By Zach Arnold | March 29, 2015
Brock Lesnar is hours away from headlining Wrestlemania at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. It almost could have blown up in everyone’s face had he not re-committed to WWE. Or maybe not.
The whole build up to Wrestlemania in the Bay Area has been flat out strange. The state Athletic Commission continues to tax WWE mega-events in the state while arbitrarily enforcing their regulatory powers. I’m amazed with so much money on the line that WWE hasn’t bothered to send the lawyers to file a basic writ of mandate to force the Athletic Commission to back off. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars here for a gate tax.
Then there’s the actual main event and the enigmatic Lesnar. The fans only care about him when he’s wrecking someone. Summerslam 2014 was hot. Then ice cold until Royal Rumble and back to ice cold until recently for Wrestlemania 2015. The majority of the talk heading into the event has been about Roman Reigns. Charitably-speaking, Lesnar’s a bore for WWE fans when he’s not hurting someone. Paul Heyman has been doing some of his all-time best promo work and yet the fans are treating his verbosity as a timeout for a nap. There’s a reason the ratings haven’t been all that great with Lesnar as champion. His win over Undertaker last year at Wrestlemania remains more interesting for a debate than what he’s up to now.
Brock Lesnar played Vince McMahon. UFC played WWE. Lesnar played UFC. They all played each other and didn’t bother hiding it. In the end, WWE predictably caved. Lesnar decided he didn’t want to have Cain Velasquez put him in a fetal position again. And UFC was prepared to give Lesnar the moon and the stars. For all of the talk about how much momentum UFC has generated the first four months of 2015, they also know that no one on their roster can reach the ceiling that Lesnar has previously established.
¯_(?)_/¯ RT @MikeBohnMMA Dana White called a media member a "dick" for asking Jose Aldo about his pay. Now telling the guy to "shut up."
— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) March 27, 2015
You don’t reportedly offer someone up to 10 times what you were originally paying them unless you’re really desperate. Brock Lesnar sells PPVs. He’s not a regular ratings attraction or a gate attraction. He’s a big money fight guy and that’s it. Even with UFC diversifying their business model, PPV still is a critical component and Lesnar trumps anyone they have in selling PPVs. Earlier in the week, I received an e-mail purporting to be from the University of Missouri and it was touting a UFC marketing study which stated the obvious: the heavyweight fights sell the most PPVs for UFC by a significant margin. The current depth of the MMA heavyweight scene is bleak. Brock Lesnar could still fit into the MMA scene in 2015 because of this. Unlike the other weight classes, Heavyweight mostly remains stuck in time. This was the leverage Lesnar possessed. A stale heavyweight scene with an oft-injured champion and on-going TV exposure thanks to WWE.
So why the desperation from both UFC & WWE to obtain Lesnar’s services when his current WWE run has been rather milquetoast for the most part? Fear. With New York state looking very likely to pass MMA legislation soon, the very last thing Vince McMahon wants to see is UFC running an event on his home turf at Madison Square Garden with Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir as the main event. Lesnar headlining MSG for UFC would have been a killer to Vince. WWE helped boost the modern UFC era with RAW as the Spike TV lead-in for Ultimate Fighter. That turned out to be a difficult pill to swallow for McMahon. Lesnar headlining MSG for UFC’s entrance into New York would have burned Vince’s ass.
WWE ended up paying for a new deal with Brock Lesnar. Who knows how this next run will turn out. Strangely enough, Lesnar has more intriguing rivals in UFC than he currently does in WWE after Wrestlemania. I suspect more fans would be interested in Lesnar/Mir III than Lesnar/Undertaker: the rematch. Curiously, Lesnar’s return to WWE will be linked with CM Punk’s tenure in UFC. Who ended up with the better end of the bargain? That question has been asked several times over the weekend in Bay Area media circles. Get used to hearing it more as the hype starts for Punk’s first UFC bout.