Even though the WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar threw Shelton Benjamin out of the ring during the 30-Man Royal Rumble, Benjamin has a soft spot for his longtime friend. In a recent interview with Lilian Garcia, Benjamin recounted the first time he ever met Lesnar and how their friendship evolved.
“My senior year [at University of Minnesota] was where I met Brock [wrestling],” Benjamin stated on Chasing Glory. “We were at a tournament. I lost my match, but Lesnar won the tournament. Of course, when you see Brock, it’s like ‘holy cow.’ The Minnesota wrestling coaches swarmed him. He obviously came to Minnesota and that was when we became friends. I was a heavyweight, even though, I was a small heavyweight. Brock and I were in the same weight class
“When Brock finally transferred in, I stayed on the team as a coach/sparring partner… So anywhere from 3-4 hours a day, me and Brock would just go at it. It was funny because me being the older, smarta**, savvy athlete, the first time I grabbed his leg, he thrust his hip and threw me across the room. He was a beast since day one.”
When WWE approached the University of Minnesota wrestling team about a possible tryout, Lesnar and Benjamin were two of the teammates who decided to give the world a professional wrestling a shot. After their tryout, Lesnar informed management that he was not going to sign on the dotted line until Benjamin was signed on, too. Benjamin noted that he had already signed on before Lesnar did.
“I was signed on a full year before Brock,” Benjamin informed Garcia. “Here’s the thing, I don’t know what conversations happened between Brock and WWE – because it’s not like we sat down next to each other. I don’t know when they approached Brock, but I do know that they did think it was a good idea for us to be together. I always knew that was the plan.”
Though they were great together as a tag team in OVW and in the WWE at one point, Benjamin says Lesnar was not only his in-ring pal but was also one of the best guys he’s ever known in real-life.
“When we first came to Louisville, [to train at OVW] we lived together,” Benjamin noted. “When I met Brock, I instantly liked the guy. He was a big, fun, loving dude. He’s the guy that if he likes you, he will give you the shirt off his back. If he doesn’t like you, well, you’ll know.”
As of late, both men’s careers have split towards two different paths, tremendously, with Lesnar being the main champion of the company, and Benjamin still waiting for his big moment. With that being said, Benjamin says that they are both still friends but they don’t see each other as much as they used to.
“We’re pretty good friends. I feel like our career paths have split us a bit,” Benjamin informed. “He’s doing his thing, and he’s doing very well at it, and I need to focus on me. I need to do me.”
With the highs and lows that Benjamin has had during his career in the WWE, one thing that he has never done, and refuses to do, is compare himself to Lesnar.
“I don’t compare myself to Brock,” Benjamin concluded on the matter. “First of all, Brock is a different animal. You don’t compare a lion to a jaguar. We’re just different animals in that aspect. Honestly, I’d be limiting myself if I compared myself to Brock.”
You can listen to Benjamin’s full interview with Garcia here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory- Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.