In the six-and-a-half years since Brock Lesnar returned to WWE, his body of work has hit two extremes: the rote, routine spamfests of finishers that come off as lazy and unimaginative, and the epic brawls that colour outside the lines of WWE's main event formula. The latter are matches that can seemingly only be achieved with Brock present, as wrestling has had no more athletic, bully-ish Goliath than Lesnar (with the exception of Vader, the Lesnar prototype).
This list will take a look at Lesnar's 10 best matches since his 2012 comeback. Even if you hate Brock for his perceived attitude toward wrestling, and his privileged, perk-filled contracts, surely you'd agree that this list is a damn good "best of".
10. Vs. Goldberg (WrestleMania 33)
In 1994, ECW announcer Joey Styles proclaimed a Mike Awesome/JT Smith match to be "the damnedest two-minute match you'll ever see." That's kinda how I feel about Lesnar and Goldberg's finale, as it may have been the damnedest five-minute match I've ever seen. Yes, it's spammed finishers and the like, but the intensity and chaos supersede most 20-minute "epics" from this day and age.
There's no wasted time or energy as the musclebound monsters tear into each other, throwing their best stuff at the other beast. It was the wrestling equivalent of a Mortal Kombat match, in that it didn't last long, but every strike and manoeuvre looked awesome (minus the need for Lesnar to rip Goldberg's heart out of his chest, which he probably could do).
9. Vs. The Undertaker (SummerSlam 2015)
You tend to remember this match for one of two things - either the screwy finish that would set up a concrete rematch (more on that later), or the double sit-up where both unearthly powers turned to each other, sharing demented laughter. Of the six PPV bouts that Undertaker and Lesnar have had with each other, this ranks as the third best, and is their greatest without being surrounded by mesh.
It was also Undertaker's best match in a couple of years, though to be fair, he'd only had a few matches in that stretch (including the streak-ender against Lesnar). At 50, Undertaker looked like his old self, fighting gamely against the ultimate of final bosses, and each looked decidedly prime. A rather underappreciated battle.
8. Vs. John Cena (SummerSlam 2014)
This wasn't a match, it was a crime scene. There was little doubt that Cena was merely a caretaking transitional champion (a rare role for him), but most assumed that he would get in a good share off offense against a man for whom he's on par with star-wise. If anyone could go 50-50 with Brock, it's WWE golden boy, Cena. Well, you'd think that.
This was the real birth of the Lesnar who swallowed up opponents like Pacman dots, as he flung Big Match John around with an endless string of suplexes, while also laughing off the AA, and breaking the STF as though it were made of silly string. Mike Tyson opponents of the 1980s got in more offense than Cena did, and yet the unconventional script of this match makes it innately watchable - it's not WWE-as-usual.
7. Vs. AJ Styles (Survivor Series 2017)
I sense there'll be a few complaints, as this match was drawing wild raves after its conclusion a year ago. Much of the praise is due to the fact that Lesnar acted like he gave a s**t*, after a few years of finishers-only brawls, as well as abbreviated matches that don't, in the eyes of many, live up to the hype.
Lesnar vs. Styles was a nice throwback to his matches with Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and other in-ring virtuosos that play technically-gifted Davids to his immovable Goliath. This was two of the very best wrestlers on planet Earth working at their highest capabilities, as Styles the underdog worked all the way back from long odds, hobbling the creature with a devastating Calf Crusher, before falling short. And to think, this was going to be Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal.
6. Vs. Daniel Bryan (Survivor Series 2018)
I'll give this the slight nod over the Lesnar/Styles match, though by the looks of the first 10 minutes of the recent match, it sure wasn't looking like a classic. Weeks after gobbling up Braun Strowman like the world's largest tackling dummy, Lesnar was chewing Bryan like Thanksgiving dinner, before Bryan made a sudden comeback after some fortuitous events.
From there, Bryan showed us some of his trademark valiance (despite turning heel only days earlier), trading big moves with Lesnar, including in some inspired sequences out at ringside. This was the match we could have seen at SummerSlam 2014 (in the same building too), before injuries intervened. Even four years late, the match was still a welcome epic.
5. Vs. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins (WrestleMania 31)
What begins as the prolonged public execution of the widely-maligned Reigns (how dare he say sufferin' succotash!) turns into an unexpected bloodbath once the tide reverses, and ends with a moment of sheer brilliance. When the curtain fell on a WrestleMania that exceeded all expectations, Rollins' well-timed cash-in got all the headlines, diminishing the fun of the match beforehand.
If you were looking for something resembling a fight, you got it, as Lesnar ground Reigns up with punches, smacks, throws, and slams, before Reigns summoned a second wind, clobbering a bloody Lesnar from every angle, while the two scrambled to try and keep the other down. Had their WrestleMania 34 match been as great as this one, then WrestleMania 34's sitting next to X-Seven and III in the penthouse.
4. Vs. The Undertaker (Hell In A Cell 2015)
This one had big shoes to fill. Thirteen years earlier, both men beat each other senseless inside the giant cage at No Mercy 2002, with Undertaker losing enough blood to satisfy the needs of a vampire fraternity for one weekend. In the sequel, Undertaker would be 50, and while he looked great two months earlier at SummerSlam, could a "return trip" to Hell match the high standards of the original?
In two words, close enough. From Lesnar throwing down an intervening medic, to Undertaker and Lesnar both using the deconstructed canvas as an instrument for inflicting pain, the 2015 slugfest came pretty close to equaling their 2002 opus, with just a little less total blood spilled. Not that the match suffered for the lower crimson output.
3. Vs. John Cena, Seth Rollins (Royal Rumble 2015)
More appropriately, this match was the Rollins show, as the first breakout star of The Shield proved that he could capably hang with the two biggest stars on the WWE roster, without looking like some sort of second-rate afterthought. But while Rollins and Cena brought the tempo, it was Lesnar that added the booming percussion for what felt like one of those limitless video game match brawls.
You know a match is special when it takes place in January, and its memorable enough to earn plenty of love in year-end match of the year polls. There was something very Attitude Era-like about the match, while also feeling at home in 2015 (the complex manoeuvres from Rollins and Lesnar, certainly). It's one of WWE's best triple threat matches, for sure.
2. Vs. John Cena (Extreme Rules 2012)
While it was certainly newsworthy that Lesnar was back in WWE, coming off of losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem, we may have forgotten what a force of nature The Beast Incarnate truly was. Dropping real-life fights that don't last particularly long may have diminished Brock's fury just a tad. That was before he reminded us just who he was come Extreme Rules.
Ignore the fact that Cena won with one arm and scrambled brains, and everything before the finish was a frame-breaker. We had become so accustomed to WWE's prefab match compositions that seeing Lesnar in his unfettered element was a revelation. He mauled Cena without remorse, and we knew we were watching something truly special in that moment. Just a shame that he was only part-time.
1. Vs. CM Punk (SummerSlam 2013)
They called it "The Best vs. The Beast", a collision of two iconic Paul Heyman guys in a match with no rules of any kind. Less than six months later, Punk would be finished with the business, walking out of WWE after a series of acrimonious and frustrating incidents. It's fair to say that this was the last great match that Punk ever had, and it at least sniffs five stars.
Lesnar the resolute bully and Punk the valiant underdog meshed as smooth as any two performers could, weaving a tale of a smaller man enduring unimaginable pain as he works to dismantle a killing machine, chip by chip, wire by wire. Both men gave their most inspired effort, and it may just be the best match Lesnar has ever had, regardless of year or era.