When I asked AJ Styles in an interview about his match against Brock Lesnar and how he managed to get the best out of him, The Phenomenal One gave a very simple reply, saying that Brock Lesnar can have a good match when Brock Lesnar wants to. It’s something that’s been repeated and it holds true.
Brock Lesnar has long been labeled as “lazy” for not caring or simply wanting to collect a paycheque and go home. But the reality is – who can blame him? For many of us, we work jobs that we view as just that – a job. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make as much money as you possibly can and clocking out, especially when you have the bargaining power that Lesnar does.
Either way, Survivor Series 2017 and 2018 were examples of Brock Lesnar having a great match simply because he wanted to. In 2017, he was over half a year into his Universal Championship reign and AJ Styles had just begun his second WWE Championship reign. Naturally, this came as a big upgrade from the originally scheduled Jinder Mahal vs Brock Lesnar match-up.
It was Champion vs Champion and a dream match that came about unexpectedly. Nobody knew what to expect, but since it was AJ Styles, there was some hope that there would be a good match out of it. The two men proved fans wrong and more. AJ Styles proved to be Lesnar’s best opponent that year by a country mile, taking The Beast Incarnate to his limit. While he got thrown around quite a bit, he weakened Lesnar’s leg and even came close to submitting him for the first time in 14 years.
However, as good an effort as it was, he only narrowly suffered a defeat after being caught mid-air and hit with an F-5. Styles looked like a million bucks even in defeat and his stock as WWE Champion only rose after that. He had gained an incredible amount of momentum in that stretch and it seemed as though company officials were more than impressed with him. He would go on to hold that title for over a year.
The following year, Brock Lesnar found himself as a 2-time Universal Champion. While the original plans weren’t for him to hold the title again, the unfortunate situation with Roman Reigns forced The Big Dog to vacate the title and in a match for the vacant championship, it was Lesnar who regained it. This time around, he was scheduled for a rematch against AJ Styles (which generated hype in itself) but once again, the match was scrapped at the last minute after Daniel Bryan beat him to become the WWE Champion.
As a result, fans were treated to a fresh main event and a first-time-ever match-up between Bryan and Lesnar. It was a match that was supposed to happen over four years before, but due to Bryan’s injury at the time, it never panned out. Sometimes, the most unexpected circumstance can lead to a surprise and this was one of those cases.
Daniel Bryan appeared with a whole new demeanor as he had just turned heel and it was this new side of him that made him take Lesnar to the limit. While Styles chose to take the cleaner route, Bryan took advantage of an absent referee to low blow Lesnar and change the entire direction of the match. Similar to Styles, Bryan took Lesnar to his limit and was close to submitting him.
His ruthlessness was perfect in a match like this against a much bigger opponent and he continued to prove why he was among the best wrestlers on the planet. It also proved that Lesnar’s dynamic against smaller superstars is entirely different. He would have average to decent matches with superstars his size or bigger, but when they were smaller, he seemed to enjoy it more. The chemistry he has with smaller opponents allows him to perform much better and look much stronger as well. Once again, Lesnar came out victorious but only by the skin of his teeth.
It was rare to ever see Lesnar look so vulnerable and in back-to-back Survivor Series performances, he made two smaller opponents look like massive superstars.