Brock Lesnar was born to be a pro wrestler. He’s massive, looks like he’s been hewn from granite and oozes X-factor (and meat sweats) from every pore. Despite his incredible gifts, Brock’s ascent to the top of WWE wasn’t the straight shot you might expect, and once he got there, his, shall we say, combative personality continued to make for an unpredictable career.
As we approach Lesnar’s big match against Dean Ambrose and WrestleMania 32 on Sunday, here are a few things you might not know about the Suplex City-founding badass’ often-turbulent career.
Note: Brock’s life could fill multiple articles, so we’re mostly sticking to his younger years and WWE career here. UFC, Japan and the rest will have to wait for another time.
Brock began wrestling at the age of five
Brock Lesnar, a beast since birth.
Brock Lesnar was born in the rural town of Webster, South Dakota in July, 1977. Brock’s family owned a dairy farm, and he and his two older brothers and younger sister spent their time doing what country kids do, which is to say, getting into trouble. In order to give their little Beast some structure, Brock’s parents got him involved in youth wrestling as young as five years old. And wrestling wasn’t just for fun. Oh no. According to Brock, his mom was molding him into a future world champion at an age when most of us couldn’t put on our own pants…
“My mom didn’t accept any excuses. If I lost, it was my fault. It was just me and the other kid on the mat. One winner. One Loser. When I lost a match, as I did from time to time, it was, ‘Admit it, accept it. If you don’t like the way you feel when you lose, then get in there and win.'”
A lot of guys owe Brock’s mom for the ass-kickings they would eventually receive.
He would have pursued a military career if it weren’t for his color blindness
The military, wrestling — if there was a chance he could hurt somebody, Brock was down.
When you grow up poor in rural South Dakota, a world of opportunity isn’t exactly knocking down your door. At age 17, Brock figured the military was his best bet in life, so he signed up for the National Guard. Brock wanted to work with artillery, but during his physical, it was discovered he was red-green colorblind. Handling explosives requires you to keep track of red and green-coded explosives, so to keep Brock from blowing anybody up, the higher-ups assigned him to clerical duty. Yup, living action figure Brock Lesnar got stuck behind a desk. Needless to say, office work didn’t exactly suit Brock, and he promptly F5’d his military ambitions.
Lesnar almost got into MMA while still in college
After ditching the military, Brock decided to pursue higher education. With no scholarships forthcoming, he went to Bismarck State, a local junior college, before being recruited by the University of Minnesota for his third year. Just one problem – a bunch of Brock’s junior college credits wouldn’t transfer, so he was ineligible to join the wrestling team. The coaches scrambled and found a college in California that would take Lesnar on short notice, so he was shipped off to get his transcript in order.
While in California, Lesnar worked out at a gym where a lot of guys were training in this newfangled thing called mixed martial arts. Beating guys up with little-to-no concern for rules sounded pretty swell to Lesnar, so when a few of the guys said they were going to Vegas to make some money fighting, he was eager to tag along. At the last second, Brock called up his U of M coach to run this whole MMA thing by him, and of course he was appalled. It was the mid-’90s after all, an era when MMA was considered barely a half-step up from chicken fighting. Brock was talked down and didn’t get in the car to Vegas, but man, the history of MMA might have been very different if he had.
He turned down offers from the NFL to work for the WWF
Lesnar’s college wrestling career had its ups and downs, but in his last year of college, he finally won the NCAA Division I Heavyweight Championship, which suddenly put him on a lot of radars. Lesnar may have struggled to get into the NFL later in his career, but in 2000, both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins were all too eager to sign him up. Ultimately, though, Brock was tired of the uncertainty of legitimate sports, and decided to take a $250,000 per-year “sure thing” offer from the WWF, despite having watched less than five minutes of pro wrestling in his entire life. If Brock had known how unpredictable the scripted world of pro wrestling could be, he might have reconsidered.