The saying goes that NJPW isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it sounds like one of that company’s all-time greats doesn’t appreciate WWE megastar Brock Lesnar and his body of work either. It’s rarely mentioned on WWE television these days, but The Beast Incarnate is a former IWGP Champion. He won the belt during his first night in the company, beating Kazuyuki Fujita and Masahiro Chono in a match at the Tokyo Dome on October 5, 2005.
Lesnar held that title until July, when NJPW announced that he wouldn’t return to Japan to defend the belt due to visa issues. New Japan had a tournament to crown a new IWGP Champion, even though Lesnar would retain physical possession of the belt until June 200. Or nearly a year after Hiroshi Tanahashi won the tourney to become the new IWGM Heavyweight Champion. Ironically, NJPW’s Ace had some striking words for Lesnar and his wrestling style.
NJPW1972.com has published a multipart biography about Tanahashi and his life as a professional wrestler. In the 50th edition, Ace spoke about when Lesnar didn’t show up in Japan to defend the IWGP Championship. The whole post is worth a read, but his comment’s about the multiple-time WWE Champion are striking. When asked about what a match between him and Lesnar would have been like, Tanahashi said the following: “Technical, I think. It would have to be; you certainly couldn’t match him for power. To be brutally honest, I could never get into any of what I saw of Lesnar. It was all one sided, a completely selfish way of wrestling. I saw him come up in the early 2000s, and he was just pounding people, you never got to see anything from his opponents. I just didn’t understand his deal at all.” [sic]
Brock Lesnar Sells When Brock Lesnar Feels Like It
It’s important to remember the context of Tanahashi’s statement, especially regarding Lesnar’s relative age and inexperience. It’s not tough to imagine him refusing to do a job back in NJPW, be it because of money or not liking a finish. As recently as last month, Lesnar reportedly walked out on an episode of SmackDown due to being unhappy about the news of Vince McMahon retiring. It’s also not an entirely fair characterization of Lesnar either.
When Brock respects his opponent and is willing to do business, he makes them look like a million bucks. Some fans may have an issue with his lack of selflessness, but it’s also difficult to argue with his success in the professional wrestling business. Consider his match against AJ Styles at Survivor Series in 2017 as an example. Goldberg also recently revealed that it was Lesnar’s idea to have the former WCW Champion squash him at Survivor Series in 2016. Lesnar doesn’t have a reputation for being a particularly giving WWE superstar, but he’s lost his last five televised one-on-one matches. And it could be safely argued that there’d be no Roman Reigns at the head of the table without a beast to slay.