Brock Lesnar has been a "WWE Guy" through and through. He made his pro wrestling debut in 2002 and the Federation's the only home he has ever known in the North American wrestling industry. His debut run was brief and he left on pretty bad terms with the boss, Vince McMahon... but when he was done wrapping up his career in MMA, The Beast came back to the company & has remained under the WWE banner ever since.
Given how big of a star he is and how much he demands (and rightfully so), only the Federation can afford him and his hefty contract. Brock Lesnar will be with the company till the day he retires, but back in 2000, WWE wasn't the only company gunning for the hottest free agent in the world. World Championship Wrestling was interested in the Next Big Thing as well.
Lesnar Debuted On Television in 2002
While the Monday Night Wars raged on in the mid- & early-1990s, a young amateur wrestler was tearing through the competition and by 2000, that amateur wrestler won the NCAA Division 1 heavyweight title and became the hottest prospect in the wrestling world. Brock was a stellar amateur wrestler... but more importantly, he had the look of a megastar, unrivaled athleticism, and a shade of charisma very few individuals could match.
Lesnar himself admitted that he wasn't a professional wrestling fan growing up, but once he was out of college, World Wrestling Entertainment reached out to him and slapped about $250,000 down, up-front. The NCAA Wrestling phenom, who was strapped for cash, readily accepted the offer and went to WWE. The rest, as they say, is history. But in late 1999, WCW was still very much alive and Eric Bischoff was notified about Lesnar... by none other than Verne Gagne.
Verne was a legend in the pro wrestling industry but much like Brock Lesnar, he was an accomplished amateur wrestler. Gagne was a two-time NCAA champion and a four-time Big 10 Conference Champion. But even after his success in the pro wrestling realm, the former AWA World Champion remained a huge supporter of the amateur wrestling scene and he was a sponsor of the University of Minnesota. During his college days, Lesnar caught the attention of Gagne and as early as 2000, the wrestling legend was ringing Bischoff about 'the new kid'.
On his podcast, 83 Weeks, Easy E mentioned that Verne Gagne called him in the late 1990s and vouched for Brock Lesnar, stressing that Bischoff should sign him to World Championship Wrestling, as he had all the makings of a huge star. Eric appreciated the heads-up and said that he'd take a look, once he made a trip to Minnesota... but unfortunately (for WCW), he didn't pursue the future WWE champion & the big man ended up inking a deal with the Federation.
In the very same podcast, Bischoff was questioned whether he’d bring WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle over to WCW... and his response was quite telling. The former WCW President said that by 1999, the company was so dysfunctional that even if the opportunity presented itself and smacked him in the face, he probably wouldn’t have pursued it as actively as he should have. In a nutshell, by 1999 Easy E was running on fumes and in another podcast, the man himself admitted that he was showing up for a paycheck and nothing more.
As we all know, Brock went to WWE... but what if he'd actually signed with WCW? Where would his career be, currently? Dead in the water, most likely from the pro wrestling world, anyway. World Championship Wrestling in 2000 was a sinking ship and given that the captain was Vince Russo, the Next Big Thing would've been the Next Big Hogan Feud, or the Next To Fall to Goldberg.
Bischoff Did Not Pursue Lesnar
He’d have probably still been a champion in a single year, but the wise folks of WCW would've bogged him down with an absolutely horrendous gimmick and Lesnar would've been burned out within months. He disliked the travel that came with being a professional wrestler in WWE but add in toxic politics and a whole lot of stupidity, it would've been a miracle if the Beast Incarnate remained with the company for more than a few months. And he likely wouldn't have even met his soon-to-be Advocate!
World Wrestling Entertainment itself was all set to push him as an Ivan Drago clone, but the timely intervention of Paul Heyman saved his young career and today we know him as one among the biggest superstars in wrestling history. In World Championship Wrestling, there was no Advocate. In WCW, there was Vince Russo. Enough said.
Eric Bischoff himself admitted that Lesnar dodged a bullet, by not signing with the Atlanta-based promotion & in the long run, he did himself a favour by going to WWE.
Source: the Sportster