Brock Lesnar leaving the WWE is one of most history altering moments in all of professional wrestling. When Lesnar walked out on the WWE and their fans in March 2004 to pursue a career in the NFL & later in the UFC it left a major hole in the future of the WWE. Lesnar was given the torch of the “next big thing” in the WWE that was passed along from Bruno Sammartino to Hulk Hogan to Bret Hart to Shawn Michaels to Steve Austin to The Rock. It left the WWE scrambling for new stars and would take the WWE until one year later at WrestleMania 21 where new stars were born.
[adinserter block=”2″]To me, WrestleMania 21 is one of the most under appreciated historical WrestleMania’s of all-time. It is very rare for a WrestleMania to be a representation of a torch passing ceremony and that’s what WrestleMania 21 represented. WrestleMania 21 joined WrestleMania 6 (Hogan passing the torch to The Ultimate Warrior), WrestleMania 12 (Bret Hart passing the torch to Shawn Michaels) and WrestleMania 14 (Michaels passing the torch to Steve Austin) as pay-per-views that reflected a change in eras.
At WrestleMania 21 three superstars went from stars to “mega stars” in one night and would carry the WWE for the next eight years. The most notable of those three superstars was John Cena who defeated JBL for the WWE Champion that night and the rest was history for John Cena in the WWE. The other two superstars were Batista (who defeated Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Championship) and Randy Orton (who lost to The Undertaker it quite possibly the closest encounter of “The Streak” ending). John Cena, Batista and Randy Orton were all made in one night in Los Angeles at WrestleMania 21 & that might have never happened if it wasn’t for Brock Lesnar walking out on the WWE.
When it comes to those three stars it’s safe to say that John Cena probably was going to be affected the least when Brock Lesnar left the WWE in 2004. At the same PPV Brock Lesnar left the WWE, WrestleMania 20, John Cena had received a hero’s welcome from the MSG crowd which is very hard to do, especially for a relatively new star. Cena had the makings of being a force in the WWE and would’ve most likely played “second fiddle” to Lesnar in my opinion if the upper echelon of the WWE was never changed when Lesnar left.
Then there is Randy Orton, he has proved to be the most gifted third generation wrestler to walk into the WWE since The Rock did in 1996. Orton had the charisma and the ability to be a very good superstar as time went on. At WrestleMania 20 he was involved in a very prolific handicap tag team match that also included Ric Flair, Mick Foley and The Rock. During that time the WWE had him involved in a feud with Mick Foley and it appeared that the WWE looked at Orton very highly proving that the WWE saw some major star ability in this future WWE & World Champion.
The wrestler I believe would’ve been lost in the shuffle throughout this all was Batista. When Lesnar left in 2004 Batista was more of the “enforcer” of Evolution and wasn’t really looked at the same way as Cena & Orton were by the WWE creative team. If you remember correctly Batista kind of slid into that role to become World Heavyweight Champion in 2005 after Randy Orton’s run as a babyface after Summerslam 2004 was botched at the hands of Triple H. Orton was really hurt in the eyes of the fans from that feud and he didn’t recover until his big match at WrestleMania 21 against The Undertaker.
Batista, by all things considered, filled that role that Brock Lesnar left behind in being that physically captivating muscle machine that could tear it up in the squared circle. Had Brock Lesnar never left you’d have to wonder if Batista would’ve been needed to fill such a role on the WWE roster. None the less Lesnar leaving the WWE in 2004 and Randy Orton not being able to carry the torch as a babyface after his horrible feud with Triple H allowed Batista to be the “right guy at the right time” & allowed him to slide into a role that may have not been there if Brock Lesnar ever left the WWE in 2004.
Now let’s look at the current climate of the WWE. You’d have to wonder about how a pure professional wrestler, one who isn’t “strong” in looks like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan or Cody Rhodes would’ve faired had Brock never left. Would the fans be able to “look” at them as WWE Champions if the WWE kept pushing wrestlers who were visually strong rather then the top pure athlete? I don’t know.
You’d also have to wonder if the WWE would be in the spot they are in right now where they have to rely on “attitude era” wrestlers like The Rock, Undertaker, Triple H and Shawn Michaels to appear at the big WWE shows. Back during the “attitude era” they didn’t need to do that because the torch was successfully passed from Steve Austin to The Rock, when Lesnar dropped the torch there was a huge gap in the history of the WWE.
The climate of the WWE certainly changed when Brock Lesnar chose to leave the company abruptly in March 2004. For many fans who remember that time period well they know how much of a gap there was in WWE programming for a good year since the WWE had to rely more on veterans Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit rather then building new stars. It was a really tough time for the wrestling business, one that could’ve been avoided had Brock never left in the first place.
We will never know for certain how the landscape of the WWE would have looked if Brock had stayed, leaving us to only guess how the era of Brock Lesnar would have affected the WWE in the mid-2000s and beyond.
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