Road to Wrestlemania 19: Brock Lesnar
May 26, 2011 1 Comment
Brock Lesnar’s Royal Rumble victory on just one of the many accolades in his triumphant debut year within the WWE, probably the best first year that anyone has had within the company in recent memory. Lesnar had already been WWE Champion, but after getting screwed over, he needed a way back to the title. After winning the 2003 Royal Rumble, he went on to face Kurt Angle at the main event of Wrestlemania XIX, in match that while good, will probably be remembered for one moment in particular. For the full story, follow the link.
Brock Lesnar had enjoyed a fast-track to the very top of the WWE in 2002, after he debuted the night after Wrestlemania XVIII, making an immediate impression on the minds of the fans. After an initial feud with the Hardy Boyz, he won the 2002 King of the Ring, and with it a championship match at Summerslam, where he defeated The Rock to become the youngest World champion in history (a record that was subsequently broken by Randy Orton).
He had stormed his way to the top in a matter of months, which was a rare sight back in 2003, and his aggressive and dominant character was not only new, but refreshing. It was pretty clear not only that Brock was at the top, but he belonged there. His speed and agility were surprising given his power and strength, and teamed with his technical prowess, Lesnar was becoming hard to dislike.
As a champion he beat the Undertaker at his own game in a Hell in a Cell match, but he ultimately became unstuck against Big Show at Survivor Series later that year. Brock defended his championship against the giant, but thanks to a double-cross by his friend and manager Paul Heyman, Lesnar suffered his first pinfall loss and his first title reign came to an end.
Lesnar attempted to use his rematch clause, but Heyman had manipulated his contract so that he would never receive a title match as long as Big Show was champion. In December that year, Lesnar would get his revenge however, and cost Big Show the title during his match with Kurt Angle at Armageddon. Brock had not only cost the man that took his title the very same chmapionship, but prior to Armageddon, Angle had promised Lesnar a championship match should he win the title, but it too was never granted after it turned out that Angle had also aligned himself with Paul Heyman.
With no options left, Brock had no alternative but to enter the Royal Rumble match in January, in the hope of earning a spot in the main event of Wrestlemania XVIII, but Heyman still continued to place obstacles in his path, and Brock would have to earn his spot in the Royal Rumble match.
On the night of the Rumble itself, Lesnar went one on one with Big Show in a qualification match, where the winner would advance to the Royal Rumble match later that night. After a back and forth match, Lesnar eventually got the better of the bigger man, hoisting him up for an impressive F5 and getting the 1, 2, 3. All Brock had to do now, was win the Royal Rumble.
The match started out with bitter rivals Shawn Michaels & Chris Jericho, who were joined by other serious candidates such as Edge, Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Booker T & Kane as the match progressed. However it wasn’t until the match reached it’s conclusion that the big guns entered the contest, with Batista at #28, and then Lesnar at #29. Brock made a sudden impact on the match, eliminated both Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas, and then Smackdown’s Iron Man Matt Hardy with an F5 over the top rope.
The 3oth and final entrant was Lesnar’s former rival the Undertaker, who was returning after a few months absence, and who also looked like a potential winner. After a few more eliminations, it came down to the final four, Brock Lesnar, Kane, Batista & Undertaker.
Kane & Batista (as Raw superstars) attacked the others (as Smackdown superstars), but Undertaker quickly eliminated Big Dave. It then seemed that the Brothers of Destruction were set to re-unite, and turn their attentions to Lesnar, but the Undertaker had simply tricked Kane and eliminated him from behind. Unfortunately for the Deadman, an angry Batista re-entered the ring with a chair. Undertaker dodged his swing, grabbed the chair and hit him in retaliation. As the Deadman was at the ropes Lesnar would then strike, taking advantage of the distraction to eliminate Undertaker and win the 2003 Royal Rumble match.
Lesnar had won his title rematch at long last, and it would come at Wrestlemania 19. In the February before then, Lesnar took part in a Six Man Tag Team match against the WWE Champion Kurt Angle’s Team Angle, consisting of himself and his proteges Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas teaming with Edge & Chris Benoit at No Way Out. Edge was taken out of the match after Haas & Benjamin attacked him from behind, but Lesnar & Benoit still picked up the win despite the disadvantage.
On the March 6th edition of Smackdown, Lesnar faced none other than his former manager Paul Heyman in a Steel Cage match to earn a WWE title shot the next week, which needless to say, he won. During the title match Kurt had a trick up his sleeve however, and pulled off a classic bodyswitch during Lesnar’s entrance, leaving the ring and being replaced by his brother Eric. Brock attacked Eric (who was wearing Kurt’s hooded jacket), thinking it was the champion, and quickly covered him after hitting an F5. It was then that Brock realised who he was covering that he got up from the pin attempt, and began to search the ringside for the real Kurt Angle, attacking Benjamin, Haas & Heyman who were watching nearby. Brock re-entered the ring, only for the actual Kurt Angle to sneak up from behind and roll him into a small package to retain his WWE Championship. It was becoming apparent that Kurt was afraid of the threat Lesnar posed to his championship, and was willing to do anything to keep him at bay.
However, Lesnar wasn’t the only person unhappy with Angle’s shenanigans, the Smackdown GM Stephanie McMahon had had enough too. She decreed that for their championship match at Wrestlemania, Kurt would be removed of his championship advantage, meaning that if he was either counted out or disqualified, he would lose the strap.
Wrestlemania XIX was hosted by Seattle, Washington, and was the first Wrestlemania under the WWE name, as opposed to the WWF. With the Attitude Era now ended, and the roster divided into Raw & Smackdown, WWE was entering a new era, of which Wrestlemania 19 was a defining moment.
WWE took a risk on two of its fresher stars in Kurt Angle & Brock Lesnar, both of whom had yet to main event a Wrestlemania, which was perhaps even more of a bold move given their match was higher on the card than that of two Wrestlemania megastars The Rock & Stone Cold Steve Austin, in what turned out to be the latters final match. Still, Angle & Lesnar’s style of wrestling was one of the best and most popular in the WWE in 2003, as the older audience could appreciate their amateur based skills, and the story of their transition to pros.
The match began with both men trading more amateur-like holds, with neither getting the upperhand over the other. After the initial politeness, each man got a little more aggressive, sticking in elbows and knees and then hitting powerslams and German suplexes, but neither truly got the advantage; until Angle German suplexed Lesnar into the turnbuckles. Kurt took control with more takedowns and a little too-lengthy submission hold.
As the match progressed, each man turned it up a notch and started to hit power moves, giving them the advantage for a brief time. Lesnar hit Angle with several overhead belly to bellies, but Kurt retaliated with four more Germans. Angle was the first to attempt a finisher, hooking up Brock for an Angleslam, but the challenger floated out, and picked up the champion for an F5. Kurt somehow managed to land on his feet, tripped up Brock and applied the anklelock. Lesnar tried to kick Angle off, but he held on and switched into a half Boston Crab, although Brock reached the ropes to force the break.
After some more jostling, Angle hit a sweet German suplex so that Lesnar landed face down that drew the loudest reaction from the Wrestlemania crowd so far. With Lesnar looking beaten, Angle hit an Angleslam, but his pin attempt only got a two. After a small package was escaped, Lesnar was able to quickly strike Angle with an F5, a move that had yet to be kicked out of, but a slow cover and the fact it was Wrestlemania, the champion did indeed kick out.
Back to their feet, Angle sprung out of nowhere and slapped on another anklelock, this time lying on the mat to put his whole weight onto Lesnar, but again Brock broke the hold. After yet another roll up and kick out, Brock hit Kurt with another F5, but then he made a decision that helped make this match famous.
Lesnar made his way to the top rope, a place that he’d previously shied away from. The crowd were stunned at first, but then intrigued as to what Brock was about to pull off. He stood high on the top rope, and then flew half way across the ring with a Shooting Star Press! Unfortunately for Brock, he failed to reach the height he needed in order to complete the full revolution, he missed his target and his head came down hard on the canvas.
Angle quickly improvised, covering Lesnar, but somehow Brock kicked out, despite later saying he has no memory of what happened after the Shooting Star Press after suffering a pretty bad concussion. Kurt scooped Lesnar up, but he broke out and hit Angle with a third F5, allowing him to make the cover and become the new WWE Champion.
The match between these two will probably be remembered mostly for the Shooting Star Press, but it was a solid match before that. Here’s a nice interview with Kurt Angle where he discusses his match with Brock Lesnar, which made me appreciate what they went through in order to put on this performance. It’s also a bit surprising as to the way he seems to look back on the match almost as an unpleasant experience, and before this I didn’t know they’d had to cut almost ten minutes of time out, and just how nervous Brock really was. Check it out.