|Credit: WWE.com / Satan
“Well, there are really only two ways to do it. Think of something that
makes you really sad… or forget you’re you and really forget you’re
pretending…” – Nick Nolte
It’s possible I was running purely on Mountain Dew (I guess advertising works) when I watched Lesnar vs. Cena at Summerslam about…15 hours ago. By the time it was over, things felt different. Intentional or not, Brock Lesnar finally appeared to ‘get it’. Special attraction or not, there to collect a paycheck or not, mercenary or not, the Brock Lesnar we saw at Summerslam was the Brock Lesnar I’d been waiting for – The Brock Lesnar Steve Austin referred to on his Podcast as what could potentially be if he fully invested in the world of sports entertainment..
This Brock, lording over the conscious corpse of the WWE’s poster boy had a ferocity we hadn’t seen in awhile. Sure, fans believed Brock was a monster, Paul Heyman believed Brock was a monster, and that chair he broke over Big Show’s dome believed he was a monster too, but until last night, I wasn’t sure Brock did. After last night, like Undertaker, Brock is now something more than human.
And if you’ll afford me the opportunity, I’d like you all to hop in my magic school bus as we travel up my own ass, and discuss the craft of acting.
If you regard the poster, you’ll notice two things. First, regardless of what you think of the guy, John Cena looks genuinely concerned for his well being.
Second, you’ll notice Brock Lesnar is clearly attempting to scare a five year old child at a haunted house by making his face look as close to a pumpkin as possible. But if you look into Lesnar’s eyes, they seem…confused, like he isn’t sure what the fruit he’s doing, but someone told him to make a scary face, so here it is. Can I have my check now, please?
And that’s a problem. It’s also a problem in sit-down interviews where Brock is clearly reading, or repeating lines verbatim a producer or writer told him to say like he’s on Total Divas.
I call this “confessional syndrome”. You’ll notice it in early seasons of popular reality shows like Pawn Stars, as the people in it get used to the idea of ‘playing themselves’. There’s the natural stuff, when Rick is negotiating and essentially doing the job he’s had for years, and the ‘storyline’ stuff where you don’t quite believe anything that’s happening, because the folks it’s happening to don’t either. If you want a fantastic example of some terrible reality TV ‘acting’, check out the first season of American Choppers.
If you’d like another example from actual drama, watch The Usual Suspects again and pay attention to Stephen Baldwin; from how he holds gun, to how he says his lines, to how every scene he’s in tries to make him look like a bad ass, but instead he looks like someone trying to ‘act’ tough.
If the people saying their lines don’t believe their lines, or act in an unbelievable way, it shows. And to act well, you need to believe. It’s not so much what you say, but how and why you say it.
If you’ve ever listened to a grade school classroom
recite The Pledge of Allegiance, they’re all saying it, but not many of em’
care what they’re saying so it feels a little hollow. As Brock Lesnar often did since his return
As a poor man’s example of…serviceable acting, here’s a video I did with a friend for a class she had. I was almost in a bunch of trouble for this thanks to the bathroom part, until my cohort revealed it was all pre-staged.
For whatever reason my friend was capable of reacting realistically to the idea of a crazy person hiding in her bathroom, and I was a believable enough weirdo to the point it’s possible I’d do such a thing, at least enough to make the folks watching seriously question if we were being ‘real’ or not.
If my buddy didn’t ‘act’ freaked out / pissed off / annoyed in a genuine way, and I didn’t let out that really fucking creepy laugh, folks would thought it was a dumb gag. They believed we believed so they weren’t sure if it was real until we told them it wasn’t. I’m not saying we’re good at acting, but I’m confident in saying I’m more believable as the kind of asshole who would play such an annoying prank, than Brock was in his various interviews before Summerslam .
But during Summerslam’s main event, somewhere in the middle of those sixteen German
Suplexes Brock gave the human body pillow that used to be John Cena, he ‘got’ it. Look at the eyes again. He’s not contorting his face, he’s not trying to look tough, he is tough and pissed, and triumphant.
He’s no longer ‘playing’ Brock Lesnar:
Tough Guy, he is Brock Lesnar: Tough Guy. More importantly, I believed Brock Lesnar believed he was Brock Lesnar: Tough Guy. He just engaged in legalized manslaughter, and came away with barely a hang nail. Before, he looked the part, now he *is* the part.
And what is that part? Undertaker 2.0. Putting aside obvious similarities: a portly manager who does most of the talking when not bowing before him in worship, an imposing frame, and ‘special attraction’ status, the number one thing that allows the WWE to slot Brock Lesnar into the ‘Taker role is that they’re now both supernatural characters.
In different ways of course. If Brock Lesnar ever comes down the Wrestlemania ramp, rolls his eyes back in his head, and removes his hood to the sound of cracking thunder, it’s game over. Brock Lesnar is supernatural in that there has never been a WWE Superstar with a more legitimate ‘real life’ resume.
Of course WWE can’t come out and say “Well you know, Brock actually beat people up whereas we’re just pretending here!”, but for smarks and marks alike, we believe Lesnar can do pretty much whatever the hell he wants to anyone he wants at any point and time, and after the insanity of last night’s match, the question of “Who the f*ck can ‘realistically’ beat this guy?” enters our mind the same way it did with Taker and his Wrestlemania streak.
He’s a real fighter who’s slumming it in the world of sports entertainment, and at Summerslam, Brock finally found a way to channel that “real fighter” mentality into a worked match that resulted in a truly menacing aura – something Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock couldn’t quite figure out. Unlike his first match against Cena at Extreme Rules, where he toyed with Cena like a cat who caught a mouse, at Summerslam, Brock was a killer whale ripping a baby seal apart limb from limb. Finally he’s being portrayed, and is portraying himself as, the brute we always wanted.
Thus, we have a living legend on our hands. Sure, you could argue Jericho and Triple H are still around and are future Hall of Famers, and so is Big Show if we want to be generous, but those three have been on our television and in our faces for years. At this point, they’re family – we know mostly what we’re getting, and that’s tricky because the thing about legends is they’re enigmatic.
We’ll never know if Brock has a real passion for the business, we’ll
never know what’s fact and what’s reality as it pertains to his
character and backstage personality – he’s protected in a way that allows the WWE and the IWC at large to play with our expectations, just like the Undertaker – whom we *rarely* heard from unless he was ‘in character’. There’s also the idea that the WWE needs Brock more than Brock needs the WWE, and with Heyman legitimately having the ear of Lesnar, I find myself filled with a sense of optimism.
It’s wonderfully exciting, isn’t it? Brock Lesnar is now a other worldly figure in regards to the WWE Universe.
Only top stars wrestle him, and only the tippy top stars (or soon to be
owners) beat him. His super power doesn’t come from a demonic urn, but
instead a dastardly reputation and now – thank God – a truly menacing persona in the ring. When all is said and done, Lesnar may not end up with the same incredible legacy and oodles of respect Taker has, but I don’t care.
Because I believe Brock doesn’t care, either.