In June 2018, WWE announced that SmackDown Live would be moving to FOX and ever since, there has been no shortage of speculation as to what exactly the show will look like come its new network debut in October 2019. On Sunday, during the NASCAR AutoClub 400 race, where Rey Mysterio was the honorary pace car driver, WWE and FOX may have given some insight into that look, noting current Universal Champion Brock Lesnar would be on TV for the blue brand when it debuts on FOX later this year.
@WrestlingInc Fox was promoting Smackdown before the Nascar race. They mentioned Brock Lesnar to be seen on Smackdown starting October 2019. Possible the WWE is just using his name to bring interest to their product. Interesting to see if he stick around or appears on #SDLive
— Ethan Cramer (@EthanCramer) March 17, 2019
As the above tweet indicates, there is certainly a reason to be skeptical about just how much Brock Lesnar will be on weekly TV given he hasn’t been since early 2004.
After the infamous WrestleMania XX match with Goldberg in March of that year, Brock Lesnar left WWE for New Japan Pro Wrestling where he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in his debut match with the company. Lesnar wrestled just a handful of matches with NJPW before leaving to pursue a career in the UFC, where he is a former heavyweight champion.
In 2012, after seven-plus years away, Brock Lesnar returned to WWE as the most dominant force in the company. But he was also the most part-time force in the company, working a total of just 55 matches in the ensuing seven-plus years since. But that hasn’t stopped Lesnar from finding immense success in just limited appearances. Since returning to WWE, Brock Lesnar has wins over John Cena, CM Punk, Triple H, Big Show, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe, Goldberg, Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan and of course the Undertaker. He’s beaten the streak, won the WWE World Championship and Universal Championship (twice) and became the longest reigning modern day world champion with a mark of 504 days.
As impressive and dominant as Lesnar’s second WWE run has been, his first was no small feat either. And much of that run took place on SmackDown, where Lesnar hasn’t wrestled (and has only appeared on TV once) since March 2, 2004, over 15 years ago.
A former three-time Ohio Valley Wrestling tag team champion alongside Shelton Benjamin as the Minnesota Stretching Crew, Brock Lesnar was promoted to the main roster in 2002. After spending a little over a year wrestling for Sunday Night Heat and Jakked as well as the house show circuit, Lesnar debuted in March alongside Paul Heyman and quickly entered into a feud with Matt and Jeff Hardy. Brock Lesnar remained with Raw over the next few months, winning the King of Ring tournament in June 2002 by defeating Rob Van Dam in the finals. Lesnar went on to feud with RVD over the Intercontinental Championship, never quite managing to win it.
In July of that year, Brock Lesnar used his King of the Ring privilege (a shot at the Undisputed Championship) to set up a marquee match up with the Rock, who was on SmackDown at the time. In just his second match with the blue brand, Lesnar defended his #1 contendership against Hollywood Hulk Hogan before moving on to the main event, a title match against the Rock at SummerSlam. And in August 2002, Lesnar defeated the Rock to win his first main roster title and in the process, became the youngest WWE Champion at age 25. At the time, Brock Lesnar was also the second fastest, after Ric Flair (113), to win the world title, doing so just 126 days after his WWE debut. Lesnar’s title was initially meant to be defended on both Raw and SmackDown but in a twist announcement, Stephanie McMahon told Eric Bischoff that Lesnar would be exclusively defending the title on the blue brand forcing him and Raw to come up with their own world title.
Thus the ascension of Brock Lesnar on SmackDown began and for the remainder of the year, the focal point was very much on the young champion. Lesnar successfully defended the belt against Undertaker, Edge, Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero before briefly losing the title to Big Show at Survivor Series. It was Lesnar’s first recorded pinfall loss in his WWE career and it came in part, due to Heyman turning on his longtime client. As a babyface for the first time in his career, Lesnar find himself chasing the champion which included feuding with Big Show, Heyman and Kurt Angle. In January 2003, Brock Lesnar entered the Royal Rumble at #29 and won, leading to him challenging Angle at WrestleMania XIX. In an over 20-minute match, Lesnar emerged victorious.
Brock Lesnar held the title until July, losing it back to Angle in a triple threat that also included Big Show. Despite developing a friendly rivalry, Lesnar and Angle continued to feud over the title as Lesnar once again returned to his heel status. In September of that year, Lesnar and Angle faced off in a 60-minute iron man which was won by Lesnar, five falls to four. World champion again, Brock Lesnar successfully defended his title against Chris Benoit, Undertaker and Hardcore Holly to name a few, before going on to lose the belt to Guerrero in February 2004 thanks to interference from Goldberg.
A few months prior, at Survivor Series, Brock Lesnar and Goldberg met for the first time in a backstage segment, teasing a blockbuster match that many fans had clamored for. Despite being on separate brands, the two still managed to affect each other’s matches as Lesnar did in the Royal Rumble and Goldberg did in retaliation, during Lesnar’s match against Guerrero. Blaming Goldberg for the loss, Lesnar and Goldberg were set to meet in a WrestleMania showdown. But as mentioned above, the match failed to deliver in more ways than one as both men were on their way out and the match was a train wreck as a result. Fortunately, the two would have a chance to redo their match years later and by all accounts, delivered much more the second time around.
For Brock Lesnar, each title reign built on the last, getting longer and longer in length, even if the total number of defenses got fewer. In 2014, two years but just a handful of matches into his return, Lesnar destroyed Cena in one of his worst losses at the time, to win his fourth WWE Championship. Lesnar held the title for 224 days, losing it in a triple threat match against Rollins that also featured Reigns. Brock Lesnar wasn’t pinned. Lesnar returned several months later to get his rematch with Rollins, a match he likely would have won if not for Undertaker’s interference as the Deadman sought revenge for Lesnar ending his streak. Brock Lesnar and Undertaker feuded in Lesnar’s remaining appearances in 2015.
In 2017, as part of his feud with Goldberg, Brock Lesnar won the Universal Championship for the first time, a title he held for a record 504 days. Lesnar’s reign featured just eight defenses in that span as seeing the champ in action really was a limited attraction. After holding the title for parts of two years, Lesnar finally lost the championship to Reigns at SummerSlam in 2018. Brock Lesnar didn’t have to wait long to get his belt back as Reigns was forced to vacate and the Beast defeated the Monster Among Men to recapture the belt that he still holds today.
Much criticism has been made in recent years about Lesnar’s very limited appearances ever since his return. And to make matters worst, while he’s appeared on Raw and even gotten into some action, Brock Lesnar hasn’t actually wrestled on TV since his return. But Lesnar is someone who it’s always been said, if the money is right, he’ll make the commitment. Right now, Lesnar is paid somewhere in the neighborhood of over $100K per appearance and over $600K per match, and even more so for special events such as the two Saudi Arabia cards, Greatest Royal Rumble and Crown Jewel. If WWE wants him for their FOX debut, the company very well could open up the purse to make it happen. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what they’ll need to do.
Reports have circulated that FOX wants to see more of a real fight feel to SmackDown and a focus on edgier programming.That’s why Ronda Rousey, another former UFC champion, has been linked to SmackDown as well. It makes sense that FOX would want Lesnar too, one of the biggest mainstream stars and draws WWE has.