It’s WrestleMania week, with the ‘Show of Shows’ set to take place on Sunday night. Every day between now and the big event, Tom Beasley takes a look at a different element of the build-up. Today, Braun Strowman is heading into yet another Mania without a major storyline…
Last year, when I wrote this series of articles in the week leading up to WrestleMania, I discussed the booking conundrum surrounding Braun Strowman. The Monster Among Men had been positioned as a conquering force in the months leading up to the big show, but was left without a clear storyline going into the New Orleans Superdome. Ultimately though, that night proved to be something of a best of both worlds situation for him. He gave the crowd an entertaining moment by winning the RAW Tag Team Championship with 10-year-old WWE Universe member Nicholas – actually the son of WWE referee John Cone – but was not stuck in the tag division for months, relinquishing the belts the next night as a result of Nicholas’s school schedule.
WWE managed to get past the Strowman booking issue last year but, this time around, the predicament is looking even worse. Strowman is not just between significant storylines at this point, he’s completely directionless and has been for months. For most of 2018, Strowman was in and out of the Universal Championship picture, but later became embroiled in a pretty miserable feud with Baron Corbin during the latter’s tenure as the authority figure on the RAW brand.
In the crucial months leading up to WrestleMania, Strowman has done very little. He has turned heel and babyface a number of times depending on the needs of WWE’s other main event feuds and was used as the final hurdle in putting over Seth Rollins at Royal Rumble. It’s fair to say that even the relatively low bar of a quasi-comedic tag team match is looking like a tough one for Strowman to vault this year.
So what is WWE actually doing with the former Wyatt Family member? Well, it’s a bit of a weird one.
Strowman is currently feuding with TV personalities Colin Jost and Michael Che. The duo are the current anchors of the Weekend Update slot on Saturday Night Live and made a WWE appearance early last month as guests of the McMahon family. It was also announced they would serve as “special correspondents” at WrestleMania, which is a role that doesn’t seem to promise very much at all. Their RAW appearance wasn’t particularly exciting, but led to Jost questioning the reality of wrestling in front of Strowman, who lifted him off the ground in a choke.
The following week, Jost sent Strowman an expensive-looking sports car as a gift by way of apology. Unimpressed by receiving a vehicle he can’t even comfortably sit in because of his bulk, Strowman destroyed the car piece by piece and promised that Jost and Che would “get these hands” when they were in the same building as him at WrestleMania. A further wrinkle was added when Strowman challenged the duo to join him in the sixth annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Alexa Bliss, who is now a babyface with authority powers for some reason, made this official.
On the one hand, this is obviously not an ideal use of Strowman. He is over as a character and is one of the most compelling attractions on the RAW roster. Were it not for WWE’s infuriating obsession with handing months-long title reigns to Brock Lesnar on a regular basis, there’s no doubt that Strowman would be a multiple time champion by now and a regular fixture of the main event picture. The fact he has instead been thrown into hastily constructed half stories at successive WrestleMania shows suggests that WWE is struggling to find his place on the roster when it comes to the crunch.
However, it’s worth noting who Strowman is going to be in the ring with. By virtue of their Saturday Night Live roles, Che and Jost are two of the biggest mainstream celebrity figures appearing at this year’s WrestleMania. The fact they are set to get in the ring and compete means that mainstream news outlets will be writing up what happens to them, and that will certainly feature Strowman. This guarantees that the Monster Among Men will be receiving major media coverage and that’s a mark of WWE’s trust in him.
It seems likely that Strowman will be winning the Andre Battle Royal on Sunday, but this begs the question of what he will do next. It’s fair to say that previous victors in that match haven’t had the best of runs – Mojo Rawley has spent the last year talking cryptically into a mirror – and, although Strowman is already a cut above them in the kayfabe pecking order, there’s no ready-made story for him. The Universal Championship picture seems likely to be made up of Lesnar, Rollins and Reigns in the months to come, leaving little room for a 385-pound behemoth with no character momentum.
The Strowman problem is a difficult one. He’s too important to do nothing, but not currently significant enough for a main event slot. Will they have it sorted out by next WrestleMania, or will I just be writing the same article for a third time?
Tomorrow: The rise of Kofi Kingston shows that wrestling sometimes does reward years of service and hard work…
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.