On December 30th former Brock Lesnar was defeated by Alistair Overeem in his UFC comeback match. Following the loss the former UFC and WWE champion announced his retirement from MMA competition. A few days later Dana White (the UFC equivalent of Vince McMahon) confirmed that Lesnar was free to work for WWE if he so chooses.
It’s not a question of if he’ll return to WWE, but when.
Lesnar originally left WWE due to an intense dislike of the gruelling travel schedule and a desire to be involved in a competitive sport again. No matter how physically demanding professional wrestling may be its predetermined nature was never going to satisfy a man as driven as Lesnar for long. His amateur background and lust for competition meant he was always going to want to move onto a sport where he could win in a non-staged environment.
UFC was the ideal place for Lesnar. He only had to travel away from his home once or twice a year, and when he did it was for a fight in a cage in which he could be as physical and aggressive as he pleased. During his time there he gained a lot of mainstream name value and recognition. That is going to play a large part in WWE trying to bring him back in, and what will make contract negotiations easier for Lesnar.
WWE has a number of big name opponents they could pit against the former ‘Next Big Thing’. Top of everyone’s wish list seems to be the Undertaker. That was a bout teased as early as October 23rd 2010 (when Lesnar was still firmly tied to UFC), when the two men had a brief staredown following Lesnar’s victory at UFC 121. Both parties later stated that the confrontation dated back to a disagreement they had had during ‘The Pain’s’ time in WWE. Rumours at the time were that a deal had been struck for the two to face one another at WrestleMania (presumably the 2011 instalment, which was six months away at the time).
Obviously that didn’t happen, but ‘The Pain’ versus ‘The Phenom’ would still be a tremendous addition to any WrestleMania card. I think it’s more likely to take place at next year’s event than this year’s. Lesnar is going to want more than three months off before getting back into the ring, and a Triple H v Undertaker rematch feels like the way WWE will go considering the success and critical acclaim their match at last year’s ‘Mania received.
Brock Lesnar back in WWE: a question of "when" rather than "if".
Below Undertaker on that list are established main event talents John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk and Triple H. All four of those matches would be huge pay-per-view sellers if marketed correctly. There are also big money opponents outside of WWE’s current roster. A rematch between Goldberg and Lesnar could be an enjoyable attraction, especially if a retirement stipulation were added for Goldberg (considering his age and his lack of involvement in wrestling since leaving the WWE spotlight that’s not as farfetched a suggestion as it sounds). Lesnar versus Batista could also be an enjoyable encounter, especially if ‘The Animal’ were allowed to be the obnoxious heel he was last time we saw him in WWE.
The biggest name opponent for Lesnar would be ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Austin may have said he’d only come out of retirement to face CM Punk but I think he could be convinced to work with Lesnar. Perhaps he could wrestle more than one match and face both men. Austin v Lesnar would be a profitable event for both individuals and WWE, and could be marketed in a number of ways. The most obvious would be to be built on the derisive comments the two have directed towards each other already, with Lesnar saying Austin’s scared of him and Austin saying he wanted to save Lesnar for a big event.
An alternative method would be to cast Lesnar as the heel who deserted pro wrestling to find fame and fortune elsewhere, with Austin playing the role of the avenging babyface taking him on to stop him using wrestling as a quick payday.
I don’t expect to see Lesnar sign back up for a full-time schedule again. He doesn’t need to. He can get the money he wants by agreeing to wrestle on pay-per-view and appearing on select episodes of RAW to promote matches. That’s what I expect will happen. WrestleMania, as I’ve said, seems too early. But SummerSlam would be just about right.