Brock Lesnar is a unique specimen in the world of professional wrestling. His look, real-life pedigree in MMA and amateur wrestling, and obvious athleticism and strength make him one of the most imposing performers in the history of the business. As such, it’s little surprise that he has racked up reigns with the WWE and Universal Championships.
Not all of Lesnar’s matches are great, though. There’s a certain lack of authenticity when he takes on mere mortal men, and, oftentimes, the more superficial big men who go up against him don’t deliver as compelling bouts. Such is the challenge of Lesnar’s title defenses against men like Braun Strowman or The Big Show.
Lesnar does have his share of classics to his name, though. This article takes a look back at his ten best world title defenses.
10 Edge, Rebellion 2002
Today, Edge is best remembered for his run as a heel main eventer, which he kick-started by becoming the first man to successfully cash in Money in the Bank. Years before he’d achieve that destiny, The Rated R Superstar was an upper mid-card face. In that role, he got the chance to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship in 2002.
It was a handicap match, with Paul Heyman on Lesnar’s team. Ordinarily, the two on one dynamic might have been an advantage, but, in this case, Heyman undoubtedly offered a liability for The Next Big Thing.
Lesnar would prevail in the end, but Edge more than held his own. Though the match is largely lost to the sands of time for being on a UK exclusive PPV, critics haven nonetheless compared the monster heel Lesnar vs. face Edge dynamic to something like Big Van Vader vs. Sting from years before.
9 Finn Balor, Royal Rumble 2019
Despite being the first Universal Champion, Finn Balor has rarely been treated as a main event-level guy since. He got a big chance in early 2019, though, when he was positioned as Brock Lesnar’s challenger for the Royal Rumble PPV.
While few expected Balor to win here, it was a victory of its own sort that he put up a heck of a fight, rocking Lesnar with a stick-and-move offense and fooling fans into thinking he had a chance within the context of the match. In the end, this was one of Lesnar’s more fun placeholder title defenses en route to more serious contenders.
8 Seth Rollins, WrestleMania 35
Brock Lesnar and the Universal title found themselves in the unusual spot of opening the show at WrestleMania 35. The unexpected card placement added to a sense of chaos for this bout, which got started with Lesnar brutalizing Seth Rollins before the opening bell.
Rather than using the pre-match beatdown as an excuse for Rollins to go down in defeat, it became a key aspect of his hero’s journey. In the sprint of a match to follow, Rollins regained the advantage before ultimately stomping Lesnar into the mat to take the title off of him and start off ‘Mania in electric fashion.
7 The Undertaker, No Mercy 2002
During Brock Lesnar’s original WWE run, he got the push of not only feuding competitively with The Undertaker but actually getting the better of The Dead Man on more than one occasion. The first go through this rivalry largely culminated at No Mercy 2002, inside Hell in a Cell.
The story going into the match was that Lesnar had broken The Undertaker's hand—a miscalculation as, rather than being disadvantaged by the injury, The Phenom started using the hard cast as a destructive weapon. That sub-plot added something fresh to this Lesnar vs. Undertaker war in a fun big man battle inside the Cell.
6 Roman Reigns, SummerSlam 2018
Brock Lesnar’s first Universal title run was generally considered a disappointment for how long it ran and how few good matches it produced. In Lesnar’s SummerSlam 2018 title defense against Roman Reigns, WWE turned back to an old bag of tricks—namely how Lesnar had won the title off of Goldberg in short, fast-paced, all-action brawl.
Not only did this iteration of Lesnar vs. Reigns feel explosively fun, but it also included the entertaining sub-plot of Braun Strowman threatening to cash in Money in the Bank right after the match. The result was chaotic, engaging, and ultimately fulfilling for finally seeing Reigns topple The Beast for the title.
5 Seth Rollins, SummerSlam 2019
Seth Rollin’s sprint against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 35 was a crowd-pleaser, but, four months later, WWE recognized the need to do something different. Rollins vs. Lesnar got the main event spot at SummerSlam and looked a lot more like Lesnar’s strong outings opposite Finn Balor, AJ Styles, and Daniel Bryan for the big man dominating opposite a gutsy performance from his underdog opponent.
The difference here was that Rollins not only hung around but ultimately won this match. The come from behind victory told a feel-good story and definitively set up The Beast Slayer as the man moving forward.
4 Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, and Samoa Joe, SummerSlam 2017
SummerSlam 2017 saw WWE buck tradition, not having its top champion defend against a single top contender, but rather forcing him to duke it out with three other monsters in a wild brawl.
The match booking was for the best; Lesnar had had lukewarm matches with all three challengers surrounding this show—and when working fellow big men, more generally—the four man format allowed for constant brutal action.
Braun Strowman, in particular, looked like a star for his feats of strength, including temporarily incapacitating Lesnar after he put him through an announce table. Lesnar also got to look superhuman, of course, for coming back to win the match.
3 Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, WrestleMania 31
Going into WrestleMania 31, there were a lot of questions about the main event. WWE had told about as traditional of a story as it could, with Roman Reigns rising through the ranks, winning the Royal Rumble, and coming to presumably unseat the reigning heel champion.
Fans rejected Reigns, though, making him winning the title feel like a big gamble. Lesnar winning wasn’t an attractive option either thanks to the unhappy and potentially anticlimactic end to a WrestleMania, besides which he didn’t necessarily have any other viable challengers waiting.
Reigns vs. Lesnar over-performed, resulting in what was certainly Reigns' best singles outing up to that point. Seth Rollins cashing in Money in the Bank in the closing moments of the match offered WWE an out, with the cash in surprise feeling electric enough to send everyone home happy and put off Reigns’s coronation without him losing face.
2 John Cena, Seth Rollins, Royal Rumble 2015
Brock Lesnar crushed John Cena at SummerSlam 2014 to arrive as one of the great monster heel champions in WWE history. His Royal Rumble 2015 title defense against Cena and Seth Rollins was an extraordinary follow-up. Yes, Lesnar and Cena could put on good matches together, but adding Rollins as a conniving, athletic heel nicely diversified the action, though, adding the threat that he just might steal the title after one of his larger opponents incapacitated the other.
The match was a lot of fun, with Lesnar ultimately looking unbeatable when battled back after he appeared to have been taken out of action, only to pick up the victory.
1 Eddie Guerrero, No Way Out 2004
In early 2004, Eddie Guerrero got a rare one on one world title opportunity opposite dominating young champ, Brock Lesnar. The bout to follow was as good as one might expect from young, motivated Lesnar and virtuosic veteran Guerrero, with the kicker that Guerrero won.
No, Guerrero didn’t go over Lesnar clean, but he survived The Next Big Thing’s onslaught in impressive fashion. From there, interference from Goldberg came across as legitimately exciting while protecting Lesnar, only for Guerrero to ultimately pick up the pin for himself with his signature frog splash.
Take a stellar, interesting match and cap it with one of the greatest feel-good moments in WWE history, and we arrive at Lesnar’s best title defense.