Brock Lesnar’s appearances on WWE programming are limited; they are saved for special occasions where Vince McMahon wants to spark some extra interest and pull off some engaging segment in whatever storyline happens to be going on involving “The Beast Incarnate.”
So tell me: What in the hell was that segment WWE made up for Lesnar and Paul Heyman’s official response to Goldberg’s challenge acceptance, and why did WWE bother wasting a Lesnar appearance on it? Because it most definitely was an utter waste of one of his valuable booking dates.
WWE’s had done a fantastic job in prepping Goldberg vs. Lesnar II. The little hints in the early stages, to the teasing by Goldberg appearing on ESPN, to Heyman setting forth the official challenge a few weeks and Goldberg returning to the promotion for the first time in 12 years to accept the challenge. It was all done excellently; to the point where we were reminded how enticing pro wrestling can be when it is done very well.
But then came Monday’s roadblock.
So here we are. Lesnar’s big Monday Night Raw appearance in the wake of Goldberg’s huge return. Goldberg, one week earlier, accepted the challenge to face Lesnar one more time, giving Lesnar his chance to redeem the “one blemish” on his record (according to Heyman). Surely Lesnar is going to have something to say or perhaps lash out in some form. After all, you want to keep the momentum going after the smashing success of Goldberg’s return and all the buzz it drew up.
Lesnar came out and stood in the ring for five minutes. Yeah, he just stood there; not a peep. Heyman did all the talking. Fine. When Heyman is in the zone, a fiery promo while Lesnar stands there menacingly can be pretty effective. That sure is not what happened though. McMahon, in all his wisdom, set up a booking disaster.
You see, the idea clearly appeared to be to get the fans vehemently behind Goldberg. Why you would want the crowd completely favoring the guy who is coming back for just one match, I do not know. But that was McMahon’s idea, and Heyman pulled out every trick he could in order to make it happen. Heyman is a damn puppet master in areas like that; swaying the crowds how you want and getting people fired up.
For some reason, McMahon decided to go through with this plan in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Yeah, the Minneapolis where Lesnar is billed from and where he went to college and lived out his incredibly successful amateur wrestling career. Not to mention where he, for a short time, was a player on the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Right, Vince, you can totally turn the hometown crowd on Lesnar for one of his rare WWE appearances. No problem.
As anyone in the world outside of McMahon could have expected, the crowd loved Lesnar and was largely anti-Goldberg. What resulted was an awkward promo segment where Heyman tried everything he could with the awful hand McMahon dealt him. It was ultimately a flop. Lesnar just stood there for five minutes and cracked a few smiles and laughs as the segment was imploding on itself, and Heyman’s magic fell flat.
It went so wrong that we did not even see the segment in its original length. McMahon reportedly cut it short. Some may have noticed at the end how Lesnar’s music just starts playing out of nowhere and Heyman reacts by tossing the microphone over his shoulder in an annoyed gesture as the two walk out of the ring. McMahon “blew a gasket” backstage over the crowd’s reaction to Heyman’s promo and cut the promo mid-way, according to Bryan Alvarez of Wrestling Observer.
It’s unfortunate, because leading up to Goldberg’s return, Heyman had done a great job at essentially hyping the match by himself. Several times, including the same night of Goldberg’s segment, Heyman cut promos that were effective in ever so slowly building that anticipation. Lesnar had not been a part of it at all yet. That’s what was supposed to be so interesting about Lesnar finally showing up to add to the build. Even aside from the terrible plan McMahon thought up, Lesnar did nothing.
Many pro wrestling fans have already started to become turned off by Lesnar over the last year or so. With a couple exceptions, Lesnar’s matches have started to become dull and predictable, and his part-time schedule has become less and less meaningful. This latest segment epitomized that, with the running joke going around the wrestling world being that Lesnar got paid to just show up and stand in the ring for five minutes.
When the Lesnar-Goldberg rematch is over, one of those two men is going to still be one of your biggest attractions. The last thing WWE wants to do is make fans feel like they will being missing out on something big and exciting once it’s all over, and be disappointed with the man still around. The whole reason McMahon coughs up a huge chunk of money every year for Lesnar’s specially treated WWE schedule is because he is meant to be a huge draw and generate big excitement.
The fact of the matter, though, is Goldberg in his one segment back generated more excitement and more emotion to himself and to the business than Lesnar has in perhaps the last year. Goldberg was excited and happy to be back, and he made fans excited to see him back and to see the upcoming rematch. Whereas Lesnar has, for some time now, appeared to be coasting by on his name appeal, and has done nothing in the sort to generate excitement for the Survivor Series match with Goldberg.
It begs the question: At this point, who could possibly have any desire to see Lesnar get this big win and be the one of the two who will still be a WWE wrestler the following day?