Adam Scherr, better known as Braun Strowman, or as comically named elsewhere, BigAss McStrongman, has had a meteoric rise in WWE. Considering his debut match in NXT was just about 2 ½ years ago, he only needs to capture the Universal Championship to cement one of the most historic rises in the company’s history. Even better if the WWE has him beat the beast, Brock Lesnar for the title. But before we jump to current and future stories, let’s take a quick walk down memory lane for the WWE’s resident monster. Back before the Roman Reigns feud, and the desire for competition and even his time in the Wyatt Family – we’ll take a quick look at it all.
Adam Scherr – The Strongman (Pre-WWE)
Back before his WWE days, Braun Strowman went by his government name Adam Scherr and competed in Strongman Competitions around the United States and Europe. Although his time in strongman contests was a brief 3 year run, Scherr was impressive, winning 7 competitions in that time frame. He won the NAS US Amateur National Championships in 2011 and the Arnold Amateur Strongman Championships in 2012.
In March of 2013, he competed in an event in the Arnold Strongman competition which WWE wrestler Mark Henry commentated. Now, I don’t know if there is any connection between that and the fact that Adam was in WWE’s performance center less than three months later, but I think it’s safe to say that maybe Mark had some words with WWE about the guy. And just like that, Vince McMahon had another one of his favorite type of wrestlers on board.
The Vince Prototype
Before we continue, let’s just take a moment to examine the Vince McMahon prototype. Historically, Vince likes two types of guys. The first is a muscled-up, all-American guy, with a clean cut look and all the makings of his very own superhero. Think Hogan, The Rock, John Cena and Roman Reigns. They may vary slightly in their actual appearance, but for the most part they hit all of the same marks for Vince’s favorite superheroes. Now, obviously with guys like those, you need someone bigger, stronger, nastier and altogether scarier for these heroes to defeat. Historically, these have been giants, both literally and figuratively. For every Hogan, Rock and Cena there was an Andre the Giant, Big Show, Kane, Undertaker, Umaga, and (unfortunately) The Great Khali. So now that there is a new superhero in town, he needs a big scary monster to overcome. Enter BigAss McStrongman.
Braun Strowman, even in his earliest moments, was clearly the other of Vince’s favorite type of guys. He is a tremendously large man, has a fiercely aggressive demeanor, a ridiculously insane beard (long an obvious marker of heeldom) and generally looks like a monster among men. He is just the type of guy that Vince loves to have as the mountain that his heroes have to climb. Because what good is a hero without a believable (or unbelievable) monster in his path.
WWE – Early Days
Back to our story, in 2013 Adam joined the WWE in their performance center under the name Braun Stowman. In December of 2015, about a year and a half later, Braun made his debut in NXT. Given how green he was to the business, the expectation was that he would need to hang around NXT for at least two years or so before being ready to be brought up to the main roster. But Vince said no.
In August of 2015, much to many NXT fans’ surprise, Braun (now) Strowman debuted on the main roster as an addition to the Wyatt Family. At the time, I was not much of a follower of NXT, so I had no idea who this guy was. My thoughts the night of his debut was basically along the lines of “holy hell that dude is HUGE!” I imagine that this is just the type of response Vince wants from fans. I immediately searched him up and realized he was a former strongman competitor, very new to the wrestling world and a Vince pet project. That last part explains his first few months on the roster.
But first, let us not forget Braun’s pit-stop in the Exotic Express. No judgement, just jokes.
Anyways, the brilliance of bringing Braun in under the Wyatt Family was four-fold. First, it allowed him to be hidden in two-man, three-man and four-man tag matches while he grew as a performed. Second, it allowed him to be booked simply as a monster (also helping to hide his warts). Third, it kept him from having to speak too much. And fourthly, and rather importantly, it got him in the ring in relatively meaningful stories which would allow him to build his profile and get him valuable experience against top-level guys. In retrospect, it was the best way to book an inexperienced monster that you want to have on TV as soon as possible. I cannot deny Vince’s brilliance in this regard. (I know we give Vince crap a lot, but this was one place where his plans made a lot of sense.)
The Wrestlemania 32 Rumors
Before we jump to Braun’s run since the brand split, let us take a quick detour and discuss THAT rumor from pre-Wrestlemania 32 (the 2016 event). So, Braun debuted on the main roster in August of 2015. By November/December of that same year, rumors started to fly that Vince was considering Braun vs. Undertaker for Mania 32. I can some up my reaction (and that of most wrestling fans I know) at the time in three simple letters – “WTF!!?!?” I remember trying to process the what, how and why of that match at the time and drawing blanks. The only thing that seemed true was that Vince loved the big guy and wanted to push him in a big way.
What is most amazing about this rumor is that most people I know, myself included, were much more interested in that same exact match just one year later over the Reigns-Undertaker match that we got. Just imagine Braun trashing Taker and ripping the “top monster in the WWE” card from his cold undead hands. Man, what could have been. Back to the point, fans went from thinking Vince was insane for even entertaining the idea of Braun vs Taker to desperately wanting it just a year later. So what happened in between?
Brand Split and Monster Run
The WWE does almost nothing better than the first few weeks, and sometimes months, of a monster heel push. Think Rusev’s unbeaten streak, Brock’s destruction derby upon his initial WWE return in 2012 (damn, I can’t believe that was five years ago), and any number of other monsters who tore through the WWE at a record pace. Naturally, they took the same approach with Braun. But there was something about him that just made this tried and true (and sometimes staid) approach massively entertaining.
You know that guy on Smackdown Live who had no business even fighting AJ Styles, much less picking up three non-title wins against him? You know who I mean. I’m talking about James Ellsworth. The man with two hands was made because of his interaction with Braun Strowman in a squash match. It’s rare that a squash match can benefit both the squasher and the squashed, but these two guys accomplished that.
Anyway, rather than let this get stale – Braun beating up “local talent” and individual jobbers – WWE doubled and tripled down. Braun fought in two-on-one, three-on-one and even four-on-one matches as he begged then Raw GM, Mick Foley, for more competition. This subtle tweak started Braun’s move from just another monster, to one with at least a basic level of motivation. His demanding competition and the scoffing at what Mick Foley provided was rather entertaining. So much so that even when Sami Zayn was offered up as the first true WWE performer as sacrificial lamb, no one complained. Sami is born to be the underdog, lose and fight and scrap against a monster live Braun to no avail. And Braun absolutely destroyed Sami. I mean, he tore Sami apart. I like Sami Zayn, but seeing that WWE was willing to drop such a popular star on Braun’s table for devouring marked another shift for his character.
As they prepared Braun for his next foe, the current and future superhero, Roman Reigns, they put him into a mini-feud with The Big Show. Given the “Please retire” chants that Show was getting less than a year ago, there was some skepticism at first as to how well this would go over. Credit to Big Show for getting himself in shape and credit to Braun for stepping up and putting on a great show.
Moments like these are star-making, scratch that, superstar-making moments. They showcased Braun’s agility, strength and capacity for feats that can be used in video packages years down the road. To get a “This is awesome” chant out of a match with The Big Show in 2017, is downright impressive.
Fans are so pumped for Braun by this point that the monster heel has been getting cheers against his superhero foil, Roman Reigns. Now, you can argue that most anyone will be cheered opposite Roman due to WWE’s continued screw up of that guy, but Braun has maintained that heat. Even though Braun lost to Reigns on ppv and was quickly eliminated from the Andre Memorial Battle Royal at Mania, the fans are still all in on him.
It seems like we are all primed for a Braun Strowman championship run in 2017 and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am ready for it. Get this man in the ring with Brock. Get him in the ring with Roman. Get him in the ring with Seth or Finn or (gasp) his former leader Bray Wyatt. There are great stories to be told with the Monster Among Men and even though he is a Vince project, fans should continue to be excited for what could be in his and our near future.