MR. TITO: The Value of Brock Lesnar to the WWE Submitted by Mr. Tito on 09/01/2020 at 01:08 AM
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Kudos to Mike Johnson of Pro Wrestling Insider for breaking that Brock Lesnar's WWE contract has expired and officially is a Free Agent. Things were swirling in backstage and online circles when Lesnar wasn't a part of the WWE's #2 Pay Per View of the year, SummerSlam, and also from Lesnar's merchandise being removed from WWE's Shopzone online shop.
Now, it is probably likely that Brock Lesnar re-signs with the WWE... There is no bad blood between Lesnar and the WWE, he's allowed to work limited dates and fly in the WWE's private plane, and the WWE has the most capital dedicated to wrestling specifically to spend on pro wrestlers. It has been a great 8 year relationship between Brock Lesnar and the WWE which has been mutually beneficial to both parties. Lesnar for the first 2 years made $5 million per year and then signed a 3 year deal for $9 million total. After the first 5 years, he has basically been paid $1 million per match or more thanks to the Saudi deals. Just insane amount of money for wrestling maybe 4 times per year.
While the Khan family (All Elite Wrestling - AEW), Anthem (Impact Wrestling, formerly TNA wrestling), and Sinclair (Ring of Honor) have major financial resources, some of which are greater than the WWE... Khans, Anthem, and Sinclair are heavily invested into other businesses whereas WWE is mostly invested into their Pro Wrestling division (tried other stuff but has failed). WWE probably outspends more on wrestling than Anthem, Sinclair, and the Khans combined.
Brock Lesnar knows how to make money... When his 3 year deal from 2014-2017 expired, he began discussing a full-time return to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)... And then more money is thrown at him to keep wrestling for the WWE even after he failed a test with the athletic board following his UFC event. Lesnar knows that he has leverage and that the WWE is in desperate need of his services. FOX signed the WWE Smackdown deal with Brock Lesnar potentially on that roster and then he was moved to RAW per the stupid "Superstar Shake-up" that happened weeks after Friday Smackdown began on FOX. Both RAW and Smackdown have seen viewership declines throughout 2020 and WWE will need a box office draw in arenas once November 3rd passes and everyone forgets about COVID-19.
But... What if Brock Lesnar wants a challenge? What if he feels that he's taken his character as far as he could take it in the WWE and wants to try something new? What if didn't like cleanly losing to Seth Rollins twice and recently to Drew McIntyre?
What if he DARED to leave the WWE to join AEW, Ring of Honor, or Impact?
First of all, let's determine what Brock Lesnar's actual worth is to a wrestling company.
Lesnar was born on July 12th, 1977 and thus is 43 years of age. In comparison to other wrestlers, he's on the last legs of the "peak" years of a Main Event wrestler. Once many wrestlers hit that mid-40s age, they hit a wall to where the injuries mount, they are a bit slower, or they just can't physically look the part any longer. HOWEVER, Lesnar has only worked about 4 matches per year with the WWE since 2012. Also consider that he didn't wrestle much after his 2004 WWE exit and though he was a UFC fighter from 2008-2011, he only fought 8 times during that stretch. Thus, he's quite healthy for his age and WWE, Impact, AEW, and Ring of Honor would be required to continue his light schedule of 4-5 matches per year and Pay Per View only.
The beauty of Lesnar is that he has been Pay Per View exclusive since 2012 with the exception of 1 match with Kofi Kingston on the first FOX WWE Smackdown. Saving him means that "less is more" and fans aren't burned out on the guy. Also, with Lesnar wrestling less, he's healthy deliver great matches each time (unless the booking is bad or if Lesnar dislikes the opponent).
How can you measure Brock Lesnar in the WWE from 2012 to 2020? After all, he appeared on RAW for like 10-15 episodes per year to hype his 4-5 Pay Per View matches per year. Because he doesn't appear often on television, it's hard to make an argument about Brock Lesnar relating to Television Viewership. His truly dominant reign began during 2013 and cooled down through 2018 when Reigns finally beat him. Viewership dropped significantly during that timeframe and has declined further from 2018-2020 but he has been losing repeatedly during that timeframe. Still, it's hard to place blame on a guy who wasn't on TV and viewership did increase often when he did appear on RAW.
You have to measure it based on the WWE Network, which has been the WWE's exclusive carrier of Pay Per View events since the 1st Quarter of 2014... Brock Lesnar has been performing exclusively on the WWE Network and therefore, its success is heavily attributed to him. Per the WWE's 10-Q and 10-K financial reports, here are the Quarter-End WWE Network subscriber counts:
The Network's first reporting was 495,000 and since then, the WWE has 1,000,000 more subscribers. That's amazing growth, folks...
But what I want you to focus on is the 3rd Quarter of 2018. Within that quarter, SummerSlam 2018 existed and it was headlined by Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar. Do you remember the storyline heading into that match? WWE purposely kept Lesnar off television and gave Reigns a chance to verbally trash Lesnar for being part-time, not a fighting champion, among other things to suggest a LACK of dedication to the WWE. Meanwhile, Lesnar's character was refusing to defend the title and argued with a threatening General Manager Kurt Angle about defending that title. WWE did everything in their power to diminish the star of Brock Lesnar in order to create fan sympathy for Roman Reigns at SummerSlam.
As you can see by the numbers above, enthusiasm to watch SummerSlam 2018 DIPPED as seen by the subscriber count dropping for the 3rd Quarter 2018. Following that, the subscriber count went from being ABOVE 1.6 million to being BELOW 1.5 million through early 2020.
By the way, if anyone wants to argue the value of the WWE continuing Pay Per View shows during COVID-19, take a look at that 2nd Quarter 2020 subscriber count of 1,690,000! Holy cow!
Brock Lesnar being pushed STRONG + being WWE Network EXCLUSIVE = More WWE Network subscribers.
When they began to depush Brock Lesnar's star, as they did for SummerSlam 2018, and then have him feud and lose TWICE to Seth Rollins through 2019 that equates to LOWER WWE Network subscribers.
The defense rests on Brock Lesnar's VALUE to the WWE. If you just consider 100,000 lost subscribers that are paying $9.99 per month, that equates to 100,000 * $9.99 * 12 for annual potential revenue... That is ALMOST $12 Million worth of LOST revenue from 3rd Quarter 2018 through early 2020. That's insane.
And we can get into UFC Buyrates, too...
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has broke the 1,000,000 Pay Per View buys 17 separate times. Brock Lesnar was on FOUR of those fight cards.
Need I say more?
Brock Lesnar is a draw when he is featured prominently and not to booked like a fool. WWE booked him to look foolish during the months before SummerSlam 2018 versus Roman Reigns and then losing TWICE to Seth Rollins during 2019. By the time 2020 rolled around, nobody cared that Drew McIntyre defeating him. Lesnar was a diminished WWE commodity by the time Drew got to him.
Even if Lesnar re-signs with the WWE, who could he wrestle? Maybe Bobby Lashley? Former MMA fighter, but damn, he can be a really dull WWE performer. Keith Lee? If he continues on this lame early WWE main roster path, I'll worry about him.
A rebooted Roman Reigns, now managed by Paul Heyman? The issue with Roman Reigns that NOBODY WANTS TO ADMIT (except me) is his poor in-ring work and lack of conditioning that hurts that as well. His matches against Brock Lesnar SUCKED, period. Heel Reigns or Babyface Reigns, what has Roman learned inside the ring since his last 2020 appearance or even since since SummerSlam 2018 when Lesnar and Reigns last wrestled?
We've seen Braun Strowman be Brock Lesnar's b*tch before. Lesnar already mowed through the Wyatt Family. Besides, after Bill Goldberg butchered the Field, he's laughable as a serious opponent for Lesnar.
Do you know who I believe is the absolute BEST opponent for Brock Lesnar? Randy Orton.
That SummerSlam 2016 match was BULLCRAP with the way the match was stopped due to Randy Orton being busted open by Lesnar. Utter garbage! Randy Orton deserved better respect for that and the proper booking should have been the RKO being Brock Lesnar's Kryptonite. Period.
If the WWE booked Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar as a SERIOUS 20-25 minute match at Wrestlemania 37, I'm 100% game for that.
Believe it or not, Brock Lesnar vs. Edge did happen during the past but all the way back to 2002. Lots of time has passed and Edge looked to have not lost a step for his 2020 return.
I'm always game for a match with John Cena and Lesnar... But Batista vs. Brock Lesnar would be cool and a first-time WWE match-up. Batista has retired, however.
There rest of the WWE roster has size but do they have the experience to even appear to pose a threat versus Lesnar? I just don't know...
But let's play hypothetical... What if Brock Lesnar joins All Elite Wrestling (AEW)?
Who could he wrestle there immediately? Well, he has heat with Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley for his WWE days. Following that SummerSlam 2016 match that I just mentioned with Orton where he busted Randy open the hard way, Chris Jericho reported stormed to the Gorilla Position to confront Brock Lesnar as he returned from the ring. Little did Jericho know that the incident with Orton was planned all along... But I'm sure that the scene was something that Lesnar didn't appreciate. Meanwhile, Jon Moxley (as Dean Ambrose) was heavily critical of his Wrestlemania 32 match-up with Lesnar on the Stone Cold Podcast which aired on the WWE Network. He basically called Lesnar "lazy" for the efforts put forth in their match.
So yeah, that probably hurts a few things... But would matches between Lesnar and Cody Rhodes or Kenny Omega matter? I just don't know... Cody hasn't been dominant in AEW, so why would he pose a threat to Lesnar? Ditto for Kenny Omega. I'm still waiting for the New Japan version of Omega to appear for AEW.
Maybe Lance Archer? But a smaller Cody Rhodes beat him... Brian Cage? Eh... Honestly, Jake Hager is probably the best pound-for-pound match-up as Hager has the look and was a former MMA fighter. Maybe Brodie Lee if he's pushed a little harder in AEW.
I'll tell you this much, though... With the right push, I could see Adam "Hangman" Page being a big star. What if Lesnar was brought in, mowed everyone else, but Hangman Page is the guy who beats him in a big spot?
I just don't know the fit for Ring of Honor... He could just be an insanely dominant champion and it would boost viewership and attendance (after November 3rd) from existing alone. Maybe Ring of Honor's ties with New Japan Pro Wrestling could be renewed and some talent exchanges could happen to spice things up.
Impact Wrestling as a destination for Brock Lesnar? Well, the promotion has serious credibility problems with their World Title when they allowed a 125 pound female to win their heavyweight title. However, if you bring in Brock Lesnar and push him hard as champion, that Impact Championship MATTERS. Instant credibility with the baddest man in wrestling.
But again - Is Sinclair, Anthem, or the Khans willing to pay about $5 Million per year just to get 4 matches per year out of Lesnar?
I don't know...
It is quite a roll of the dice for them but it could be a major game changer too...
But at age 43 and the WWE potentially pushing Lesnar to his limits with their booking, be careful of the old "Winner's Curse" theory where someone overpays for an asset yet its value declines afterward. For example, FOX agreed to pay the WWE $1 Billion for the next 5 years to air WWE Smackdown on Friday evenings. When FOX made that payment, it appeared that Brock Lesnar was going to be on that split brand and they probably enjoyed their investment on night #1 when Lesnar smashed Kofi Kingston for the WWE Title in his only televised match since 2012. And then the WWE moved Brock Lesnar to RAW just weeks later. OOPS. Smackdown debuted at being over 3 million viewers to recently being UNDER 2 million viewers.
But with good booking, anything is possible...
Just imagine how INSANE Pro Wrestling would become if Brock Lesnar jumped ship to another promotion...
And how much different the WWE could become if they couldn't press Lesnar as a "easy button" whenever their other superstars can't get over.
Please make it happen, Brock... Try something new! Make wrestling fun for all of the fans!
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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