WrestleMania Lead-Up Part 2: The Lesnar Angle Follow@bigvinvader
I’m not really sure how I feel about Brock Lesnar. He’s an amazing athlete, and a major figure in the world of combat sports. But it’s because of all those things that his last few years in WWE have left me cold. He’s become such a phenomenon following his work in UFC that he’s rarely much fun to watch anymore. His street fight with Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32 was a major disappointment, and he’s hardly had any notable, worthwhile matches in the last year or so. But that wasn’t always the case, and fifteen years ago he was one of the most exciting wrestlers on the roster. Golderg, however, has always been a one-note character and wrestler. He really does seem like a decent guy, but I’m concerned with Goldberg the current Universal Champion, not Bill Goldberg the person. As I’ve complained before, the two had a terribly unsatisfying match at WrestleMania XX, and their current program has been very lackluster, consisting of squashes and little actual storyline build. It’s easily one of my least-anticipated matches of WrestleMania 33, and the talk that it looks to be yet another squash, albeit in Lesnar’s favor, does nothing to alleviate my concerns.
So, while it would theoretically make more sense for me to discuss Lesnar and Goldberg’s last WrestleMania match, I have no interest in doing that here. Instead, I want to talk about Lesnar’s match with Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX. While most of the talk regarding the match anymore concerns Lesnar’s botched Shooting Star Press, that moment is the only blemish on a fantastic main event match.
Both Lesnar and Angle (natch) were decorated amateur wrestlers, and they brought much of their technical skills to the table during their long rivalry in 2003. Their World Title match at that year’s ‘Mania is the place to go if you want to see Brock take to the mat and wrestle with great proficiency and agility, rather than his post-UFC ground-and-pound style. It really is amazing how fast and solid Brock was in the ring for someone his size, and the match is a stunning technical display. Lesnar and Angle trade lightning-fast submissions and reversals, as well as a series of takedowns and some stiff brawling. What the match is lacking in strong psychology, it more than makes up for in the sheer amount of wrestling ability on display. On top of that, the two had great chemistry, and in this match and others from that period, you can tell that they respected one another and enjoyed working together.
Also interesting is the point during the match where Angle nails Lesnar with four consecutive German suplexes, anticipating Brock’s later “Suplex City” gimmick. And I know there’s no reason to debate what a tough bastard Lesnar truly is, but it really goes unappreciated until you see the guy land on the top of his head during an aerial maneuver, recover enough to kick out of a pin, and take the win with an F-5. All while concussed. It’s a famous moment, and still pretty hard to watch. Unlike a lot of other matches featuring a significant botch, both wrestlers brought so much to the table and gave such intense performances that the single off moment did nothing to bring down the match’s quality and lasting legacy.
There really isn’t much of a link between the two matches, apart from each featuring Lesnar, and the fact that Kurt Angle has come back into the fold, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot for WrestleMania. The point is, this is the type of match that Goldberg could never have, and Lesnar likely will never have again. It was intense, gripping, and above all else, a fantastic display of wrestling and storytelling at its finest. What we’re getting this year is nothing but a money-draw, a spectacle without the wrestling to go along with it. It’s not only unfair to have part timers fighting for RAW’s top title, it’s insulting to the fans who wanted to see a top-notch match between Kevin Owens, or at least another deserving young star, and a credible, full-time performer. Back in 2003, it meant something for Lesnar to hold his brand’s top title, but in 2017 there’s absolutely no point other than to boost ratings, advertisements and merch sales.
Big Vin Vader covers WWE for Pencilstorm. Follow @bigvinvader