Based on the normal heel-face dynamic, Braun Strowman should not be this over. Think of some of the top faces over the years, and the guys who are still most loved today: Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Daniel Bryan, A.J. Styles… what do they have in common? The answer is overcoming the odds. When these guys were faces, they were always fighting authority figures putting every obstacle they could in their paths. Now think of other faces who have been made out to be invincible/unbeatable/above the rest: John Cena and Roman Reigns. They are both hugely popular and hugely unpopular. The hardcore fan base feels these guys have been shoved down their throats and don’t want “invincible”. They derisively refer to Cena as “Super Cena” and “Big Match John”. They boo Roman Reigns out of the building.
How about someone more similar in style to Strowman in Ryback? He was pushed to the top face spot for a short time against CM Punk. Fans grew to enjoy chanting “feed me more” and were behind him as he destroyed two and three jobbers at a time and faced the top heel in the company. Why did Ryback, who was billed as unbeatable, not suffer the same fate as Cena or Reigns with half the fans? Why doesn’t Strowman?
In looking for the answer, I was reminded of one man. The man whose name was chanted as a taunt as Ryback when his push began, and the one still chanted today at big men who dominate all of their competition: Goldberg. Goldberg broke the mold of the babyface who struggled and persevered for months or years to finally reach the top. He wasn’t “Mrs. Foley’s baby boy” who hitchhiked to Madison Square Garden. He didn’t have the boyhood dream of Shawn Michaels. He didn’t have to be threatened with firings and arrests by Eric Bischoff every week. He wasn’t a third-generation star. The announcers claimed to know nothing about him and played shocked when he dominated Hugh Morrus for his first victory on Nitro. He was billed as an unstoppable machine who tore through his competition. The only words he spoke for a long time were “who’s next”. The fans loved it. He WAS WCW. If you ask someone what they think of when they hear WCW, they’ll either say NWO or Goldberg. Sorry Sting. So why did Goldberg work that way? Why does Strowman work?
I think it’s this simple: we want to see big men destroy things. It’s why even though he’s a heel, people chant “Joe is gonna kill you” when someone steps to Samoa Joe. One problem with Roman, aside from awful mic skills possibly dooming him from the start (though much improved), is that he’s too big to be billed as a sympathetic face overcoming the odds. He’s Ryback’s size. Most men don’t want to see a guy who women find attractive, is 6’3, 285, and doesn’t have the mic skills to entertain them being pushed on them as a guy who deserves there support as he scratches and claws his way to the top.
Staying on Roman for a minute, if he had been billed like Goldberg, I think he would have been a lot better off. No promos, just squashes. I don’t know if anything could have fixed the fact that he won the Royal Rumble instead of Daniel Bryan, that killed him in a lot of people’s eyes. But he’d be in a better place that he is now if they had used the Goldberg formula for a while. It wouldn’t have lasted forever, but it would certainly have helped.
Back to the subject of this post. Strowman is a guy who everyone can get behind. We want to be him. We would all love to be merciless Giants who destroy everything in their path sometimes. Combine that with adding a simple phrase that the crowd can chant along with, “GET THESE HANDS,” and his better than average mic skills and personality, and you have a recipe for success. It doesn’t happen very often. I think of Goldberg, Strowman, and the late Bruno Sammartino as company-backed babyfaces who were pushed the top in this manner. I’m sure there’s guys I’m missing, but not many come to mind.
Why do you like Braun? Or, why do you not like him? What works and what doesn’t about his push? What would you change, if anything?