5 Superstars who were never the same after facing Brock Lesnar
When Paul Heyman promises something, it’s best taken with a grain – OK, a few grains – fine, an industrial bag – of salt. But the wheelin’, dealin’ mastermind behind the original ECW has proven positively truthful when it comes to extolling the abilities of his client, Brock Lesnar. Heyman’s orations, in which he promises untold misery and blinding pain to anyone who dares face the former UFC Champion, have come true, more or less, to the T throughout the years that the mad scientist has called The Beast Incarnate his client.
Not only is it fair to say a bout with Lesnar can change a Superstar’s career, there’s evidence that it has in the past. Whether John Cena joins the list of Superstars forever altered by a clash with The Anomaly remains to be seen, but as the Cenation leader marches toward his destiny, WWE.com presents a list of five competitors who dared to face The Conqueror and emerged as very, very different men when it was over.
In the back of their minds, the WWE Universe always knew it would take something approaching an act of God to get Triple H to hang up his boots and become a full-time WWE corporate executive. Well, such a thing happened in the form of The Game’s on-and-off, yearlong rivalry with Brock Lesnar. The initial “Perfect Storm” that ended with Triple H suffering his second broken arm led to a lengthy leave of absence for The King of Kings, who came up big with his career on the line in the rematch at WrestleMania 29.
The rubber match, however, truly left The Game a changed man; Lesnar turned Triple H’s own sledgehammer against him in a steel cage en route to a victory so profound that The Game could barely stand against freshly-crowned Heyman Guy Curtis Axel. Triple H soon turned to full-time corporate skullduggery after this battle, and he hasn’t won a match since. (No, really.)
In the annals of sports-entertainment lore, Hardcore Holly is said to be almost as tough as Brock Lesnar himself. So what happened to the Attitude Era mainstay during his initial rivalry with The Anomaly certainly can’t be blamed on a lack of backbone. Rather, perhaps, Holly’s famous aggression finally met its match when Lesnar – then still The Next Big Thing who plowed through the competition – broke Holly's neck in a vicious beatdown, putting the former Hardcore Champion out of action for a year. When Holly returned, he did claw his way to an opportunity at Lesnar’s WWE Championship and a chance at payback, but both, alas, eluded him, and while Holly’s tough-as-nails career continued for a few years after, he almost never sniffed the ultimate prize again.
Crowned the interim UFC Heavyweight Champion while The Beast Incarnate – then the reigning titleholder – was sidelined with diverticulitis, Carwin fell to Lesnar in their undisputed title fight, giving The Anomaly sole ownership of MMA’s crown jewel. Carwin’s UFC career was cut woefully short following that showdown; his bout one year later against Junior dos Santos ended in a unanimous decision and Carwin never fought again as injuries and surgeries mounted, forcing his retirement from the Octagon a few years later. In all fairness, perhaps the series of unfortunate events that sidelined this talented, gritty mixed-martial artist following his title match with Brock Lesnar was just serendipity. Maybe it was just a run of bad luck for a tough-as-nails fighter in one of the world’s most ruthlessly competitive environments. Maybe it comes with the territory. Then again, maybe not.
When it comes crashing down, it really comes crashing down. Or at least it did for The Immortal Hulk Hogan, who was literally beaten into a new persona during his 2002 rivalry with The Beast Incarnate. When “Hollywood” Hogan faced off against the ascendant NCAA champion, many in the WWE Universe expected The Immortal One to prevail against the brash newcomer. Instead, Lesnar became the second Superstar to ever beat Hogan by submission (with a bear hug, no less), and the only Superstar to ever defeat The Hulkster on account of having the match called off by the referee.
A post-match walloping sent Hogan to the injured reserve list; by the time he came back, he was no longer “Hollywood” Hogan and had reverted to the classic red-and-yellow of Hulkamania. Don’t get us wrong, Hulk Hogan is still Hulk Hogan, and none are his equal in the annals of sports-entertainment, but Lesnar beat the cockiness right out of him.
As you may have heard, Paul Heyman’s client Brock Lesnar conquered The Streak. But to say The Undertaker simply lost a match – regardless of its implications – doesn’t quite do justice to what happened to him at The Anomaly’s hands that fateful WrestleMania night. What Lesnar did at The Show of Shows wasn’t so much defeat The Demon of Death Valley as dismantle him, limb from limb, to the degree that the former WWE Champion collapsed soon after exiting the lights of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Phenom hasn’t been seen since suffering the wrath of The Beast Incarnate, and reoprts of his health fluctuate more than similar rumors about Fidel Castro. Wherever he is, one can surmise he’s resting, though most likely not in peace.