Massive monsters are nothing new in the world of the WWE. But typically, they're designed to draw fear from the audience, to serve as the larger-than-life, ultra-violent beasts who menace the fans' favorites. But now, a new monster has emerged in the WWE universe and it's one who is quickly becoming beloved for his brutality: Braun Strowman.
Strowman made his WWE main-roster debut in August 2015, introduced as the newest member of the Wyatt Family. His large build and bushy beard made him a perfect addition to the occult swamp clan, led by Bray Wyatt. At first, he was just one of a group, seen most frequently in six-man tag matches. But the Raw/Smackdown Live brand split last summer presented Strowman with new opportunities; his Wyatt compatriots were all sent to the Blue Brand, while Strowman remained on Raw, his character becoming reimagined with this roster change.
At first, Strowman was used to dismantle unknown "local talent" in squash matches. While this could have put him in one-note territory, this situation actually worked to his storyline's advantage. Strowman spent his time complaining that he was not being given true competition, and used that rage to wreak havoc all along the roster. Sami Zayn, in particular, took umbrage to this path of destruction and positioned himself to be the one to give Strowman the run for his money he'd been seeking. Though this had its own fits and starts, including a storyline which saw then-Raw general manager Mick Foley trying to keep the two apart (for Zayn's own good, Foley would regularly rant), the two men finally collided, with Strowman predictably victorious.
But this doesn't fully encapsulate the genius that has been Strowman's story arc since the Wyatt split. What makes Strowman's greater involvement every week so compelling has been his ability to feud with multiple people simultaneously while also increasing the violence to a degree where fans cannot help but be excited to see what may come next.
To the former, one only has to look at his ongoing battle with Roman Reigns, which dates back to his Wyatt Family debut in which he assisted in an attack on Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Strowman would frequently take time away from his warpath with Zayn to randomly attack Reigns (and, often, whomever Reigns happened to be partnered with). And after Zayn had been dispatched, Reigns remained squarely in Strowman's sights, from interfering in Reigns' title match against then-WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens at the 2017 Royal Rumble to attacking Reigns while Reigns was preparing to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33. Reigns and Strowman first met at the Fastlane event in early March and led to Strowman's first singles loss.
That wasn't it for the two, though; this has now led to Strowman and Reigns facing one another yet again at the Raw-branded WWE Network event, Payback, on April 30. However, the highlight of the rivalry may have come on the April 10 episode of Raw, where Strowman conducted a thorough, backstage beatdown of Reigns that led to Strowman (a former professional strongman -- hence the name) flipping over an ambulance that presumably contained a stretchered Reigns.
But that's not the only concurrent feud Strowman has managed to navigate. There is also the matter of Brock Lesnar to consider. Lesnar, a part-time wrestler who nonetheless currently holds the WWE's Universal Championship, has history with Strowman dating back to the 2016 Royal Rumble. Lesnar eliminated Strowman, but Strowman returned, assisting the rest of the Wyatt Family with their successful elimination of Lesnar. And once Lesnar had won the Universal title (by finally defeating Bill Goldberg at WrestleMania 33), his Monday Night Raw celebration was cut short by Strowman, who made it clear that he would be using his ongoing dismantling of Reigns as a way to get a shot at Lesnar's belt.
That aforementioned ongoing dismantling is a major reason why Strowman has been getting a warmer and warmer reception from fans. Reigns, whom fans have been actively rejecting for years thanks to the main-event push that no one yet believes he deserves, is suddenly a perfect foil for Strowman's over-the-top violent persona. And another reason is simply Strowman's over-the-top violent persona being believable. At 6'8" and 385 pounds, Strowman cannot be ignored. Watching him being physically capable of lifting an entire ambulance manages to say a lot without using any words.
And even when Reigns is not in the picture -- as he wasn't on last week's episode of Raw (we have to buy that he's injured, after all) -- Strowman managed to one-up himself, thanks to an assist from the Big Show. The two massive men closed the show via Strowman superplexing the Big Show (a.k.a. a suplex attempted from the top rope), collapsing the ring and producing one of the most exciting moments in recent WWE history. Even the sports segments of local TV news broadcasts repeatedly featured the stunt.
Strowman is WWE's unlikely hero, at least for the first half of the year, but it's clearly a testament to his hard work and his ability to juggle so many storytelling responsibilities that he has progressed as far as he has. It must be assumed that his feud with Reigns will either come to an end or take a long pause after Payback, because it appears that Lesnar is looming in the not-too-distant future, a match whose storyline could lead to SummerSlam and a title change. And because of Strowman's proven ability to use his strength in a believable way, this doesn't just seem like a title fight between two big men but something that has the potential to be one of the most memorable matches for the WWE in 2017.
But most importantly, the WWE has needed to find and promote a new big man. Lesnar, as noted, is a part-timer. Goldberg was the same -- and is probably done with his wrestling career on a permanent basis now that he had his big WrestleMania loss. The Big Show is heading towards his own retirement. Mark Henry comes and goes as he pleases. Strowman is the WWE's new home-grown beast, one they so desperately needed. After all, without The Monster Among Men, the WWE simply has a collection of men and no one to handle the age-old duty of providing the menace.