Admit it. When Braun Strowman came out at the end of Raw last night (Aug. 12), you didn’t know if he was a heel or a face. Even after he cleaned out The O.C., putting a stop to their assault of Universal champ Seth Rollins and his would-be rescuer Ricochet, I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t have been shocked if he’d laid Rollins out with his own belt.
Instead, he handed the title back to its owner, and will now head into a United States title match with AJ Styles. For now, anyway...
The Monster Among Men got a monster pop when he came marching down the ramp in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. That’s part of what makes him so valuable to WWE. Wrestling fans like to see big people destroying stuff. The novelty can wear off if we see the same person do it every week, but lately Braun’s been used sparingly. So the Raw audience screamed their heads off when they heard the RAWR. It certainly helped that Styles and his good brothers Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson are doing a good job making themselves hateable right now, but it’s not strictly necessary.
But the other reason Strowman is a useful tool in Vince McMahon’s toolkit is because he’s an instantly credible obstacle for someone to overcome. This trick has to be used judiciously as well, of course. We’ll likely never buy Braun as a threat to Brock Lesnar again, given how often he’s lost to the Beast Incarnate. But against The O.C., if they can put him down, then we’ll believe they’re more of a threat.
The same goes for Seth - if he can beat the Monster, he’s an even bigger hero than he was just from having vanquished Lesnar. And as many long-time wrestling fans speculated after yesterday’s Raw, and as Dave Meltzer reported/hypothesized on today’s Wrestling Observer Radio, that’s a Universal title match we’re likely to see in the not too distant future.
If that’s right, it’s likely we’ll see Strowman turn on Rollins sometime in the not so distant future. Which is where the headline comes from.
We just saw Braun flip from face to heel, then back to face, last year. In 2018 it was to establish Roman Reigns as a superman. Now they may be trying the same trick with Seth. Rapid alignment changes made Big Show a punchline in the last third of his career. Ironically, it took his matches with Strowman to remind a lot of us what a talented performer Show is.
It seems the torch has been passed, in more ways than one.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. As much as his turns became a meme, Show’s mystique was damaged by overexposure, and alternating serious stories with comedic ones. As recently as WrestleMania 35, it looked like WWE was going to make those same mistakes with Braun. But since then, he’s been used sparingly, and for a straight up combat spectacle with Bobby Lashley.
If they stick to the blueprint of the last few months, flipping from face to heel twice a year might not be an issue (they could also settle him into a neutral character - but I might be hoping for too much there). Even better, a reduced workload could lessen the wear and tear on a guy who’s already banged up from his strongman career. If it helps him avoid some of the medical nightmares Show’s experienced the last few years, it’s worth it for that reason alone.
Wrestling needs giants. WWE’s plan was always to have Strowman fill Show’s role. Here’s hoping they can learn from past mistakes, and build a better monster.