Brock’s career in his own words. Previous chapters can be found here: https://www.voicesofwrestling.com/category/vow-latest/columns/brockumentary/
“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.” – T.S. Elliot (1925)
Madison Square Garden was supposed to be the building that saw Brock Lesnar’s crowning achievement. The moment that put him over the top as a real-deal superstar, the first one made in the WWE era of sports entertainment. It was supposed to be the place where he beat The Immortal Hulk Hogan in a heated rematch for the WWE Championship back in November of 2002. It was set up with an angle that summer that wrote Hogan off, and it was meant to be paid off in the most famous arena in the world. It was supposed to be the home of the biggest win of Brock Lesnar’s career.
That match never happened.
That win never came.
Hulk Hogan, nearing age 50, balked at the idea of losing to the 25-year-old Lesnar a second time, worried that it would kill the star power he had earned when Brock was a child. What was meant to be Lesnar/Hogan II, a match set to make Brock Lesnar a bonafide top guy, became Lesnar/Big Show, which saw Lesnar get pinned in five minutes in what was an extended angle. That was the first sign that the MSG magic wasn’t in the air for Brock Lesnar.
After losing the WWE Championship at No Way Out, Brock Lesnar found himself frustrated, exhausted, and ready to get out while he could. He was already seriously considering leaving the WWE, but a pre-WrestleMania tour of South Africa made his decision for him. Instead of being the third man in the main event against Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle, he would have to fly to the other side of the planet to wrestle…Hardcore Holly.
Brock was less than enthusiastic.
“We did our match at The Royal Rumble, and that should have been the end of our story line. But now I have to travel all the way to South Africa to work with Bob Holly? Could anyone please tell me why? I knew no one would pay to see that match. Since I’m not really needed, give me some time off. I really needed the break by this time, but John Laurinaitis told me how much I’m needed on the card. AGAINST BOB HOLLY? Are you shitting me?
I knew the truth. I was just on the card, taking up space. That’s not where I wanted to be. It’s never where I wanted to be.”
Brock reminisced on the words of the departed Nathan Jones, who had quit the company in December of 2003 at the start of an Australian tour.
“Nathan Jones had lost his mind a month earlier, and he was just minutes away from wrestling in his hometown in Australia. But the weird thing is that, when Nathan snapped, I kept thinking that everything he was saying made sense.
‘Nothing is worth this stress’ . . . ‘It’s all games, but then they tell you how seriously they take their own business’ . . . ‘I just don’t want to be here anymore.’”
After teases that stretched back to Survivor Series, and a public plea from Lesnar on the SmackDown after No Way Out, the dream match was set for WrestleMania: Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg. Theoretically, the match between these two unstoppable monsters should have been an incredible battle. King Kong vs. Godzilla. The only problem was that both men were on the way out. Goldberg had come to the end of his one-year contract with WWE. His run consisted of having Goldust put a wig on him, jobbing to an injured Triple H at the end of an Elimination Chamber match, and eventually winning the World Heavyweight Title before losing it back to Triple H.
Suffice it to say, Goldberg wasn’t exactly thrilled with the run.
Surprisingly, both men wrapping up with WWE sparked a kinship between them.
“Bill’s my kind of guy. Neither of us wanted to be in the ring that last night—we just wanted to collect our checks and be done. It wouldn’t have mattered if we had been buddies and had hung out together in WWE, because you’re so numb there anyway, you have to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s better that we got to know each other away from there, because that’s when we both realized we could have a friendship. In WWE, we were just two big miserable SOBs. Once we were both outside of the company, we realized we had a lot in common.
It’s funny that we were both “seek and destroy” behemoths in pro wrestling, and wrapped it up together at WrestleMania. I never spent any time with Bill before that last day, but because he was so cool, I was open to us becoming friends once we got out.”
So the stage was set for WrestleMania XX. Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, winner AND loser leave town! “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was made guest referee, and the MSG crowd was made well aware that both men were done after that night. What could go wrong?
MARCH 14, 2004
STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN AS GUEST REFEREE
GOLDBERG DEF. BROCK LESNAR
On commentary for this inter-promotional match, Jim Ross reminded the audience that Lesnar made his WrestleMania debut last year in the show’s main event. It’s unbelievable the difference one year made. That one year felt like ages ago. It felt like a completely different promotion. Goldberg got his chants for the entrance, so the crowd wasn’t out on this match just yet. Jerry Lawler ever so astutely pointed out that this match was like “the immovable force being hit by the unstoppable force.” Eh, a C for effort.
The bell rang.
Thirty seconds in, and the men get greeted with You Sold Out chants. Lawler tried covering by saying it was a sellout chant from a sellout crowd.
One minute in, and we get the Na Na Na Na Goodbye chant. JR was forced to acknowledge the “rumors” surrounding these two leaving.
Two minutes in, we get Austin chants for the referee.
Two and a half minutes in, Lawler asks why these two were so reluctant to lock up.
After 2:45 seconds, they lock up for the first time. Somewhere in Japan, a young Ironhead Fujita takes note.
Lesnar forced the break of the tie-up. They locked up again, with neither man having an advantage. We get This Match Sucks chants, which isn’t fair as they haven’t really done anything yet. Shoulder block challenges are met with We Want Bret, or You Sold Out chants. They knock each other down before getting back up and walking around. There’s a version of this match where all of this is intense and building anticipation. This isn’t that version of this match. Lesnar was the first to turn to the strikes, but Goldberg got Lesnar up for a Gorilla Press before taking him down with a Main Event Spinebuster. Goldberg went for a spear, but Lesnar side-stepped and sent Goldberg into the buckles and the floor.
We got Goldberg Sucks chants as Lesnar worked on Goldberg on the floor. Back in the ring, Lesnar hits a vertical suplex for the first nearfall of the match. Lesnar followed it up with another suplex and a side-arm choke because they really needed to slow this one down. Hogan chants from MSG as Goldberg tried and failed to fight out of the hold. Goldberg hit a judo throw to get out of the hold, but Lesnar took Goldberg down and locked him in the side-arm choke again.
Goldberg got out again, but Lesnar took him down with a clothesline for a nearfall. This Match Sucks chants from the crowd, which are more appropriate now. Goldberg ducked a charge and “fired up,” hitting a neckbreaker. Goldberg hit a spear as the crowd came alive…for Hulk Hogan again. The spear got a nearfall, so Goldberg got in Austin’s face. When Goldberg went back to Lesnar, Lesnar got him up for the F-5 and hit it. Goldberg kicked out, sending Lesnar to complain to Austin. Lesnar missed a spear and ran into the post, allowing Goldberg to hit a spear and the Jackhammer to score the win.
After the bell, MSG sang Na Na Na Na Goodbye to Lesnar. Lesnar responded with the double birds to the crowd before turning them to Austin. Austin gave Lesnar the Stunner, with JR remarking on the call, “Austin just stunned Lesnar right out of the WWE…ring!”
I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to say that this match was actually pretty good. I came into this hoping that there was some aspect of this that I could put over as being good. But there was no good to be found here. This was a boring match between two guys headed out the door with a crowd that had no interest in watching it. *
And just like that, it was all over. 728 days after bursting onto the scene, and only eight months after signing a lucrative seven-year contract extension with the company, Brock Lesnar was gone. A three-time WWE Champion and WrestleMania main eventer, Brock was almost certain to do a lot of big things over the course of those seven years. But it was never meant to be.
Brock had heeded the words of his mentor Curt Hennig.
“Curt taught me something that sticks with me to this day—in the wrestling business, you have to ‘Get in to get out!'”
Brock Lesnar, May 2011:
“Vince finally said he would let me go, but he wanted me to sign a release agreement. This time, I thought it would probably be a good idea to have my lawyer look at the document before I signed it. I was sitting in a hotel somewhere when I got the release from Vince, and I faxed it to my lawyer in Minneapolis. He called me, said he would look at it, and then would fax back a marked-up copy to discuss with me.
But I got impatient. I just wanted out. I never intended to compete with Vince and WWE, and I didn’t care if Vince’s agreement said I couldn’t. So before my attorney even had a chance to comment, I signed Vince’s release. I thought it would be quick and easy, I would get my WrestleMania payday, and I’d be done with pro wrestling forever. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
What I didn’t know, because I didn’t wait to hear back from my lawyer, is that while my WWE contract had a one-year noncompete clause, the release I signed was much different.
Just to avoid the hassles of lawyers negotiating and everything that happens when you’re leaving, I signed a release that stated I couldn’t appear for any wrestling, ultimate fighting, or “sports entertainment” companies, anywhere in the world, until mid-2010.
With one stroke of the pen, I royally screwed myself over. I went from not being able to wrestle in TNA (Vince’s only televised U.S. competitor) for a year, to not being able to wrestle, fight, or do anything in “sports entertainment” worldwide for almost six years. I had just turned twenty-seven years old. If I didn’t fight that non-compete clause, I would have been forced to stay out of work until I was thirty-three . . . which happens to be my age at the time I’m writing this book. Everything I’ve accomplished since that final match at Madison Square Garden with Bill Goldberg would never have happened. The prime of my career would have been spent sitting on the bench.
I guess the old expression “you live and you learn” applies here. It cost me nearly a year and a lot of money to fight that noncompete clause. But that’s in the past, and I won my freedom. I have my family. I love my life. I don’t walk around thinking about it. It’s the past. That part of my life is over.”
Brock Lesnar, April 2012:
Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. But that’s a story for another time.
Thank you for reading the final chapter of the Brockumentary. I started this series three years ago, and seeing it through is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had in my time as a wrestling columnist. I may pick it back up one day to start looking at Brock’s current decade-long run because nothing ever truly ends in pro wrestling.
But for now, the Brockumentary is complete.