Brock Lesnar is a bad dude. He’s an NCAA Champion. He’s UFC Champion. He’s insanely powerful and fast, not to mention that he has impressive technical training to make the most of his physical gifts. Moreover, he one hundred percent looks the part, standing 6’3”, weighing just under three hundred pounds, jacked to the gills with raw muscle.
Lesnar has, of course, lost in professional wrestling, dropping matches to the likes of Eddie Guerrero, John Cena, Triple H, and most recently Goldberg. But those are all worked matches.
It’s hard to imagine someone wanting to get in fight with Brock Lesnar given the obvious danger he poses to anyone who wants to trade punches or, perhaps worse yet, grapple. Just the same, the professional wrestling business has seen its share of legitimately bad asses pass through. Whether they, too, were trained fighters, giants of men, or just tough as nails, there are guys who could believably take Lesnar. Of course, there are far more men who couldn’t. Men with reputations for being tough. Men who were strong. Men who got the better of shoot fights. Indeed, just being a tough guy isn’t enough to stand a chance in a real fight with the Beast Incarnate. It takes someone with a special combination of factors to overcome one of the most awesome fighting machines that not only professional wrestling, but mixed martial arts has ever seen.
This article takes a look at eight wrestling tough guys who, in their primes, would have beaten Brock Lesnar in a legitimate, unscripted fight, and seven who despite their credentials, would not have stood a chance.
15 Would Have: Haku
Few wrestlers before or since him have had quite the reputation of being a badass that Haku had. In the world of professional wrestling, he never rose above the status of a mid-carder. He probably peaked when he was the workhorse of a tag team with Andre the Giant during the big man’s waning days, or arguably in the early days of his run as Meng in WCW when he was pushed as an invincible force.
In real life, Haku is the subject of wrestling folklore. The tales of his toughness and his brutality—the most iconic of which is an altercation with a non-wrestler at a bar or airport (there are different versions of the story floating in shoot interviews and around the Internet) who wanted to try his luck against a wrestler. Haku purportedly ripped out the guy’s eye.
Could Haku take Brock Lesnar? It’s not a sure thing, particularly given Lesnar’s size advantage, but in a fight with no clearly defined rules, there’s reason to believe Haku might take him down.
14 Wouldn’t: Bart Gunn
The summer of 1998, WWE ran Brawl For All. Unlike any series of matches the company had put on before or would put on afterward, it was a shoot fighting tournament. As WWE still tried to figure out what Attitude and a realer edge might mean, Brawl For All was an experiment. It’s widely theorized the tournament was designed to get over Steve Williams as a new arrival whom the WWE brass assumed would run through the field, and thus be established as a credible main event threat in unique fashion.
Bart Gunn surprised fans and colleagues alike when he KOed Williams and went on to win the whole tournament.
Gunn was a tough guy and no doubt this victory was impressive. WWE pitted him against Butterbean at the following WrestleMania in a shoot boxing match. Many suggest it was a way of punishing Gunn and burying the poorly received Brawl For All concept, though I suppose one could also view it as giving Gunn at platform to prove himself at an even higher level. Given how poorly Gunn did in his first round knock out loss, it doesn’t bode well for how a fight between him and Lesnar would have gone—another trained professional with real life credentials.
13 Would Have: Ken Shamrock
Brock Lesnar is bad, no doubt, but he’s not the original UFC champion credentialed WWE star. Before him, Ken Shamrock was a beast of a mixed martial artist. His ability to transition from great shoot fighter to great professional wrestler tends to be underrated. Shamrock never won a world title in WWE, and wound up shooting himself in the foot by purportedly over assessing his worth and asking for more money than anyone was interested in paying him as a wrestler and thus pricing himself into obscurity.
Just the same, in a conversation of who’d win a fight, there’s little doubt Shamrock would hold his own with Lesnar. While Lesnar’s size might help him win the day, Shamrock would surely have a shot, particularly if his kickboxing game allowed him to land some stiff shots early on.
12 Wouldn’t: JBL
JBL was a big man in the ring and was notorious for being stiff with opponents, including infamously targeting ECW alumni. More recently stories have come out about him being a bully backstage, too, picking on people he didn’t like and, according to some sources, people management directed him to give a hard time.
The thing about JBL is that he doesn’t have a history of doing all that well in fights with people willing to stand up to him or people his own size. In a now notorious incident, announcer Joey Styles punched him out behind the scenes. While you can argue that was a matter of luck, or getting caught off guard, there is very little doubt Lesnar would destroy JBL in a legitimate fight.
11 Would Have: Danny Hodge
The name Danny Hodge might not be familiar to contemporary fans, given that he reached the prime of his pro wrestling career in the 1960s. Not only has his career long passed, but he worked for the National Wrestling Alliance territories and never set foot in WWE, thus making him a tougher sell for WWE to celebrate the legacy of now. When it comes to multifaceted fighters, though, who performed at the highest level in more than one form of combat few professional wrestlers have ever come close to matching Hodge.
Hodge was a truly great amateur wrestler whose resume included an Olympic silver medal. He was also an accomplished amateur boxer whom some records suggest could have simultaneously been a successful Olympian in that sport, too, had he not chosen to start boxing professionally at the time instead.
Would Hodge have really beaten Lesnar in a fight? We’ll never know for sure, but at least in a pound for pound comparison that accounts for Lesnar’s size advantage and the ways in which combat sports have evolved over his years, if all things were equal, you have to imagine Hodge would have more than held his own.
10 Wouldn’t: Steve Williams
Steve Williams had already had a lengthy wrestling career and had developed a reputation as a stiff, strong, athletic bull of a wrestler by the time Jim Ross signed him to a WWE contract. The popular theory for the time was that Williams would be cast as a main event rival to Steve Austin (whose real name was, ironically, Steve Williams, too).
WWE opted to push Williams via Brawl For All—a shoot fighting tournament. It was a unique spectacle within the pro wrestling format, and had things gone as planned, with Williams presumably running through the field, it would have offered a unique way of establishing him as a very real threat. Instead, however, Williams didn’t even reach the finals before getting knocked out by eventual tournament winner (and perpetual mid card and tag guy) Bart Gunn.
To be fair, Williams was probably past his shoot fighting prime at this point, and maybe Gunn just happened to get lucky in that particular fight. Still, given what happened, it’s hard to imagine Williams would have done better in a real fight with Lesnar.
9 Would Have: Scott Steiner
Today, when fans think of Scott Steiner they see him in the Big Poppa Pump gimmick, as an outspoken heel with short bleached blond hair and a foul mouth. Long before he espoused that gimmick, though, that he’s carried on across different promotions for nearly two decades now, he had a different identity. As half of The Steiner Brothers tag team with his real life brother Rick, Steiner was a clean cut baby face who combined power and athleticism like few wrestlers of his generation.
Steiner was a highly decorated amateur wrestler before he entered the world of pro wrestling. After he broke in the business he was notorious for being incredibly strong in the ring, capable of manhandling just about anyone, including much larger men. In addition, he was known as a bit of a backstage bully who picked on other wrestlers who couldn’t defend themselves if Steiner decided he wanted to grapple with them behind the scenes.
It’s hard to say with certainty that Steiner would take Lesnar, but he’s a guy of very similar size, power, credentials, and a mean streak who I can only guess might have given MMA a shot had it been in vogue when he was in his physical prime.
8 Wouldn’t: Vader
Vader was known as an intimidating presence both on screen and off. Booked as a true monster heel in WCW, he had his way with Sting and was established as a terrific world champion for the company in the early 1990s. Moreover, it has been mythologized by guys like Mick Foley that enhancement talent legitimately feared working with Vader for how powerful and stiff the guy was.
No doubt, Vader was a true badass. Just the same, he didn’t have the real life fighting credentials of a guy like Brock Lesnar. On top of that, Vader lost his best known shoot fight to an over the hill Paul Orndorff. While, by Vader’s account in the Got Heat shoot interview compilation, he didn’t want to fight Orndorff and didn’t really fight back, the incident nonetheless doesn’t inspire confidence that Vader would succeed in a fight against someone of similar strength and with real training.
7 Would Have: Bruiser Brody
Standing six foot eight, weighting 280 pounds, Bruiser Brody was an imposing presence in wrestling. He was legit athlete with a history playing college football and basketball. Add onto these credentials that the guy looked downright crazy and was notoriously stiff and inclined to do things his own way, regardless of what promoters or other wrestlers wanted. One of his most infamous incidents saw him lose it and chase Lex Luger out of a steel cage. Brody met an appropriately violent death, stabbed to death in a locker room shower in Puerto Rico.
Brody had the size, mean streak, and willingness to fight to pose a real challenge for Lesnar in a real fight. Moreover, his straight forward brawling style could be an interesting contrast to Lesnar’s more technical background.
6 Wouldn’t: Bobby Lashley
On paper, Bobby Lashley is very similar to Brock Lesnar. They’re of similar size and build. They’re both super powerful and super athletic. Both men have legitimate amateur wrestling backgrounds, and both men have competed in professional mixed martial artists.
Lashley vs. Lesnar is something of a dream match in professional wrestling, given these similarities and never having worked for the same promotion at the same time. But herein lies the difference between pro wrestling and real life fighting. These two could likely put on a pretty exciting spectacle of a match, but in real life terms, Lesnar is much more advanced than Lashley in pretty much every aspect of his fighting credentials. Lashley may be able to hang, but it’s hard to imagine him beating Lesnar in a shoot fight.
5 Would Have: The Iron Sheik
Before The Iron Sheik was an internet personality who was largely played for laughs, he was a very serious Greco Roman wrestler whose resume included winning a gold medal at the AAU Championships and going on to coach Olympic wrestling. All of this before he became a legendary professional wrestler known for his power, technical ability, and remarkable propensity to generate heat.
Given his size disadvantage—giving up about forty pounds to Lesnar, Sheik would probably struggle with the Beast, but given his real world skills and willingness to get mean, there’s reason to believe he’d hold his own and might well have won a real fight against The Beast Incarnate. At minimum, this is the kind of fight that wrestling fans anywhere would shell out good money to see!
4 Wouldn't: The Undertaker
The Undertaker is a lot of things. A world champion many times over in WWE. A guys with incredible longevity and an impressive record at WrestleMania. One of pro wrestling’s greatest legends among fans, and one of the most respected wrestlers among his colleagues.
The Deadman is an MMA enthusiast, too, who, as time went on, incorporated real MMA style moves like the gogoplata into his wrestling repertoire, rebranding it as Hell’s Gate. For all of these accolades and attributes, though, there’s one thing The Undertaker isn’t—a legit fighter.
Don’t get me wrong, because The Undertaker is a big guy and could surely handle himself against most wrestlers. Lesnar is a different kind of beast, though, with all kinds of real life training, not to mention greater power and athleticism that would all but ensure he’d win a fight against The Phenom.
3 Would Have: Kurt Angle
As all fans know, Kurt Angle was a legit Olympic gold medalist—a distinction that lent him immediate credibility as pro wrestler and that put down a foundation for his unique in ring style that would make him one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live. One of Angle’s best pro wrestling rivalries went down with Brock Lesnar.
In addition to their on screen confrontations, there was a widely mythologized incident of Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar having an amateur style wrestling match off the air, in front of the boys. Angle went into some detail about it in a visit to Jim Ross’s podcast last fall. The question of who would win an amateur match between the two came up among the other wrestlers, and Lesnar was a bit cocky in saying he’d win for sure based on his sheer size advantage. Angle disagreed, knowing his own credentials at the Olympic level. Finally, the two had their unofficial match, and sure enough, Angle got the best of it.
Amateur wrestling and fighting are not quite the same, and there’s reason to believe that the outcome of their encounter might have been different had it included kicks and punches, too, and especially after Lesnar had his full MMA training. Still, history shows us Angle may well have won.
2 Chris Jericho
In an instantly infamous incident, the close of SummerSlam 2016 saw Brock Lesnar beat Randy Orton bloody in a finish that left fans wondering if it were all planned, or a work. The main event confused some of the boys, too, including Chris Jericho, who confronted Vince McMahon, and then Lesnar himself about the incident. It all led to a confrontation between Jericho and Lesnar, in which The Beast Incarnate told Y2J to mind his own business and Jericho dared him to fight him.
The guys got separated and Jericho got clarification that the match was all a work and all planned. Still, Jericho left the incident with a new level of respect from smart fans for being ballsy enough to physically engage with Lesnar.
Jericho has a history of not backing down, and famously got the better of a backstage scuffle with Goldberg. He can handle himself, and he’s brave, but just the same, if he and Lesnar actually were to get into a fight, there’s little reason to think the smaller man with less real fight training would stand a chance.
1 Would Have: Andre The Giant
In a business full tough men and big men there remains only one Giant. While we may reference other men as being giants, there’s a reason for the article the in Andre the Giant’s ring name. He is pro wrestling’s definitive big man, too overwhelmingly tall, heavy, and downright mythical to be compared to anyone else.
While Andre did eventually grow broken down, and probably wouldn’t do so well in a fight with Brock Lesnar in the late stages of his career that today’s fans tend to remember him best for, in his prime. Andre was a force to be reckoned with a force so enormous and legitimately powerful that no one would dare challenge him without fear of being quite literally squashed. For as strong and skilled as Lesnar is, it’s doubtful he could manhandle Andre if Andre didn’t want to be manhandled for the sake of an entertaining match.