There’s still plenty of time between now and WrestleMania 33 to know very many specifics for that card, but it’s not too early for rumblings of plans for certain top stars to make the rounds on the rumor mills. Brock Lesnar is one of the biggest stars that WWE has, being a former UFC Heavyweight Champion who just weeks before SummerSlam 2016 fought and won in a surprising contest at UFC 200. Brock has massive mainstream crossover appeal, so any match he wrestles in on WWE’s biggest card of the year can be promoted with main event hype.
What’s shocking at this point is that Lesnar isn’t rumored to be in a match against a young and rising star or even a current champion. Instead, the opponent he may find himself battling in the ring with is Shane McMahon. Seeds have already been planted for an eventual encounter on-screen and while it would be fun to watch Shane bump for the behemoth Brock, the two should not have a match at WrestleMania 33. They should have a match on another card because there are far better options for Lesnar at that yearly spectacular. Many of those options are about to be explored.
From the wrestlers who are far more technically gifted to the underdogs that can entice even greater sympathy from the fans, this article lists 15 wrestlers who should be considered as Brock Lesnar opponents for the April 2nd, 2017 event in Orlando. Some should win against The Beast Incarnate while some should lose – all should be considered above Shane-O-Mac.
15. The Miz
The Miz has been doing some fantastic character work for quite some time. It probably all started some time before the Damien Mizdow shtick happened, but everyone finally took notice when he got in Daniel Bryan’s face on that one episode of Talking Smack and told him to go back to the Indies. Since then, the gigantic chip on his shoulder has been obvious to all and Miz has sought to prove how great he truly is.
It would be nice if Miz had another WrestleMania accolade to brag about besides the John Cena victory. A win over Brock Lesnar is most definitely something to brag about. Being a heel, he does not need a clean pin fall by any means to have something to gloat about. There can be a rematch the following month and Brock can get a clean win to get him back on his wrecking machine ways if that’s what Brock wants.
Miz is riding a wave of momentum right now and he’d be way better received as a Lesnar opponent at WrestleMania 33 than Shane McMahon. Plus, his work has forced respect from and a huge payoff in the form of a marquee match would be fitting. He’s earned a big match like this.
14. Finn Balor
The Demon’s run as the inaugural WWE Universal Champion was cut unceremoniously short on the Raw after SummerSlam when he surrendered his title. Finn Balor defeated Seth Rollins for the new Raw belt and thanks to a shoulder injury suffered in the match, he now finds himself on an extended stay on the Injured List. There’s a 6-month timeline for his return, which does cut him awfully close for a WrestleMania performance, but if he can return in time for the big show then there will be huge buzz for whatever match he’s in.
Booking the newly returned Balor against Lesnar would be a huge matchup, far bigger than one against Shane. Assuming Finn returns at a safe time and is healthy, he’ll be much better suited for the physical matchup that Brock requires. WWE obviously wants him to be a top tier talent on Raw so giving him a huge match and potential win against Brock would cement that status.
Brock Lesnar is the most dangerous monster in WWE. Whenever there’s talk of establishing a new monster to take his place, names like Braun Strowman get thrown around a lot (…and you should expect him later in this article). However, one name that doesn’t get thrown around nearly enough is the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev.
When Rusev burst onto the main roster scene back in 2014, he was unstoppable. He went undefeated for the longest time, helped make the U.S. Championship relevant again, and even rode into WrestleMania 31 on a tank. For a while, he was one of the most dominant forces WWE had.
Rusev’s clout waned in the wake of WrestleMania 31 due to the curse of being beaten clean by Cena, an ankle injury, as well as some goofy romance angle storylines, but he’s weathered those setbacks. It feels like he’s back on the right track again and having a huge opponent like Brock Lesnar would put him back on top of the card as the big dog in the yard.
12. The Undertaker
Yes, it’s been done before. Several times. Not only did Brock Lesnar conquer The Undertaker’s legendary Streak at WrestleMania, The Undertaker even came back in 2015 for a couple of non-April matches against The Beast Incarnate. Brock has had more singles bouts against The Deadman in this second WWE run than against any other opponent but it would be alright if they do one more because they’re so good together.
Who could forget their memorable pull-apart brawl as well as the two matches that followed? There might’ve been some confusing and questionable finishes but they still know how to put on a show.
They could do it again but this idea is admittedly not very likely considering their recent contests against each other. Even so, The Undertaker would put on a way more competitive match than Shane McMahon. That should be reason enough to consider him above Vince’s son at WrestleMania 33.
11. James Ellsworth
Okay, hear this one out before throwing it away entirely. James Ellsworth might be a hard sell for being inserted into a WrestleMania match opposite The Beast Incarnate, but it truly could be a very entertaining gimmick-y match.
The setup for this scenario presupposes that Ellsworth accidentally gets himself caught up in a grander rivalry. In this case, a Shane feud with Brock would work. Perhaps Brock is in the Rumble and leans over the ropes at Shane on the outside, screaming at him in anger. Then, Ellsworth inadvertently eliminates him after being Irish Whipped in his direction.
The surprise Rumble elimination would build in the following months with Ellsworth getting extremely lucky in showdowns with Brock, getting bailed out by attacks from Shane and whomever his allies might be, and finally agreeing to a No DQ Match at 33. The Mania match would be filled with interference and weaponry, with Brock of course going over Ellsworth.
Lesnar could still find his way into a match with Shane on a future PPV, but the WrestleMania bout between him and Ellsworth would simply be a fun stop on the ride. Not every match needs to be a complete feud blowoff and while Ellsworth might be done with Brock after a WrestleMania bloodbath, Brock’s issues with Shane would continue.
10. Samoa Joe
Brock Lesnar is a Beast. He’s a monster. He’s been running roughshod on the WWE roster for quite some time and if he wrestles in a match at WrestleMania 33 that sees his challenger going over, it’s only fitting for that the challenger be as imposing as he is.
Samoa Joe is a monster in his own rite and has been a dominant force on the NXT roster since his arrival. He’s got several big wins against Finn Balor and carried their top title until being defeated by the larger than life superstar, Shinsuke Nakamura. He could very easily be just as impactful on the main roster as long as he gets the same treatment.
A win against The Beast Incarnate would establish Joe as the new roadblock on any card he’s on. Joe could carry the accolade of his Lesnar win as a reminder to challengers of what he’s capable of in the ring, an accomplish that should scare any man. He’d also give Brock a superb match in a battle of the big men, which would have potential to be one of the best matches on the WrestleMania 33 card.
9. Randy Orton
Before SummerSlam 2016, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar went their entire careers virtually never crossing paths. It was a huge matchup that had tons of potential, but largely didn’t leave a satisfying feeling after it all went down. The finish had Brock bloodying Randy via a tree-trunk of an elbow in a fairly anti-climactic and mostly confusing match ending. Given a second meeting between these two icons, there would be an easy opportunity for them to top their first encounter.
Both Orton and Lesnar are at a point in their careers where a win or a loss against each other wouldn’t tarnish their legacy, although it would make more sense for Lesnar to save any clean losses for a younger guy. All that’s really necessary here to deliver with the match that fans would want to see is a decent amount of time, an RKO reversal of an F5, and a finish that viewers understand to be a finish as they’re watching it. With those elements, this could be a potential match of the year.
8. Sami Zayn
There’s one man on WWE’s roster that embodies the term “underdog” better than perhaps anybody else and that’s Sami Zayn. Sami perpetually feels like he’s always just one breakout performance away from finally convincing the powers that be that he’s worthy of a huge push, even on the nights that he steals the show with a breakout performance.
Zayn was a peer of Kevin Owens at the start of 2016 and it felt like the two were neck and neck on their pursuit up the card. Once Owens into up to the main event, Sami was oddly kept where he was on the midcard, if he was on the card at all. Zayn deserves to be in the main event but needs a larger than life giant to slay and Brock Lesnar is that giant. It might be silly to propose that he pin Brock clean but as long as he shows that he won’t back down, even a loss for Sami can still be big for him.
What makes Sami better suited for a WrestleMania 33 match against Brock than Shane McMahon is that he’d bring many of the same elements, only better. Lesnar’s challenger will need to bump like crazy and Zayn’s younger body could withstand far more punishment. The Beast’s opponent will also need to have that babyface crowd support and in Shane McMahon’s case, he’s won’t be coming off the fresh “welcome back” buzz that he benefited from one year prior.
7. Roman Reigns
If WWE wants to guarantee without a doubt that Brock Lesnar will get cheered as the hero of WrestleMania 33, then book him to face off against Roman Reigns. Nobody in WWE is booed more than Roman, especially in front of the extra smarky crowds. Since WrestleMania is pretty much the biggest smark convention of the calendar year, Roman is almost certain to be received as the villain of the universe, regardless of who he’s wrestling. Shane McMahon would split the audience against Brock and that might not be the desired crowd response.
In addition to the massive ovation and fan support that Lesnar would receive, he’d also get a good match. Roman does get booed but he also puts on great matches. The two tangoed at WrestleMania 31 and despite being a competitive contest worthy of being a main event, Seth Rollins spoiled the finish with his briefcase cash in. Brock and Roman needs to happen one more time at WrestleMania and needs to go to a decisive pin fall.
6. Heath Slater
Let’s face it, there’s some unfinished business between the One Man Band and The Beast Incarnate. After the 2016 draft between Raw and SmackDown, Heath Slater found himself to be a wrestler without a show so he was doing anything he could to earn a contract. The most memorable example of this was when he both stupidly and courageously walked into the ring and got face to face with Brock Lesnar. Slater tried to rationalize with him that he needed a contract to support his wife and kids, then Brock Lesnar used salty language to inform him that he did not care about Heath’s kids.
That encounter – and subsequent beatdown – was one of the defining moments for Heath Slater’s recent resurgence, gaining him a ton of sympathy. Fans now bring signs saying “Heath’s Kids” to shows and there’s even a t-shirt for sale that says “I Got Kids – I need this job.” It’s hard to imagine Slater being a Tag Team Champion in 2016 without that Brock Lesnar interaction.
Lesnar vs. Slater may not be a WrestleMania main event but it would draw in a ton of interest. Much like the James Ellsworth pitch earlier in this article, it could simply be a gimmicky pit stop on a grander feud with Shane McMahon. Brock would of course win but it would be an entertaining match to garner even more fan support for Slater.
5. Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins has been at the top of the WWE card for a while and for very good reason. He’s one of the best in-ring performers in the company and has been that way for quite some time. A matchup between him and Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33 would not only be a better matchup than Shane McMahon, it could also be one of the best matches of the year.
There is history between Brock and Seth but it feels like they’ve only scratched the surface of what they might be able to do. Along with John Cena, they were involved in a phenomenal Triple Threat Match at the 2015 Royal Rumble and of course it was at the WrestleMania 31 a few months afterward that Seth cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase during Lesnar vs. Reigns to win his first WWE Championship. Brock and Seth faced off later that year in a singles match at Battleground 2015, but that got a non-ending to resume a Lesnar feud with The Undertaker.
There’s a huge singles match just waiting to be had between Brock and Seth. WrestleMania 33 could be that stage and if given the choice between that match or Brock vs. Shane, Seth is hands down the better option.
4. Kevin Owens
If there was ever an argument for Kevin Owens to have a lengthy WWE Universal Championship reign, it would be so he could have his biggest defense ever against his mightiest challenger ever on the grandest stage of them all. Owens is enjoying a surprising rise to the top in WWE in a short amount of time but his main event status still needs solidifying. Sure, he’s a heel and sometimes the bad guys cheat to win, but a win over Brock Lesnar on a stage like WrestleMania would definitely establish his stardom without the help of a McMahon (or a Levesque or whatever).
A rivalry between Brock and KO would not only give Owens the chance to go face to face with the baddest guy in the company but it would also give him the chance to verbally spar with Paul Heyman. Kevin’s mic skills are among the best in all of wrestling, so he and Lesnar’s Advocate would be sure to produce many memorable diatribes. Unlike Shane McMahon, Kevin Owens is leading the charge of this New Era and a triumph over Lesnar would be a superstar-making moment.
3. Braun Strowman
This is the ultimate showdown that Braun Strowman is being built for, right? This is the reason that he broke away from the Wyatt Family, squashing jobbers week after week on Raw, demanding better and better talent from Mick Foley, right? Strowman is obviously the new colossus for this newer generation and a victory over the current monster at WrestleMania is the correct way for him to claim his rightful place in WWE.
Whereas Shane McMahon would be the lopsided underdog in a face to face against Brock, Braun would actually carry the size advantage. He’s billed at about 6 inches taller and almost 100 pounds heavier than the former UFC Heavyweight Champion. The visual of a man that looks imposing next to Lesnar is enough to sell this match; a victory over him would sell many more matches to come. Braun Strowman is a better foe for Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33, especially if he wins.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura
There are few people who can be booked to be competitive against Brock Lesnar that don’t have a massive size advantage and Shinsuke Nakamura is absolutely one of them. This would technically not be the first encounter between these two, but being the first showdown in a WWE ring on a stage this grand would give this a once in a lifetime feel.
The King of Strong Style more than lives up to his name – Samoa Joe’s jaw can attest to that – and a match between him and Brock could be brutal. Nakamura’s English and Lesnar’s promo hesitation is the only real foreseeable hindrance for a buildup to a WrestleMania 33 match but Paul Heyman can more than make up for any deficiencies.
Assuming that Nakamura moved to the main roster around Royal Rumble time, Brock could be the one to target and eliminate him from the 30-man contest (or vice-versa) to kick start this feud. Titles on the line or not, this potential WrestleMania match would be in the running for closing out the show because it is a monumental matchup.
1. AJ Styles
Brock Lesnar could walk into WrestleMania 33 for the point of squashing someone, which would happen in a match against Shane McMahon. He could also put over a new star, which would happen in a match with a guy like Braun Strowman. However, if the purpose for Brock is to have him wrestle in the best match possible, AJ Styles is the undeniable best answer.
Since his arrival at the 2016 Royal Rumble, AJ has proved himself to be the best in-ring worker on WWE’s roster over and over again. His programs with Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose provided plenty of entries into every critic’s yearly Top 10 Matches lists and there’s no reason to believe that 2017 won’t be just as good. A singles match against Brock at WrestleMania is an exciting pairing to put on the marquee that WWE should consider well ahead of Shane-O-Mac.