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Sport and Outdoors

Brock Lesnar just made people believe WWE was real

Yes, this is pro wrestling, but things quickly got real in SummerSlam's main event this Sunday.

Like all forms of art, pro wrestling is best when the audience is able to suspend its disbelief. On Sunday, fans didn't have to try too hard to do that.

SummerSlam, which aired live on the WWE Network (think Netflix for wrestling), saw the WWE pulling out some tricks to make new stars. AJ Styles beat John Cena without any controversy or shenanigans, and Finn Balor was crowned the first ever WWE Universal Champion in his very first WWE pay-per-view appearance.

Both of those matches would usually be show-stealers, but that's not what people were talking about after SummerSlam.

At the end of the night, the talk of the town, and social media, was Brock Lesnar. He made even the most jaded of pro wrestling fans believe, if only for a second, they had seen something they weren't meant to see.


Beast unleashed

Brock Lesnar, fresh off beating Mark Hunt at UFC 200 in July, took on 12-time world champion Randy Orton in the main event. Most figured The Beast would score a win, but none could predict the way he did it.

Lesnar won the match by TKO, literally leaving Orton in a pool of his own blood.

After about 11 minutes of wrestling -- main event matches usually last around 20 -- Lesnar started pounding on Orton. He mounted him, hit him with a barrage of punches and some nasty looking elbows. The referee stopped the match shortly thereafter. You can see some of the more gruesome imagery here and here. (Note that these are graphic images not for the faint of heart.)

Since 2009, blood has been a big no-go in WWE. So much so that then-champion Batista was fined $100,000 for blading in a match. (Wrestlers cut themselves with small blades, because this is apparently the safest way to intentionally bleed). Given this, fans were naturally confused to see Orton left lying in massive amounts of blood.

This, mixed with the abrupt ending, led some to speculate that Lesnar had gone into business for himself, going off-script and "shooting" on Orton.

Some even thought Lesnar was spurred by steroid rage, referencing his two failed drug tests related to his bout with Mark Hunt in July.

Thankfully, that's not the case.

"I was told that was the [planned] finish," wrestling journalist Bryan Alvarez said on Wrestling Observer Radio, recorded alongside Dave Meltzer on Sunday. He added that it's not yet known if the blood was part of the plan, or if Lesnar and Orton had colluded amongst themselves to heighten the drama.

The beat down was so physical that it wasn't just fans who thought it was real. It was reported by Meltzer on Monday that Chris Jericho, an industry veteran of over 20 years, blew up backstage when he thought Orton had been taken advantage of. It got so heated that he and Lesnar nearly came to blows.

Lesnar at UFC 200 in July, where he defeated Mark Hunt.

Rey Del Rio, Getty Images

Brock's World

Why does Lesnar make it easy for fans to suspend their disbelief? Well, there's really not much disbelief to suspend.

The physical reasons are obvious. Lesnar is the real deal, a former UFC heavyweight champion who in July successfully returned to the octagon after four years off. He weighs near 300 pounds but moves like someone half his size. He's a bona fide freak of nature.

But that's really just the tip of the iceberg. Lesnar's character on TV is that of a prize fighter. He has no passion for pro wrestling. He doesn't like people or care what they think of him. And still, the WWE bends over backward to let him perform for them.

This, like his physical portrayal, is true to life.

"It's very obvious that there's rules for Brock and there's rules for everyone else," said Meltzer on Sunday. He was referring to Lesnar, and Lesnar alone, being able to have blood in his matches, but that statement applies across the board.

Last Monday on Raw, Lesnar said the word "shit" on live TV. Late last year, lower-card wrestler Brad Maddox was fired for saying "pricks." Despite Lesnar's unplanned change-of-script, he wasn't punished.

As mentioned, in July Lesnar was reported to have failed two drug tests relating to his UFC 200 bout with Mark Hunt. In June, Roman Reigns failed a WWE drug test and promptly lost his WWE Championship and was suspended. Lesnar has not yet been punished. (It has since come out that WWE's drug policy doesn't apply to part-time wrestlers.)

Despite all of this, Lesnar is the WWE's second most well-paid performer, according to Forbes. He raked in $6 million last year, behind John Cena's $9.5 million. However, Lesnar in 2015 wrestled six televised matches and a couple of live events. Cena, meanwhile, wrestles most weeks on TV, all pay-per-views and tours year-round with the company.

It seems like there really is no difference between Lesnar the man and Lesnar the character.

Some on social media questioned why the company continues to portray the former UFC champ so strongly, paying him handsomely in the process. The answer? No one would believe for a second that a pro wrestler in 2016 would snap and beat down his opponent for real.

Unless that pro wrestler is Brock Lesnar.

Update, Tuesday 11:59 a.m. AEST: Added Wrestling Observer report on Jericho and Lesnar's backstage brawl.