Shelton Benjamin & Brock Lesnar’s Wrestling Friendship, Explained

thesportster.com 61 days ago

Despite their very different wrestling careers, Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin have been friends for decades.

On the surface level, fans might not think Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin have that much in common. Brock Lesnar is quite arguably on the Mt. Rushmore of wrestling biggest stars of the last two decades. He’s a unique talent for his awesome physicality, how well protected he has consistently been, and his real life accomplishments in MMA and amateur wrestling that make him one of the most credible fighters sports entertainment has ever seen.

While Benjamin had an impressive amateur wrestling pedigree of his own and highly respectable wrestling career in the mid-card and tag team ranks, no version of him ever broke through and become a marquee star. However, for all the differences in their standing in wrestling history and fans’ perceptions of them, the two have a real life bond from behind the scenes, dating back to before either even signed with WWE.

Brock Lesnar And Shelton Benjamin’s Relationship Started Before Pro Wrestling

Shelton Benjamin Brock Lesnar College

Shelton Benjamin was a standout amateur wrestler at the University of Minnesota, who was a two-time All-American and finished as high as third in the NCAA heavyweight division. After graduating he hung around as an assistant coach, and that’s how he first came to work with a young Brock Lesnar, whom he wound up living with for a time.

Lesnar wound up having an even more distinguished amateur career than his friend, including winning an NCAA Championship. Both Benjamin and Lesnar would be recruited by WWE, though.

Brock Lesnar And Shelton Benjamin Came Up Together In WWE Developmental

Brock Lesnar Shelton Benjamin FCW

Shelton Benjamin and Brock Lesnar would find their wrestling destinies intertwined. As Shelton Benjamin discussed in a visit to Chasing Glory with Lillian Garcia (h/t Republic World) they were part of one of the greatest developmental classes in WWE history alongside performers like John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista.

Jim Cornette was in charge of creative for the Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental territory at the time and purportedly put Benjamin and Lesnar together as a tag team on the rationale that Lesnar was boring and Benjamin could help him along with his more exciting style of performance. It’s strange to consider that assessment now, but Paul Heyman was reportedly among the very few to see the potential in Lesnar’s athleticism—that he might be more than a traditional plodding big man—and advise him accordingly.

While Lesnar may have been miscast and underused at this stage, he nonetheless enjoyed success in the partnership. Billed as The Minnesota Stretching Crew, he and Benjamin won three tag team championships in developmental.

Brock Lesnar And Shelton Benjamin Crossed Paths Again On The Main Roster

Team Angle WWE

By the time Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin each emerged on the main roster, they were on different levels and different trajectories. Lesnar garnered a historically massive push, winning King of the Ring, squashing Hulk Hogan, taking a world title off The Rock, capturing a Royal Rumble victory, and winning a WrestleMania main event in his sensational first year.

By contrast, Shelton Benjamin saw himself cast in another tag team (albeit a heavily pushed one with Charlie Haas) and cast as a henchman for Kurt Angle.

Playing a supporting role behind Angle not only gave Benjamin indirect main event exposure, but also interestingly enough put him at odds with Lesnar. In Team Angle, Benjamin more than once found himself battling—and particularly taking bumps from—his old friend.

Shelton Benjamin And Brock Lesnar Have Remained Friends

Brock Lesnar Shelton Benjamin 2020

Though their careers went in different directions, according to Shelton Benjamin, he and Brock Lesnar have remained friends. Speaking on Out of Character with Ryan Satin (h/t WrestlingINC) Benjamin explained, “I tell people all the time: one of the cool things with Brock is you never have to wonder where you stand with him because he'll tell you, he'll show you. He either wants nothing to do with you or you're good friends.” Benjamin clearly sees himself in the latter group, and suggested Lesnar’s most recent babyface work is a good reflection of what he’s like around his friends in real life.

Given the length of their relationship, dating back before Lesnar was a global celebrity, it stands to reason he’d be accurate in his assessment of who The Beast Incarnate really is.

Shelton Benjamin is a widely respected professional wrestler and athlete. There’s no shortage of fans who believe his tag team with Charlie Haas or their faction with Kurt Angle might have been a much bigger deal with more time. Moreover, Benjamin more than once showed potential to thrive as a top-level singles performer on his own. In contrast, Brock Lesnar has never not been pushed as an upper level singles star in WWE. It’s easy enough to imagine a few shifts in Vince McMahon’s decision-making and luck, and the two men enjoying more similar careers, for better or worse. Regardless of their success and limitations on air, though, the two have a bond in real life that transcends the pro wrestling business.