Courtesy of Pittsburgh Tribune Review
By Rennie Detore
When Brock Lesnar gave up professional wrestling last year, he assumed that his "Next Big Thing" moniker would transfer from the squared circle to the gridiron. Turns out, it didn't, and now Lesnar wants his WWE job back.
More accurately, Lesnar wants his "spot" back with WWE. That spot included "Wrestlemania" main events and working programs with world-class athletes such as Kurt Angle and Triple H, and top stars like Hulk Hogan, Goldberg and The Big Show.
But does Lesnar deserve that "spot?" If you ask Vince McMahon, the answer is no -- for now.
In recent weeks, Lesnar has been feverishly working his phone in an attempt to get a meeting with McMahon. Thus far, Lesnar's attempt at a would-be reconciliation hasn't materialized. Lesnar can't even get past McMahon's secretary.
In March 2004, Lesnar walked out on a fresh seven-year, $10 million contract. The 27-year-old former WWE superstar, who was scheduled to wrestle Goldberg at "Wrestlemania XX," decided that professional wrestling didn't fit into his long-term plans.
Instead, he wanted to try out for the NFL.
Before signing his developmental deal with WWE, Lesnar turned down tryouts with several NFL teams in 2000. Last year, Lesnar said he "owed it to himself" to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL and added that if he didn't, he'd "never forgive" himself.
Lesnar worked his final match at "Wrestlemania" and left the company that invested time and money to make him a superstar. Even before "Wrestlemania," Lesnar had developed a reputation for being a "loner" in the locker room. He made it very clear that he didn't enjoy the constant travel associated with being a WWE superstar. He went as far as to buy himself a private plane to usher him to and from arenas at his own convenience.
Still, Lesnar wanted out.
McMahon negotiated the release so that Lesnar couldn't wrestle for any other promotions for several years. McMahon rightfully added that clause to protect his investment. McMahon was making Lesnar a star. McMahon booked matches against the Hogans, Angles, Big Shows and The Undertakers to assure that Lesnar would be perceived as a legitimate WWE main eventer.
McMahon afforded Lesnar every opportunity to become a top draw in the industry and didn't want that marketability to surface elsewhere, such as Japan or perhaps TNA.
But McMahon slapping restrictions on Lesnar the wrestler isn't what is keeping the "Next Big Thing" from returning to WWE.
Lesnar made the mistake of bad-mouthing professional wrestling when he was making his interview rounds to promote his pending NFL venture. Occasionally, and mostly in the beginning, Lesnar thanked McMahon. Otherwise, Lesnar barely acknowledged wrestling or downplayed it when the topic arose.
That lack of respect, coupled with Lesnar's failure to secure a roster spot with the Minnesota Vikings, have negated any leverage Lesnar might have had to negotiate a return to WWE.
McMahon, however, is not punishing Lesnar for leaving his company. Lesnar has every right to walk away from wrestling to pursue another career. It's no different than The Rock heading to Hollywood to make movies.
The difference between Rock and Lesnar is respect. Dwayne Johnson never forgot that WWE made him a star. McMahon gave Johnson the stage to perfect his "Rock" persona, which ultimately led to roles in other entertainment avenues.
Lesnar took McMahon's faith and gesture for granted and laughed off his stint with WWE as nothing more than a minor-league stop on his way to NFL stardom.
That is why McMahon looks at re-signing the "Next Big Thing" as no big deal. The truth is, WWE, more specifically "Smackdown," desperately needs the kind of boost Lesnar would offer. But that boost will be on McMahon's terms.
When Lesnar returns, he won't simply be inserted to his familiar top-tier "spot" on "Smackdown." Lesnar's initial purpose upon returning to WWE will be to make other wrestlers look good, the same way Angle, Show and 'Taker made the "Next Big Thing" more of a reality than just a clever nickname.
Lesnar picked up the psychology and understanding of pro wrestling at a phenomenal pace, but the superstars around him equally deserve credit. McMahon will make Lesnar understand how important that aspect of professional wrestling is before Lesnar eventually ascends back to his superstar "spot."
Consider it just another tryout for Lesnar.