Where does Brock Lesnar’s fascinating career go from here?

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar, a match made in mat heaven.

WWE, Inc./Heather McLaughlin

There are many admirable traits that a sports entertainment — aka pro wrestling — fan can embrace as it relates to WWE world champion Brock Lesnar.

The South Dakota native is arguably the most naturally gifted athlete to compete in the genre. The former NCAA and UFC heavyweight champion has the physique of a Greek god, moves like a large cat, does what he says and has a legit, animalistic intensity seldom seen in his profession.

The conundrum is that Brock Lesnar is currently cast as a villain.

So, just what exactly is there to jeer about villainous Brock Lesnar?

Hmm … arguably the most valid point one can make on this matter is that Lesnar’s "advocate," a modernized version of what used to be known as a "manager," Paul Heyman, is a marvelous "heel" whose verbal skills are incomparable in today’s WWE.

At one point in my career, I was executive vice president of talent relations for WWE and my department was responsible for all areas of management of the in-ring talent roster, including recruiting, signing and training new prospects.

I was watching the NCAA Division 1 wrestling finals on TV while Lesnar was a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota. That was the first time I saw Brock in action. 

It was mesmerizing to see a man so big — 6-foot-3, 285 pounds — with the agility of a gymnast and the speed of a running back. I called WWE’s amateur wrestling recruiter, Jerry Brisco, who wrestled at Oklahoma State University and followed that stint in Stillwater with a long and highly distinguished professional mat career, and asked him to look into recruiting the Golden Gopher.

I had seen the wrestling version of Secretariat and knew that WWE needed to sign this freak of nature.

As fate would have it, Jerry was a teammate at Okie State with Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson.

The fact Lesnar lost in the finals of the NCAA tournament the first time that I saw him was a non-issue because wrestlers with Lesnar’s size and God-given skills come along once in a lifetime and wins and losses aren’t a major stat in the world of WWE.

I had seen the wrestling version of Secretariat and knew that WWE needed to sign this freak of nature.

But … we would have to wait.   

Coach Robinson asked Brisco to not begin the recruiting process until the end of the next wrestling season, as it was thought that Brock would win the NCAA heavyweight title and Robinson said he was "easily distracted."

Robinson said that after wrestling season ended, "He’s all yours."

During Brock’s senior year, we followed his every move while Brisco and Robinson kept in regular contact about Brock.

This yearlong, covert courtship culminated with Lesnar winning the NCAA heavyweight title in the spring of 2000. Coach Robinson kept his word and made the introduction to WWE’s ace recruiter and our No. 1 recruiting priority in 2000. 

The only catch was that we needed to also recruit and offer Brock’s Minnesota teammate, Sheldon Benjamin, as well. Benjamin was an amazing athlete, and signing the South Carolina native was a blessing as he had a solid WWE career, arguably underutilized in the opinion of some. Plus, he made Brock’s transition from the amateurs to the pros much easier.

Robinson knew Brock could be a challenging athlete to manage, so having Benjamin in the same training camp was a major positive in the development of Lesnar.

We invited Brock and Sheldon to a WWE event in Minneapolis and as WWE chairman Vince McMahon was power walking to his customary "gorilla position," the make-ready area for performers to congregate prior to making their entrance to the ring, McMahon noticed Brock standing with Brisco.

Lesnar provided McMahon the perfect answer by saying ‘I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer.’

It was the first time that I can recall that Vince stopped dead in his tracks, made his way over to a recruit, introduced himself and asked Brock if he was ready to join the WWE.

Lesnar provided McMahon the perfect answer by saying, "I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer."

McMahon could not have heard anything sweeter. 

Thanks largely to the efforts of Brisco, who became a much-needed ally for Brock, I signed Lesnar to the biggest rookie contract in WWE history and will suggest that no one since has come close to what we paid the "Beast Incarnate" to join WWE.

Lesnar was in Ohio Valley Wrestling, based in Louisville, being trained when Heyman, then working in WWE creative, spotted Lesnar on the tapes of the OVW TV show. 

Heyman, with McMahon’s blessing, took charge of Lesnar’s development when Brock would come to the main-roster TV events to wrestle in "dark matches," non-televised bouts.

Heyman continued to question McMahon as to when Brock was going to debut, and soon after WrestleMania XVIII McMahon pulled the trigger and called Lesnar up to the main roster. He put Brock with Heyman, who became Lesnar’s mentor in and out of the ring. 

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It was a marriage made in box office heaven as Lesnar became the youngest WWE Champion at age 25. 

Lesnar would become the youngest sports entertainer to earn a seven-figure income, after only three years in the business, but he soon grew tired of the travel and he detested giving up so much of his privacy.

Brock abruptly left the WWE in 2004 and tried out as a defensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings, though he had not played football since he was a student at his South Dakota high school. 

Lesnar was a late cut by the Vikes, who would then invite him to play in NFL Europe, but Brock declined. More travel and living in Europe did not suit the man with a combined amateur wrestling record of 106-5, who was happiest working his farm on his tractor or hunting.

All the while, as Lesnar was thinking of his next career move, he remained in contact with Heyman but with few others within the WWE. 

A stronger bond was formed as Heyman found himself out of WWE, and Brock soon would try his hand in MMA, eventually signing with UFC in 2007 and making his debut there in February 2008, losing to former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir.

Brock eventually avenged that loss in dominating fashion, in addition to defeating the legendary Randy Couture to become the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion and a box office and pay-per-view sensation.

Throughout Lesnar’s meteoric rise within UFC, his relationship with Heyman, the son of a New York City personal injury attorney, grew stronger. Lesnar had the confidante he needed on a variety of business and personal fronts.

Diverticulitis — an intestinal disorder — nearly killed Brock and it essentially ended his UFC career, but his relationship with Heyman grew and soon both were back in WWE in prominent roles in 2012. Two weeks after returning, the pair were back together on camera. 

So it brings us to today … how long can WWE keep its fan base from cheering for the jaw-dropping Lesnar? If the fans themselves "turn" Lesnar, there will be little that WWE can do but to maximize what their consumers demand — or so one would assume.

Could Heyman and Lesnar split if Lesnar became a fan favorite, which would then see a "scorned" Heyman seek retribution against his real-life friend and on-screen accomplice?

They could, but my experience with Brock says that Lesnar would not be comfortable with that arrangement. Old-school wrestling purists say that a "baby-face" manager isn’t a desirable role, nor will it sell tickets. I tend to agree with that concept, in theory, but if anyone could pull that role off it would be Heyman, who likely would reinvent it. 

This matter will play out one way or another over the next few months leading to WrestleMania XXXI in April 2015 at Levi’s Stadium, which will also host the next Super Bowl.

By WrestleMania XXXI, can WWE develop a new fan favorite whom the consumers feel is a legit threat to Lesnar’s WWE world title? Again, will Lesnar still be a TV villain by WWE’s biggest event of the year? 

The WWE has never had an attraction like Lesnar, and it’s highly unlikely — thanks to the late Gorilla Monsoon for the "highly unlikely" — that they will have one like him again.

To make matters more interesting, sources say Lesnar’s contract with WWE ends soon after WrestleMania XXXI.  

The plot thickens … for real.      

You can follow Jim Ross on Twitter @JRsBBQ, listen to him on the Ross Report Podcast and see him live at RINGSIDE: An Evening with Jim Ross. JR’s products are also available online at wweshop.com, americansoda.co.uk and beyondtheropes.co.uk.