There’s a strange joy in watching Braun Strowman work. It’s something Paste has been writing about for a while, most recently during the bit of “cartoonish supervillainy” on RAW (I knew we missed at least one Simpsons reference, damnit) that saw Strowman use his monstrous kayfabe strength to flip over an entire goddamn ambulance containing Roman Reigns. It was a feat so outlandish that you couldn’t possibly have predicted it—it just seems entirely too ridiculous an action for the “reality era” WWE to engage in. It’s like something a monster heel would have done in the ‘90s, or today … you know, in Chikara. But not in the WWE.
But that’s the joy of Braun. He’s an old-school monster who combines freakish, authentic athleticism with the look of a massive, hydrocephalic baby sporting two feet of unkempt facial hair and a severely overtaxed but suspiciously low-cut tank top. His entrance music begins with him inhumanly roaring his own name. Everything about Braun Strowman is so innately absurd that it seems like his mere presence generates refreshingly off-the-wall booking and writing.
Case in point, this past Monday’s “dumpster match,” a concept that as far as I know had only occurred one previous time in WWE history, which saw Braun squaring off against “lucha things” practitioner Kalisto in what appeared to be the most cut-and-dry squash in recent memory. Ultimately, Kalisto shocked just about everyone by winning the match—“technically” winning the match, we should say—by making Braun lose his footing for a moment and step into the ringside dumpster. It was something akin to the way Cody Rhodes once won the IC Title, when he caused Big Show to step on and thus “go through” a table outside the ring in a tables match, but without a big belt at stake the ending was simply a bit of harmless fun. Kalisto gets to reappear in a few weeks, presumably in the Cruiserweight Division, sporting his slick new ring gear, and tell the world that he technically got a win over Braun Strowman. And Strowman? Well, he gets to continue to entertain us with a brand of monstrous and only partially intentional physical comedy that you just don’t see in wrestling any more.
That could all be over, though, if Braun loses clean to Roman Reigns once again on Sunday, at the RAW-exclusive Payback PPV event. For as fun as the ride has been, a monster’s credibility is always hanging by a thread. The WWE has already pulled off a difficult task by restoring a modicum of Braun’s aura following being pinned by Reigns at Fastlane. To have him get pinned by the same guy a second time would mark an effective end to the idea that Braun Strowman could ever be booked as a legitimate main eventer.
And that would be a shame, considering all the storyline resources that have already gone into making Strowman look cool. Why even go through with the ring-breaking superplex to the Big Show on RAW, if you’re just going to cut Strowman’s legs out from under him two weeks later?
The fact that there have been persistent rumors and reports of a possible Strowman vs. Braun Lesnar angle in the near future adds to the probability of Braun actually managing to get a win over Reigns at Payback, and I’d like to believe this is true. But at the same time, it’s impossible to close your eyes to how often this company takes ready-made talents who have organically become popular and then goes out of their way to bring them back down to Earth. Look at Strowman immediately before Wrestlemania, when he went face-to-face with Lesnar and Undertaker, before turning tail and retreating. The crowd, in that moment, were desperate to support the likes of Braun Strowman. They wanted nothing more than to see Strowman go on the offensive, but no—that kind of role is reserved for the company’s hand-picked messiah, Roman Reigns. “Who the crowd is ready to cheer for” does not inform WWE decisions on “Who we’re telling you to cheer for.”
In the end, while Roman exists, it’s difficult to imagine Braun Strowman ever truly reaching the top of the ladder in any fashion. But the man is oddly entertaining, in a way that none of the “giants” of recent memory have managed to be, and that isn’t something that should be cast aside idly. The company will no doubt persist in their depressingly predictable plan for Roman Reigns to be the eventual guy who dethrones Brock Lesnar, but if that’s not happening until Wrestlemania next year, do we have to sacrifice the ENTIRE year in the build up to it?
Please, don’t let that be the case. Braun Strowman has a good thing going, but he needs a capstone victory over someone a hell of a lot more relevant than the Big Show. One victory over Roman Reigns on Sunday is an outcome that has the potential to at least continue making RAW interesting for the next few months. And for this company, that’s no small thing.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and reluctant hoss appreciator. You can follow him on Twitter for more film and wrestling writing.