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Why the Braun Strowman angle worked so well for RAW last night

WWE’s willingness to finally commit to an extreme yielded huge success on Monday.

The most polarizing of political views have become mainstream and accepted by the vast majority of the American public. It’s not because we buy into the alt-Right or the socialism of the far left, but too often, we assume everyone who claims an “R” wears a Make America Great Again baseball cap and everyone with a “D” by their name wants to redistribute all wealth and jail everyone making six figures. That’s not the case. Television tells us otherwise, because it survives on stories and hyperbole.

For professional wrestling, hyperbole usually plays well, which is why the shade of grey mentality I’ve written about so many times here at Cageside has netted very few marketable babyfaces and not that many effective heels since the early aughts. Everyone has good and bad within them, and we recognize that, but WWE has been unwilling to pull the main trigger on its top stars, and so they all swim in the same lukewarm pond. Because of it, our likes and dislikes hinge on personal feelings, rather than script manipulation or intelligent decision-making.

Writers and bookers should be creating content designed to drive us into a certain camp, unless we rebel. It’s always been that way, and it’s why we’ve seen the rise of huge stars. This stuff was planned, long before everyone had a computer or searched for the truth, we were willing to buy in. Most of us still want to believe, so if Sami Zayn always plays the underdog, it can work if done correctly. When Daniel Bryan is genuine in front of us, we accept it and cheer for him. When Stone Cold Steve Austin gets the better of his boss for years, we love it, because we live vicariously through his actions.

Last night, though WWE may have thought it was selling us one thing, at least the commitment was present, and as a result, the segment was a major success. Braun Strowman tossed Roman Reigns around like a rag doll, rolled a gurney off a ledge, and turned over an ambulance. It should make him a villain, but this is 2017 and the victim is the most disliked man in the entire company.

Let me take you back to 2002, when Vince McMahon chose to sign Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan and attempt to recreate the original New World Order. It was the gimmick that nearly destroyed his company, until the Attitude Era caught fire around a select few megastars that come around once or twice in an entire generation of performers. The trio debuted at No Way Out, but the only night the idea really worked in WWE was the following night on RAW, when Hogan and The Rock agreed to face off at WrestleMania.

After the cold handshake and the stare down, the nWo attacked The Rock. Hall used a tack hammer to the back of his head, and once he was placed in an ambulance, the group chained it shut and drove a semi-truck into the rescue vehicle. Was this going too far and straining credibility? Certainly, but this is wrestling. Again, in the end we’re willing to allow for the ridiculous. The crowd was into it, and I loved it, because it captured what I always appreciated about the nWo. There was a real sense of danger behind every step those men took that night. It was to be short-lived, and although it was almost cartoonish and stupid, this was WWE. Just have fun with it.

That was my attitude last night. The ambulance lift would have been an eye roll in anything short of a big-budget superhero movie, except that it also fit in the confines of an illogical WWE. Strowman is a behemoth, so let’s just GO THERE.

There’s the entire crux of my argument. WWE is too reticent to go there with its content. I’m not talking about naked breasts on the screen or people showing their asses. I’m talking about the wrestling-related stuff that makes promotions and their employees big-time cash. Braun looked like a monster on RAW last night, even while he was being cheered and thanked for attempting to end the career of the chosen one. But it looked good, it looked brutal, and it looked awesome. Roman took one hell of a beating and Braun brought the required intensity to sell the scenario. The announcers backed off the microphones and let the action speak for itself, and Twitter almost unanimously responded with the 140 character version of a standing ovation.

It was just freaking stupendous entertainment. It wasn’t wishy-washy and wasn’t trapped in the middle. It was one huge dude assaulting another one, just because he wanted to, and because he didn’t like the other man. The story needed not a single word of explanation, because even a five-year-old could have understood it. Braun Strowman doesn’t seem to care for Roman Reigns. I think he’s trying to hurt him. Yep, he’s trying to hurt him. Damn, did he hurt him?

Vince let Braun be the best Braun he could be, the most believable that character could be, and it all clicked. Roman played victim exceedingly well, though no one in the audience will see him in that way. If the goal was to make Strowman a top heel, mission failed. But, as Triple H said a few weeks ago, Roman Reigns is already the company’s main antagonist. If they don’t want to flip that switch, it’s fine by me. However, they may now have to accept that the aggressor last night was also the fan favorite.

However it ended up, WWE gave us a segment to remember last night, because they pulled the handcuffs off and let the talent roam unchecked. Our jaws hit the floor, we laughed at the egregious nature of it all, and we wanted more. We wanted to see these two guys wrestle again, we wanted this fight to continue, and we enjoyed Braun’s reign of terror. It’s probably time to get the man some merchandise though, as he could definitely sell some today.

That was a lot of fun to watch, and WWE needs to take a larger lesson from it. You can’t do that kind of segment every week, but pushing superstars to the extremes of character isn’t usually a bad thing. Monday proved it’s the exact opposite.

Indubitably, Braun Strowman became a superstar in the broad sense of the word on RAW. He was larger than life and presented as a volatile threat unlike anything we’ve seen in ages.

More of that. Please.

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