Just two months ago, Braun Strowman’s current standing seemed unfathomable. Historically, WrestleMania had not been particularly kind to Strowman, often relegating him to a more prelim position regardless of his importance in the months prior. Strowman had been established as a major player but at the most crucial time of WWE’s year, he found himself providing comic relief rather than main event moments. Before this year’s Road to WrestleMania was derailed, that trend appeared likely to continue but in reality, the almost complete opposite would take place.
Replacing Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman left ‘the grandest stage of them all’ as Universal Champion, defeating Goldberg in an admittedly anti-climactic affair. Either way, the feat still provided some perspective to Strowman’s already unique career. Not long ago, a title win at WrestleMania seemed like an inevitable moment in Strowman’s future, a natural endgame as he rapidly ascended the ranks. In truth though, a Strowman coronation seemed less likely this year than it had in quite some time. After years of high hopes, that ship had seemingly sailed.
Circumstances quickly altered that belief though, as just one day after having his match with Goldberg officially announced, Strowman was champion. Clearly, this was not ideal for anyone but in Strowman’s case, it presents yet another potentially pivotal period of time. The truth is that while the eventual result appears identical, this title win simply couldn’t be the crowning achievement that Strowman once seemed destined for. Instead, it was the best of a bad situation, a necessary adjustment that if nothing else, provided a clean slate.
For Strowman, that could be the only ingredient necessary, a chance to rewrite the book on his perceived ceiling. It’s easy to remember Strowman’s prior heights, his memorable time as one of WWE’s fastest rising stars. However, there was a hesitation in taking that next step, a sense that as champion, Strowman would be more of a conundrum than a benefit. After all, Strowman was popular with or without a title around his waist. Perhaps he was best suited as an attraction, avoiding the adjustments a title reign would possibly require.
The issue was that Strowman remained in constant pursuit of that very accomplishment anyway, falling short in multiple title tilts. At some point, those shortcomings become damning, steadily capping Strowman at a certain level. Naturally, that left Strowman damaged as an attraction too, suddenly finding himself in a bizarre middle ground. For the most part, Strowman wasn’t a separate entity with his own main event dealings but instead, simply a supporting babyface in the same rotation as everyone else. If anything, he’d become yet another cautionary tale, the latest case of what could’ve been.
Unexpectedly, Strowman now has a chance to change that, an opportunity to prove that he can be a champion, that he can be a centerpiece. Unfortunately, he may not have much say in the matter. This Sunday at Money in the Bank, Strowman clashes with former Universal Champion Bray Wyatt. Strowman and Wyatt have history together and while this is a natural direction, its immediacy seems alarming for Strowman’s fledgling title reign. The truth is that this could be a short-lived consequence of circumstance, not the defining shift Strowman requires.
There is logic to that aforementioned view of Strowman though. The popular notion that he’s simply not a leading candidate for championship belts, instead filling a different role entirely. Long-term, that may prove to be the case regardless but right now, it certainly seems like Strowman needs more than that ongoing consolation. If Strowman indeed serves as nothing but a transition back to Wyatt, it’s hard to see where he fits in moving forward. Obviously, there’s a spot for Strowman but as a main event star, his value feels very much in jeopardy.
Strowman may not be a traditional babyface champion. He’s not a seamless fit fighting uphill, nor is he as naturally compelling when battling the odds. Strowman is a monster and in pursuit, that’s one thing but when standing upon the mountain top, other elements are required. In fairness, Strowman hasn’t had a chance to fail in that regard and for his sake, some sacrifices may need to be made this Sunday and beyond. Currently, Strowman finds himself about as perilous as a major champion could and for his staying power alone, that simply has to be corrected.
No one is expecting a historic title reign here but one of some merit would go a long way to rebuilding Strowman. It’s impossible to recapture the dynamic that catapulted Strowman forward years ago. That was a rise driven by Strowman’s raw, wild presence. He didn’t have a track record or resume; he was fresh and unpredictable. It was a perfect mix of erratic elements. Those days are gone but Strowman remains popular, he’s just still waiting for that indescribable verification as a headline act. In that sense, it once again feels like now or never.
Wyatt enters this match a high priority himself but in my view, a title change at Money in the Bank would be short-sighted. It’s established impact on Wyatt is one concern but for Strowman, there’d be no greater indictment. If he’d already spent a year residing in his own aimless middle ground, a title loss here would firmly cement Strowman in that very spot. Unfortunately, the decision to play this card immediately may back WWE into a corner that forces their hand before long anyway. If so, it’d be hard to view this as anything other than yet another missed opportunity.
We all know that the Universal Title isn’t supposed to be around Strowman’s waist right now but with a cloud of uncertainty still lingering, it feels unnecessary to squander this fleeting chance. It’s hard to judge Strowman as champion thus far and unquestionably, major question marks still surround his credentials. If this begun as an attempt to save an unforeseen scenario though, it feels as though steps should be taken to maximize it too. It seems apparent that these upcoming months can redefine Strowman’s stature and though the route here may not have been textbook, the ideal destination remains the same.
Braun Strowman could very well fail as Universal Champion but personally, I’d like to see him get the chance to. If not, Strowman remains a case of “what if?” and frankly, a quite frustrating one at that.