Monday night Raw 18th March, 2002. A three way match is being contested for the now defunct Hardcore Championship. The ring is a mess, garbage cans, road signs, kendo sticks, bodies are littered amongst the ring but that is before the real devastation is truly about to begin. From out of the crowd appears this monster, the size of a heavyweight and with the agility of a cruiserweight he performs his repertoire of devastating moves, laying waste to the three participants. Stood in the ring amongst the carnage ex ECW boss Paul Heyman raises the beasts hand. The The Next Big Thing has arrived.
The next big thing had most certainly arrived, although Lesnars career was a short one it was a highly accomplished and rewarding. He captured the WWE Championship no less than three times, became the youngest competitor ever to hold the title (at the time) won the King of the Ring and the Royal Rumble. WWE had given a lot of backing to this young rising star.
He claimed his first his Championship when he defeated The Rock at Summerslam 2002 having been awarded the title shot after winning the then cared about King of the Ring. His second title reign came following his Royal Rumble win, where he went on to face the then WWE Champion Kurt Angle in a match at Wrestlemania 20. Unfortunately this match will always be remembered for the botched shooting star press, a move he had successfully performed numerous time before. His third run came after he won a thrilling 60 minute iron man match against Kurt Angle which was contested on Smackdown, defeating Angle by 5 falls to 4.
WrestleMania 20. The stage was set and Brock had been chalked up to face Goldberg, two powerhouses who had built up credibility for they’re in ring domination through strength and technical ability. On paper this was a dream match but unfortunately due to both men leaving the WWE imminently after Wrestlemania neither the crowd, nor the fans watching on Pay Per View could invest themselves in the match. The match didn’t live up to expectations and Brock Lesnar exited the WWE on a defeat against the former WCW champion.
The reason for Lesnars departure was that while he claims he had enjoyed his time at WWE he had grown tired of the travelling and workload and wanted to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. While he found himself playing pre-season games for the Minnesota Vikings he was cut before the season began. Although he was invited to play for the Vikings in the NFL Europa he declined the offer.
In 2005 Lesnar made his return to the squared circle when he debuted in New Japan. His reappearance on the Pro Wrestling circuit angered WWE who sought a court order against Lesnar in an attempt to stop him working for another promotion. The judge disregarded the request and refused to grant it. During 2005 Lesnar had visited WWE headquarters in which he was offered a contract. WWE even ran the story on they’re website but unfortunately Lesnar backed out and a further Lawsuit continued.
WWE infuriated by Lesnar breaking his ‘no compete’ clause, again attempted to block his future title defence when they filed an injunction, this did not come to fruition and he went on to successfully defend the IWGP title against Akebono. Eventually both sides came to a settlement and WWE requested that their on ongoing lawsuit be dismissed.
Lesnar was later controversially stripped of his IWGP Championship due to Visa issues, yet IGF promoter Antonio Inoki claimed that he still saw Lesnar as the official IWGP Champion. He went on to defend the title in his last match for New Japan when he faced his old foe Kurt Angle in a Champion versus Champion match. Kurt Angle who at the time was TNA Heavyweight Champion. Kurt Angle won the bout after defeating Brock Lesnar with his ankle lock submission hold and claimed the IWGP title.
After his successful early run as an amateur wrestler and then going forward to Pro Wrestling Lesnar decided to capitalize on his skills and try his hand at MMA in 2007. He was instantly knocked back by critics who claimed that a pro wrestler couldn’t make the jump to MMA, the obvious claim that wrestling is fake and MMA is real was a continuing trend amongst reporters.
Having already won a match defeating Min Soo Kim within the K-1 promotion Lesnar went on to sign for UFC. Silencing his critics in his first match against Frank Mir. Although he lost the bout he’d put up a valiant fight and showed promise in his ring abilities. After gaining his first UFC win by defeating Heath Herring, he then went on to capture the UFC Heavyweight title after knocking out his opponent Randy Couture in the second round.
Lesnar fought battles both inside and out of the Octagon when he fell ill with a serious bowel illness, Lesnar spent a lot of time in hospital and at times his future looked bleak. Though being the born fighter that he is he overcame the illness and returned to the UFC in which to face Shane Carwin. Lesnar reclaimed his title when he ended the match having Carwin submit to a triangle chokehold, some disputed that the match should have been ended earlier as the referee allowed a lengthy ground and pound by Carwin on Lesnar. Others say his comeback from the attack was that of a verified Champion.
Finally after almost four years in MMA, on December 30th 2011 he hung up his grappling gloves following his loss to Alistair Overeem by first round knockout. Lesnar made the public announcement that it would be the last time we see him in the Octagon.
Days before WrestleMania 28 word had got out that Lesnar had signed with the WWE. There were whispers that he may even appear at WrestleMania itself. He didn’t make an appearance and The Rock had his moment which had been a year in the making. Instead he showed up at the closing minutes of Raw, the reaction from the white hot crowd when he appeared after a 8 year absence was that of jubilation.
Brock’s return is a welcomed one by WWE fans, especially the hardcore enthusiasts. He brings an unique style to ring, a style no longer seen in the WWE today. His mix of power and athleticism is a refreshing break from the slow paced matched we get from the usual big men.
The question we ask ourselves is what can we expect from The Next Big Thing? Is a lengthy WWE run on the cards or is this just a flying visit, so WWE can avoid the dip from the lack of top stars who were very much prominent for both the build and the event of Wrestlemania itself? The talk going around is that he’s signed a one year, minimum date contract. That will take him up to next year WrestleMania. A few names have already been thrown into JR’s hat for possible opponents but can we expect another year long build for a Cena main event? As a fan, I certainly hope not and I hope WWE use and utilise Lesnar to work with and put over numerous talents, rather than just focusing on the one. Maybe, with no other ties and the lighter schedule he may come accustomed to WWE again and extend his contract beyond next year and we can enjoy a lenghty Brock Lesnar return.
Nobody knows where either Lesnar or WWE intend to go from here, but as a fan I can’t wait to find out.