WWE Hot Take of the Week: Braun Strowman's Heel Turn Ruins Perfect Character

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2018

Credit: WWE.com

WWE has a habit of upsetting the fans with some ridiculous booking ideas, illogical storylines, dumb characters and all sorts of problems that force us to throw our hands in the air and wonder just what the company is thinking.

When those feelings of frustration reach the surface, that is where WWE Hot Take of the Week comes in—a means to take the gloves off and rant about what is really getting under my skin.

This week is as good a time as any to get started as something happened that proved the powers-that-be aren't listening and are too stubborn for their own good: They turned Braun Strowman heel.

For the past year, The Monster Among Men has been consistently getting some of the biggest pops no matter what town WWE was in, what situation he was booked around or who he was up against.

Obviously, the next step in that story was to turn him heel and throw all that momentum away in a sad, desperate attempt to get Roman Reigns cheered, right? Wrong.

Let's play devil's advocate and try to approach this from WWE's point of view before pointing out how they're setting up Strowman, Reigns and the company as a whole for failure.


What WWE is Foolishly Thinking

We all know Reigns is the pet project and the top guy they want the fans to cheer, but the crowd isn't following the plan. For years, nothing has worked and WWE remains adamant that the heel turn everyone wants—the one thing they haven't tried—is just not happening.

Meanwhile, the WWE Universe has shown that type of affection for Strowman to the point that he has accomplished what they wanted Reigns to do. But he isn't The Big Dog, and every time he gets cheered more, it proves the company backed the wrong horse.

In the past, WWE would have sucked it up, admitted defeat, gone with the flow and put the belt on Strowman. Recently, though, there has been what feels like a stubborn hesitance to bend to the will of the audience, even at the expense of the product.

It's more important to be right than it is to be successful, so in my mind as a member of the WWE creative team, we're putting our foot down: it cannot be Strowman, it has to be Reigns.

Since all attempts to upgrade Reigns have failed, let's try making him look better by downgrading everyone else in comparison. There's an old adage that you cannot build yourself up by tearing others down, but at least if we can give off the perception that Reigns is above Strowman, our egos will be placated.

Elimination Chamber and SummerSlam proved when these two go up against each other, Strowman gets cheered and it makes Reigns look weaker as he's clearly not the more popular person, which goes against our narrative.

By turning Strowman heel, we can at least guarantee a few people will boo him, which will make Reigns look better than if it were two good guys battling it out. Plus, that's one less person vying for the top babyface spot on Raw, and with less options to choose from, more will hop on the Reigns train by default.

Nobody can pick Coca-Cola in The Pepsi Challenge if you don't give them that choice. Strowman can't be a better babyface than Reigns if The Monster is technically a heel.

Reigns can't be a hero without a villain to overcome to prove how great he is, and even though he's slayed every dragon and still not been accepted, let's try it again with Strowman. Fans will surely embrace him once he's definitively the tougher guy, as nobody wants to cheer the loser.

We'll rehabilitate Strowman afterward. All that matters is Reigns proves he's better and has overcome that mountain. What a great guy The Big Dog is. How strong.

Like good little sheep, the WWE Universe will follow the script, and we'll be back in control to dictate what we want going forward.


Why it Will Fail and Accomplish Nothing

There are so many examples of this mentality and booking strategy failing in the past with the previous incarnation of the Reigns character, John Cena.

It didn't matter that Shawn Michaels superkicked Cena and turned on his fellow tag team champion. At WrestleMania 32, fans supported The Heartbreak Kid because they liked him more.

In Cena's 2011 feud against CM Punk, the crowd preferred The Straight-Edge Superstar, so anything he did against Cena was met with joy, not disapproval.

Strowman turning on Reigns is a repeat of Ryback turning on Cena all over again. Ryback was popular with the crowd, but WWE turned him, fed him to Cena and he never achieved that same level of notoriety, nor did Cena get any rub out of the deal. Ryback went on to do a whole lot of nothing and Cena kept getting mixed reactions at best.

This isn't even a case of WWE not learning from history, as the company is going through the same problem right now with Becky Lynch, so it's a duplicate of a problem that is only two weeks old.

The Irish Lass Kicker went into SummerSlam as the fan favorite, and the title was put on the company's choice instead. When she was cheered for attacking Charlotte Flair, it was a sign WWE had screwed up, but the writers tried to double-down in a pitiful ploy to get boos by having Lynch say the crowd didn't have her back.

Meanwhile, the crowd was still cheering for her, proving that wrong. Then, to further illustrate the point that we weren't doing what we were told, WWE had the two get broken up by the roster and only the heels held back Lynch, while only the babyfaces held back Flair. Still, everyone cheered The Lass Kicker.

This week on SmackDown proved it wasn't just the Brooklyn crowd and that the WWE Universe fundamentally disagrees with the storyline, chanting "We want Becky" during the Flair vs. Carmella match and loving her post-match beatdown on the champion.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this is heading in the same direction.

At least Brains Strowman would understand this.
At least Brains Strowman would understand this.Credit: WWE.com

Why This Hurts Strowman and WWE as a Whole

When Stone Cold Steve Austin started getting cheered, WWE eventually made him the top babyface. When a heel Hulk Hogan was cheered even over The Rock, he soon turned babyface. Both times, people loved it.

Smart businesses flow with the current, instead of trying to swim against it. If something works, even if it's not the intention, turn into the skid and capitalize on it.

Since Strowman is popular and cheered, it's counterproductive to make him a heel, as all of his feuds will put him in the position to look like a failure.

If fans don't want to hate him, particularly over someone such as Reigns, then WWE will start to think he can't do his job correctly, even though the writers are the ones not playing to his strengths.

Likewise, any babyfaces he goes up against will seem inadequate to get over because they won't be cheered against someone who is logically supposed to be a villain.

Then again, logic has been thrown out the window with the Money in the Bank situation. Having Strowman call the shots for Hell in a Cell took away all the surprise and fun of that gimmick and also flies in the face of his heel turn.

If he's a jerk who aligned himself with Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre to beat down Reigns, why didn't he cash in his title shot right then to win the Universal Championship when it was a given he would have won since The Shield was incapacitated?

For that matter, what is the momentum of this heel turn from Hell in a Cell onward?

If The Monster beats Reigns on September 16, that will require the company having the golden boy drop the belt quickly after being crowned, which goes against that story of triumph. After that, heel Strowman on top is just a rehash of Brock Lesnar's title reign.

However, if Strowman losesthe much more realistic scenarioit isn't going to make Reigns more beloved and it will already take the top storyline away from The Monster Among Men. It will simply create further tension between fans who don't want The Big Dog on top and WWE pushing that idea.

Then, there's nowhere to go but down, as Strowman has already lost his world title shot and there's no bigger babyface—at least in a kayfabe sense—than Reigns.

Every future opponent is lesser than what has already happened. Nobody will care about some feud against Bobby Lashley because nobody cares about Lashley as it is.

Pictured: Bobby Lashley pointing out the two people in the audience who are invested in his match.
Pictured: Bobby Lashley pointing out the two people in the audience who are invested in his match.Credit: WWE.com

If WWE needed heels to go up against Reigns, McIntyre and Baron Corbin could have fit the bill, along with Kevin Owens. For that matter, turn Bobby Roode, since he's been sinking on Raw. Or maybe turn Lashley to try to get some crowd reaction at all out of his presence.

Those guys are now lower on the totem pole with Strowman being a heel, so their careers don't receive any boost, either.

And those who think Vince McMahon doesn't care about heels and babyfaces anymore and simply wants a reaction in general are ignoring how Strowman's actions were purposely demonstrative to illustrate a heel turn with him holding up Ziggler's and McIntyre's hands.

If he were still a babyface or even a tweener, he would have simply let Reigns get beaten up and then either walked away or taken out Ziggler and McIntyre after the fact, too, like he's done in all other scenarios for the past year.

Then, WWE could have gotten the same mixed reaction and pro-Strowman buzz out of a babyface vs. babyface match that will happen with a heel Monster Among Men, but after the fact, Raw's Mountain of a Man wouldn't be stuck trying to find his place on the card.

Reigns—a talented guy who has been stuck with the stigma of ruining everything by association—will continue to be booked exactly as he's been for years, with WWE not learning any lessons, and Strowman will be forced to suffer the consequences of this mistake.

The Universal Championship will stay on The Big Dog as the company drives this even further into the ground, further hurting the title's lineage with even more months of frustration, while Strowman will go from having the full audience behind him to having some people boo him just because they're told to.

Thus, another mixed-reaction Superstar muddies the waters, just like Reigns, Cena, the heel Rusev who was cheered but WWE didn't want to turn for months, the heel Lynch fans love but aren't supposed to support, and the babyface Flair fans are supposed to be behind but will oppose.

In an era when the powers-that-be are seeking another Hogan or Austin and could have had it with someone as over as Strowman, they've chosen to outright kill his momentum because it was the audience who picked him, not themselves.

Come by next week when I'm sure WWE will give me another reason to go off on a rant, and feel free to vent your frustrations in the comments section below.


Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.


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