Mini book review: Brock Lesnar’s DeathClutch

Brock Lesnar’s life has been fascinating: ‘real’ wrestler and NCAA Division 1 champion; ‘staged’ wrestler and WWE champion; an NFL tryout; then another championship, this time in the UFC, before a battle with a life-threatening illness.

DeathClutch details these different arenas—ring to octagon to hospital—but, in each, Lesnar says the same thing: ‘I knew I was the best and I would prove it’. What this book is ultimately about is Lesnar’s obsessive need to win. Being one of the world’s elite athletes, this compulsion is understandable, but as he moves from one chapter of his life to the next, his point remains the same. And there’s not much else in the book to break up that repetition.

Lesnar mostly refuses to discuss his personal life (fair enough), but he also gives little insight into the backstage action of the WWE and UFC. He’s happy to discuss the hectic travel schedule of a WWE wrestler, or the shady tactics of its chairman Vince McMahon*, but you rarely get an idea of what the show looks like behind the curtain. His time in the UFC seemingly amounted to ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’.

*DeathClutch ends in 2010, before Lesnar made his WWE return. That must’ve been an awkward conversation, given how critical he is of the company’s policies in his book.

Though I knew of Lesnar’s time in both wrestling and MMA, I’d seen little of the man in action. I’d given up on WWE years before he arrived, and he was finished with Ultimate Fighting by the time I became a fan. This clip was one of the few times I’d seen him. While it and WWE itself are clearly staged, there’s something fascinatingly raw and animalistic in Lesnar’s performance. I wanted to learn about that guy. Having now read his book, I know more about his achievements, but not much more about the man himself. DeathClutch strengthens the idea that most athletes aren’t particularly open to introspection.

You’ll fly through reading DeathClutch. It’s 224 pages long but is simply written, one medium-length sentence after another, one medium-length paragraph at a time. The book would’ve been a far easier read had an editor broken up its rhythm.

I didn’t expect great writing from an athlete’s autobiography, but, after DeathClutch, I further appreciated the work of the writers and journalists I’ve been reading. It’s no coincidence that, shortly after finishing the book, I bought books by David Foster Wallace and Tom Bissell.

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