Brock Lesnar is one of the biggest stars at WWE’s disposal today, and increasingly one of the most impactful Superstars in WWE history. Between his unique real-life credentials as a decorated amateur wrestler and mixed martial arts fighter, his look, his actual athleticism and strength, and all that he has been booked to accomplish over the years, there are few stars who can compete his WWE Hall of Fame bound legacy.
For all of Lesnar’s strengths, and some of the distinctive, great matches he has worked, he has also had his share of duds. Particularly in the current era, Lesnar has a reputation for phoning it in opposite certain opponents, and for working a dull style when left to his own devices.
After the original electricity of Brock Lesnar returning to the WWE Universe from the world of mixed martial arts, there was a period when he started to feel like just another guy. Sure, he was still an upper card threat, but after dropping matches to John Cena and Triple H, and working a part-time schedule, it was unclear if he’d ever be a world title contender.
Lesnar defeated The Undertaker to end his WrestleMania undefeated streak at WrestleMania 30. That set him up to challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam, and suddenly it looked like he might be a world champ again after all.
Many pundits called Lesnar beating Cena, but no one guessed that he would do so dominantly—in what essentially amounted to a fifteen-minute squash. This was arguably the first, definitive Suplex City style match of Lesnar hitting German after German to physically decimate an opponent. Lesnar destroyed Cena, ushering him out of his role as the face of the company while cementing himself as one of the most dominant heel figures ever.
At WrestleMania 34, Roman Reigns was set up to challenge Brock Lesnar in what felt a bit like a do-over of WrestleMania 31. In 2015, the same match was booked, outperformed expectations, and ended with the satisfying conclusion of Seth Rollins cashing in Money in the Bank to steal the title.
This iteration of Reigns-Lesnar might have been The Big Dog’s formal coronation, but between fan backlash and other big shows like The Greatest Royal Rumble and SummerSlam 2018 to build to, the match didn’t deliver that climax. Instead, we got a slower, less entertaining version of the 2015 match. Lesnar won cleanly in the end, in a rare WrestleMania ending that didn’t seem to leave anyone happy.
Brock Lesnar is best known as a dominant destroyer who beats any opponent put in front of him in decisive fashion. It was unclear what to expect when he faced Goldberg at Survivor Series 2016. The former WCW headliner was past the point when he could physically hang in a full-fledged, long match, and the idea of Lesnar squashing him felt deeply unsatisfying when Goldberg was returning to the ring after well over a decade away.
No one expected that Goldberg would squash Lesnar, which may be why that actually came across so well. It was legitimately shocking to see the most dominant WWE villain crushed in under two minutes.
This match demonstrated Lesnar’s fallibility and the man behind the character’s willingness to play the fool in service to a longer storyline. This memorable loss would prove the first chapter in a longer story, culminating in the best match of all between these two at WrestleMania 33.
When Brock Lesnar faced Dean Ambrose in a Street Fight at WrestleMania 32, it had the potential to be something special. Particularly on a WrestleMania that was relatively low on star power, there was a real chance for this bout to steal the show, and to elevate Ambrose for even putting up a good fight and taking some crazy bumps in defeat against a star of Lesnar’s caliber.
The match was widely viewed as a disappointment—short and anticlimactic with Ambrose coming across like less of a valiant hero than someone who was thoroughly overmatched. From Ambrose’s visit to Wade Keller’s podcast since leaving WWE, it comes across that he persistently pushed for a more interesting match, and Lesnar and WWE brass weren’t interested in covering more than the basics.
When Brock Lesnar first arrived on the WWE main roster on 2002, he got a push like practically no one before or since. He single-handedly demolished the Hardy Boyz and he bearhugged Hulk Hogan into unconsciousness. He won the King of the Ring tournament. Then, less than a half a year into his tenure, he challenged The Rock for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam.
By August 2002, the writing was on the wall as Rock edged more and more toward part-timer status, and Lesnar became the clearest heir to the face of the company throne. While Lesnar didn’t necessarily last in that role—most notably leaving WWE behind for eight years after WrestleMania 20—he’s one guy who can’t claim WWE underutilized him. In soundly defeating The People’s Champion, Lesnar was a made man, and a permanent main event level threat moving forward.
Brock Lesnar wrapped up his first WWE tenure by working Goldberg in Madison Square Garden at WrestleMania 20. The bout would go down as one of the most awkward in WWE history as the smart fans were well aware both men were on their way out the door and heckled them mercilessly. Rather than winning over the crowd, or at least sprinting through the match to get out of the audience’s crosshairs, the two stalled and worked a slow style before moving forward with their unexciting planned finish. The match underscored that neither man was equipped to work past the crowd’s rejection in this kind of environment, besides which WWE brass didn’t necessarily seem all that invested in helping them out under the circumstances.
When Brock Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012, there were real questions about what to expect from him. How long would he stick around? And could the decorated UFC champ be trusted not to go into business for himself and really hurt someone?
The intrigue and dangerous edge around Lesnar when he returned to face John Cena added a ton of interest, and set up the Suplex City version of Lesnar that would take hold years later. In this bout, WWE capitalized on rare use of blood and physical brutality for a match totally different from everything else WWE was doing at the time. Sure, Cena winning in the end underwhelmed a lot of fans, but the finish was shrewdly booked as a fluke, and like Cena desperately needing to use a chain to fend off The Beast Incarnate long enough for a pin.
When Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker locked horns over the summer of 2016, it largely redeemed the lackluster WrestleMania 30 feud and match they’d had two years earlier. There was genuine heat this time around, with wild pull apart brawls, and a suitably hard-hitting war of a match at SummerSlam.
The issue extended to Hell in a Cell, with a final blow-off match in the Cell. While the match wasn’t bad, nor was it the epic battle WWE would have fans believe it was, paling in comparison to both the SummerSlam encounter and the original Hell in a Cell match the two had worked during Lesnar’s first WWE run. This match largely set a tone for Lesnar’s less inspired work for the months to follow, and was an anticlimactic ending to this rivalry.
Brock Lesnar is best known in WWE as one of the most dominant Superstars of all time. That reputation makes it stand out on those occasions when he does prove fallible. Lesnar never told a better David vs. Goliath story than he did opposite Eddie Guerrero in early 2003.
Guerrero was undersized and ostensibly outgunned against the monstrous Lesnar in this WWE Championship match. With an assist from Goldberg, Latino Heat picked up the pin fall victory, winning his lone world championship and cementing his legacy as an all-time great legend of WWE. Absorbing this loss underscored Lesnar’s value. Yes, he could play the unbeatable monster, but when someone did beat him, it made for a positively electric moment.
In the fall of 2018, WWE was in disarray. After finally achieving his coronation as Universal Champion at SummerSlam, Roman Reigns was forced to relinquish the title due to his real-life battle with leukemia. All indications were that WWE meant to carry forward with Reigns as the champ for an extended run, but in his absence, WWE faced the choice of returning to Lesnar as a known commodity, or hurrying ahead to go all in on Braun Strowman.
Lesnar and Strowman competed for the vacant title at Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia. Very few were expecting a great match given previous outings these two had put together. What we got was worse than most expected, though, with Baron Corbin attacking before the bell rang to set up Lesnar for a quick victory. The match felt like a lazy version of the match fans feared it might be, with no real storytelling or drama, in favor of ending it as quickly as possible and Lesnar walking out with the title in underwhelming fashion.