Brock Lesnar's 10 Best Potential WWE Opponents for MMA-Influenced Matches
Brock Lesnar is a bad dude.
He dominated college wrestling , exploded onto the WWE scene in 2002 and won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in his first match in Japan. Lesnar almost made the Minnesota Vikings as a defensive tackle, and he was famous for his temper and bad attitude. This was all before he joined UFC and began his MMA career.
Lesnar became the UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2008 and was a fearsome force in that sport for three years.
Now, Brock is back in the WWE. He beat up HHH. He's pounded on John Cena and Shawn Michaels. He didn't get what he wanted, so he "quit." He's a bad man and a bad guy.
WWE is in desperate need of legitimate heels. With Lesnar, they have one waiting in the wings. How can Vince McMahon and company best utilize "The Beast?"
If I were making the decisions in Stamford, I'd capitalize on Lesnar's credibility as a legit tough guy. I'd book him into an MMA-style match or series of matches with one of the other bad asses on the roster. I might even consider having Lesnar issue an MMA challenge to the entire roster. Have him fight his way through a host of WWE contenders as a "warm-up" to what will eventually be his WrestleMania match.
Here are the 10 guys in WWE (or recently in WWE) that would be able to work convincing MMA-influenced matches with Lesnar.
10. Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger would make a good foil for Lesnar.
Both men have NCAA wrestling backgrounds. Lesnar was a two-time All-American, and Swagger won similar honors at Oklahoma University. They both had short-lived football careers, and both have been World Heavyweight Champion in WWE.
Swagger has been poorly used by the WWE creative team and could use some matches against a high-profile opponent to put him on his way back up the ladder.
Swagger isn't really a big striker, but he has the body for it. He also has great credibility as a mat wrestler and can bust out a bevy of submission holds.
A match with Swagger could be a good re-entry for Lesnar, and it would definitely be a boost for the All-American American.
9. Santino Marella
At first glance, a match between Santino Marella and Brock Lesnar seems like a bad idea.
Lesnar is a bad guy. He inspires fear in his opponents and even makes the fans a little nervous. He doesn't talk much, and when he does, he doesn't have nice things to say.
Marella is a comedic figure. He speaks with a thick accent and power-walks to the ring each time he competes. His finishing move involves a sock puppet and a blow to the collar bone. He's not exactly menacing.
This is what would make the match so compelling. Imagine Lesnar, muscles rippling and teeth gnashing, chasing the agile Marella around the ring, only to discover that Santino has some moves of his own.
Marella has studied judo for more than 20 years and has a very advanced skill set. His in-ring skills are actually very solid, and he could be a "serious" wrestler if WWE chose to present him that way. Having a match or series of matches with Lesnar might be a way to freshen up Marella's decidedly stale act as well.
The surprise factor alone would make a match between Santino and Lesnar worth watching.
8. Antonio Cesaro
Though it would almost have to be a heel-vs.-heel matchup, Lesnar could have a great MMA-style fight with current WWE United States Champion Antonio Cesaro.
Cesaro, like Lesnar, just looks like a legitimate tough guy. He delivers uppercuts to airborne opponents and has freakish physical strength. He could take blows from Lesnar, and his physical in-ring style would make a good counterpart to Brock's.
Setting up the match would be relatively easy. Cesaro likes to boast that no American can beat him for the US title. Lesnar could "take offense" to that idea. Cesaro could also seek out Lesnar, stating that he has grown tired of WWE's stable of "fancy" wrestlers and that he wants to beat up someone who has legitimate tough-guy credentials.
A match between these two would provide a credible opponent for Lesnar and elevate Cesaro at the same time.
7. Dolph Ziggler
In much the same way that Jack Swagger's amateur credentials would make him a credible foe for Brock Lesnar in an MMA-style match, Dolph Ziggler could lock horns with The Beast based on his college accomplishments.
Ziggler was a legendary high school and college wrestler, setting records at both St. Edward High School and at Kent State. His high school squad won two national championships, and Ziggler was the MAC champion three times in college.
Given his ability on the mat and his skill in selling to make an opponent look good, Ziggler would be a perfect foil for Lesnar. The only downside to Ziggler's current persona is that he isn't really presented as a tough guy, just a stellar mat man. He'd have to add some impact offense to make himself look good against Lesnar.
A feud with Lesnar might be just what the "Show Off" needs to boost him into the very top reaches of the card. He already has the skills on the mat and on the mic. Some high-profile matches with a WWE legend might be the last piece of the puzzle.
6. Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett would make a great foil for Lesnar.
Barrett used to be a champion bare-knuckle boxer. He made a lot of money and learned some legitimate skills in his bare-knuckle days. He even survived a stab wound, thus primping his legitimate credentials as a tough guy. He has actual skills and appears to be a tough guy in the ring.
Barrett is also a great talker. He makes fans hate him with a simple turn of phrase here and disdainful facial expression there. He'd be able to either turn fans to his cause or aid Lesnar in a babyface turn with little difficulty.
There is the fact that both Lesnar and Barrett are heels. This could easily be explained. Have Lesnar put up a cash prize for anyone who can beat him in a "real fight." This would give Barrett a reason to fight Lesnar without either man having to turn babyface.
Barrett's in-ring style is rough and tumble and would be a good match for Lesnar's more athletic style. The two could have a great match, or even a series.
5. The Undertaker
Though he only really appears for two months of each year now, The Undertaker could benefit from an MMA-themed feud with Brock Lesnar.
The cachet would be huge. Imagine two legendary tough guys from the recent past, both making a brief return to WWE to settle their differences in a "legitimate" fight. Ratings would be huge, and the fanbase would be talking about the match for years to come.
The Undertaker has long been considered one of the best pure strikers in WWE history. He incorporates some MMA-style elements, such as his Hell's Gate submission hold (very similar to the MMA gogoplata), and has been a regular spectator at MMA events since 2007.
Taker would be able to make an MMA-style match look legitimate, and he would actually have to do less in the way of athletic moves and high flying. He has the gravitas to be a legit threat to Lesnar, and the two of them would be a good match physically.
If WWE was looking for a good one-off type of match for Lesnar, Undertaker would make an ideal foe.
Former WWE superstar Batista would bring many of the same elements The Undertaker possesses to an MMA-style feud with Brock Lesnar.
Batista is a tough guy, and he looks the part. His massive physique would automatically make him a credible opponent for Brock.
Batista can take, and deliver, a punch. His physical style is well-suited to Lesnar's, and the two have some history, having faced each other on SmackDown during Lesnar's first run with WWE.
Batista also brings something that no one on the list thus far can offer. The Animal has legit experience in MMA. Batista embarked on an MMA career after leaving the WWE in 2010. Though reviews of his debut bout against Vince Lucero were generally negative, he has had an MMA fight, and he has gone through arduous training.
There would be great box-office benefits for WWE in a Batista-Lesnar showdown. The feud would provide Lesnar with a credible opponent, and Batista would profit from a WWE payday and a legitimate match against someone with MMA credibility.
3. Daniel Bryan
If WWE is looking for an MMA-style match for Brock Lesnar, the company could pair him up with Daniel Bryan.
Though, at first glance, it would seem to most fans that Lesnar would simply destroy the smaller Bryan, the American Dragon would be able to pull a few tricks out of his sleeve that would make the match one to remember.
While Lesnar certainly holds a size and strength advantage over Bryan, the current WWE Tag Team Champion is known for his vast library of submission holds. He's also famous for his ability to make an opponent look good in the ring.
The matchup would be a classic David vs. Goliath affair, with Lesnar a threat to end the bout at any second with a well-placed blow. Bryan would be a threat to win with his wide variety of mat-based submissions.
The long-range benefit of the feud for WWE would be that Bryan's character, currently a comedic figure, would garner a tough edge that would make him an even more popular and formidable opponent for stars at the top of the card.
2. CM Punk
It's hard to say that a wrestler who has been the WWE Champion for more than a year could use a credibility boost, but CM Punk would benefit greatly from an MMA-style match with Brock Lesnar.
Punk, who has held the WWE title for more than a year, has excellent in-ring credibility already, but recent storylines have portrayed him as opportunistic at best, cowardly at worst.
He's become the type of heel that WWE has favored in recent years, willing to do anything to hold on to the belt, even if it makes him look weaker in the eyes of the WWE Universe.
Punk's character used to boast of his "Brazilian ju-jitsu" background. He utilized the Anaconda Vice submission hold, and his offense was full of arm bars and vicious-looking kicks.
Since his ascension to the WWE's upper reaches, these character traits have been de-emphasized, and Punk has become just another guy with good mat skills. (Though his work on the microphone remains unparalleled in today's WWE.)
An MMA-style match with Lesnar would allow Punk to revisit his roots as a martial artist. His offense would look credible against Lesnar, and a solid feud with The Next Big Thing would do much to restore Punk's persona as a fighter.
One of the things that the current WWE product is missing is a dominant heel (outside of The Big Show). A win over Lesnar would put Punk in the picture as a heel champion who can out-wrestle, out-talk and out-fight any challenger.
1. Alberto Del Rio
Perhaps the best potential opponent for Lesnar in an MMA-themed match would be Alberto Del Rio.
Del Rio has both legitimate amateur wrestling and professional MMA credentials. A match with Lesnar would go a long way to restoring the threatening aura that Del Rio displayed when he first entered WWE.
Del Rio is an accomplished amateur grappler, like Lesnar. He was a member of the Mexican national team as a Greco-Roman wrestler, and placed third at the World Junior Championships in 1997. He was also the medalist in the Pan Am Games and won his weight division in the Central American and Caribbean Games three times.
In addition to his grappling background, Del Rio has legit MMA experience, racking up a record of 9-5 in his brief career. No one currently in the WWE has Del Rio's combination of amateur wrestling and professional fighting experience.
Matching up with Lesnar would help Del Rio to reestablish himself as a tough guy, as well. He could introduce some other MMA-style moves to go with his Cross Armbreaker finish, and a good showing against Brock would position him as a fearsome opponent for WWE's stable of babyfaces.
If WWE is looking for a way to reintroduce Brock Lesnar, placing him in an MMA-style match with any of the grapplers on this list would be a fresh way to bring The Beast back. He'd have a new angle to explore, and his presence could do a lot to elevate many of the stars on the WWE roster.