The human brain operates by comparing and contrasting one thing with other things around it in the world. If everything looked the same, the world wouldn’t make a lot of sense. It’d also be pretty boring. People will make comparisons by instinct all the time, even if one thing is completely unlike the other.
These things are part of, if not the major reason, for the success of Braun Strowman, WWE’s hottest act. In the span of only two years, Braun Strowman has gone from a seemingly unpromising rookie cast in the generic monster role to WWE’s breakout star of 2017. He has consistently been the best part WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night RAW, for months. He’s red hot. His performances have been so good that there is now open discussion as to whether WWE should make Braun Strowman its bona fide number one attraction and cease its endless push of Roman Reigns, who after three years, has garnered mixed results.
It might still be too early for that, but Braun Strowman has proven a lot in 2017. A perfect storm has come together to catch lightning in a bottle. I’m not even sure WWE realizes just how hot Braun Strowman is now and how much of a valuable asset they have on their hands, which makes me nervous as a fan of his, but I’ll get to that later.
What we’ll go over now are the forces that brought Braun Strowman to this point.
You probably won’t be quite as successful in becoming a monster among your peers like Braun Strowman has among his, but taking advantage of these forces can probably put you in the top 10%.
Braun Strowman’s size alone makes him impossible to ignore and he’s maximized his look for his craft. Case in point:
That looks like a guy that’s going to fuck up everyone in the bar and then go to the next one and fuck everyone up there just because he can. That’s the kind of look a character like him should want to have.
Of course, it’s probably not the kind of look you want to sport, but you get the picture. You should try to cultivate a look for your field that puts you in the top 10%.
Unless you’re modeling though, a look alone doesn’t mean success (ask Roman Reigns or Lex Luger about that).
Braun Strowman isn’t impossible to ignore solely because of his look and his imposing size. In fact, if that was all he had to offer, he would be ignored because monstrous size isn’t uncommon in professional wrestling. What’s extraordinary in most contexts is nothing special in the WWE. If he was just a big guy, people would inevitably make unfavorable comparisons with Undertaker, Kane, and the Big Show, among others, and they did when he first started.
Braun Strowman is impossible to ignore in another, even more important way. He does things that nobody else can do.
Case in point:
Not many people can do that (well, actually, no one can, but this segment was well-choreographed and highlighted Braun Strowman’s strongman background to the hilt). No one in the WWE has ever had segments like that, as far as I’m aware. It’s far from the only one, either. Braun Strowman’s feats of strength instantly make him stand out. His character breaks rings and cages. He throws heavy steel ring steps 20 feet across the ring. He heaves 200+ pound men like stuffed animals. He kicks them like that too.
Even Cory Graves on commentary couldn’t control himself.
Not only do his feats of strength and his brutal methods distinguish from his fellow big men, they distinguish him from everyone else. In an era where everybody in the ring is basically the same (athletically gifted with some high flying moves but often generic character work), Braun Strowman is indeed a monster among his peers. In the age of what some have derisively called “vanilla midgets,” Braun Strowman is a throwback of sorts to an earlier era, but with the athleticism of this one. He’s great in the ring for someone his size. He’s no King Kong Bundy or Giant Gonzalez, that’s for sure. The ridiculous feats of strength, unique only to him, mix with the athleticism of today of to create a next-level superstar.
Braun Strowman passed all the comparison tests. No one is making unfavorable comparisons with Undertaker, Kane, or Big Show anymore because he’s very different from them and does things they never did. He contrasts with everyone else because no one on the roster has the combination of his look, his formula of size and athleticism, or his feats of strength, making him instantly notorious and memorable.
But that’s not all.
The Spark in the Gasoline
While these “X factors,” as Scott Adams might call them, were enough to distinguish Braun Strowman from his peers, they might not have been enough to shoot him to the moon by themselves. What really got him on his current tear was when he began having an on-screen rivalry with Roman Reigns. And by on-screen “rivalry,” I mean mangling him like a wolf bolting the flesh of a helpless, trembling rabbit in its jaws.
Although Braun Strowman was supposed to be the heel, the villain to the hero Roman Reigns, there’s a problem that WWE refuses to admit: Roman Reigns is despised by the people that actually go to the company’s events, far more so than John Cena ever was. Although he gets a lot of attention in search volume and sells merchandise, Roman Reigns is the least popular lead hero that the company has ever seen. Three years after his initial rise to superstardom, he still hasn’t settled well as the main protagonist, so to speak, of the WWE.
So when Braun Strowman started using his freakish feats of strength to beat up Roman Reigns, the crowd roared its unfettered approval.
Having certain X factors or skills that contrast so well with the other people around you can give you a head start on the road to success. Using those talents against someone or something that’s despised in your community, as Roman Reigns is among WWE’s fanbase, is always a good strategy to ensure that you reach the end (though it’s by no means the only one). Donald Trump used a similar strategy.
While the character might be the biggest bully around, Adam Scherr, the man behind the character, is quite the opposite. He appears to be a genuinely cool guy. His mainstream media appearances have also come out very well.
Where Roman Reigns’ mainstream appearances have been stiff and boring, Braun’s, as seen above with Aaron Judge, have been smooth, and even humble. He represents WWE well.
In other words, the biggest bully on the show is one of the most well-spoken, cool guys off the show when he’s representing the company. That’s exactly the kind of thing what you want your top talent to do.
That kind of contradictory character gets people talking even more. It’s one of the hallmark traits of charisma, but Braun Strowman’s charisma goes deeper.
By simultaneously being the strongest guy on the roster while also being among the coolest outside the ring, he appeals to people’s fantasies. Who doesn’t want to be strong enough to lift ambulances and fuck everybody else up while being the life of the party at the same time?
How You Know It’s Working
By the time SummerSlam came around in August, Braun Strowman got so popular that he became the star of a highly anticipated and widely praised Fatal Four Way main event featuring himself, Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, and the defending champion, Brock Lesnar, a man with widespread mainstream recognition. Since 2014, Brock Lesnar has consistently been cast as the most dominant character in WWE. He looks the part and his accomplishments in and out of WWE back it up. Brock Lesnar is the one everyone fears. At SummerSlam, Braun Strowman did this to him:
One of the things that I find interesting about professional wrestling is that it’s a live A/B test. It’s one of the few mediums where you can see in real-time what acts are connecting and what acts aren’t. Though Brock Lesnar retained his championship at SummerSlam, Braun Strowman confronted him the next night. During the side-by-side, it was clear who the people chose to get behind.
A second encounter Strowman had with Brock Lesnar a few weeks later garnered similar results:
In the span of two years, Braun Strowman went from doubtful rookie to the star of the main event of the second biggest WWE show of the year, where he made Brock Lesnar his bitch. That match and the subsequent encounters showed very clear he was a red hot success. He wasn’t simply a one trick pony because he had a penchant for beating up on Roman Reigns. Instead, the program with Roman Reigns was the start of his superstardom, not the end, as the program with Brock Lesnar proves. His talents, charisma, and timing came together to genuinely catch fire.
Tonight is WWE’s No Mercy pay-per-view. It’s being billed as sporting two “WrestleMania worthy” main events, with John Cena facing off against Roman Reigns for the first time ever and Brock Lesnar going toe to toe with Braun Strowman for the title. Even so, according to WWE.com’s own poll on the subject, the fans have made clear which match they want to see the most. It’s not even close.
Roman Reigns vs. John Cena – a match sporting what’s supposed to be a generational clash between the two “top guys” in the WWE, is still being dwarfed by the match featuring Braun Strowman. Brock Lesnar is a big part of that, of course, but it speaks for itself. Braun Strowman also has more videos on WWE’s YouTube channel with 2 million+ hits than any other star on the roster. WWE should be taking a long, hard look at that poll and those numbers. Braun Strowman has done in months what Roman Reigns has only had lukewarm success at in three years. He’s genuinely connected with an audience starving for a new star. He’s been hotter against Brock Lesnar than Roman Reigns ever was.
So to sum up:
- He’s impossible to ignore.
- He’s doubly impossible to ignore because he does things no one else can do.
- He appeals to people’s fantasies.
- He’s great in the ring for his size and his moves suck you into the match.
- Outside of the ring, he’s a great representative of the company, and a great talker for his character.
- The fans love him.
Those are a few things that happen when you can do things no one else can do, have a multi-faceted, even contradictory personality and look, and utilize a proven strategy in conjunction with your skill set that gets people talking.
If WWE doesn’t have Braun Strowman rip that title from Brock Lesnar tonight, it would be the worst booking decision the company has made in years, arguably since John Cena ran roughshod over the Nexus in 2010. I’d prefer for the win to happen at WrestleMania, but we are where we are. A win over Brock Lesnar tonight would solidify him as a huge star and there’s no better time to do it than now. The fourth quarter is traditionally the weakest period for WWE because of competition from the NFL and the fall shows like The Big Bang Theory. To add to the problems, Brock Lesnar and John Cena are both likely to be gone for the rest of the year after tonight. Having Brock Lesnar retain his title only to disappear until January would be an extraordinarily foolish decision that would leave RAW floundering. Why do that when Braun Strowman is as hot as he is? With him as champion, and the imminent arrival of Asuka to inject some much-needed life in the show’s women’s division next month, WWE would have a formula that wouldn’t require RAW to go quietly into hibernation, passively waiting for 2018 to dawn.
Alas, I don’t expect it to happen, because Vince McMahon seems laser focused on setting up a Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns encounter at WrestleMania 34, a sequel to their WrestleMania 31 match that no one is pining for. Because of that, Brock Lesnar has odds close to 100% of retaining tonight. It would be stupid, but that’s what happens when you can’t see the big picture. It will only serve to make Roman Reigns even more hated, and if it’s indeed the last hurrah of Brock Lesnar (as his contract is up after that), the match could well be an even worse version of Lesnar’s infamous encounter with Goldberg at WrestleMania 20. That’s what happens when you can’t see a hot commodity.
When you have something that’s hot, you pull the trigger and run with it. To learn how to get hot and run to the finish with your act, read Stumped now.