At WWE‘s WrestleMania this weekend, an aging part-time performer lumbered out to the ring with a flashy entrance to drop their title to a first-time champion in less time than it takes to receive a Starbucks order — and this time, we’re not talking about Goldberg. Brock Lesnar ended his latest title reign on Sunday night in a four and a half minute match against Drew McIntyre — which was two and a half minutes longer than it took Goldberg to drop the title to Braun Strowman on Saturday.
Besides Drew McIntyre finally winning a WWE title 11 years after Vince McMahon declared him a “future world champion,” the big story of the match wasn’t just that Brock Lesnar lost — but how he lost.
Love him or hate him, it’s undeniable Brock Lesnar has dominated WWE’s title scene over the last two years. Since winning the Universal Championship that Roman Reigns relinquished due to his leukemia diagnosis in November 2018, Lesnar has held one of WWE’s top titles for an incredible combined 14 months, reigning as Universal Champion from November 2018 until losing to Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 35 in April 2019, regaining the title from Rollins in July before losing it back to him a month later, then reigning as WWE Heavyweight Champion since defeating Kofi Kingston at the inaugural episode of Smackdown on Fox from October 2019 until losing to McIntyre at WrestleMania 36 over the weekend.
As impressive as his title runs have been, Lesnar’s status as a part-time performer means he’s barely been around to defend — or promote — those titles. In 14 months as champion, Lesnar has only defended his title eight times — eight! — including his three title losses. Besides being the big draw at PPV events, the WWE Champion’s normal role is to serve as the weekly face of the company. During their title reigns, Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston made constant appearances in matches and promos on weekly television — sometimes twice a week each, during the much maligned “Wild Card Rule” period in WWE’s history. During Lesnar’s championship runs, the top title might remain off television for up to a month at a time.
While Lesnar is still capable of putting on good work in the ring, as he proved at this year’s Royal Rumble, in a sign that he’s already begun slowing down, his matches lately have been getting shorter and shorter. At Crown Jewel, he defeated Cain Velasquez in just over 2 minutes. At Super Showdown, he defeated Ricochet in just over a minute and a half. He took the title from Kofi Kingston in just under 10 seconds. His match with Rey Mysterio back at Survivor Series clocks in as a relative marathon at seven minutes. This is not the work rate of a wrestler who’s still in his prime, it’s the work rate of an older attraction who’s being protected from looking too winded in the ring.
Typically, one of the signs that an older wrestler’s skills are eroding can be seen when his much-hyped match ends up just being a bunch of finishers strung together in a row. It was the story in Goldberg’s match against Braun Strowman, in which the entire match consisted of four Goldberg spears followed by three Strowman powerslams, and Lesnar’s match stuck to a nearly identical script: one Claymore kick from McIntyre, followed by three F-5’s from Lesnar, followed by three more Claymore kicks for a McIntyre win. If Brock had it in him to put McIntyre over by giving him a more competitive match, then he did McIntyre a grave disservice by opting not to do so. If this is the best that Brock has to offer at this point in his career — then it’s more a sign than ever that he needs to be moved out of the regular championship picture and become, like Goldberg, a special attraction who only gets wheeled out once or twice a year.
Love him or hate him, it’s important to give Brock Lesnar his due. He’s had a tremendous career. He’s been a multi-time champion. He ended “The Streak” at WrestleMania 30. He’s a surefire WWE Hall of Famer — and he’s also reached the stage of his career where it’s time to start phasing him out. If Brock Lesnar just joined Goldberg in the “once or twice a year” section of WWE’s part-time roster, that’s one of the biggest stories — and one of the best results — to come out of WrestleMania 36.
Brock Lesnar’s loss to Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania 36 appears to indicate The Beast’s championship career is winding down. It’s about time.