When I was a kid I used to play with action figures. Most of us did up until a certain age. For me, that certain age coincided with them getting too expensive and too high-quality. That was a draw for a lot of people and I’m sure the business is doing quite well today, but the newer higher-maintenance figures didn’t go well together with my older action figures. For me, the appeal was having the figures wrestle each other. Once the action figures got six inches taller and didn’t fit in the ring I had for the matches, there wasn’t much of a point to it. Eventually you run out of things to do with the figures and find other things to do.
For some of my friends, it was dating. For me, it was video games.
The great thing about action figures when you’re a kid booking your own matches is that they can do anything you want, no matter how ridiculous. Actual people make mistakes in the ring and have injuries. You can beat the crap out of your action figures and it doesn’t matter unless you manage to break their arm or leg off. Or break their head off, as I had a tendency of doing with my promotion’s emphasis on head drops. Super glue got them back on usually, at least long enough for a few weeks of use.
I believe this is why, as much as we like classic wrestling matches and workrate, we also like watching big dudes beat the crap out of people. This helps explain the growing popularity of the Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman.
Braun wasn’t a highly-pimped independent wrestler with years of experience. He used to compete in strongman competitions. He competed at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio, where he was discovered by Triple H. He went to the Performance Center in 2013, never appearing on NXT television, just some house shows. He debuted as part of the Wyatt Family in late 2015 and had some good moments like eliminating a bunch of people in the 2016 Royal Rumble, but he didn’t break out until Wyatt went to SmackDown in the WWE Draft. Then Braun started an undefeated streak that started getting the attention of fans based on his power & viciousness.
Braun Strowman is not a top-level grappler. He’s not a scientifically skilled veteran of the ring. He doesn’t do flips or really cool moves. The list of four-star matches he’s been involved in is non-existent. He doesn’t display the attributes that a lot of the type of people that would read a column like this are looking for. Yet the Internet has adopted Braun as one of their favorite new wrestlers.
Because of stuff like the beatdown he gave Roman Reigns on Monday night.
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Braun Strowman at his best is an insatiable monster. He is not satisfied until the object of his destruction is completely and utterly destroyed. In this day and age, it’s rare to see a wrestler so focused on such things and so successful at them. You don’t typically see the degree of violence that you saw last night, violence so escalated that frankly it was comical. Pushing a stretcher down a staircase? Tipping an ambulance over? It’s ridiculous.
But we love it.
Braun’s weakness is that sometimes he’ll get up in somebody’s face but walk away like a wuss. It’s an attempt to keep people booing him, but it’s not believable. Nobody that looks, walks & talks like Braun Strowman should be running away from anybody. Not even Undertaker or Brock Lesnar. Moments like that take away from the character. I know WWE likes shades of grey and thinks that their characters need to be more complex and less predictable, but a guy like Braun Strowman can be as predictable as he wants and it shouldn’t matter. Braun see. Braun smash. It’s simple. It works.
And if you don’t want him beating up Lesnar or Undertaker, don’t put him in the ring with them. Simple enough, right?
Part of the success, of course, is that Braun is targeting Roman Reigns. Whether Reigns deserves the backlash he’s getting from this corner of the fanbase or not is irrelevant at this point. That’s a hill for other people to die on, not me. The fact of the matter is that Reigns is getting that backlash, and the best way for WWE to capitalize off of that backlash is to have somebody get the better of him in this fashion. It galvanizes that portion of the fanbase and gets them excited about the possibility of somebody finally ridding WWE of Roman Reigns. Roman’s fans will get worried, as there’s somebody bigger than the Big Dog and looking to take control of the yard.
Everybody will be interested in the next Reigns vs. Strowman match to see what happens.
That’s pro wrestling at its best.
Where does Braun go after his feud with Roman ends? Odds are good that Reigns will have to overcome the odds and win at the end of the day because that’s what he always does. Will Braun just be a monster of the month? Or can he be more?
I have the feeling that Braun can be more. There have been plenty of monsters in WWE over the past ten years. Great Khali. Brodus Clay. Lord Tensai. Vladimir Kozlov. They were all imposing monsters that ultimately fell short. Big Show & Kane have had spurts of usefulness over the years but they’ve also had periods of inactivity and uselessness. Kane’s best moments were similar to what Braun did on Monday night. When Kane was allowed to go completely over the top & just be completely insane, he was at his most interesting.
Braun needs to keep doing that. And I’ll emphasize one more time…no running away like a wimp. 50/50 booking is not the way to go with somebody like Braun Strowman. He has the potential to be the big bad monster of the 2020s. The man that can stand above everybody else and let Kane & Big Show have the retirement they certainly deserve. He should destroy people in entertaining ways, and if people get the better of him it should be in equally entertaining ways. Nothing less than the 102nd Airborne should be able to take him down.
Basically, Braun Strowman needs to be booked like this guy:
If they can do that, the money will roll in. If they can’t, he’ll be just another big dude that gets annual title shots and is threatening except when he isn’t. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hoping we’ll have another big monster that the Internet will eventually turn on when he’s not feuding against Roman Reigns.