WWE has had itself a monster problem for some time now. Kane, who debuted as that character back in 1997, was in the main event scene as recently as 2015 when they needed a monster to feud with Seth Rollins. In the 2014 Royal Rumble match, Kane, along with the seven-foot, then over 400-pound Big Show, were supposed to be the final obstacle for Roman Reigns en route to his first victory in the match that sets up the WrestleMania main event. Show debuted in the WWE in 1999, but was a fixture in WCW four years prior.
That’s two dudes 20 years after their characters’ careers began, still expected to be believable as these unstoppable forces for the faces of WWE, even though you didn’t need to have been watching for decades to have personally seen them already go through the cycle of being built up as a monster only to be broken down by our heroes. It’s hard to feel like Roman Reigns (or Seth Rollins, or Daniel Bryan before he retired, or literally anyone) was in any real danger from Kane or Big Show when we had seen their specific songs and dances so many times before.
Which is not to say that monster characters are pointless or unnecessary or that there is something wrong with Kane or Show — none of that is true, especially when you talk about the talent of those two performers. They’ve had 20-plus-year careers for a reason, but WWE was never able to fully pull them out of the main event scene because they just didn’t have anyone else to fill this particular need.
A monster is necessary in wrestling, as we are dealing with larger than life characters. Sometimes, they literally need to be larger than life, especially when your good guys, who it needs to be believed have odds to overcome and challenges to face, are sometimes like 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds of muscle and enthusiasm. So, when that specific challenge needed to be thrown the way of Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and so on, it was Kane and Big Show heeding the call, because man, look at them.
That’s changing, though, and on both RAW and SmackDown. Braun Strowman is 6-foot-8 and nearly 400 pounds of pissed off each and every Monday, while Baron Corbin goes more for the brooding approach on Tuesdays. Corbin is also enormous, at 6-foot-8 and 275 pounds: while neither of these WWE superstars are the size of Show or Kane, they’re going to be able to replace them effectively all the same.
We can already see it happening, as Strowman has recently been pushed into the main event feuds happening on RAW, while Corbin just got a main against John Cena on SmackDown. There are rumors — skip the rest of this paragraph if you want to live a rumor-free existence — of Strowman getting a match at WrestleMania against the likes of the Roman Reigns or the Undertaker, while the whispers around Corbin are that his push is coming sooner than later.
Meanwhile, Show is preparing for what should be a fun and hopefully memorable match against former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal at WrestleMania 33, while Kane is probably going to end up as the big dude in this year’s edition of the Andre Memorial Battle Royal — a match Corbin has already won, and did so in his debut.
That’s not to diminish what either will do at Mania, but putting Show in this kind of match, a true spectacle, is perfect for him now as it has been in the past when he had sumo and boxing matches at Mania. Having Kane as the frightening seven-footer who can throw dudes out of the ring in a high-profile battle royal is also perfect, and honestly, he might even be the guy who should win this year given what he’s accomplished in the rest of his WWE career.
Having them in this space and moving Strowman and Corbin into the slots that Show and Kane used to fill when WWE had no other monster to place there is what makes this all work.
What’s helping is that Strowman and Corbin are both believable in their roles. Strowman, outside of his size, is more agile than someone of his size should be and looks terrifying when he’s just standing there, never mind when he’s in motion. He beat Sami Zayn to the point that Mick Foley tried to hide the poor guy from Strowman for weeks. He’s interrupting main event matches to impose his will, and no one seems to know how to stop him. He’s crushed jobbers, plural, at the same time, thrown Seth Rollins all over the ring and outside of it, and was only defeated at Survivor Series because a well-meaning but in-for-a-beating mascot named James Ellsworth hid under the ring and held Strowman’s leg for a count-out loss.
Corbin might not approach 400 pounds or be a former strongman, but he moves like a much smaller wrestler while also being the kind of guy strong enough to, without hesitation, lift up someone the size of Jack Swagger into his finisher and then slam him right into the mat. That’s terrifying for opponents, who have to contend with someone who can catch them when they run and then make them pay for not being faster than he is.
Ask Kalisto about that, once he regains consciousness from his matches against Corbin, or Dolph Ziggler, who got so frustrated losing to guys like Corbin he decided to turn heel.
He’s a former boxer who won Golden Gloves three times. He’s a former grappling champion. He was in the NFL and shows off his rings from (successfully) playing college football, where he was an All-American offensive lineman. He can wrestle you, he can throw you around, and he can just straight-up punch you in the face if he has to. It’s no wonder that he debuted in WWE at WrestleMania, won the Andre Battle Royal, and less than a year later is taking on 15-time champion John Cena as Cena’s main event warmup for his Royal Rumble championship bout.
Strowman and Corbin came into WWE with credentials and size that made it easy to believe they’d be effective monsters. They’ve taken that head start and never stopped running, as it turns out both are talented at their style of wrestling, too, and are only going to move up on the card. Longtime vets like Big Show and Kane don’t need to retire, but after all this time, moving back down the card as they have makes sense. And, for the first time in years, WWE finally has qualified wrestlers to replace them with higher up.