Kayfabe: In professional wrestling, kayfabe is the portrayal of events within the industry as “real” or “true”.
As a formerly die-hard fan of Pro-wrestling, I should have seen this coming. Viewed through the lens of “The business”, everything about the MMA Odyssey of Brock Lesnar makes sense. But, I made the mistake of viewing that odyssey without that lens. I became every bit the “mark” and bought what I was sold, and have been left legitimately gutted.
I’ve been a big fan of Lesnar’s since day one. As a Pro wrestling fan, I was familiar with him from that period of his life, but the potential he possessed to be a dominant mixed martial artist made him even more interesting. I took untold amounts of flack for the support that I showed for him and never questioned it, even after the Carwin and Cain fiascoes. However, last night was different.
Forget that his gameplan was terrible, that his effort was minimal, and that his perseverance was non-existent, to the point that half of me wondered if it was a work. Forget that Lesnar had one overwhelming option to victory road, the shot, and that he didn’t make one serious attempt at a take down, and instead, stood in front of a K1 level HW striker, lobbing off some half-hearted strikes, and then folded like a lawnchair once he started getting touched. His lifetime accomplishments and drawing power are undeniable, but there’s something inside of him that just starts to close up shop when he’s not having fun anymore. It happened in the WWE, his shot w/ the NFL, and now this. That’s a damning trait in someone with the raw talent that he was blessed with, and is, in part, what has me so incensed. But only in part.
Above and beyond it all, what angers me is that Lesnar apparently had his departure from the UFC outlined well in advance of UFC 141 and the idea that this whole turn of events may well have been a swerve to get him a payday from the WWE. Almost immediately after the bout ended, Lesna’s name and Wrestlemania started trending in tandem on Twitter. Guess what company won five Mashable awards for use of social media this year? WWE. Care to sample the opinions of the wrestling commmunity at present? Hit google and check it out. The consensus is “Guess who’s back?”
Lesnar stated very clearly that, even if he beat Overeem and went on to beat JDS for the belt, that he was going to retire. That’s unconscionable. You tell anybody that will listen that your home and identity are in the UFC as a mixed martial artist, meanwhile you plan to head out the back door with the belt by this time next year, no matter what?! No. That’s an insult to The HW title, everyone who’s ever held it or fought to get close to it, an insult to the UFC, the fans, the sport, and every mixed martial artist that ever strapped on gloves.
I love Pro wrestling, promos, oversized personalities, and the who kit, but MMA exists in a sphere apart from that of Wrestling, as it should. It can afford Sonnenesque promos and pre-fight hype. It can even afford a measure of crafting in terms of grooming talent to be comfortable in front of the camera and to cultivate personalities. What it cannot afford, however, is even the slightest tint of inauthenticity. The minute I stop believing what I’m seeing, it’s over, and that includes believing in the competitors as legitimate mixed martial artists with a love for the game and a burning desire to succeed.
Last night exposed that Lesnar hadn’t the slightest interest in sustaining his MMA career, let alone of becoming the best that he could be. His best case scenario was getting past Overeem and Dos Santos so he could take the belt and “retire” as The UFC Heavyweight champion. What a coup that would have been for Vincent Kennedy McMahon, no? To have the UFC heavyweight champion show up on Raw as a “free agent”? Maybe I’m overanalyzing the situation, but from what I know of Pro Wrestling, McMahon, and evidently of Lesnar, it’s not all that outlandish.
Lesnar brought attention, fans, and revenue and accomplished some notable things in a very brief period of time, all in a unique way. It’s almost unarguable that his absence will dull the heavyweight division a bit in the short term and impact the financial bottom line, but maybe it’s ultimately for the best. If last night is an indicator you can take the wrestler out of the business, but you can’t take the business out of the wrestler.