Vince McMahon has always liked bigger wrestlers. That’s sort of his thing. He supposedly isn’t a fan of the little guys like Daniel Bryan getting huge props from the crowd, and is always on the lookout for that next freak-of-nature guy who hovers near the seven foot mark. Baron Corbin’s rise, and the push that Big Cass is no doubt about to get now that he’s severed ties with Enzo Amore both follow a lineage of guys from Big John Stud to the Undertaker, and, of course, Andre the Giant. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes they’re Nailz. Remember Nailz? Of course you do – because he was awful.
Big men are a gamble, because most of the time they aren’t like The Undertaker, and won’t do things like walk on the top rope to come barreling down on an opponent or sell a match to make it look more interesting. In some cases, they simply just can’t wrestle.
When Braun Strowman made his WWE debut as part of the Wyatt Family in 2015, it was hard to tell if the former Arnold Amateur Strongman Champion was going to be one of those guys that just destroys everything in his path for a few months, then slowly becomes a big training dummy, some roadblock up and coming superstars must plow through. But his run in 2017 has shown that not to be the case.
While the buildup has been impressive, with strong pay-per-view showings and a run of taking on and destroying a string of jobbers who you’ll probably never hear from again in the WWE, it was difficult to tell where the feud with Roman Reigns was going. Before his May injury that was supposed to sideline him for six months only ended up being a little less than two, it felt like Strowman was just there to put Reigns over. That “The Big Dog” needed a monster of a man in his way to a title run, a palate cleanser after “retiring” The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 33. It felt like Reigns, who has famously been dogged by talk for the last few years that he was pushed too far and too fast to become the next big thing, needed to once again prove himself to fans – even though he’s really given it his all over the last few years. Maybe one last effort to get the fans to cheer for Reigns, Strowman looked to be the ultimate put-over. A few brutal matches, and then Reigns could move up and on.
That hasn’t been the case. While both superstars have put everything into this rivalry, it’s been Strowman who has shown fans something different and extraordinary whenever he marches down the aisle. Be it caving in an entire ring after a brutal match with an even larger Big Show or pushing over an entire ambulance, Strowman has showed plenty to make us believe he’s a massive, terrifying man with ungodly strength.
But could he keep it up? Wrestling has been filled with big men who had impressive runs for a few months, maybe a year. Yet Strowman, with that combination of freakish strength, anger and quick moves for a man his size, keeps proving he’s ready to go to the top of the WWE and even stay there. Reigns, to his credit, has kept up with him and has also shown hat he is as good as McMahon thinks he is. But after their brutal Great Balls of Fire match – which ended with Reigns losing, tossing Strowman into the back of an ambulance, driving away in that ambulance and then crashing the ambulance with Strowman in the back – fans were treated to a rare “Attitude Era” flashback. It was all the “wrestling is a soap opera” drama you could ask for. Adding to the spectacle: after firefighters opened up the ambulance using the jaws of life, a bloodied Strowman staggered away like an angry animal who wants to die alone or lick his wounds and plot revenge. The whole thing, including the rushed Heath Slater vs. Curt Hawkins match, was masterfully done, and should help build both Reigns and Strowman even more.
But what’s next? There’s talk of a Reigns heel turn after the crash, but he’s already a bad guy in the eyes of fans, and Strowman isn’t exactly loved for much more than pulverizing Reigns and throwing smaller guys into garbage dumpsters. The only answer is to give Strowman the shot at the ultimate prize. Keep building up his mystique and don’t stop.
Strowman has done everything the WWE has asked him and more. With Samoa Joe losing but putting up one of the best fights ever against reigning Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, one could only imagine Joe will stay in the title picture. Yet Strowman, who has shown himself to be invincible – literally unkillable after last night – is the most obvious choice to go up against Lesnar for the title. Why else would you build up Strowman to nearly derail Reigns’ momentum and then put him anywhere but the main event for the belt? Crazier and dumber things have happened, and the rivalry with Reigns doesn’t look like it’s reached its end just yet; but the fact remains that there is one superstar in the WWE who has been evolving into a mythological figure over the last few months. It isn’t Reigns with his victory of Undertaker, and it isn’t Lesnar (he’s already one of the all-time greats). Braun Strowman is officially the most terrifying and must-see superstar on Raw.