Let me be the first to admit I was wrong.
I jumped through the television each week to criticize WWE on how they booked Braun Strowman, thinking the company was wasting air time when the mighty Neanderthal would walk the aisle to obliterate whoever was in the ring. Now, I see the error of my ways.
In the past, WWE has taken big men and placed them in title contention long before they were ready. Ryback was a major failure. Big E was not the right fit for the Intercontinental Title. Mark Henry will always be doomed by his “Sexual Chocolate” phase. Some could make the argument Junkyard Dog and Hacksaw Jim Duggan were major missteps once they came to the WWF and the McMahon family circus.
For lack of a better reference than Goldilocks, how the company has taken the time with Strowman is just right.
Professional wrestling needs its share of behemoths – characters from parts unknown – who had managers or handlers by their side. Everything about Strowman screams “unstoppable” while he has been coddled from infancy to now, where a win over Roman Reigns catapults him into the fringe of the main event picture. At the right time, after WrestleMania 33, he could become the focus of a feud with Goldberg. He could also find himself cast in a program with Brock Lesnar.
For years, I have been vehemently against the McMahon notion of “bigger is better” in professional wrestling. Now, after surveying the landscape, the bigger they are, the better things become for this promotion.
Strowman is every bit worthy of a title shot, a run with the Universal Title and a chance for some of us old codgers to relive wrestling’s old school style: Haystacks Calhoun, Big John Studd, Gorilla Monsoon and Andre the Giant.
While Henry and Big Show are still on WWE’s main roster, they aren’t the imposing figures they once were. The same goes for Kane and Undertaker. Strowman is now as close to a sure thing as this business has. How he is booked over the next 10 months will define his success. It starts with Roman Reigns and may end with someone like Samoa Joe, should the company decide a babyface run is in his future.
While Strowman is the future of this business, he is learning on the fly. Unlike his “ring leader” Bray Wyatt, I seriously doubt it will take five years to put a title around his waist. Unlike Wyatt, however, the lack of charisma limits what the company can do with him.
I grew up watching King Kong Bundy in Florida and Georgia use his massive size to take down opponents. There wasn’t much more to him other than clubbing arms and a big body. In some ways, Strowman reminds me of Bundy, but with more agility. You could make the argument for Studd and others as well. In time, Strowman will carve his own path of destruction, maybe as bold as Henry in his “Hall of Pain” phase. WWE needs a character they can hate without guilt. There is no separation anymore of babyfaces and heels. Strowman resets the bar.
If he succeeds in achieving greatness, he will have set the bar high enough that it may not be matched, let alone raised, for some time to come.