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Braun Strowman is WWE’s best work in years

The Strowman build has been nothing short of spectacular, and boy did Vince ever need it.

A few days ago, someone randomly mentioned the classic 1986 arcade game Rampage to me. I had no idea at the time it would become the impetus for an article, but here we are. Somehow, it’s being turned into a major motion picture, which is how the subject came up in that conversation, but the concept also applies to RAW’s current “it” guy.

I wasn’t a particular fan of Rampage, because it seemed to simple to me and I craved more of a challenge. I gravitated to Bionic Commando, so I could have my ass handed to me, or any number of platformers or puzzle games that fit my virtual skill set. Many of my friends counted it among their favorites, because it was Godzilla vs. King Kong. Well, technically it was Lizzie vs. George, plus a werewolf named Ralph, but that’s immaterial. The premise was almost mind-numbingly easy to grasp. You play a gigantic monster and you reduce cities to rubble. You leave them in a pile of ash, collecting special items, points, and hopefully doing a better job than your opponent in versus mode.

What the hell does any of this have to do with pro wrestling, you ask?

Braun Strowman is the embodiment of Rampage in 2017 sports entertainment. The reason for his success, past the obvious size and look advantage Vince loves, is in the way he’s been used. I wrote last week about the brilliant Roman Reigns attack angle, up to and including the ambulance spot, and most people agreed with me. Using that night as the foundation, let’s examine what it is that makes Braun stick out past any superficiality or appearance-based metric.

Why does Braun matter? Because WWE allows him to matter.

That’s actually the end of the column, but I’m going to write more words to flesh it out properly. Braun is to WWE what Rampage is to video games. My friends who adored it and bought the home version for their console of choice did so because smashing things is fun, and being a monster for a few minutes is also enjoyable. You’re a larger than life figure, still having to fight for your survival from the military, but you can crush skyscrapers, kick ass, and take names (and bodies). It’s all so simple. It’s meat and potatoes, but it’s really just the meat. It’s the most basic idea imaginable. It’s on the ground floor. It’s in the lobby. You don’t even need a key to access it.

Braun Strowman is simple. He’s a ginormous dude with huge arms, an insane chest, powerful legs, and a ridiculous amount of power. His strength isn’t for show. This isn’t Ryback. This gentleman is almost LITERALLY a monster. While so many of his coworkers are given gimmicks that strip the obvious away from them, Braun Strowman’s essence is enhanced at its base level.

Look at this guy. What do we see in him now? What can we do to help him in the future? How can we use him to make money as soon as possible?

Promoters and talent relations personnel should ask these three questions before or shortly after every major talent acquisition, call-up, or possible hire. The correct answers are precious gemstones to a promotion. Getting it wrong might mean passing on Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant in the NBA Draft. Sure, there are tiers in the wrestling business and some workers are brought in to fill a smaller role or to serve as undercard depth, but on top, these questions are essential. Consider how many WWE stars exist today where it’s clear no one considered all of them, or in some cases any of them.

Now think about Braun and how he’s been positioned since the brand split and the end of his time as a Bray Wyatt disciple.

They looked at the guy and saw the obvious. They helped him by giving him space in which to roam and destroy. And the cash comes when this guy pays off that freedom with super stardom that sells tickets and builds the credibility of anyone who stands toe to toe with him and lives to tell the tale.

Braun Strowman stalks and stomps through WWE as if he’s George or Lizzie after either’s transformation from animal into super creature. He’s tossing guys around, he’s throwing Kalisto in the trash, he’s breaking things, he’s turning emergency vehicles over, he’s growling, he’s not listening to any of his superiors, and any attempt to punish him goes poorly for the person fool enough to try and put him in his place. He should be in a cage, but who could actually place him there?

Not a soul watching WWE is oblivious to who Braun is as a character, who he’s supposed to be, and how “dangerous” he is to the upper crust of the RAW card. That same philosophy illustrates the reason everyone goes nuts when he wrestles The Big Show, because we’re watching two people we wouldn’t see all that often in American Eagle or Hot Topic, unless it was literally THESE two men. They’re both spectacles, which is why despite perceived match quality or approximately 745,629 character turns over the past several years, Show still gets a huge pop at every house show. It’s the same story for Kane. There’s something unique about them, and Vince has always understood how to push the physical specimens and height abnormalities under his employ.

Rampage was too simple to hold my interest as a game player, but I would watch people play it for hours, because it was such easily accessible and enjoyable entertainment. I could shut my brain off and just think “SMASH!” Braun Strowman commands your attention because he doesn’t ask for it, he demands it. WWE permits him to play Brock Lesnar on a weekly basis. The rules rarely apply to him, and wherever he goes, carnage is sure to follow. That’s basically a guarantee from a Strowman segment. It’s going to be wild, even if sloppy, and your eyes will be wide open when its over.

When you add a broken ring to the equation, you’ve just added more to the Strowman lore. He and Show pulled off a feat almost no one else has on a WWE event, and the fact it was gimmicked and phony doesn’t detract from the moment at all. That visual was the conclusion of the very best Rampage stage, except instead of policemen strewn about, this time it was John Cone. Or, if you’re like me and Rampage wasn’t your game, that moment was the culmination of a perfect Katamari Damacy level. Nothing was left upright. Most of it was flattened.

Monday’s show wasn’t even very good, but the ending was epic. The night was built around Braun, who did what monsters do, and did so with gusto. We care because he’s different. We care because he’s simple. We care because he’s awesome.

When WWE follows Occam’s razor, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel or booking a House of Horrors match, the company is usually in better shape. Braun is effective because he’s booked to be effective. He’s a perfect construct, and even when a dropkick looks a little ugly or there’s a stumble or a nasty arm drag, it doesn’t matter, because, just as with Goldberg, we don’t expect Mikhail Baryshnikov from Strowman.

We expect Lizzie.

And we love Lizzie.

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