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However, in some cases WWE has proven that just because someone is on TV every week and always involved in feuds is not the reason talent ends up dipping in popularity. In the case of Braun Strowman, because he has been pushed hard and very carefully, Strowman has gone from being a bumbling curiosity to one of the most entertaining parts of RAW and looks like a long-term main event talent for the company. Strowman has benefitted from actual good booking, each week he is put in a segment where one of the top priorities is to make him look like a monster. The result is that instead of losing momentum, Strowman has gained momentum and continues to build steam as he feuds with top names.
When Strowman first came to the main roster, he was an unknown quantity. He hadn't appeared on NXT television and had only been wrestling for a few months. He made his debut in December 2014 at an NXT live event and by August 2015 he was on the main roster as part of the Wyatt Family. Strowman was super green and it showed; despite his monstrous size his offense looked weak and he looked dangerous to work with in the ring since his gimmick was throwing people around and that isn't something that you really want an inexperienced guy to do with you.
However, Strowman kept working and improving, working longer singles-matches on the house show circuits with veterans like Big Show who could help him pace matches. WWE never took their eyes of him either, he wasn't working main events but he was also getting chances to showcase his size and strength and was never booked to look weak. If Strowman lost a match it was almost always because of suspicious circumstances or a bunch of guys ganged up on him. As his ability in the ring and his confidence as a performer increased, he slowly began being worked into more substantial roles and eventually broke from the Wyatt Family and became engaged in singles feuds with men like Sami Zayn and Roman Reigns.
If you told me back in August when he debuted that Strowman would be one of the most entertaining parts of RAW I would have been very incredulous. However, due to patient booking and a consistent focus on the necessity of Strowman to look strong, he has become one of the the must-see moments on RAW.
The dark underbelly of the Strowman push, however, is that Strowman eventually has to lose and lose big. A monster like Strowman can only be built up for long before he is slayed by a conquering hero. That hero of course is going to be Roman Reigns, as he fulfills the role usually held by John Cena. Strowman's entire push is almost directly connected to Roman Reigns; he needs to be build up like a monster so it means something when he eventually loses to a babyface. For a classic example, look at John Tenta's career in WWF.
After a career as a sumo wrestler in Japan and a few years in All-Japan Pro Wrestling, Tenta debuted in the WWF as Earthquake in 1989 and spent the early months of his career squashing a bunch of mid-card babyfaces like Hercules Hernandez. Eventually, Earthquake was primed to be beaten by a top babyface, which was Hulk Hogan. Hogan defeated Earthquake at SummerSlam 1990 and eventually sent Earthquake back down to the mid-card and he was never as over as he was during those months he was squashing guys at feuding with Hogan. Without those squash matches and those segments to build him up, Earthquake would have just been some pudgy guy that Hogan beat.
Note this is a video of Earthquake's awesome debut in the WWF. Try not to laugh at Jesse Ventura's commentary.
When Strowman eventually loses to Reigns, will he be able to recover? Obviously that depends on how WWE sees Strowman: Do they see him as a long-term fixture or do they see him as someone they can use to get Reigns over? If you were to ask Vince McMahon or Triple H, they would undoubtedly say both, but the reality is that is almost never the case. If you look at the history of monsters brought in to eventually be fed to top babyfaces, whether it was Earthquake or One Man Gang or King Kong Bundy or Great Khali or Rusev, those guys never were more over than when they were being built-up and after they lost to the top names they kind of got lost in the shuffle.
So as carefully as Strowman has been built and how he has kind of bucked the odds in that he has actually gained momentum the longer he has been on WWE television; is it all just a fluke? The only guy that has been booked as carefully as Strowman over the years has been Reigns, and there is no doubt WWE wants Reigns to be the monster-slayer. If Strowman is always going to be on the same brand as Reigns, will he ever get away from Reigns' shadow?
At Payback, I actually think that Strowman is going to beat Reigns because they need to continue to build Strowman up not to face Reigns, but to face Brock Lesnar. It wouldn't make any sense for Strowman to lose at Payback if they are having him face Lesnar; although when it comes to Reigns any form of conductive logic shouldn't be taken for granted. Reigns will have an excuse if he loses because he came back from his injuries too soon, and he can resume the feud with Strowman once Strowman loses to Lesnar.
Losing to Lesnar wouldn't really hurt Strowman that much; Brock has been booked as an unstoppable monster and more importantly he won't always be on RAW; Strowman can exist as the unstoppable monster on RAW because Lesnar won't always be there casting a shadow the way Reigns would be. However, I think the next step after working with Lesnar would be working with Reigns, and of course WWE would want Reigns to "get his win back" so come this fall, after Reigns beats Strowman in some stipulation match at SummerSlam, what will happen to him? The only way to rebuild him would be to have him start almost back at ground zero and start squashing guys again, but I don't know if they will have the patience again to build him back up.
Must Watch Matches:
Jay Lethal vs Cody Rhodes: **** - ROH Supercard of Honor XI
The Young Bucks vs The Hardys: ****¼ - ROH Supercard of Honor XI
Jay White and Dragon Lee vs Will Ospreay and Volador Jr. - ROH Supercard of Honor XI
War Machine vs TenKoji: **** - NJPW Sakura Genesis