When Braun Strowman made his debut on the Raw after Summerslam 2015 as part of the Wyatt Family – crushing Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns like they were puny bugs and making quite the immediate impact – many of us WWE sceptics dismissed him instantly. It’s no secret that big men in WWE usually come with a short shelf life attached to their gimmick after all; it usually seems like only a matter of time before they make the transformation from dominant monster to dancing goon or comedic ladies man (I’m looking at you, Khali). When Strowman introduced himself, as impressive and beastly as he looked, it seemed like only a matter of time before his shtick would grow tiresome; here was a rookie who weighed nearly 400 lbs with no televised wrestling experience for fans to measure him against. He seemed like another Vince project given an undeserving head start because of size – and as true as that probably is, here we are over one year later and Strowman is one of the hottest talents in WWE and proving many of his detractors wrong.
When Strowman was separated from the Wyatt’s in the July, 2016 brand split, many fans and pundits immediately interpreted it as the death knell for the former power lifter. Gone were his comrades who had been protecting him for months – covering up his weaknesses since his arrival, leaving him on his lonesome as the black sheep of Monday Night Raw. His in-ring time had been limited as part of the faction; instead of wrestling regularly he’d be relegated to the role of imposing muscle, a role which many assumed would mark the apex of his WWE career. However, things did get off to a promising start with a new look, bad ass original theme music and a lengthly spell squashing jobbers. Granted, the squashing formula has been used time and time again to build momentum for guys of Strowman’s ilk, but it was essential for integrating the Wyatt’s ‘New Face of Destruction’ into his new role as a singles competitor – and the promos from his opponents at least made up for their competitive insignificance by supplying some guaranteed laughs before their crushing loss. Heck, if it wasn’t for his match against Strowman, James Ellsworth wouldn’t be employed as a full-time member of the roster right now (but let’s not hold that against Braun if you’re over the Ellsworth fad).
But if anything, Strowman has only proved his doubters wrong by going out there week after week and continuing to make a name for himself as a singles competitor. Putting his behemoth size aside for one moment, Strowman is proving to be Monday Night Raw’s little engine that could. So what is it about Strowman that has elevated himto the pantheons of greatness in the contemporary Raw climate? What is it about the colossal force that continues to warm him to audiences on a weekly basis?
First and foremost, Strowman is a physical anomaly – and in the current era of WWE, where smaller guys make up the backbone of the entire roster, he stands out. We’re lucky to finally be experiencing an age in WWE where guys like AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and other traditional ‘non-WWE’ guys occupy main event spotlight – not to mention that the cusp of the mid-card talent on each show aren’t exactly the traditional ‘big guy’ prototypes the company was built on either. That said, variety is essential when putting on a three-hour wrestling show – and destructive, dominant freaks of nature are needed to provide alternatives. While it is all well and good to be catered some of the most agile and technically gifted performers on the planet defy gravity and astound us with their ability to master the craft, we still need those magical moments of seeing grown men thrown through the air into an assortment of Christmas decorations. Currently, Strowman is Godzilla and Raw is Tokyo, and his reign of terror injects shows with much needed energy and chaos whenever he appears onscreen.
Admittedly, Strowman is still green and limited in what he can do in the ring; but for all their recent faults, WWE creative has handled the big man well by extenuating his strengths and shielding his weaknesses. His recent program with Sami Zayn has been pivotal in his development as it has allowed him to work with a seasoned veteran who can sell better than most, garner sympathy with ease and bring the best out in anybody he steps into the squared circle with. Surprisingly, Zayn has gained just as much from this feud as Strowman has; not only has he proven himself to be a thorn in Strowman’s side – and the first in recent memory to take the big man to his limit – but it also plays to Zayn’s strengths as an underdog. It’s the age-old story of David versus Goliath, which when executed effectively, is always an intriguing storyline. Where Strowman does excel from an in-ring perspective is the execution of his move set which – for all its limitations – is brutal and convincing. When he runs at full force and collides with his opponent he does so with the devastating believability of a human train. On top of that, who was the last person to deliver a powerslam with such body crushing conviction? He’s still a pup by industry standards and will only improve with experience, but he’s headed in the right direction.
However, the honeymoon won’t last forever. There will come a time where Strowman must lose clean and if WWE’s booking history has shown us anything, it’s that they don’t know how to get their monsters back on track following the big loss. Just look at Rusev as a recent example; immediately following his year-long rampage and subsequent loss to John Cena at Wrestlemania 31, he found himself embroiled in a bizarre love soap opera storyline with Lana, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae that we were only saved from thanks to Lana risking her career to share their real-life engagement on social media. They can’t make the same mistakes with Braun, as he could be a marquee talent for years to come if handled correctly.
At this current time, Braun Strowman is one of the most exciting things in WWE, on any brand. With the exception of AJ Styles, no superstar has been as captivating to watch over the past few months, and it’s only a matter of time before Strowman must be considered a title contender – or even champion – in his own right. What we’re seeing right now is a superstar who’s untainted by inconsistent booking and enjoying a momentous surge, all the while laying waste to those who get in his way. Let’s enjoy it for what it is and see where it goes.