Brock Lesnar made something of a surprise return to the WWE on Sunday night at its Hell in a Cell pay-per-view show.
Lesnar, a former UFC heavyweight champion, was believed to have finished up with the pro wrestling organization in August, at SummerSlam at the Barclays Center. He had entered the USADA testing program to return to UFC, where he was offered a heavyweight championship fight against Daniel Cormier. The fight was expected to take place sometime in early 2019.
According to sources close to Lesnar, he is still planning on returning to UFC, but appeared Sunday to set up another big pro wrestling match that would take place in an as-of-yet-announced major show in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 2. While he has been in the USADA testing pool, meaning he is serious about returning, he has not yet signed a deal with UFC.
The WWE has a lucrative deal with the government of Saudi Arabia. The two sides signed a 10-year deal for regular shows, the first of which took place on April 27. The shows are extremely controversial because they doubled as propaganda pieces for the government. WWE did not directly release how much they are getting for the shows due to a confidentiality clause in the contract, but based on added revenue in the category that the show fell under, the number in its quarterly business statement, the figure looked to be in the range of $45 million.
With that kind of revenue at stake, meaning these shows generate more actual dollars for the company than even its WrestleMania shows, they load up on outside talent and give them large paydays. In Lesnar’s case, it is believed to be well into the seven figures for the matches in Saudi Arabia.
During the Hell in a Cell main event, Lesnar kicked down the door of the cage and walked in, and beat down both participants in the main event, Universal champion Roman Reigns (Leati Anoa’i of the Samoan wrestling dynasty) and Braun Strowman (Adam Scherr, a 6-foot-6, 375-pound former strongest man in the world competitor). He left both laying with his trademark F-5. There was no winner in the match because it was ruled neither was able to continue.
It is not clear whether Lesnar would face Reigns for the title in the main event or it would be a three-way match in Saudi Arabia.
Several pro wrestling web sites earlier in the day listed Lesnar as being backstage for the show, with most speculation figuring he was there to get involved and set up a new match.
Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey retained her women’s title over a former bodybuilder and gymnast Alexa Bliss (Lexi Kaufmann) on the show. With John Cena acting, Rousey has become WWE’s biggest mainstream star.