wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Brock Lesnar Wrestling’s Last Monster Heel?

March 15, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Brock Lesnar WWE Smackdown

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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Night Wolf the Wise is bringing the pain:

With how the WWE books wrestlers today, would you say Brock Lesnar is the last true monster heel in WWE?

I wouldn’t call Brock Lesnar a monster heel. Don’t get me wrong, there are some similarities between Brock’s character and that particular pro wrestling archetype. However, there are a couple of key differences that cause me to put Lensar outside of that category.

In my mind, a “monster heel” is somebody who is 99.9% dominant, regardless of the circumstances, with the only ways to beat him being either a fluke or an extended show of grit and determination from a tippy-top babyface. That monster heel is always ready for war, and he’s almost always going to dominate when he gets his hands on an opponent.

The first reason that I wouldn’t describe Lesnar as a monster heel is that there is a streak of cowardice in his character, or, if it’s not cowardice, it’s at the very least a sense that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. As noted above, a true monster heel would always be raring for a fight, but we’ve seen Lesnar on more than one occasion back down and walk away from a confrontation as a means of getting heat leading into one of his matches.

The second reason that I wouldn’t describe Lesnar as a monster heel is that he’s lost to almost all of his major rivals. Since returning to WWE in 2012, Brock has dropped matches to John Cena, Triple H, Seth Rollins, The Undertaker, Roman Reigns, and Bill Goldberg. He’s also picked up more than his fair share of victories – and dominant victories at that – along the way, but having lost to this many different guys over the years he doesn’t feel like he’s a dominant beast on a different level than everybody else. He just feels like he’s another top guy with an equal likelihood to win a match when compared to another top guy.

None of that is meant to knock Brock, because he’s actually one of my favorite acts in WWE today on the few occasions when I tune in. He’s excellent at just about everything that he does. However, “monster heel” is a term from a bygone era that I don’t know I would use to describe him.

In our last column, I answered a question about Sgt. Slaughter claiming to be a military veteran in shoot interviews when, in fact, he is not. I received this gem of feedback from a fellow who called himself mike joseph:

How sad that someone asks about someone lying about their military service, and in this day and age we have to apologize for thinking that’s pathetic. Your comment “Living in the middle of the United States, I do think that our hero worship of the armed forces goes a bit overboard at times” is disgusting, but again, we have grown so weak that we have to apologize for standing up for what it right, and cater to those who are “offended” when the wind changes direction. Due to the fact I find you a typical example of how sorry many of the people in this country have become (I wonder if you’d say its a “bit overboard” about being proud to be black, or Muslim, or any of the other groups that spend everyday claiming “RACISM!” and “OFFENDED!”….of course you wouldn’t), your email is blocked as soon as I send this. You, my friend, are everything that is wrong with this country, but thankfully, you’re slowly going back to becoming the monitory.

The fact that you criticize others for taking offense to perceived injustices but are yourself offended by what I said in an internet column about professional wrestling to the degree that you feel the need to block my email address so that you will not see anything that I may have to offer in reply to your message says more about your character and motivations than anything I could write here.

Tyler from Winnipeg is bumping like crazy:

Would you put Bret Hart overselling for Diesel in the same category as Shawn Michaels overselling for Hulk Hogan?

I would not. You’re correct that Bret bumped and sold quite hard for Kevin Nash and that Michaels bumped and sold quite hard for Hogan, but I don’t see how you can watch both matches back-to-back and not see that Bret Hart is making a good-faith effort to make Nash look like a world-beater and drag a decent match out of him despite his limitations, whereas Michaels is going out of his way to make the match with Hogan look like a joke.

I suppose that one could make the argument that some of the Hitman’s selling for Nash looks a bit over-the-top, but that may be a product of watching a match from 1995 with 2020 eyes. Though wrestling in the United States has always been a bit goofy, I think that we can all agree that more of a reality-based style has been incorporated in to matches in the last 25 years. If you watch a match from ’95, when the WWF was at the height of its cartoonishnish, wrestlers could get away with some bumps and facial expressions that may raise an eyebrow if you saw them on screen today.

As Brendon knows, love goes far when it’s no holds barred:

I just rewatched No Holds Barred. In the opening match, Hogan wrestles Ax. Did this take place at a WWF TV taping? Which one? Besides Stan Hansen, what other pro wrestlers make appearances?

I wasn’t able to find any record of the Hulk Hogan versus Ax match taking place at a WWF television taping, though I’m open to being corrected if anyone has differing information. Most likely, it was set up and taped just for the motion picture.

As far as other wrestlers in the movie are concerned, there are surprisingly few. Bill “Ax” Eadie and Stan Hansen made the cut, as mentioned. In addition to them, you’ve also got Jeep Swenson (a.k.a. “The Ultimate Solution” in WCW’s Alliance to End Hulkamania), “The Duke of Dorchester” Pete Doherty, territorial star Jos LeDuc, and, of course, Jesse “The Body” Venutra.

You’ve also got quite a few other folks who made their lives in pro wrestling as part of the movie, including Gorilla Monsoon’s son Joseph Marella playing a referee, Howard Finkel doing ring announcing, and Gene Okerlund on commentary.

I suppose that if you want to retcon it you could also say that Zeus is a wrestler who appears in the movie, but that’s a stretch.

Connor is running through this column like a Mack truck:

I’ve always quite liked Kevin Nash. Why was his Diesel power run in 1995 such a failure after it started off with so much promise? I read he was the lowest drawing champion ever.

To an extent, you answered your own question there. Nash’s Diesel Power run in 1995 is considered a failure because it didn’t do well at the box office.

Of course, you’re probably asking the deeper question of WHY it didn’t do well at the box office. Though business was not great and in fact went down when Nash was champion, it’s not as though the company was in a good place and only bottomed out when the championship was put on him. Instead, the WWF’s profits and attendance had already been on a downward trend for several years before 1995 came around, and the trend just continued during the Diesel Power run. Thus, I wouldn’t blame Nash for dragging the company down as much as I would for being unable to pump the brakes on a car that was already careening downhill.

Most likely, Nash failed to capture fans’ imaginations because there was nothing novel about the way he was being booked or his performances. He was being pushed and portrayed in the same vein as Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and Lex Luger before him, and fans were burnt out on it . . . plus, even though he would come to be known as a charismatic guy during his run with the nWo, babyface Kevin Nash in the WWF was pretty bland and either not allowed to display or not yet capable of displaying the engaging personality that we all now know he has.

As we all know from hindsight, what the WWF really needed in order to bring it back to prominence was a new type of babyface booked in a new way, and that’s the bottom line, ‘cuz . . . well, you know.

Mohamed asks a question that people send in to me all the time. I hope we can finally put this longstanding issue to rest:

Why are television against shows like married with children and steinflied?

Maybe I missed something somewhere along the way, but I’ve never heard any sort of backlash against the television series Steinflied. It is still heavily shown in syndication, and, according to the show’s Wikipedia page, a new cable syndication deal was recently signed that will see it airing on Comedy Central and TV Land next year. Granted, I have heard some criticism of the show’s star, Jerry Steinflied, for his saying that he will not do comedy shows on college campuses in the United States because the audiences there are too sensitive. Some have said that this makes him sound out of touch, a relic of the past who refuses to change with the times. However, those criticisms have all been of Steinflied the man and not Steinflied the television series.

Married . . . With Children has faced more criticism than Steinflied has, because quite a few of the jokes – particularly those directed at the relationship between men and women – are not seen as politically correct in 2020. However, even though there are some that decry the content of the program, it is still aired in syndication, perhaps most notably on WGN America. The entire series is also currently available to stream on Hulu.

Given the above, I don’t think that the television industry is really against shows like Steinflied and Married . . . With Children. They’re still being aired regularly.

Also, I’m pretty sure that this column is supposed to be about professional wrestling.

Steve is playing 3-D chess:

Since Roman Reigns beat Lashley for the #1 contender spot, even though Lashley had already beaten him, I’ve been wondering if Vince is working the fans in a different type of way. I don’t know if I believe it fully, but given the way Reigns and now Charlotte are force fed to the crowd only to cause their opponents to be cheered heavily, is this Vince’s new way of working the crowd and creating heat? It obviously seems backwards, but the crowds are always there and it hasn’t seemed to hurt sales for the larger events. Anyway, just wondering your thoughts on Vince actually trying to be a step ahead of all of us.

What you have posed is an interesting theory, but I can’t say that I buy it.

I can’t say that I buy it, because it’s not as though Roman Reigns is being booked against individuals who Vince McMahon wants us to cheer. If he wanted to overpush somebody to generate heat and turn them into a heel, he would program them against somebody he wanted to have received by fans as a babyface. Instead, we’re getting programs with a not-particularly-well-received Baron Corbin going up against Reigns, which isn’t doing any favors for anyone.

And I suppose you can argue that “sales haven’t been hurt” for “the larger events” because cards like Wrestlemania and Summerslam still have their ridiculously huge audiences, but WWE business IS hurting now on a lot of different metrics. House show attendance for your rank-and-file shows is down quite a bit, and Monday Night Raw viewership has dropped significantly over the course of the past five years or so.

If Vince McMahon is attempting some new way of getting talent over to draw fans in, it sure as heck isn’t working . . . though at this point the company is raking in so much cash from television rights fees and Saudi princes that they seemingly don’t care about drawing fans in the same way old school promotions did.

Aedonix has a run in his spandex:

When you’re Johnny Boots ‘n’ Tights where do you get your boots and tights, or, more specifically, how often do WWE’s top stars get new ring gear? Do they have to cover the cost of it, or does WWE provide tights and ring gear for the performers?

Typically, WWE wrestlers are required to provide their own ring gear. It is true that the company has had its own designers on the payroll over the years, such as Sandra Gray, who was a hidden highlight of the early days of Total Divas and has since jumped to working behind the scenes for AEW. Currently filling that role for the E is the former wrestler known during his in-ring days as Kid Mikaze, perhaps most notable for kicking around the Ring of Honor undercard in 2005 and 2006 and teaming with Jason Blade. (He’s also married to Sasha Banks.) However, even though there are designers on staff, typically wrestlers can go wherever they like in order to get their duds.

Richard B. has gone beyond thunderdome:

I was watching the old Mad Max movies for the first time in forever, I couldn’t help but notice several things from Mad Max 2 that crossed over into the wrestling world at some point or another: Lord Humongous (played by many wrestlers, including Sid Vicious), who was referred to in the movie as “The Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah” (Chris Jericho). Obviously the sequel’s subtitle, “The Road Warrior” must’ve played a part in naming Hawk and Animal’s tag team. My question is: can you think of any other non-wrestling–specific movies that had direct influence on pro-wrestling characters/gimmicks, and did any one film have more than these three crossovers from Mad Max 2?

If you want to go beyond Mad Max 2 and include the whole franchise, you can come up with several more influences that Mad Max had on professional wrestling than what you mentioned:

1. In 1985 and 1986, the 6′ tall female wrestler Mad Maxine had a handful of matches in the WWF and elsewhere after being trained by the Fabulous Moolah.

2. In the late 1980s, WCW rolled out a “Thunderdome” cage match, inspired by the title of the third entry in the Mad Max series. The Thunderdome cage enclosed part of the ringside area, a la Hell in a Cell, and it was partially electrified.

3. The lead heels in Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome were Master and Blaster, a little person and a giant who had a symbiotic relationship. In WCW in 1990, Kevin Nash and Al Green teamed together as the Master Blasters. (Why is there so much Kevin Nash in this column?)

Of course, if you want to go beyond the original Road Warriors and to all of the teams who knocked off the original Road Warriors concept (The Blade Runners, Demolition, The Ascension, etc.), you can add quite a bit more to the list.

Outside of the Mad Max series, I honestly can’t think of any media franchise that has had this many direct influences on professional wrestling. The only thing that I can think of which comes close is South Park, with Isaac Hayes’ Chef allegedly being the inspiration for Mark Henry’s “Sexual Chocolate” character and Golga of the Parade of Human Oddities carrying around his Eric Cartman doll.

Though it’s not the same thing as a movie or a television show, I would also note the significant crossover between Howard Stern’s media empire and professional wrestling. Frequent Stern guest and bodybuilder Nicole Bass became a wrestler, first crossing over into ECW and eventually the WWF. Members of Stern’s Wack Pack also appeared on wrestling television, with Stern characters like Fred the Elephant Boy briefly being aligned with the aforementioned Parade of Oddities in the Fed and Beetlejuice taking a guitar shot from Jeff Jarrett on a 2000 episode of WCW Nitro before costing Jarrett a WCW Championship match against Booker T. to extract his revenge.

If anyone can think of a media franchise that has influenced wrestling more than any of the above, feel free to mention it in the comments.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].