What If Brock Lesnar Never Left WWE?
Posted by Greg De Marco on 08.24.2014
Brock Lesnar’s meteoric rise to the top of the WWE came to an end in 2004 when he left for the NFL and the UFC. Ten years later, he’s WWE Champion once again. What if Brock never left? 411’s Greg DeMarco explores the possibilities.
At SummerSlam 2014, Brock Lesnar defeated John Cena to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship—the fourth WWE world title of his career. The match came two-and-a-half years after his return to the WWE following an 8-year hiatus, two-and-a-half years that saw him become one of the most talked about stars in the company's history.
It also brought about the million-dollar question: What if Brock Lesnar never left?
Hot-tub time-machines only exist in movies, so we can't go back to 2004 and convince Brock to stay in the WWE after WrestleMania XX. But we can look back at history and fantasize about the alternate course of history—seven major happenings—that Brock's not leaving could have caused.
The first one is obvious...
The Rise Of John Cena
One of the big stories that has circulated in the past takes us back to a talent meeting where Vince McMahon told everyone in the room that he was looking for someone to step up and put the company on their shoulders. The company had not replaced The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin and business wasn't what it could've been. The first man to answer Vince's call to action—and answer it in person, face to face with Vince himself—was John Cena.
"I'm your man" is how the story goes, and John Cena became just that. The man.
Now let's get one thing straight: anyone who tries to tell you John Cena wouldn't have risen to super-stardom had Brock Lesnar not left the WWE in 2004 is simply kidding themselves. John Cena was going to happen, that course of history would not have changed.
But the timing? Yeah, that might have changed.
In 2003 and 2004, Brock Lesnar was a promoter's dream. He was a larger than life physical specimen, a man that the WWE could have easily built around for more than a year. So it's doubtful the company would have needed to move the WWE Championship to Eddie Guerrero before WrestleMania XX. Eddie likely would have faced, and lost to, Brock on that event. And no Eddie Guerrero as champion means no JBL as champion.
Brock's reign would have likely stretched all the way to WrestleMania 21, where he would have main evented against…you guessed it! John Cena. I also think Cena would have won the 2005 Royal Rumble over Batista, who likely still feuds with Triple H over the World Heavyweight Championship.
I also can't say that Batista still wins six world titles in the WWE with Brock Lesnar around. I'm not sure Randy Orton wins 12. Or Edge wins 11. Or Cena gets to 15. Or The Great Khali even wins one! Or that Brock Lesnar only wins four.
WrestleMania 22 likely looks very different. Rey Mysterio wouldn't need to be elevated to take Eddie Guerrero's place, as Eddie Guerrero might not have a main event spot before his untimely passing. Maybe The Undertaker doesn't face Mark Henry at the event, maybe that opponent is Brock Lesnar. Does the Streak even reach 21 wins?
What about WrestleMania 23? Does Brock represent Vince McMahon or Donald Trump in their famous Hair vs. Hair showdown? Does he face The Undertaker instead of Batista? Is he John Cena's opponent instead of Shawn Michaels?
And then WrestleMania 24! Could we have seen Floyd Mayweather vs. Brock Lesnar? Does Edge get to main event a WrestleMania? Could Brock Lesnar be the man to end Ric Flair's career?
You can easily alter the course of each WrestleMania thanks to the involvement of Brock Lesnar. Each WrestleMania right down to...WrestleMania 29, where CM Punk lost to The Undertaker...
CM Punk Remains Voiceless
This is not going to be a very popular choice, but I don't think CM Punk becomes a mega-star in the WWE if Brock Lesnar never leaves. It has nothing to do with Lesnar's roster spot, or the fact that his presence leaves less room for other stars to rise up.
In fact, it's one of the most butterfly effect-esque items on this list.
A point that's heavily detailed in WWE: CM Punk - Best in the World is that the WWE didn't really want CM Punk to succeed. They may not have ever wanted to call him up to the main roster at all. Shawn Michaels once saved Punk's spot on the roster, but I'd argue that Brock staying around ensures that he never even gets a spot on the main roster. That has everything to do with Paul Heyman.
When Brock debuted on WWE television in 2002, Paul Heyman served as his storyline agent. They eventually became rivals before Heyman became Smackdown's General Manager and eventually disappearing off of television in 2004 (the same year Brock Lesnar left WWE).
Heyman would resurface for ECW One Night Stand in 2005, calling out many WWE personalities. Had Brock Lesnar been present in the company, I can easily see Lesnar attacking his former agent at (or right after) the event, building a televised feud that keeps Heyman involved in WWE television throughout 2005. Heyman on WWE television means no Heyman at Ohio Valley Wrestling, meaning no Paul Heyman-CM Punk connection, meaning no CM Punk involvement in the ECW brand relaunch, and likely no CM Punk 2-time Money In The Bank winner, no famous Las Vegas promo, no 2011 Money In The Bank feud with John Cena, no contract angle, no legendary WWE Championship reign, and no CM Punk 2014 walk out.
Folks, if Brock Lesnar stays in the WWE, CM Punk simply doesn't happen. At least not in the WWE. Instead we'd be getting legendary showdowns involving CM Punk in TNA, with the likes of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Low Ki and others. In fact, it's entirely possible that TNA's fortunes are very different with CM Punk in the fold.
CM Punk, TNA Hall of Fame inductee: take a moment and let that one sink in.
Brock Lesnar vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania
Before defeating The Rock for the WWE Undisputed Championship at SummerSlam 2002, Brock Lesnar defended that shot against Hulk Hogan. What you see below is eerily familiar to Brock's recent SummerSlam main event against John Cena.
There were reports that Hulk Hogan and the WWE tried to work out a deal for wrestling's most famous hero (and most famous villain) to face John Cena at WrestleMania 25 in Houston. What if Brock was still around? Does this rematch happen instead? Does it happen sooner? Could we have seen Brock Lesnar vs. Hulk Hogan (and not Goldberg) at WrestleMania 20? WrestleMania 25? Now?
Brock Lesnar Leaves The WWE
Earlier I said that regardless of Brock Lesnar's standing with the WWE in 2004 and beyond, John Cena was going to happen. It's a given. Another thing is a given: at some point, Brock Lesnar was going to leave the WWE.
Maybe it's at the end of a contract, this maybe it's on better terms. Maybe he takes a predetermined amount of time off. Maybe it's the diverticulitis, which is a disease that you don't catch because you try to go to the NFL or become UFC Heavyweight Champion of the World. Maybe it's TNA.
Okay, it's not TNA.
Actually, it could be. Brock Lesnar staying with WWE in 2004 doesn't remove the fact that he was a ticking time bomb. At some point Brock will either want to get off the road, or want to try something new. That desire doesn't go away. TNA offers the part time schedule he'd want, but the WWE would have likely given it to him.
But say Brock does walk away. Maybe WrestleMania 26's John Cena vs. Batista showdown is Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, where Lesnar walks away. Maybe Shawn Michaels isn't alone in retiring that night, and Brock is also inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before WrestleMania 27. Then WrestleMania 29, WrestleMania 30 and last weekend's SummerSlam look very different.
There's another reason Brock would have left the WWE: diverticulitis.
Brock Lesnar didn't get diverticulitis from going to the NFL or UFC. It would have impacted his WWE career. In 2009 Brock would have been in year 7 of what would be a monumental career. The disease might have caused him to retire. Or he would have made a highly publicized comeback.
Be it burn out, desire or disease, Brock Lesnar was leaving the WWE at some point. Whether he would have returned is pure speculation.
The Reemergence of Paul Heyman Never Happens
Paul Heyman returned to the WWE in May of 2012, originally as Brock Lesnar's legal advisor, later as "The Personal Advocate for The Beast Incarnate." He's been used as the main storyteller for Brock Lesnar during his most recent WWE run.
During that time he also aligned with CM Punk during Punk's marathon WWE Championship run, helped bring The Shield into existence, introduced Curtis Axel to the world as a Heyman Guy, aligned with Ryback, and briefly managed Cesaro.
Would any of that have happened if Brock Lesnar remained with WWE in 2004?
By the time Brock Lesnar left, Paul Heyman had already turned on him, and turned on the guy who turned on Lesnar with him. He served as the General Manger of Smackdown and lead the charge of the new ECW.
And he left the company. Earlier I pondered if CM Punk ever happens in the WWE if Brock Lesnar stays around, but it's also entirely possibly that Paul Heyman's future is very different—and his recent run in the company never happens.
WrestleMania XXX: Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan
And now we're here, as the ultimate alternative reality comes full circle to WrestleMania XXX. Maybe Batista still comes back and we get "Evolution Explodes" at WrestleMania. And Daniel Bryan's ascension to the top of the card is complete when he's the man to take down...Brock Lesnar.
Brock Lesnar and John Cena would dominate the decade, meeting at more than one WrestleMania, but this year they are separate again. Cena is busy with Bray Wyatt and Brock faces off with Daniel Bryan, the giant killer. And Bryan does just that, slaying the giant and becoming the company's next big star. The Undertaker's Streak could still be intact, or it could be John Cena who becomes "The One in 21-1."
Or, as I said earlier, the Streak doesn't make it to 21, because Brock Lesnar conquers it sooner—prior to his WrestleMania showdown with Daniel Bryan.
History could be very different indeed. But maybe Brock's staying with WWE also changes the 2014 summer blockbuster movie season...
…Starring Brock Lesnar as Drax The Destroyer…
Hey, you just never know what the effects of Brock choosing to remain with the WWE in 2004 could have on the ten years that follow...
A Note About My Last Article…
Thursday's article was a controversial one, as I picked Paul Heyman over Bobby Heenan as wrestling's best manager. Thanks to your feedback both in the comments section and at Facebook's #1 Wrestling Group, Yes! Yes! Yes!, my mind has been changed!
Your feedback showed me that I was looking at the totality of their careers, and Heyman was far more successful as a promoter than Heenan. I rated Heyman higher in commentary, but many of you disagreed. In the end, that doesn't matter—commentary has nothing to do with managing (as was pointed out).
At the end of the day, Bobby Heenan had more longevity as a manager, and for almost three years Hulk Hogan was actually feuding with Heenan. Paul Heyman is a great manager and lead professional wrestling's most influential brand and has the better overall wrestling career. But I must agree with the masses here (who voted in Heenan by a final vote of 64.4% to 35.6%): Bobby "The Brain" Heenan is professional wrestling's greatest manager of all time.
See, my opinion can be swayed...
Greg DeMarco is a wrestling fan of over 30 years and has also worked on the independent circuit as a promoter, announcer, character and booker. Greg a weekly contributor at 411Mania.com, applying his opinionated style to the world of pro wrestling on Sundays and Thursdays.
He began writing for 411Mania in October 2010 and has been pissing readers off ever since!