For one night, Braun Strowman was the best wrestler in the world. A tremendously entertaining episode of WWE Raw culminated in a spot where he broke the ring with a superplex of the Big Show, sending referee John Cone flying. It was a spot everyone saw coming and made no sense—why didn’t the Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal break the ring? why didn’t they just reinforce the ring, like Gorilla Monsoon used to say?—but it was satisfying nonetheless.
The show opened with a Braun Strowman promo. Strowman was basically an afterthought for the first year after he debuted as a member of the Wyatt Family in August 2015. But he’s been on quite an entertaining run since being split from them about a year later. Strowman is listed as 6-foot-8 and 385 pounds, so WWE did the most sensible thing with him: It had him beat up a bunch of little guys for months.
It was pretty great! Watching a big guy beat up a jobber is a time-honored wrestling tradition, and Strowman played the part well. It even led to the WWE career of James Ellsworth, who said in a pre-match interview that “any man with two hands has a fighting chance.” Since that enjoyable run, Strowman has feuded with most of the top guys in WWE, been attacked by the Undertaker, and even challenged Brock Lesnar.
And then, last night, he got to open WWE Raw with a promo. It was good! You would barely have known it was the same person who debuted silently in 2016 with an awkward choke spot. He then spent the show beating up wrestlers backstage before getting a main event match with the Big Show.
That, too, was satisfying. There were two convincing near-falls for Big Show, including Strowman kicking out of the WMD punch, and watching Strowman toss a man the size of Big Show around the ring is fun. Ever since people noticed that the LED signs weren’t on the ring, it was obvious WWE was going to do a ring-collapse spot.
Big Show had previously broken the ring in similar spots with Brock Lesnar and Mark Henry. The wrestlers teased the suplex spot that would lead to the ring break several times during the match, with the crowd getting into each one increasingly. It was obvious it was going to happen.
Raw is a slog most weeks. It’s three-plus hours long, wrestlers face each other too often and regular viewers can tell when it’s going to be telegraphed. But my favorite thing in wrestling is when a moment is telegraphed and it works anyway. Last night’s break-the-ring suplex was that spot. It was hilarious and violent and cool—perfect pro wrestling.
And it came from Braun Strowman! It’s the latest in a stretch of entertaining segments involving a guy who once looked like another nameless big dude who wouldn’t amount to much. Last night, he seemed like a star.