The Godzilla Effect: Explaining Braun Strowman

WWE Payback has come and gone and while much occurred, one thing is not in question: Braun Strowman is a monster. A true throwback to when villains were seemingly more than man, Braun is everything you want in a dominant heel. He's big. He's strong. He's ruthless. And somewhere along the line, he's become a hero for it.

On it's face, this should be baffling; why would people cheer the monster destroying the hero? To explain this, we need to look at another kind of monster, and also the transformation of that monster from villain into fan favorite.

Everyone knows who Godzilla is. He's a giant sea monster who breathes fire and destroys cities due to him being exposed to nuclear radiation. He's silly enough on his face that he could show up in a pro wrestling match to fight a man over his farm. But in his debut in 1954, Godzilla was not the hero; he was the villain. He was the giant monster coming to destroy Tokyo, the 'god of destruction' visiting death and carnage upon an unsuspecting populace. He had no morals, no ethics, and didn't care one bit about humanity. Some would draw connections to 1933's King Kong, but Kong is meant to be a tragic figure, one who's savage nature causes him to seek to have and protect something he wants thus causing his rampage. Godzilla has no such desires; he exists to destroy things.

But then, a funny thing happened. Audiences actually liked the giant monster who was ostensibly there to destroy them. That seems odd, but what happened was that the villain turned into a conquering hero character. The giant monster, faced with all of earth's weaponry, turned into the conquering hero who faced it all and won. The fact that Godzilla instigated the fight was irrelevant; he fought and he won and he overcame. Some would say that calling what he did 'overcoming' would be being too nice; after all he is more Goliath than David. That's okay; it's become clear that at some point, people began to want to see Goliath win occasionally. There's something cathartic and interesting about seeing a true monster just being a monster. After all, that's the point of drama in all forms: catharsis. And seeing a monster destroy things is fun.

It also fits in with a number of other attributes that can be given to fan favorites: not caring if people like him or not, not backing down from fights, having clear and coherent motivation, ect. Audiences, simply put, looked at Godzilla and went, 'that's cool' and he was a made man. It's important to note the difference between him and Kong again; with Kong, we as the audience are meant to feel bad for the monster; his death is meant to be a tragic one. And while that is successful, it also doesn't really make the audiences want to see more. Godzilla on the other hand, is simply a beast of destruction, and this is something we want to see more of.

Braun is all of these things. He's straightforward, he doesn't care if you like him, he does what he wants, and he has clear motivation. Like Godzilla, he exists to show up, smash things, and leave. He welcomes you to bring all your might against him, because that's what makes it interesting. And because of this, because of how destructive he is, we want to see more from him; we want to see Braun smash things. Whether he's tipping over ambulances or throwing dumpsters off sets or breaking people with his bare hands, we're always left wanting to see more, just as we always wanted to see Godzilla destroy more buildings.

There's another similarity between Godzilla and Braun as well; Americans are loathe to make him the hero. In Japan, Godzilla's popularity meant that they needed to make him the accidental hero; there was nothing really heroic about him, but it was easy enough to get him into the role. After all, they just needed to create new monsters, whether that was the giant three headed King Ghidorah, the chemical using Mothra, or his robot duplicate Robo-Godzilla. Once there was another monster, Godzilla just needed to show up to stomp it, to prove his dominance, to the delight of the audience. It was easy and simple.

But in the United States, there's never been a real push to make him the hero. In fact, one could argue the reason every attempt to make Godzilla popular in America has failed is because they always try to make Godzilla the villain, much in the way that WWE keeps telling us that Braun is the villain. Nevermind the fact that Godzilla is the titular character, nevermind we're here to see him destroy things and not listen to the humans talk about what to do about him, no, he's always the villain. WWE, like the movie studios, continues to try and make their own giant monster the villain, despite the fact the audience wants to see him destroy things. Braun exists as a beast that breaks lesser beings, and he is perfect in the role. WWE just has to go with it.

WWE is also no stranger to monsters. But, like american movie studios, WWE also fails to grasp what makes them work. Consider that, in WWE, there may be no better comparison between the Big Show and King Kong. Audiences don't invest in Kong because we're told to sympathize with him; time has made studios try harder to make this the case, rather than just letting Kong be Kong. Similarly, WWE has tried many, many times for audiences to invest in Big Show; he switches between misunderstood monster and agent of destruction more times than any can count. Because of this, audiences don't invest in him. There's no doubt that he's impressive, but impressive doesn't mean that he's interesting.

WWE has, perhaps somewhat accidentally, created a true monster; one that audiences love even though the story says we shouldn't. Strowman is WWE's Godzilla. He's the monster who destroys and we love him for it. But, if WWE is smart, they'll learn from the mistakes that were made with Godzilla before them; in trying to make Godzilla more likable and relateable, they in turn turned audiences off from him. If WWE are smart, they won't change anything about Strowman; they'll let him be Godzilla, let him be the destroyer, let him be the monster that he is, and let audiences love him for it.

If they do this, Strowman's showdown with Brock Lesnar could be a legitimately amazing draw. After all, Strowman is the familiar monster; he's there every week, and he's unquestionably the most dominant force on RAW. Lesnar is the occasional monster; he is the beast that appears to challenge Godzilla. WWE might say this is backwards, but the audience has clearly shown who it prefers. It has rallied around Braun in a way that it hasn't around Lesnar, and it will continue to do so as long as he's portrayed the way he is.

Braun Strowman is WWE's Godzilla. Just let him smash things and let audiences love him for it.

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