Reviews

TJR WWE Network Review for WWE Ruthless Aggression: The Next Big Thing – Episode 4 Review

This is a review of the fourth episode of WWE’s Ruthless Aggression docuseries on WWE Network. As you can tell the title and main photo, the subject of this episode is Brock Lesnar.

In case you missed any of my previous reviews in the Ruthless Aggression series, the links are below.

Episode 1 – It’s Time to Shake Things Up

Episode 2 – Enter John Cena

Episode 3 – Evolution

Here’s the synopsis of this episode on WWE Network:

S1 | E4: The Next Big Thing
Seeking “The Next Big Thing,” WWE finds Brock Lesnar. He becomes an in-ring monster — and a master of Ruthless Aggression behind the scenes. Relive Lesnar’s rise to the top, rivalries with The Rock and Hulk Hogan and his decision to depart WWE for eight years.

If you’re looking for it on WWE Network, check the Originals section and it should be there.

===

It began with WWE Executive Director Paul Heyman saying that people need to understand that Brock Lesnar was only in WWE for two years. Lesnar started the day after WrestleMania in 2002 and finished at WrestleMania 2004 while adding that his two year run was fast, but his contributions were enormous. Heyman said that the number of moments that Lesnar offered in those two years were unheard of. They showed some classic Lesnar highlights and Heyman said “but it was only two years” with a smile.

The narrator is Michael Rappaport just like in the previous episodes.

Discovering Brock Lesnar

They showed highlights of Lesnar doing amateur wrestling from the time he was 11 years old while noting there was something special about this kid from rural South Dakota. Lesnar was always the best in middle school, high school and university. They showed highlights of Lesnar at all of those levels.

Jim Ross, who was the former head of talent relations in addition to being to a lead announcer, noted that they scouted Lesnar in college because they knew they needed new stars because that’s what the business thrives on. Ross said they signed Lesnar and sent him to Louisville at OVW for developmental. Jim Cornette was booking OVW in those days and he was excited to have Lesnar there.

Batista talked about how Lesnar was a stud when he came in to OVW. Cornette said he was a tremendous athlete and you couldn’t hurt him if you ran over him with a car. Shelton Benjamin said that Lesnar was a once in a lifetime personality and athlete. Orton put over Lesnar as being the quickest and strongest while Batista added that when you get a guy that look like that, also a freak athlete and understands psychology – he’s a moneymaker. They showed a clip of Lesnar doing the Shooting Star Press off the top rope with Cornette saying it wasn’t good to do all the time, but for a big show that’s great.

(There was no Youtube back then obviously, but I remember being part of a wrestling forum and seeing the clip of Lesnar doing the Shooting Star Press in the OVW days. It was incredible seeing a guy as big as him doing that. It still is amazing to match 20 years later.)

It was stated that Lesnar was frustrated with the developmental process. Heyman said that Lesnar was tired of developmental money and he knew that he would be the biggest box office attraction in WWE, so he was tired of waiting. Lesnar apparently said move him to the main roster or kiss his ass goodbye. That led to Lesnar working dark matches prior to Raw and Smackdown with Heyman claiming that Lesnar was getting horrible advice. Heyman said he got together with Brock and gave him different advice.

Heyman said that a turning point was when he got Vince McMahon to watch a Lesnar match. They showed clips of Lesnar working with Funaki and overpowering him with an F5 for the victory. Heyman said that Vince loved it. Heyman was told by Vince that he’ll put Lesnar and Heyman together on screen.

Brock Lesnar Debuts on Raw

They showed March 18, 2002 on Raw when Lesnar made his debut in Montreal on the Raw after WrestleMania 18. Lesnar slammed Al Snow through a table, he hit the F5 on Maven and was on a path of destruction after that. Former WWE head writer Brian Gewirtz said that they would go over the rosters and at the top of every year, they would pick three guys and try to get them over as stars. When they looked at Lesnar, he was a star. The Miz chimed in to say that Lesnar was an ass kicker. Becky Lynch said that Lesnar was like a mammal you had never seen before and it was like where did he come from? Matt Hardy had something about him that was real.

Bruce Prichard talked about how Heyman was perfect for Lesnar because he could do what he does best. Heyman said it was a natural fit to take his credibility and parlay that onto the next big thing in the industry, Brock Lesnar. They showed a lot of highlights of beating people up.

They showed the King of the Ring finals in June 2002 and Lesnar hit Rob Van Dam with an F5 to win the King of the Ring title. That meant that Lesnar earned a shot at the Undisputed WWE Title at SummerSlam. Adam Cole said normally you have to work your way up the ranks, but Brock was thrown in the fire right away. Gewirtz said that Lesnar was a godsend behind the scenes and the audience was yearning for somebody new more than anybody.

Lesnar was shown going into Hulk Hogan’s locker room for a face off. That led to a match on the August 8, 2002 episode of Smackdown. Hogan said that Lesnar was built to go, his traps were coming up and he was like a shark coming at you. Hogan said it was a gutcheck. Match highlights were shown with Lesnar hitting a Powerbomb, then he hit the F5 and Hogan won the match with a bearhug with Hogan passing out, so they put over Lesnar in a big way. Lesnar even rubbed Hogan’s blood on his body. Heyman said after the match with Hogan, everyone knew Lesnar was the Next Big Thing.

Lesnar Becomes WWE Champion

There were comments from Gerwitz and Prichard talking about how there were people who thought Lesnar wasn’t ready, but Prichard said that they needed somebody to step up in that role. Prichard put over Lesnar for being new and fresh. Mick Foley talked about how when he saw the build up to SummerSlam 2002 for his match with The Rock, he realized he could be a big star. Seth Rollins talked about how everybody from Vince to The Rock saw the talent in Lesnar. Prichard said that Rock was a huge proponent of Lesnar and basically said let’s go with the kid. Lesnar was 25 years old at the time, which is obviously older than a kid, but Lesnar was young in the business.

It was on to SummerSlam on August 25, 2002 with Prichard saying that Lesnar could be a champion that everyone would believe. They showed the entrance of Lesnar and I remember the big ovation that night. It showed how much the fans believed in Lesnar. They showed highlights of the match with Foley noting that the crowd shifted in Lesnar’s favor, which was startling since Rock was so popular. They played the loud “let’s go Lesnar” chants. Fans booed Rock hitting a spinebuster and cheered Brock coming back with a clothesline. Lesnar hit an F5 on Rock and covered to become the WWE Champion. At the time, Lesnar was the youngest WWE Champion ever at 25 years old. After the match, Lesnar said he was the number one man now while Rock was off to Hollywood.

The next angle they took was saying that while Lesnar was the WWE Champion, he didn’t care much for the constant attention. Prichard said that Lesnar was still young and it was a lot very quickly for him. Prichard talked about how Lesnar was looking at the business as a business and then he would go home. They showed a clip from Lesnar in 2002 talking while he was on his farm. Gewirtz said he didn’t know if many people knew what Lesnar like as a person because he was a private person. Batista said that Lesnar kept his walls up and kept everybody away. Kurt Angle talked about how Lesnar was an extremely private person and to a certain extent, he doesn’t like people. Prichard said that Lesnar looked at wrestling as a way to be able to afford to have the life he wants to have.

Lesnar Main Evented His First WrestleMania

They talked about how no rookie had dominated WWE like Lesnar. They went ahead to No Mercy 2002 with Lesnar beating The Undertaker in a great Hell in a Cell match. At Survivor Series 2002, Heyman turned on Lesnar and helped Big Show win the WWE Title. Lesnar had a three month reign as champion. It also turned Lesnar babyface.

Lesnar was shown entering the 2003 Royal Rumble and he won that match by last eliminating The Undertaker. Becky Lynch talked about Lesnar’s impressive rookie year and then there’s that pressure of how you keep that momentum going.

Angle said he knew that when Lesnar got to WWE, it would be about them because they came from the same sport. Rollins said that they went from knowing nothing and then within a year or two they were main event talent. Rollins made a good point that you don’t see that especially twice in a generation.

The Lesnar match with Angle was the main event of WrestleMania 19, so Brock was the main event in his first WrestleMania. Angle said that they were excited, they were main eventing and everything was aligned for them to have the match of the night. Heyman said that Lesnar main eventing WrestleMania mints Lesnar as a WrestleMania main eventer and now they can plan the next ten WrestleManias around Lesnar. They showed Lesnar hit the F5. Angle said he brought it up to Lesnar if he did a Shooting Star Press and Angle thought people would remember that forever. That’s when Lesnar jumped off the top, he went for the SSP and he barely connected with Angle, who was too far. Lesnar crashed with his head/neck hitting the mat with Gewirtz saying everybody was like “oh my god” when they saw that. Prichard said that it was horrifying because they didn’t know if Brock broke his neck and wondering if Brock was okay. Shortly after that, Lesnar hit another F5 and they took it home with Lesnar winning the WWE Title for the second time.

After the match, Lesnar had a dazed look on his face and he was checked on by doctors. Heyman said that the Shooting Star Press was a classic example of Brock could be given bad advice and that bad advice almost cost Brock his entire career. They showed Lesnar backstage with a neck collar on with doctors checking on him and Lesnar yelled “get the f**k off me.” You could see Gerald Brisco and others walking Lesnar to the back. Lesnar escaped with just minor injuries. This footage was from the Mania of WrestleMania documentary they filmed that year and released about a year later.

(I still think the Shooting Star Press was a good idea…if they were smarter about it. The problem was that Angle was too far across the ring. You can’t assume a guy like Lesnar is going to be able to jump 3/4 of the way across the ring after 20 minutes of wrestling. If Angle was just two feet more to the left, Lesnar would have hit it fine and it would be remembered as one of the best finishes ever instead of one of the biggest botches ever. I like Brock and Kurt, but they made a mistake not having Kurt be a little bit closer to where Brock was. Lesnar never did an SSP in a WWE after that.)

Lesnar Hated the WWE Life on the Road

(Is this where Vince told Brock that he loves him more than Shane? Asking for research purposes. Hello Linda.)

The story shifted to talking about how as the champion once again, there was a demand for Brock’s time. JBL said there’s not an off switch when you’re on top of WWE. Bruce Prichard said that Brock expressed to them that he wanted to lighten his load and if he worked once a month, he would have, but that wasn’t the business at the time. Prichard said that Lesnar was young, it was his first time doing a lot of it and he’ll get used to it, but for some people they didn’t want to get used to it. Gewirtz said that after a while, Lesnar realized that maybe he felt like he didn’t sign up for this because of how tough it was. Current stars like Miz and Rollins talked about the sacrifice and the pain they were in. Angle said that he was main eventing a lot of shows with Lesnar and said they didn’t know how to take it easy. Angle said that wrestling 250 or 300 dates a year was tough on anybody, especially if you’re main eventing every night like Lesnar.

(I love Kurt Angle as much as anybody in wrestling, but they didn’t wrestle 250 or 300 days a year. If you worked every live event in that era and wrestled on TV then you might hit about 180 matches. It’s still a lot, obviously and when you factor in the travel, it’s a lot of time on the road. In 2019, Ricochet wrestled the most matches in WWE with 154 matches. Since WWE has cut back significantly on live events this year, the guys with the most matches in 2020 will probably be around 130 matches. Maybe less.)

There were comments from Matt Hardy and Christian talking about how it was a hard job. Eric Bischoff mentioned that Lesnar absolutely hated travel. Angle told the story that Lesnar bought an airplane, hired a pilot and would fly all over the country because that’s how private he was. They showed a clip of Lesnar from 2003 most likely where they asked him to explain what he’s doing and Brock said: “Where am I today?” He didn’t know where they were. Gewirtz talked about how you can tell when somebody is enjoying themselves backstage and others just want to get things over with. Gewirtz said that Lesnar had no problem saying he knew what he liked and thought maybe it was time to do something else. Heyman said that Lesnar quickly grew to be miserable while adding that a miserable Brock is not safe for himself or anybody else.

Brock Lesnar Says Goodbye to WWE in 2004

They talked about how Lesnar hit his breaking point not even two years into his WWE career. Bruce said that Lesnar sat him down and said that he is quitting WWE. Bruce said it wasn’t a long explanation where he wasn’t blaming anybody or anything. Lesnar said he can do whatever you want to do, but you aren’t going to talk him out of it. Gewirtz said there was a lot of different emotions with some surprise and resentment from some people since they did all of this by pushing him a lot, yet he wanted to leave. Gewirtz noted that the signs were there that he was unhappy. Bischoff said that Brock is a unique individual and things weren’t going according to his plan.

It was on to WrestleMania 20 in 2004 with Lesnar facing another departing superstar in Goldberg. At the time, it was well known that Lesnar was leaving and Goldberg only had a one year deal with WWE, so he was leaving after the match too. The fans in New York City chanted “boring” with Gewirtz talking about how he was surprised at the impact the internet reports had on a match. Rollins said something similar too.

Is it hard to spell Brock, right? I saw this, laughed and had to share.

Lesnar hit Goldberg with the F5 and the fans kept booing. Rollins said he remembered hearing about it and knowing it about. The fans chanted “You Sold Out” at them.

(I never understood that chant. How did Brock sell out by leaving a multi-million dollar contract for an uncertain future? He just wanted to leave. It was not a sell out at all. A sell out means doing something for more money.)

Matt Hardy said it was New York City where you have the smartest of the smart fans. The fans were like “to hell with both of you” because they weren’t just leaving WWE, they were leaving the fans. The fans sang “hey hey goodbye” at them. Bischoff said to have the audience disconnect that much, it’s a horrible feeling. Goldberg hit the Jackhammer and pinned Lesnar. After the match, Lesnar gave the double middle fingers to the fans and referee Steve Austin, which led to Austin hitting a Stunner on Lesnar and the fans loved that. JBL said that Lesnar could have had the best match ever, but the fans were going to do what they wanted to do.

(The original plan was for Lesnar to win since Goldberg was leaving due to his contract running out. Since Lesnar chose to leave WWE while he had a contract, WWE decided to have Lesnar lose, which was the right call at the time.)

There were comments from The Miz and Rollins talking about how hard it was to believe that Lesnar was leaving. Gewirtz said that if he wasn’t happy and his heart is not into it, then go. Gewirtz said Lesnar left and to his credit, he did extraordinary stuff.

Brock Lesnar Post-WWE

They showed a clip of Lesnar talking about how he was looking ahead to the future and what’s done is done. Lesnar wanted to move on to do something different. Foley said that Lesnar saw WWE as something that was a challenge, he conquered it and wanted to do something else.

Lesnar tried out of the NFL. After not playing football for almost a decade, Lesnar had an impressive showing at the NFL Combine and the Minnesota Vikings invited him to camp. Lesnar was impressive in the preseason with Heyman saying that Lesnar was the last person cut before the main season. JBL said that Lesnar hadn’t played a game since high school and to get as far as he did showed what a great athlete he was. Mark Said that football was something he wanted to try, but the next challenge was MMA.

They showed Lesnar training for MMA with Angle talking about how that was Brock’s lifestyle because it was training at home for six months and then going to an event one time to fight. That way he could train, spend time with family, do hunting and fishing and don’t have to deal with the real world. Lesnar signed a contract with UFC in 2008. Less than one year later, Lesnar was the UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Dana White, who is the UFC President, said if you look at what Brock Lesnar did by coming over from WWE and being the Heavyweight Champion is impossible. White joked that Lesnar is a very unique personality. JBL said that people were dead wrong about Lesnar because he was following his dream.

They summed up Lesnar’s UFC run by saying that Lesnar had conquered UFC, so it was on to the next challenge.

Brock Lesnar Returns to WWE in 2012

It was Raw on April 2, 2012 the night after WrestleMania 28 in Miami. John Cena was in the ring doing a promo and Brock Lesnar’s music hit leading to Lesnar appearing in WWE once again after an eight year absence.

(One of the loudest pops I’ve ever heard. It is also one of my biggest regrets as a fan because I was at that WrestleMania, but I flew home the Monday morning. If I stayed one more night I could have been there for this moment and it would have been cool to be a part of.)

Mark Henry said that he was glad that Lesnar came back home because being a pro wrestler and a pro wrestling champion is who he really is. Lesnar gave Cena the F5. They showed clips of Lesnar performing in WWE over the last decade.

The WWE return was summarized by the narrator saying it was like he never left. Only Brock Lesnar could walk away before his prime, come back almost a decade later and be more dominant than when he left. To this day, Lesnar’s domination in WWE is unparalleled and it all began in the era of Ruthless Aggression.

In the final minutes of the show, Prichard said that era was a time of creating for the future. Lesnar was brand new with wrestling, fundamentals and he was fresh. JBL said that Brock is a once in a generation athlete. Gewirtz said that Lesnar was a major factor in WWE post-WCW because he was a home grown talent that we had never seen before. Gewirtz talked about the energy that hit when Lesnar’s music hit. Foley said that nobody made the suspension of disbelief easier than Brock Lesnar. Batista said that Lesnar was like Ivan Drago, who was terrifying as a movie character. They showed more Lesnar highlights and that was it.

(Those final two comments by Foley and Batista were great. They summed it up perfectly.)

This episode had a runtime of 41:45 on WWE Network.

 

Final Thoughts

It was good for most of it, but I was surprised by the things they left out. They skipped a lot of stuff that I would have covered if I was in charge of this. Lesnar had an impressive 2003, yet they basically went from WrestleMania 19 and then talked about how miserable he was while moving to his final days in 2004. What about the epic ring breaking spot with Big Show that is probably the best moment in Smackdown history? What about the Ironman Match with Kurt Angle in September 2003 (I have reviewed it here), which I believe is the best match in Smackdown history? They didn’t even mention those things. It also would have been nice if they covered his No Way Out 2004 match with Eddie Guerrero and maybe have one of the talking heads mention how big that was for Eddie. You could even mention how awesome Lesnar was as a heel when he started to figure things out in late 2003. I just feel like they could have covered more of Brock’s run in a better way.

They hit on the main points that Lesnar was a freak athlete, he had an impressive rise to the top and when he got there, he hated the life he had, so he chose to do other things. That’s his story, but they could have done more too. I would have liked to hear from Brock the way that Cena and Evolution spoke a lot in their documentaries, but we all know Lesnar is a private person that isn’t interested in doing that stuff. I’m just saying it would have helped.

I think my favorite episode so far is the one about Evolution while this one was about even with the Cena episode, but it was shorter and they could have done more.

===

Thanks for reading this review. My contact info is below.

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook