Some of pro wrestling’s most successful characters are merely exaggerated extensions of the individuals playing them. Steve Austin, Ric Flair, The Rock, and Hulk Hogan are the biggest names to ever step foot into the ring, and while their personas boast outlandish qualities, the reason why they became so popular in the first place is because each wrestler injected some of his own personality into their gimmick.
One wrestler whose character is reminiscent of the real person is Brock Lesnar. In WWE, he’s portrayed as a dominant prize fighter who doesn’t like to be around other people. That’s pretty close to the truth as well; during his appearance on The Steve Austin Show, he revealed that he’s never been a fan of people and he’s always loved to fight. So much so that he used to bully people when he was younger.
At the same time, he’s one of the most decorated amateur wrestlers in history, and his success in UFC proves that he’s the real deal when it comes to combat sports. There’s an authenticity to Lesnar that makes him so compelling, but according to Paul Heyman’s latest interview with Inside the Ropes, he was almost given a corny gimmick during his WWE rookie days.
“[Brock Lesnar] is in the ring [in OVW] as an NCAA Division One Heavyweight Champion and people are saying to him, ‘You should be a Russian’ [and] ‘You should just stand there.’ Like he’s the Warlord or something. Come on! Are you kidding me?”
Gimmicks like the one proposed aren’t uncommon in WWE. In fact, the original plan for Lesnar is very similar to the first incarnation of the Vladimir Koslov character, whose shelf life in the company was short-lived.
— WWE (@WWEIndia) July 30, 2019
Heyman then revealed that he was so adamant about making sure Lesnar wasn’t ruined that he spoke to Vince McMahon personally, which ultimately led to Heyman managing the young wrestler.
“I was scheduled to come back at WrestleMania 18 with Chris Benoit. That was set. I went to Vince, two or three weeks before WrestleMania, and I said, ‘I’d like to produce Brock Lesnar’s matches.’ He said, ‘Go ahead. Let’s see what you can do with him.'”
One of the most interesting revelations from the interview discussed how Lesnar was also allowed to pick his own opponents when he debuted on the main roster. He ended up choosing Spike Dudley and Funaki, and McMahon was so impressed that he made the young superstar a main event attraction overnight.