By Jeff Lutz, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@JLutz82)
WWE has spent years of storylines telling us that Brock Lesnar doesn’t really like the company, doesn’t actually want to be there, and feels as if he’s generally above his colleagues and the industry itself.
Meanwhile, Lesnar wears the company t-shirt for every appearance, is aligned with Monday Night Raw’s most influential (or second-most, at least) figure, shows up for every Saudi Arabia show, and sells his ass off every one of the rare times he’s asked to do so.
Lesnar, the WWE Champion, is still seemingly driven primarily by money. He’s around for the most prestigious WWE events because they offer the most substantial paydays. But it’s becoming impossible to question his dedication to WWE because he’s surely made enough money to retire to his ranch and spend the rest of his life hunting and fishing.
Instead, Lesnar retired from MMA and the UFC and stayed with WWE, probably for the foreseeable future. It’s impossible to say whether Lesnar truly loves WWE, because his reasons for staying clearly go beyond passion for the business, and WWE television has been convincing in telling fans that Lesnar – at least the impressionable ones who might believe it – that he doesn’t care.
But staying with WWE at age 42 and beyond means Lesnar’s legacy will be most boldly defined by professional wrestling, not UFC. His professionalism every time he’s on television or pay-per-view is off the charts, his matches are always strong because of his hard work, and his partnership with Paul Heyman, Raw’s executive director and someone who does love professional wrestling, has surely given Lesnar a renewed appreciation for the business and what he can offer it.
The same thing looks to be happening with Bill Goldberg, who at age 53 recently won the WWE Universal Championship in Saudi Arabia. Goldberg now has twice the title reigns in his 50s as he did in his initial one-year run with WWE in the early 2000s, a reflection of questionable current booking more than Goldberg’s own revitalization.
Goldberg’s reason for returning is that he wants his son to see him wrestle. But that box was checked a few years ago when Goldberg returned for a run with Lesnar in which the two traded the Universal Title. Goldberg, also probably motivated by the money earned in Saudi Arabia and for wrestling at the Big Four WWE pay-per-views, is actually damaging his legacy with poor matches and fan backlash from his championship reigns. Unlike Lesnar, he’s presented as someone who does care, who wants to put on the best performances and be in the best shape cosmetically and be the same Goldberg from two decades ago. The presentation is top-notch, but the work has left plenty to be desired.
Goldberg’s bond to WWE has never been tighter. He repaired the broken relationship that stemmed from his initial run culminating in a disastrous match with Lesnar at WrestleMania XX in which both men were on their way out of the company. Goldberg first reappeared with in connection with a WWE 2K video game, then went into the Hall of Fame and now is relied upon for marquee matches.
Fifteen years ago, it wouldn’t have seemed imaginable for Goldberg to be so amenable – or even happy – to do whatever he’s asked in WWE. But he put over Lesnar and is now about to do the same for Roman Reigns in their match at WrestleMania next month. Like Lesnar, Goldberg is WWE all the way and probably proud of it.
Goldberg and Lesnar are WWE’s two top champions because they’re the biggest stars WWE can put in those roles, since John Cena doesn’t seem interested. They’re also champions because they’re dependable, professional, able to promote matches with few words, and the greatest spectacles and attractions WWE can offer. They’re pro-money, yes, but also pro-company, and not just because WWE happens to have the most money.
Despite the storylines informing us otherwise, Lesnar likes where he is. Despite fan backlash and his lack of in-ring conditioning, Goldberg wouldn’t trade his spot, either. Their earliest WWE runs were marred by the match at WrestleMania 20. Neither cared and neither wanted to be there. Now, they both do.