WWE has already perfected the Braun Strowman formula. The one for Roman Reigns needs to undergo more development in the laboratory.
If the plan is for Reigns to topple Strowman at Payback on April 30 and go on to collide with Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship, that’s a mistake. The Monster Among Men’s momentum begs for him to surge past Reigns instead.
Reigns remains the most polarizing figure on the roster.
Adoring fans stand alongside those jeering him. WWE presents him as a babyface, but he may be the most hated wrestler on the payroll.
Nothing demonstrated that better than the response to when Strowman overturned an ambulance with Reigns inside on the April 10 edition of Raw. The beast was treated like a white knight. The crowd cheered each stage of the beatdown.
WWE has stumbled in its presentation of Reigns, often trying to make him a knockoff John Cena.
His character needs tweaking. His connection with the audience needs repairing. Yet the company stubbornly presses on, trying to build Raw around him.
Strowman, meanwhile, is white-hot with no such issues. The Monster Among Men has been the undeniable bedrock of red brand for the past few weeks.
As Marc Normandin of Cageside Seats wrote: “Braun Strowman is the star of Raw, as beloved as he is feared, and no one should get in his way for some time.”
The most recent episode of WWE’s flagship show provided a wealth of proof of that.
Electricity coursed through the arena each time Strowman entered. He reveled in the state he left Reigns. He barreled through the backstage area, frightening his fellow wrestlers or else leaving them seeing stars.
He and Big Show closed out Raw with a match that left the crowd frenzied.
Everything the behemoth did became a highlight. He oozed presence. He was the most larger-than-life figure in a landscape filled with them, and that’s been a regular occurrence.
Former member of WWE Creative Kevin Eck wrote for PressBox: “Am I the only one who thinks Braun Strowman is the most compelling performer in the business today?”
Nope. Strowman has gone from rough-around-the-edges project to bona fide marquee star.
WWE has to realize that. It has to feel the rising tide of his popularity, to sense the rapid growth of his “it” factor.
The company has some tangible data to point to as well. The big man’s exploits on the latest Raw pulled in big numbers on YouTube, as Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful noted:
Sean Ross Sapp @SeanRossSapp
Yeah, Braun Strowman was a big win for Raw last night. Youtube rankings scored huge for him. https://t.co/SS6V4qsvgN https://t.co/U71ft9kzBL
4/18/2017, 8:53:02 PM
Yet it feels inevitable that Strowman will merely be Reigns’ stepping stone.
The Monster Among Men played that role earlier this year as The Big Dog prepped for his WrestleMania bout against Undertaker. Reigns knocked off Strowman at Fastlane in March before taking on The Deadman in The Show of Shows’ closing match.
Strowman, meanwhile, was relegated to pre-show status that night.
That can’t happen again as these two gladiators look to position themselves as Lesnar’s next challenger. Strowman has to win at Payback and push past Reigns.
#WWEPayback will see The #MonsterAmongMen @BraunStrowman collide with #TheBigDog @WWERomanReigns LIVE on @WWENetwork April 30 at 8e/5p! https://t.co/u7G5Sno9zi
4/19/2017, 1:40:43 AM
Crowds will be more behind Strowman in his quest to take down The Beast Incarnate than they would Reigns. Sparks are flying off The New Face of Destruction, and WWE has to turn those into roaring flames.
Timing is critical in wrestling, and this is the time to strike with Strowman. WWE must see that.
Reigns’ rise can wait. This is the monster’s moment.