WWE has always been about creating new Superstars. It’s that ideology which won them the Monday Night War. While WCW was busy profiting off the legacies of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting, and anyone who made their names in WWF they could get their hands on; Vince McMahon was trying to combat this with new talent, new characters, and new storylines. It’s possible that WWE would have continued to rely heavily on guys like Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Bret Hart had they not defected to the other side. But a loss of on Superstar is another’s gain in WWE.
It’s this constant rebuilding that allowed Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, The Rock, and Steve Austin to thrive. Cutting away the old brush so that young plants can grow. This can’t always be the case, of course. Guys like Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Undertaker, and Triple H have still been the blockbuster matches at major events, but recent pushes have shown that WWE is making a noticeable effort to get some new faces over; specifically, The New Face of Destruction: Braun Strowman.
The black sheep of the Wyatt Family has been somewhat of an enigma since the brand split. Being left alone on Raw has allowed him to take advantage of a dominant singles run. Braun is accomplishing something that is very difficult in the “New Era” of wrestling, which is to get over as a big man. The modern fan gravitates toward technical wizards and in-ring savants, not so much the musclebound goliaths of the 80s. However, if one can prove their believability as a monster heel. A few years ago, they had some success with Ryback as an indestructible force. But that burned out pretty quickly. And while Braun Strowman’s insatiable craving for competition is reminiscent of “Feed me more!” it’s fair to say that he has run farther and faster with that baton.
With a deep, booming voice and the physical presence of a cartoon lumberjack, Braun has been living up to the moniker of “The New Face of Destruction.” Rarely do we see a wrestler truly become one of these nicknames, but Strowman has proven to be almost comically relentless, and it’s extremely entertaining. His attack on Roman Reigns two weeks ago never seemed to end. From flipping a stretcher-bound Roman over a loading dock to flipping over his ambulance, it seemed like WWE Creative wanted us to believe that Reigns was dead. It was so enjoyable to watch, and with Roman’s unpopularity, it was a major boost to Braun’s build.
Then, last week, after dropping Kalisto in a dumpster, Braun was challenged by Big Show. Now, we knew going into this that it would be a way to show that Strowman could beat up other big men. And the exploding ring spot was fun, but it was easy to see coming, considering it was the main event match on Raw. Big Show had done this spot before with Brock Lesnar and Mark Henry. But it was still a welcome addition to the rise of Strowman. Now, a few weeks back, Braun had made a vague challenge to Brock Lesnar, the WWE Universal Champion. While a match between titans isn’t always the biggest sell, Braun has proven to be a solid worker and has challenged the common stigma of big men not being very athletic. So we finally have a battle of giants we can look forward to.
The biggest surprise of last week was Jinder Mahal winning a six-pack challenge on Smackdown to become Number One Contender for the WWE World Championship. There are a few things I like about this that I like and dislike. I dislike the fact that Jinder flat out elbowed Finn Balor unconscious two weeks ago on Raw, not only without repercussion, but being presented with such a major push. Of course it was a botch, but these things usually come with some sort of penalty or at least being taken to wrestler court (which is something I so hope is still practiced). Another thing I dislike is that there was almost effort to build this character before now, and his mic skills leave something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong; his promo after winning the match was his best work yet and was reminiscent of Muhammed Hassan’s schtick of calling out wrestling fans on their racism. And I love a good heel that speaks the truth. But later on Talking Smack, he seemed nervous and a bit overwhelmed with his new role. So let’s hope Jinder can pull it together and succeed with this new opportunity.
One aspect that I do like is that they’re reaching out to foreign markets. This is something I touched on in my article last week. With the Bollywood Boys helping out Jinder in his victory, they’re clearly going for some kind of small Indian faction. WWE understands that a classic American babyface isn’t going to win over an Indian, Chinese, or even British audience. Why would it? They have no investment in a hero like that. Hell, we barely like Cena in the states. Jinder winning is proof that anything can happen in the WWE. It’s a lame cliche, but in this case it’s true. Giving new opportunities to someone who was practically jobbing two weeks ago keeps things fresh and exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing what Jinder makes of this, but a part of me also wouldn’t mind seeing a quick RKO.
As much as I love seeing young Superstars being given the opportunity to succeed, I’ll never stop loving a good nostalgia match. Of course I was to see Kurt Angle wrestle again. But the best way to do that is to help a younger talent look good in the process. This is a transitional stage in WWE, so let’s hope the torch is passed with as few botches as possible.