The WWE hype machine will promote the Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg rematch as “one for the ages”, but what is Lesnar’s motivation?
This past Monday on RAW, Goldberg came out to a better-than-expected reception from the WWE Universe. He spent several minutes soaking up the adoration of the live audience and even choked up a little, which only made the crowd cheer louder. For as much as we love to see these muscle-bound macho men perform otherworldly feats of strength, we also don’t mind when they remind us that they are still human. By their nature, WWE Superstars are larger than life personalities who exist on a plane far beyond mortal men and women. Dusty Rhodes famously told Ric Flair, “the stratosphere is reserved for you and me”, and watching one of the biggest names in the history of WCW show genuine emotion and appreciation brings one of these titans just a little closer to the rest of us, if only by an almost immeasurable amount.
Which brings us to Brock Lesnar, a man who is unapologetic about his role in the WWE as a “prize fighter” and not much more. Whether it’s in WWE or UFC, Lesnar has made it very clear that making money is his primary goal. Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with this, but in a business such as sports entertainment, simply arriving and collecting a paycheck isn’t enough. If it was, every Lesnar match would be as terrible as the one against Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32.
Lesnar has an ironclad contract with the WWE that allows him to make limited appearances for maximum profit. While fans mark out for Lesnar because actually seeing him in person is relatively rare, this does not bode well for Goldberg. In the interest of full disclosure, we still don’t know officially when the two shall meet, though the predominant theory is that this match will occur at Survivor Series next month. We also don’t know the long-term plans for the Goldberg/Lesnar feud. Assuming Lesnar wins this next match (as I’m predicting), that makes them even, and logic dictates that a tie-breaker must be held. The likely destination would be WrestleMania 33, but so much may hinge on how this match is received.
By now, many younger fans who don’t remember the first Lesnar/Goldberg match in 2004 may have been enlightened as to how bad it actually was. While they may not understand the reasons why, they can clearly see that something was wrong and it had more to do with how both men were looking beyond WWE than anything else. Goldberg was nearing the end of his pro wrestling career and Lesnar had dreams of playing in the NFL. Neither man was living for the moment and each played it safe so as not to jeopardize their post-WWE plans.
So what will be different in 2016? Goldberg has motivation to do well since it’s his first time back in the WWE in over a decade and expectations for him will be sky high. Add to that a potential future in the company (if offered and accepted) and he may see this as an audition of sorts. Lesnar, on the other hand, will get paid regardless. He has never shown himself to be the man who genuinely wants to entertain the fans. So long as he gets paid (which he absolutely will), he will consider his performance a success, no matter what anyone else says.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope both Lesnar and Goldberg embrace the spirit of competition and alpha male bravado and push each other to the absolute limit because it’s what we want to see. The money will be there but the adoration and respect from the WWE Universe is invaluable.