There are two main reasons for this. First is that last year Lesnar ended The Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak. That’s a winning streak that consisted of twenty-one victories over a variety of names, compiled over twenty-three years. Since at least 2008, though arguably several years earlier, The Undertaker’s annual defence of his undefeated status had been one of the major selling points of the show.
Lesnar being the man to defeat ‘The Phenom’ was a big deal. The next person to beat Lesnar will be elevated by the victory. They’ll not only be beating a big star they’ll be pinning the man who ended The Streak, the man who beat the man. The longer this chain becomes the less impact it will have but that’s not important here. Whoever beats Lesnar next gets a significant boost, and if he’s the champion come WrestleMania he’ll be in a position to give that boost at the biggest WWE show of the year, ensuring a huge number of people are watching and bolstering ‘Mania’s status as the premier event of the company.
Secondly, and far more mundanely, Lesnar’s contract expires shortly after WrestleMania. Nobody outside of the company knows exactly when but it’s known that Lesnar signed a two year extension in 2013 that runs through WrestleMania 31. It’s presumed to include the following evening’s RAW too, because post-‘Mania RAWs have become pretty big deals too in recent years.
|What will this guy be doing in April?|
It’s been impossible to miss the talk of Lesnar’s contract. There have been reports of MMA outfits UFC and Bellator (who, just for laughs, I’ll remind you were once affiliated with TNA) both preparing to make hefty offers and counter-offers to the current wrestling champ. It’s not clear how keen WWE are to keep Lesnar around but you’d assume they’d at least make a token offer to retain his services.
So there’s a choice coming up for Lesnar. He can return to the MMA world, where he was successful for several years and made good money. He can stay with WWE, where he has also been successful for several years and made good money. Or he can take all his good money and return to his log cabin in the woods, leaving the fighting game, both real and predetermined, behind.
MMA and WWE provide Lesnar some of the same things. They both allow him to pursue his own sponsorship deals, pay him well, and present him as a major box office attraction. But there are things unique to both too. MMA allows him to sate his competitive desires in a way that the world of pro wrestling never would. WWE provides a safer working environment and a less gruelling training regimen.
At 37 Lesnar is not old but he’s also significantly older than many of the men who compete in companies like UFC and Bellator. While he wouldn’t have the same stigma he carried on his initial foray into MMA (thanks to the fact that he’s already proven he can succeed in the real-righting world) he would still be a marked man. In addition to being a former UFC champion he’s coming off a hot year as a pro wrestler. Is it far-fetched to believe that an MMA guy would want to beat Lesnar to brag about being the man who beat ‘The One’? I don’t think so. MMA and wrestling are very different things but they ape one another in certain ways, one of them being the fashion in which MMA guys promote themselves with wrestling style promos. And dropping in references to beating Lesnar after the year WWE’s given him is great material for that.
It’s also worth noting that Lesnar has a five- and a four-year-old at home (plus a teenager from a previous relationship). Would he want to risk any sort of serious injury with a return to the MMA world, limiting the way he can interact with his kids?
Actually, I think he might. Anyone involved with MMA can’t afford to have the attitude of “What if I get really hurt?” It’s not a mindset that matches the sport. Looking back at Lesnar’s career, which saw him go from amateur standout to WWE, to trying football, before moving into MMA, tells us that he’s a man who wants a steady stream of challenges and an environment that allows him to be competitive. He also has a knack for getting himself very cushy deals: his current WWE schedule and the fact that he’s the only man in company history to be allowed control of his own sponsorship deals tells us that. I can’t imagine he’ll retire before he hits 40.
A new contract with WWE isn’t out of the question but I think it’s more likely that Lesnar will use his status as a top WWE star to leverage a sweet deal with an MMA company. The likeliest one is UFC, because they’re bigger. WWE could probably scrape enough cash together to compete with them financially for Lesnar’s services, but I doubt they’d want to grant him even more concessions or a lighter contract. After a couple of years in UFC I could just as easily see Lesnar returning to wrestling for one final run. Because they’ll have him back. They’ll always have someone like Lesnar back. He knows that and he’ll use it to his advantage.