Just looking at the numbers, 2017 may have been Brock Lesnar‘s best year ever in the WWE. During those 12 months he won the WWE Universal Championship and went undefeated (not counting the Royal Rumble) throughout the entire 365 days.
With that being said it might sound a little counter-intuitive to say that the WWE has weakened The Beast. Yet, that is exactly what they have done! And while it probably hasn’t been intentional, it is the unintended consequences of how the WWE has booked him over the last 15 months.
HE WAS AN UNSTOPPABLE FORCE
At WrestleMania 30, on April 6th, 2014 Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker and became the man that broke The Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. That streak was a sacred record to WWE fans and to have it broken was a huge descison by the organization and having Lesnar be the one to do it elevated him to a whole new level of superstar prominence and power.
And for a few years after that it worked really well. He truly was a beast by beating almost everyone he faced, and if he was taken out it was done while still showing off his strength above everyone else.
When he lost to The Undertaker at SummerSlam ’15 it wasn’t a clean victory. At the 2016 Royal Rumble Lesnar eliminated Braun Strowman, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan and was only eliminated himself when those three guys returned to the ring after they were eliminated and teamed up to get Brock over the top rope. And at Fastlane ’16 he lost in a triple threat match when Roman Reigns pinned Dean Ambrose.
AND IT ALL STARTED WITH GOLDBERG
Having Goldberg defeat Lesnar at Survivor Series 2016 in 1-minute and 24 seconds was a truly shocking and surprising moment that happens so rarely in the WWE these days with social media and all the rumors and backstage reports.
That was awesome booking. And had it ended there, it wouldn’t have been so impactful on Lesnar’s dominance. I mean, every great athlete and superstar in sports has a moment like that when they get beat. But the thing is, it didn’t end there.
With the success of that match, the WWE decided to extend the Lesnar/Goldberg feud to WrestleMania. Now, they were of course going to book Lesnar beating Goldberg for the championship at WM, but in order to build it up more they chose to have Goldberg embarrass Brock one more time – this time at the Royal Rumble. In just a few seconds and with only one spear and a clothesline, Goldberg sent a shocked and scared looking Brock Lesnar over the top rope and out of the Rumble.
Sure, Brock came back and got his revenge – and the title – at WrestleMania. But the match was hard fought, Goldberg had him close to defeat a couple times and Lesnar definitely had to work for the win. This was unlike their two previous encounters where Goldberg manhandled The Beast.
THEN SAMOA JOE
Next up for Lesnar was a feud with Samoa Joe. And again, Brock would emerge with the victory – when it counted – at the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view in July. But during the build up to that match, Joe got in some good attacks on Lesnar.
This was especially true during the June 26th episode of Raw when he surprised Lesnar from behind and got him into a Coquina Clutch. Lesnar couldn’t get out of it and as his face turned bright red, he was saved when a few wrestlers came from backstage to pull Joe off of him – once again leaving Lesnar on he ground looking shocked and less confident.
At Great Balls Of Fire Lesnar got the win, but Samoa Joe gave him a really good fight by controlling much of the match and locking in a couple Coquina Clutches. Lesnar had to use all he had to get out of the holds and leave with the victory.
AND NOW WE COME TO BRAUN STROWMAN
Again, if we just look at the win-loss record than Brock comes out looking as strong as ever with wins over Strowman at SummerSlam ’17 (a fatal 4-way against Strowman, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns), No Mercy and the recent 2018 Royal Rumble (triple threat match that also included Kane). But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
At SummerSlam Strowman not only put Lesnar through an announce table, but then he flipped another announce table onto Lesnar – causing the medics to come out and cart Brock off backstage.
Lesnar returned – in classic WWE ‘I’m-so-tough’ fashion – to get the win. But not until he got beat up more and was finally able to F5 both Joe and Reigns (notice Strowman wasn’t involved in the defeat).
The two met up again at No Mercy where Lesnar was able to fight back enough to get the win – but Strowman again was dominant for most of the match. And that takes us to the Royal Rumble just a few weeks ago and the triple-threat match.
In that booking the WWE had Lesnar get the win, and they tried to have him show off that beast power by having him flip an announce table onto Strowman – harkening back to when Braun did that to him at SummerSlam.
However, while it was a powerful move, it did more to build up Strowman’s ‘monsterousness’ than Lesnar’s beast. Because while Lesnar had to be taken off on a stretcher when it happened to him, Strowman – after a couple minutes under the table – literally pushed it up and off himself and sat right up, very little worse for wear!
The Lesnar/Strowman feud has been quite good overall, but what has made the booking so hard is that the WWE has had to work it so that Lesnar keeps winning while Strowman keeps looking strong. And the only way they really know how to keep someone looking strong while still losing is to have them dominate but lose anyway.
And in the case of Strowman, he wasn’t the one pinned in either the fatal 4-way or the triple-threat match. Which is very much how they went about having Lesnar lose when they had to have that happen for the years following the breaking of The Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania (multiple opponents, low-blows, missed calls by the ref, etc.)
So, while WWE creative can look and say that they kept Lesnar strong with his victories and title defenses. It was the bookings, and how they got to those wins, that ended up actually weakening Brock’s stature and image of unbeatability.
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