Brock Lesnar has only wrestled two matches for WWE since his return the night after WrestleMania XXVIII, but he continues to be one of the hottest topics of conversation among fans. While there is no question that Lesnar generates interest, his true value to the company is worth examining.
Although no concrete terms of Lesnar's contract with WWE were ever released, Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reported that it was a one-year deal through WrestleMania XXIX that obligated Lesnar to make between 30 and 35 appearances. Also, while no monetary figures were released either, it's been rumored that the deal could be worth as much as $5 million.
Assuming the $5 million figure is at least close to accurate, it actually isn't too difficult to determine how much of a return the WWE has gotten on its investment thus far.
Lesnar faced John Cena in the main event at Extreme Rules, and he also took on Triple H in the main event at SummerSlam, so the pay-per-view buy rate increase for those two events tells the tale.
According to 411Mania.com, this year's Extreme Rules did 251,000 buys worldwide as opposed to 216,000 in 2011. And according to PWMania.com, SummerSlam also performed extremely well, with 350,000 buys ( up from 311,000 in 2011).
Some quick math tells us that those two pay-per-views generated a total of 74,000 more buys than the year before.
Since some of those buys are international, it's impossible to come up with a concrete figure. But assuming that each buy accounts for $55, Lesnar has already helped the company rake in $4.07 million. Obviously, Lesnar wasn't the sole reason for the increase in pay-per-view buys, but the fact that he main-evented both shows says a lot.
When you add in any merchandise sales that Lesnar may have helped generate, it stands to reason that his lofty contract has already been paid for.
That fact should be considered a major coup for the WWE, because Lesnar hasn't been utilized since SummerSlam. That means that he has plenty of dates remaining on his contract, and he should be very visible during the road to WrestleMania.
There's no telling whether he will be advertised for any of the pay-per-views prior to WrestleMania, but any money that he brings in for the WWE at this point is basically gravy.
A lot of fans hate the notion of part-time superstars since they can essentially come and go as they please. But the proof is in the pudding. The Rock's presence equated to over one million pay-per-view buys for each of the past two WrestleManias, and there is no question that WrestleMania XXIX will eclipse that mark once again. The Rock will have a lot to do with it, but so will Lesnar, regardless of who he faces.
Many of the fans who like Lesnar have even grown impatient with regards to his absence. A return at Hell in a Cell or Survivor Series would have made sense from a storyline perspective, as he could have helped CM Punk retain his WWE Championship and joined forces with Punk and Paul Heyman. But the WWE has been quite disciplined in its usage of Lesnar and his likeness.
While Lesnar returning at a pay-per-view would have gotten fans talking, it wouldn't have made a dent monetarily. It would likely be a lot more impactful from an economic standpoint to have Lesnar return on an episode of Raw. That would give the writers time to create an angle for him—whether it be a match or some other involvement at a pay-per-view—and the WWE could promote it to no end in order to increase buy rates.
The next few pay-per-view events are going to be huge for the WWE, so there is no doubt that he'll be back in the near future. The smartest move would probably be to advertise him as a Royal Rumble entrant. I love surprises as much as the next guy, but announcing it ahead of time is going to help bring in money for a pay-per-view that's already poised to explode thanks to The Rock's involvement.
When word came out that Vince McMahon may have signed Lesnar to a $5 million contract, many people called McMahon crazy. But the fact is that Lesnar drew money in UFC despite the fact that he was more style than substance—and he has continued to do so in WWE. The risk wasn't as big as many perceived it to be, and that has already been proven.
Lesnar obviously doesn't bring in as much money as a regular like Cena, but when you average it out on a per-appearance basis, Lesnar is likely one of the top draws in the company. His future beyond WrestleMania XXIX is quite unclear, but if McMahon likes the figures he sees come the end of the WWE calendar, it wouldn't be surprising to see Lesnar sign a similar contract for 2013.
In a perfect world, Lesnar, The Rock, The Undertaker and every other part-time guy would appear with more regularity. But all of them have things going on outside the ring. McMahon could hold a grudge and blackball them because of that, but he understands good business. And whether you like him or not, Lesnar is the exemplification of good business.