WrestleMania XX is often remembered for going off the air with Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit in an emotional embrace with both holding the top titles in WWE. One match that has been remembered on the show as being a complete disappointment was Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as the special guest referee. The match was met by a chorus of jeers and boos from the fans because news had leaked online that both stars were wrestling their last matches with the company.
On the latest episode of Grillin’ JR, Jim Ross spoke about Brock Lesnar deciding to leave the company at a time where he was clearly considered one of, if not, the biggest star in the company. Lesnar was in a spot to be the face of the company and was the Undisputed Champion heading into the last pay-per-view before WrestleMania XX, where he lost the belt to Eddie Guerrero. JR mentioned that Brock was completely burnt out and was not a fan of traveling.
“He didn’t travel well at that time,” Ross said. “I think it wore on him. That would’ve been something we could have made better for him, I look at myself in the mirror on that deal. Sometimes you ride them hard and put them up wet and that’s what we kind of did with Brock there. He had a chance from his buddies from the Vikings to get a tryout. What really fed the monster was he did really well in that camp, he was the last guy cut before the 53 man roster without playing college football at all.
“I just think he was burnt out. He didn’t fully understand the travel. When we had him in OVW, he didn’t travel except drive the ring truck. He was a ring crew foreman but that was all local stuff, you drive and you’re back home at night. Knowing the trajectory of where he was headed, it wasn’t going to lessen, he was going to be on the road even more. Any international tour was going to include Brock Lesnar and any major events in the States would include Brock Lesnar.”
Lesnar returned to the company in 2012 and became arguably the biggest star in the company by ending the Undertaker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak and holding the Universal Championship for 500 days, the sixth longest reign in company history. Ross said the company wasn’t ready to see Brock leave when he did because they knew how much bigger he could become.
“It was very abrupt,” Ross said. “We were not ready for that announcement that ‘I’m leaving’. We knew when we signed Brock, he was going to be special. We didn’t know how special, but we found out very quickly. It was a little bit of a shocker and hard to digest and process because Vince felt we were treating Brock well and he was making a lot of money.
“I think the payoff that we did for [WrestleMania XX], I think he made $250,000 and so did Goldberg. I remember sitting in my office in Stanford and Vince’s assistant said ‘Brock Lesnar is on the line. He wanted to talk to Vince and Vince wants him to talk to you.’ That was my prep for that conversation, here he is. I get on the phone with him and he’s in a foul mood and thought he got screwed.”
Ross said Brock asked him why he wasn’t making more money and they got into a harsh discussion that led to Brock hanging up the phone. JR told him that he was making great money and believes someone backstage might have stirred the pot and made him feel like he was getting underpaid.
“He’s a very unique guy,” Ross said. “I didn’t have any problem with him hanging up on me, he heard his answer. You’re not getting anymore money, we think we paid you fairly. Thank god he was on the phone and not starring me down, he’s a little intimidating.
“We were very shocked it had come to that. As the head of talent relations, I learned a lot from that deal. You got to pay more attention to guys and sense if they’re uncomfortable in your locker room or team. I should’ve been paying more attention. Brock was very impressionable, he believed the last guy he heard. The boys loved to stir up the boys.”
JR continued to say that there was tension backstage about this match with other talents and it was because of the amount of money they spent on the two stars. He said nobody knew what they were going to get out of this match and just hoped for the best.
“Yeah of course, they’re leaving,” JR said. “They’re gone. We had spent a lot of money in both guys. Not only in contractual money, guaranteed money but time and more money on promoting them, establishing their brands respectively. There was a lot of tension in that regard because nobody really knew the unknown of how this match is really going to progress. Is it going to be good? Are these guys going to be the athletes they are and even though they don’t like the plays that are being run, are they still going to take the field and play their ass off?
“Upon the entrances, I knew that we all had an uphill struggle. The crowd didn’t like either one of them and that’s the shits, that’s bad man. If you like one of them, but you didn’t like the other guy, you can deal with that. But you don’t like either guy? The fans thought they were being deserted and the talent turned their backs on them and they reacted accordingly.”
Ross talked about how tense the mood was around the locker room the day of WrestleMania. He said nobody wanted to say anything to Lesnar or Goldberg and hoped Stone Cold could save the day.
“It was a tense day,” JR mentioned. “Most people stayed away from both guys. What are you going to do? There’s nothing to say here. Leave them alone, let them do their thing and hope that Austin can save the damn day.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.