Wrestlers jumping ship to other promotions has been a trope as old as time.
From Bret Hart getting Montreal Screwjobbed on his way to WCW, to Dean Ambrose taking embarrassing L’s before paradigm shifting into AEW, controversial exits are no stranger to the WWE. In 2004, Brock Lesnar lost his WrestleMania match against Goldberg before departing the company to pursue an NFL career. When football didn’t work out, Lesnar returned to professional wrestling, but not to Vince McMahon’s promotion.
Lesnar debuted in NJPW in 2005, winning the IWGP Heavyweight Title in his debut New Japan contest. Speaking about Lesnar’s move on Something to Wrestle, Bruce Prichard says WWE was a bit salty when the Beast Incarnate popped up overseas.
“Because again, we invested in training him initially and getting him to the popularity that he was at,” Prichard said. “Brock was unhappy. He wanted to do other things – that’s fine. You can try other things; however, we made the investment in him in the sports entertainment category and wanted to protect that, so, [it was] just strictly business.
“I don’t know that it was too far gone or not. I think it was just something that Brock wanted to do and there wasn’t a whole lot of thought put into it as far as I know. Thank God I wasn’t heavily involved in any of that at the time. From a business standpoint, yeah, we had put a lot into Brock and wanted to protect that investment.”
Beyond questionable exits, controversy has always been prevalent in the WWE. From superstars urinating on legends to sexist match setups, segments of WWE’s yesteryear have not exactly aged well. One of the most controversial segments came in 2005, when Vince McMahon himself was congratulating then-WWE Champion John Cena on his successful reign. McMahon would then tell Cena to “keep it up”, and proceeded to call Cena a racial slur before exiting frame. The camera then revealed a shocked Booker T and Sharmell.
Prichard criticized the segment, saying people backstage at the time didn’t see it as problematic as it would be today.
“I don’t think it holds up well,” Prichard said. “I think there were some people whose opinions were asked, and again, it’s just a different time in a different place where you did different things that were not things that hold up.”
Prichard then went on to speak about the late, great Eddie Guerrero, specifically about storyline plans for him around the time of his passing. In 2005, Guerrero had embarked on a feud with Batista where Latino Heat was extra friendly to the Animal, likely to deceive him. Guerrero’s final match saw him get a victory over Mr. Kennedy using his signature lie, cheat, steal tactics to get Kennedy disqualified. Per the match’s stipulation, Guerrero’s W got him a spot on Team SmackDown at Survivor Series. While Guerrero would never compete in that match, Prichard says the original plans were to develop Eddie’s feud with Batista after the November pay-per-view.
“As I said before, there are moments in time where I kind of have a block for whatever reason,” Guerrero said. “The story beyond Eddie and Batista in October was to continue with Eddie and Batista, and to continue telling that story of the friendship and grow that rivalry a little more.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard with an h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.