Braun Strowman has arrived.
The WWE fans knew he had it in him, just as the company certainly knew he had the potential to get there. But after SummerSlam on August 20, there was no denying the obvious; Strowman is the next top main event guy. He's going to prove that against Brock Lesnar at No Mercy.
Strowman's rise was somewhat hard to gauge, mostly because he earned his stripes in a long-running feud with Roman Reigns. He excelled against The Big Dog and matched the former Shield strongman move for move.
In terms of the storyline, he dominated nearly every time they faced off.
But Reigns is hated, perhaps more than John Cena ever was. Despite how often the WWE promotes the idea of The Roman Empire, Reigns' legion of fans seems oddly quiet at big events. Strowman was cheered almost from the first moment he laid hands on Reigns, and it continued throughout their rivalry.
So was Strowman getting over, or was he just getting cheered because of Reigns? The answer to that question came at SummerSlam, where he was the obvious crowd favorite. Fans seemed split on Samoa Joe, hated Reigns as always, and popped for Lesnar.
But every time Strowman was in control, the crowd roared its approval. It's as if the light bulb went off for WWE Creative, because the next night on Monday Night Raw, The Monster Among Men confronted the Universal champion.
Once again, Strowman left Lesnar for dead in the middle of the ring, and once again, he blew the roof of the building when he did it. At this point, it's impossible to ignore that the WWE has something here. The company evidently agrees with that notion as well.
No Mercy will feature Lesnar vs. Strowman in the main event for the WWE Universal Championship. The Beast Incarnate had to have another opponent, and that man had to come from the Fatal 4-Way match at SummerSlam.
Joe and Reigns are now crossing paths with Cena, which leaves Strowman as the best choice to step up at No Mercy. Judging from his work thus far, he was the only choice.
Strowman gets it. He always has. He showed signs during his beginnings with The Wyatt Family, but those days were nothing compared to what he's shown now. Strowman has a maturity beyond his wrestling years, and he carries the confidence of a man who's already conquered on the main event level. He not only looks as though he belongs on top, he makes the fans believe it as well.
Once a guy gets the crowd on his side, the fire is lit. Once he gets the company on his side, he explodes. That is what's happened with Strowman.
Much of this popularity surge has to do with Strowman's fearlessness and power. Fans watched Reigns take on Lesnar and may or may not have believed The Big Dog could pull off the win. Fans watched Joe and probably believed he could get the job done, but there was surely some lingering doubt.
However, when Strowman stared down Lesnar, it was clear that the crowd had made its decision.
Not only is Strowman unafraid of Lesnar, there's little doubt at this point that The Monster Among Men can believably beat him. Lesnar is not unbeatable; that was clear when Goldberg defeated him. Lesnar showed weakness for perhaps the first time ever, and now he's being matched with a guy who's not only bigger, he's also younger.
Fans have always known that someone bigger and badder would come along. They knew it from the moment Lesnar was first compared to Andre the Giant in terms of being an attraction. Now that Strowman has risen, it could be that this generation's Andre will meet his Hulk Hogan.
When a guy gets this hot, there is no other choice but to press ahead.
Strowman is in this spot because he's worked hard to get it. He is the best possible example of a guy who came in on the ground floor, did everything asked of him, impressed everyone along the way, and is rewarded for his effort.
The WWE is all about evolution. It's that idea that keeps them light years above any other pro wrestling company in the business. When the competition became complacent, The WWE moved ahead. Lesnar has been a big-money act for years in the WWE, but he will not last forever.
The WWE will move ahead once again, and now the next big-money act is on deck. The man that beats Lesnar takes that momentum and makes a main event career out of it. Strowman is that man.
Strowman will conquer The Conqueror. No one else on the active roster could legitimately do it and carry Raw forward. Lesnar has beaten everyone else. The last man standing is Strowman, and he is the man who deserves to take Lesnar down.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, iHeart Radio, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com