Almost six months ago, Braun Strowman was arguably the most over performer on the WWE roster. He had such a crowd response that many fans suggested that he, not Roman Reigns, should’ve worked the main event of Wrestlemania in April. Eventually, Braun tagged with Nicholas, a young fan from the audience to win the tag titles that were vacated, making the lame segment even more pointless than it was at the actual event. Quite simply, Braun, despite his popularity, was given nothing worthwhile for an angle at the biggest show of the year.
Since that time, Strowman continued his run as a popular monster on Raw, working with Kevin Owens in recent months, and the Canadian grappler made him look great in the process. Braun was able to maintain his aura as a monster while being a fan favorite, which is a credit to his ability to portray the character. Regardless of being overlooked for WM, it was great to see that he was booked for an angle that further established his character, and his money in the bank win gave fans hope of something fresh during the stale Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match-up at Summer Slam.
So, why did Braun, one of the most popular characters on WWE programming turn heel recently on Raw?
The scenario around the Lesnar/Reigns match was booked very carefully, and the show went off the air directly after the conclusion of the match to reduce the perception of another Roman rejection. As I wrote in an article previously, management invested a hefty amount of cash and TV time into Brock Lesnar to get Roman Reigns over. More specifically, for a year prior to WM, nobody kicked out of the F5 so that “big dawg” Roman could be the one to kick out of it at the biggest event on the WWE calendar. As we saw, the build up for another Wrestlemania moment for Reigns still didn’t get him over, and surprisingly, Lesnar pinned him, which I wrote was a mistake because that was the peak of the feud. The follow-up at the Saudi Arabia show and even the match at Summer Slam yielded diminished returns because the angle for the previous year was designed to peak at WM.
With the amount of money Brock was paid and the possible angles for championships on TV that were sacrificed because of his limited scheduled, there was no way that management wasn’t going to book the moment they wanted for Roman Reigns. That win was the payoff to the Lesnar investment, regardless of if that return justified Lesnar’s payoffs or not. Nobody else but Roman was going to be the one to dethrone Brock before his exit.
The sum total of that situation is also why Braun Strowman turned heel, he was in the position to take the spotlight away from Reigns, and if that happened, the entire build with the Lesnar payoff would be wasted. Vince McMahon didn’t build up Brock for Roman to slay him just for Reigns to have a short run as the Universal champion so Braun was turned heel to keep the focus on Reigns. When the narrative is framed with Strowman as the heel, it gives an excuse as to why Reigns is the top baby face in the company.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Vince McMahon owns sports entertainment in the United States and if he says fans will watch Roman Reigns then they will watch him. I also mentioned before that Vince doesn’t care if fans pay to cheer or pay to boo, as long as they buy tickets and network subscriptions. Vince wants Roman Reigns to be the top star so he will have that spot. It doesn’t matter how many times the Roman push hinders the progress of other stars or the other options that might provide better TV on a weekly basis.
Keep in mind, it’s no coincidence that The Shield was reunited right after Reigns won the championship because his time in the stable was the only time in his career that he was truly over with the audience. Obviously, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose get better crowd reactions so Roman won’t get the hostile response when he makes an entrance with them. Quite frankly, both Rollins and Ambrose deserve better than playing second fiddle to Roman to camouflage the crowd’s hostility toward him. Ambrose just returned from injury, a chance for him to get a fresh start away from the “sitcom crazy” persona that ultimately limited his character. Ambrose made a return with an edgier presentation, but the Shield attire again puts him back to square one in some ways. Seth Rollins is arguably the best in-ring performer on the WWE roster and could be used as one of the cornerstones of the Raw brand. Instead, this is the second time that the stable was reunited as a way to try to protect Roman from the crowd hostility. Should the potential of both of the other members of the Shield be sacrificed for Reigns?
Speaking of potential, what about Braun Strowman’s status?
This heel turn halted his status as one of the top baby face characters on Raw so where does he go after this MITB cash-in? Either he wins the belt to justify the heel turn or he doesn’t and won’t have much direction after that. Again, this heel turn was done so that Braun didn’t overshadow Reigns as the top baby face on Raw, which makes sense because management wants Roman at the top spot. On the flip side, is a performer really over if these type of decisions have to be made to avoid rejection from the audience. With as over as Braun was, there wasn’t necessarily any reason to turn him heel other than WWE’s corporate agenda. That being said, most of the criticism is moot because with the TV deal worth a combined $2.5 billion in 2019, the company is playing with house money in many respects for the next five years. Still, it’s somewhat disappointing that Braun’s chance to be a top star as the champion will be traded for another Reigns title run.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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