commitment than anything else, and to give up on it after only a couple of years, shows a real lack of respect and love for the business and the hard work it requires, something which is needed to keep the business going. So not only was Brock Lesnar a man who had been given the keys to the kingdom, despite not really deserving it, but he was a man who had been given the keys to the kingdom, despite not really deserving it, who couldn’t hack it.
Lesnar’s NFL career fizzled out quickly, but he did find success in MMA, signing for the UFC and becoming their champion. As a personal achievement, it’s impressive, but it doesn’t make me respect him as a man. While professional wrestling and MMA look similar, and MMA is a true sport while professional wrestling is scripted, but these are, in fact, the very reasons why I love professional wrestling, and dislike MMA. In my opinion, professional wrestling is one of the greatest, most relevent mediums of art there is today, and it is so because it gives the appearance of conflict. It hurts, it’s about sacrifice, but ultimately, the players are trying to protect each other in the pursuit of there art. MMA is the opposite this. For pay, men try to seriously hurt each other; it’s demeaning and devoid of anything artful. Yes, sport is a beautiful thing, but not this sport, not to me.
Even that’s fine; it doesn’t affect me – I don’t watch MMA. While I didn’t like him a year ago, Lesnar wasn’t really affecting my life. But now he’s returned to WWE, and he’s returned to ‘bring legitimacy’ to the WWE. Well that’s where, frankly, the man can f**k off. Professional wrestling is lots of great things, but it categorically isn’t a sport, and shouldn’t be treated like one. In fact, the success of wrestling lives and dies on the ability to suspend your disbelief. Even for ‘smart’ fans, we have to believe in the basic dynamic before us (mainly, the people interacting, and the moves being performed), and this is made easy by the fact that what happens does hurt, and is, at least in a pure sense, real (in that the actions are controlled, but not faked). Brock Lesnar coming back, highlighting his background in competitive fighting, saying he wants to bring ‘legitimacy’ to the WWE, and wearing MMA-style sponsored shorts which look different to everyone else completely undermines that. He’s basically saying “When i’m around, it’s real, when i’m not, it’s not,” and that hurts everyone, apart from Brock Lesnar. Now I’ve actually quite liked him (in a limited way) since his return, but he’s currently helping nobody but Brock Lesnar, and that’s a problem.
When The Rock came back, he was thrust in to the spotlight, and aspects of that made me unhappy. But at least The Rock was … THE ROCK, an icon, a charismatic force, who had a great story to tell with John Cena. But then, instantly afterwards Brock Lesnar comes out, makes that last year something of an afterthought, and takes up more spots from people like CM Punk, who should be one of the guys. Indeed, Punk is that in a sense; he is the WWE Champion and is booked very strong with lots of mic time. But Punk, who is infinitely better in every way than Lesnar, hasn’t been in a main event segment in a very long time – thanks, in part, to Lesnar.
MMA may well be a real sport, but that is where it’s ‘legitimacy’ over pro wrestling ends. Professional wrestling is not necessarily a pursuit of money, but a pursuit of happiness. It necessitates sacrifice and makes art possible. I have no problem in admitting that wrestling has brought me to tears (indeed, this blog was created on the wave of such emotion); I don’t believe MMA is capable of that, and I respect a man like Punk, who has given his life for this business, and is only now reaping the rewards, far more than a man like Lesnar, who is only interested in what Brock Lesnar can gain from his ventures.
I wish him the best, because I respect any professional wrestler, have enjoyed aspects of his return, and want him to make my viewing possible, but his being here doesn’t make the spectacle more ‘legitimate’; if anything, his approach undermines much of what makes professional wrestling a legitimately beautiful thing.