Braun Strowman is probably one of the most recognisable modern day WWE superstars. He’s a mobile giant whose ridiculous feats of strength have made audiences gasp in shock or laugh at loud depending on their commitment to Kayfabe. At the height of his popularity he was borderline unstoppable. He was a juggernaut of fan support as audiences would scream “get these hands” in unison. So why is this title where it all went wrong? Well it’s a long story with a lot of twists and turns. Let’s begin shall we?
A Strong Start
Braun wasn’t always a solo act. He debuted on the main roster as the Black Sheep of the Wyatt Family. He was their secret weapon and new powerhouse as they feuded with what was left of the Shield. He was seen as an unstoppable force but also green as grass. His move set was limited to an Elevated Triangle Choke that was seen as inescapable, a Yokosuka Cutter and a series of other simplistic moves. He was booked strong and often seen as the biggest threat in the Wyatt Family despite being the least experienced. He had some high class scalps early on as he beat the likes of Tommy Dreamer, Chris Jericho and the duo of Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in matches and segments. Everything couldn’t be better for him right? He might not be winning a lot as the Wyatt Family barely ever won feuds but he was a monster with a faction and a clear purpose.
It wasn’t all fun and games though as he suffered an awful humiliation early on in his career. During the 2016 Royal Rumble, Braun would clash hands with a man that would continue to be a thorn in his side to this day. That man was Brock Lesnar. Brock would destroy Strowman in this Rumble. Since Braun was too big to be Suplexed and since he wasn’t known for taking many spots the two instantly clashed. Throw in the fact that Braun failed to sell a Clothesline from Lesnar and you had the recipe for the perfect disaster. Brock legitimately knocked Braun down the hard way, slugging him and kneeing him until he got his point across. This was a harsh lesson but also showed a clear disrespect for Braun that has never gone away.
When his time with the Family came to an end, Braun was re-branded with a new haircut and as a solo act. He was the same unstoppable force but now he had no masters and no real competition as he buried jobbers for weeks. We have Braun to thank for the hiring of James Ellsworth (since he managed to win the crowd by being destroyed.) He was never portrayed as a good guy, but he endeared himself to the crowd with his continuous need for a fight. He eventually got into some proper feuds and succeeded there too. It wouldn’t be until Roman Reigns feuded with him that he would suffer his first singles loss. During this feud audiences would start to get a taste for his destructive habits. Roman took a perilous ride on a stretcher, was in an ambulance that was tipped by Strowman and Braun even survived an ambulance crash without medical assistance.
These death defying stunts and maddening feats of strength would continue as time went on. He would bury Brock Lesnar under scaffolding with a grappling hook, tipped WWE production trucks and most recently even tipped Vince McMahon’s limo. He even survived being crushed by a garbage truck at the hands of the Miz. The man was unstoppable and unkillable. He had also been shown as the best of the big men as Big Show had put him over, Baron Corbin still fears him and he is still considered a threat by almost everyone.
The First (and still a) Problem
Braun’s first big problem came from Brock Lesnar. Brock was scheduled to fight Braun for the Universal Title and from the build-up; it looked like Braun was going to be a threat. The scaffolding incident happened and during the match, Braun seemed to have the upper hand. Lesnar was treated like a toy by Strowman but all it took was on F-5 to put Braun away. This crippled Braun as it made him seem weak. Braun at that point was still a man very few people could put away; even those who did had to resort to extreme measures. To see him slain by one finisher killed some of the mystique. One loss was fine, everyone loses in WWE eventually. Brock was still the beast so it made sense for him to win but people wanted it to be convincing. Luckily Braun had the fan support to come back.
Unfortunately, this would become a theme as Brock seems unwilling to ever put Braun over. Any other title match between the two would see Braun lose. The most embarrassing came when Braun won the Money in the Bank briefcase and got attacked with it during a Brock vs Reigns match that saw him go from observer to easily dispatched non-entity. The other came when it was Brock vs Braun at the much maligned Crown Jewel PPV. What looked to be the fan favourite stepping up after a dull period was instead turned into another overbooked mugging where Brock, who was supposed to be leaving for UFC, reclaimed the belt with some interference from Baron Corbin and the belt. Braun was humiliated once again and his credibility was shot. Brock has cost him the title multiple times and made him look like a fool, all because he just doesn’t seem to like him.
Dogs of War
What is one way to kill a superstar’s momentum? Unnecessarily turn them heel. This is what happened to Braun Strowman when Roman Reigns became champion. Braun was used as a facilitator for a Shield reunion and a faction war. The problem was he never had a chance from the start. He created the Dogs of War with the newly heel team of Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre that saw him go from tweener monster to full on villain. It was fun enough to watch but it then got dragged into Corbin’s GM story line and they went from top heel faction to henchmen. There was an awful no finish Hell in a Cell match that saw Brock once again stick his nose in where it wasn’t wanted and the faction lost all steam. It also gave audiences another reason to give up on Braun, he was now a heel who’s own faction turned on him. His team ate losses continuously so the Dogs of War were more whimpering puppies. It was always a boneheaded move to turn Braun full heel, especially for a move as cynical as a Shield reunion. Braun and Roman could have had a fun feud without the Shield interference. It did give fans more Shield but at a cost to WWE’s natural grown monster. Fans couldn’t boo Braun until his shtick got boring.
A Disturbing Lack of Faith
Possibly the most glaring problem with Braun is that WWE seem to have no faith in him anymore. He was being pushed to the moon and even seemed a shoe in to be the new top guy for WWE. Now he seems relegated to dealing with Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin, a feud that could be fun but still not top title material. It was recently revealed that he was taken out of the Royal Rumble title match as he can’t lose another big match. Once again Brock wouldn’t put him over nor would they give him the belt. The other thing hindering him in WWE’s mind is his recent dip in in ring work. Braun had to pull out of action for a bit due to bone spurs in his elbow. It required surgery and WWE found a way to write him out. The problem is he came back and seemed to be a bit slower. Instead of the explosive athleticism he was sluggish and tired. This may have been minor ring rust as he got back into shape this week teaming with Kurt Angle. If he can keep this up WWE may find faith and he can get back to the top. His promos have been slipping too so he may need to reacquire the confidence he had in himself before his surgery. He’s not in the best of places right now but out of all the problems he’s faced this seems like the most fixable.
Braun Strowman is not a lost cause. The stench of Crown Jewel and his hideous heel turn is slowly fading away and his in-ring quality is getting back to where it should be. WWE seem to have a plan for him that may seem familiar and uninspired but it should bring his momentum back. Braun has to put in the work but the audience already seem receptive to him. He is still universally cheered when he appears and working alongside Kurt Angle has had a positive effect on his reception. He seems to be back to his semi face role and committed to ruining Corbin’s fun. This story line has him working to get back to where he once was and that’s exactly what he needs. Braun once thrived on competition and plateaued once WWE stopped upping the ante. Drew is going to be a difficult opponent for Brock and the imposing threat of Corbin shenanigans keeps things interesting. After that it’s anyone’s guess. WWE cannot let Braun get lost in the fold. He is too valuable to the company. He is a popular monster, with popular merch and plenty of potential if WWE just take the chance on him.
So there we have it, a brief re-telling of the story of Braun Strowman from past to present and how someone can rise, fall then hopefully rise again. Wrestling is unique in that you can have a lull then come back stronger. No one is immune from a bad booking or periods of time where they’re stuck doing nothing. Braun may appear out of the title scene and out of most main event scenes for now but anything is possible. He is a superstar who can be brought into anything at a moment’s notice as that’s just his character. He was once a monster, who did what he wanted because he could, now he should be the monster who never wants to be beaten again. Braun will never suffer like Zack Ryder or Curt Hawkins or any other forgotten star but he has suffered a momentum loss and needs to make sure it never happens again.
(All images courtesy of wwe.com)