Do you remember where you were the day Braun Strowman won the “Greatest” Royal Rumble? For those who haven’t seen it, he didn’t jump in a time machine and gun it to 1992, eliminating an ecstatic Ric Flair celebrating his first WWE Title to claim it as his own. Nah. He won the big mad thing last week in Saudi Arabia in a match that’s main purpose seemed to be for Titus O’Neil to show us how to properly take a front bump then slide underneath the ring all in one amazing motion. Braun won the big mess of a thing though and that is of some significance. For a start he now has that green belt, which he can sit on top of his gigantic trophy in his house. He’s the only person in the world who can legitimately claim to have beaten another 49 guys in a fight (not that anyone would doubt him if he said that and it wasn’t true because he’s a fuckin hoose wae a beard) and well….he can always tell folk “see that time fell face first and skited through the ring apron? I won that match”
The greatest Royal Rumble it most certainly was not but it had the smartest outcome. Daniel Bryan making it all the way to the end to be dumped out by fuckin Big Cass to build a Backlash match that still makes no sense was slightly less smart, but it at least gave Braun a final two opponent who matches him for height if not, for the lack of a better term, girth. A guy who upon entering second last was fresh enough to at least put up a wee fight. The main reason it wouldn’t have been smart to make Braun and Daniel Bryan the final two is much simpler. Braun Strowman is THE guy. Daniel Bryan was THE (last) guy and a guy who could definitely be THE guy on Smackdown so having one massive good guy get the better of the other does nothing for anyone.
In wrestling no matter how much management want this guy to be the next guy and throw their whole weight behind that being the case, its ALWAYS up to the fans. Fans will vote with their feet no matter what you chuck at them. Its harder to manipulate situations to “force” people into liking a certain wrestler because no fans have seen it all before and strangely, during his amazing run to the world title 4 years before, a precedent for changing the course of things was set with Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan was chosen by the fanbase rather than his employers. They wanted it so bad that they made it so, and in turn created a memorable Wrestlemania when Daniel Bryan defeated every active member of Evolution in one night to take the titles he so richly deserved. It undoubtedly wouldn’t have happened unless fans pulled for it so hard it pretty much made them change plans. Fast forward a few years and fans are demanding its anyone BUT Roman Reigns. The disdain for Reigns is almost palpable but until now they didn’t have someone to throw their whole weight behind. Without a cause your protests are just aimless and as much as this might upset some fans “Reigns is shite!” is not a cause. For a start, its not even fucking true.
Reigns doesn’t have to be shite at this stage. Truth be told he doesn’t have to do anything. No matter what they do with him fans will find some kind of reason to protest. Some kind of reason to revolt. Some kind of reason to boo the good guy. As much as the booing is an act of protest when it comes to Reigns, ultimately its noise. Its not only noise, but its usually A LOT of fucking noise and if you keep handing that to the biggest wrestling company they are going to turn it into something. They will turn that noise into money somehow. they just need something. Anything. The perfect thing to push it over the edge. Enter Braun Strowman.
The example is already there. They feuded for an extended period and every single match was money. Every single match showed a different level of the physicality these two brutes could be capable of. More importantly than that? It showed both men are fallible. They both showed kinks in their armour that allowed the other to come out on top. Its all there for them but in wrestling, for it to be as good as it can possibly be, it has to be hero vs villain. It just has to. Its the dynamic that makes people care. People who know this whole thing is staged need to be able to suspend their disbelief and get lost in it and over the course of their matches, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman certainly done that. They just need the right dynamic. They just need, big bad Reigns.
WWE make a lot of money off Roman Reigns merch. Without a ready made replacement for that money, there’s no way they turn him heel. The best way to replace that money? Turn your “monster” into the type of monster who makes 10 year olds dreams come true. Make him a monster who drags a massive cello out on RAW to mock Elias before cracking it over his napper knocking the shite clean out him. Make him destructive but make that destruction FUN and at the very same time, have Roman Reigns go through a career breakdown. Decimated at Wrestlemania. Lost the rematch at the Greatest Royal Rumble thanks to some rotten luck. Reprimanded by management for speaking his mind. He’s ragged. He’s raw. For the first time in his WWE his back is really against the wall. Its now been almost two years since Roman last held the WWE Title and as long as Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman are in the picture he might never hold it again. Unless he becomes something else.
Its not a certainty they will turn him but they certainly have everything in place to do so and having someone the fans truly viscerally hate will be perfection for Braun. Particularly if its a guy he knows he works well with. You assume Brock will hold the title until CM Punks record is broken but after that it most likely goes to Braun while Roman Reigns spends months hearing about how much of a failure he is via the mouth of Samoa Joe. A man who done more to build Brock vs Reigns at the GRR than anyone else. Another natural foe for Reigns and someone who can continue to push him towards the dark side.
They’ve tried to for so long now and one thing is abundantly clear. A large percentage of the crowd just won’t cheer for Roman Reigns. Even if a lot of it is out of habit now a bit like Cena, they just won’t change. The fans DO want to cheer Braun Strowman and he has all the tools to be absolutely huge as a good guy. As much as his look and demeanour might scream villain, he has this unquestionable likeability that seems to be connecting with people more and more. Doing things like having him grab a 10 year old the crowd to win the tag titles with him only adds to that. Anyone who had some kind of issue with that, how much issue would you have had if he beat Sheamus and Cesaro in a handicap match? Probably not much. Why does having a 10 year old do nothing change that? He made a wrestlemania moment people will remember long in the future. A moment people will remember a lot more than some of the matches that took place. It helped add to the connection between him and the audience and that means he’s going to be a massive goodie.
Will Reigns be the baddie Braun needs to go from the biggest thing now to one of the biggest maybe ever, both literally and figuratively? You have to hope so. There’s only so many good matches and feuds this guy can have and still be booed before he eventually loses it and starts superman punching his way through the crowd. Although I bet he he would get a massive reaction in his first RAW back after he gets oot the jail.