Shit happens, and so did Braun Strowman. I was very, very wrong about Braun.
I may have first seen Braun Strowman walking about at the 2015 Arnold Classic. He'd sign some autographs, but unless you'd seen him perform at the Arnold in prior years, you probably didn't know who he was. The same could be said for his August 2015 debut on the WWE main roster, just months after his first wrestling match.
Strowman had bypassed NXT, where guys like Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and now Shinsuke Nakamura didn't. AJ Styles, who spent over 15 years wrestling in WCW, TNA, ROH and NJPW said that he wished he had spent a little time in NXT. Strowman gained a little resentment for not going through the process.
It wasn't just that. It's the perception of WWE Chairman and head honcho Vince McMahon and his affection towards the lumbering big man -- the immovable object. Strowman fit that to a T, and that was about all he fit. He wasn't good in the ring, his acting -- albeit minimal -- just wasn't there. He didn't have a lot going for him.
Some tweets I composed reflected that.
Boy, was I wrong.
I was far from the only wrestling talking head with this view. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer now infamously stated that Braun Strowman "would never be anything." He was wrong, too. A whole lot of us were.
I don't think anyone was prepared for Braun Strowman's work ethic.
Around the time of the 2016 Royal Rumble, a few of my contacts told me I'd be surprised by Strowman in the coming months, in particular his ability to go over the top rope. I didn't pay it much mind until I actually saw it, at just over a year in the ring, Strowman took one of the most magnificent bumps to the outside of the ring I'd seen. I thought that was his ceiling, being elimination fodder for Brock Lesnar in a Royal Rumble.
Strowman wasn't put in the ring much in singles competition. When he was split from the Wyatt Family, everyone saw the inevitable forced push coming. We were going to get this guy, whether we liked it or not. It's a really good thing we did.
Why was there so much skepticism? It's simple. We had a track record. Remember that affinity toward the lumbering big man I mentioned? Many of those guys had never improved, they rested on their laurels. There are countless WWE talent from the 80's who fit the Strowman mold who just wouldn't cut it these days. Had Strowman been around back then, he wouldn't have had to improve, either.
Who knows if Strowman really had to improve today. Maybe he'd be in the same position even if not. But he did. I recognized it, others recognized it. He's been around about the same time as our highly heralded Thursday co-host Matt Riddle, and he's having incredible matches with Roman Reigns ahead of WrestleMania. My heart even hurt a little when the uber-protected big man lost to a guy that WWE is dead set on making their headliner for years to come.
Strowman came into WWE with a lot of gifts, and didn't seem to take them for granted. He made the most of a push, got better, and has become one of the most fascinating stories and watches in pro wrestling.
I was really, really wrong about Braun Strowman