This past Tuesday, the WWE held a draft to determine which of the company’s wrestlers would appear on its two television shows. After 16 years the two programs, Monday Night Raw and Smackdown, will now be broadcast live while moving to Tuesday nights. The draft is an angle to pit the two shows against one another in an effort to boost ratings, but also provide more opportunities to showcase more wrestlers.
Being professional wrestling, the draft was of course a storyline opposed to an actual valuation of competitors, but the order still said something about how the company valued its performers. The top picks were Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, two competitors currently battling for the company’s championship, while the eighth overall pick was a little bit of a surprise: Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar is well-known to MMA fans. He took on Mark Hunt at UFC 200 despite being under contract with WWE. He is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and his appearance at UFC 200 was possibly the beginning of a return to the fight promotion.
In one of the night’s top fights, Lesnar beat Mark Hunt in a unanimous decision in a fight where the betting experts had Lesnar as a slight underdog. Both are big men and heavy hitters which made the strategy of comparing form and style a bit more difficult than usual. Although Lesnar boasts an edge with his wrestling background it had been five years since he was last in the octagon while Hunt had fought as recently as March. To be fair, it’s hard to look at Lesnar and think any human could damage him.
And then Lesnar got caught doping. The U.S. Doping Agency flagged two of Lesnar’s tests—one from before the fight and one the day of the fight—as having an illegal substance. Now his future, at least in UFC, is murky at best. Lesnar is unquestionably one of the top stars in the WWE, but he’s in a precarious position. He negotiated a special contract with WWE where he only makes a handful of appearances a year, noticeably less than other performers under contract.
Lesnar also fought in UFC 200 showing that he still has a desire to be a professional fighter. Lesnar famously left WWE in 2004 as he tired of the company’s travel schedule. After a failed attempt at professional football, he successfully transitioned to the world of mixed martial arts, winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship in his second fight with the promotion.
After five more fights, Lesnar returned to the WWE after a battle with an intestinal disease made real fighting too difficult. He always wanted a chance to return. Before Wrestlemania 30 in 2015, Lesnar signed again with WWE instead of returning to UFC, feeling it was better for his family, but even though he was under contract as a wrestler Lesnar still jumped at the chance to be part of UFC 200. He reportedly pressured WWE boss Vince McMahon to let him return to UFC. For the WWE, it was a great chance to market one of its biggest stars. As long as Lesnar didn’t get annihilated, it would boost him both in the public eye and in the view of WWE fans. It would also make Lesnar happy.
With the doping test, Lesnar may be done forever in UFC. While UFC 200 was expected to be a one-off event, Lesnar’s desire to keep fighting (and the fact he won) would likely make him want to come back again. UFC would be happy to have him as he’s always been a major draw.
So does this test spell the end of Lesnar in UFC? Perhaps the WWE Draft lends some insight. By being taken so high in the draft, WWE shows it still values Lesnar even if he only makes a handful of appearances. As much as Lesnar may want to leave WWE for the UFC, again, this latest doping test might have left the professional wrestling world as his only place to earn a paycheck.