“Say what you want, I’ll take them, big, sons of guns any day of the week because it’s an easy story. Half the story is told, all I gotta do is stand there”. – Shawn Michaels on wrestling big men (Shawn Michaels My Journey (2010)
Professional wrestling could very well be described as a fantasy land, with a variety of characters, ranging from big, small, scary, or very real and edgy. To see those cast of characters, look no further than the roster that the WWE possessed in the mid-eighties, these different characters allowed the WWE to offer something to fans of all ages. One character that has always been a staple for the WWE is the big man or giant. The classic tale of the big bad monster vs the smaller hero has been a favoured tradition of WWE and so has the Giant character, which historically has been Vince McMahon’s ideal WWE superstar. However, over recent years WWE has lost this tradition, but with the “mountain of a man” Braun Strowman becoming a key element of Monday Night Raw. WWE’s excitement and love for the giants has been reignited and Braun Strowman has become a fresh new act taken from the same old script.
Giants are a part of the fabric of literature, films, wrestling and sports. Think, Jack and the Beanstalk, King Kong and even the hugely successful boxing bout between David Haye and the giant Russian Nikolai Valuev (which grossed nearly one million pay-per-view buys, according to the boxingscene.com (2017) which played off the evergreen story of David v Goliath. Semenza, C & Hasenfratz, B authors of the book The History of British Literature on Film, 1895-2015 (PG 65) discuss how Georges Melies’s: Gulliver’s Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants (1902) “comes as close to any of the trick films we’ve looked at so far to the pure cinema of spectacle”. Giants were and have always been a spectacle for an audience.
Giants are a spectacle, the sheer size, and stature of a Braun Strowman, Andre the Giant and King Kong Bundy, is not something you see every day. This quality, Giants possess is the reason they have been so important to the WWE and its success. Hulk Hogan slamming the unstoppable, undefeated Andre the Giant in front of ninety-thousand people, is perhaps the most iconic moment in WWE history. It has been and will continue to be played in WWE video packages, till the end of time. As well as, the historic matches the giants of WWE have competed in, one of the WWE’s signature events Royal Rumble has maintained one consistent theme – the giant is always running ruptured over everybody and the underdog somehow manages to eliminate the giant. Royal Rumble 2004, an event which will unfortunately never be promoted by WWE, ever again, due to the winner of the Rumble match being Chris Benoit, continued this theme. The finish of the Rumble match consisted of Chris Benoit, who had been in the Rumble match since the very beginning, somehow managing to eliminate the giant Big Show and win, perhaps the most emotional Royal Rumble match the WWE has ever produced.
Despite this longstanding history, WWE has with giants being the centre of their shows, in recent years there has certainly been less and less of this history on display. Though the giants like Andre and Bundy, were eye-catching and big attractions, they were never the best in ring performers. After years of complaints against the WWE and Vince McMahon, for pushing the big men, simply because of their size and ignoring the smaller but more talented performers like Bret Hart and Chris Jericho, the WWE finally changed their ways. Today, WWE has performers like Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and AJ Styles sitting on top and despite all of them being incredible performers, WWE has lost the variety they once had. The WWE today has a plethora of performers, who have six packs, are incredibly athletic and can perform incredible moves, but are far too similar to one another and cannot fill the void of the giants.
Part of the reason WWE has moved away from the giants could come down to the fact that performers like Big Show and Kane no longer have the same influence on the WWE product, that they once had. All things run their course and need to be changed, and WWE’s change has come in the form of Braun Strowman. An incredibly tall and muscular man with a barbarian like beard, who debuted as part of the Wyatt Family, destroying the likes of Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Chris Jericho (whom he submitted in his first match) and he has been the monster on WWE television, ever since. Braun is a big, strong, and agile giant whose intimidating presence and dominant victories have allowed him to become a very believable and marketable giant.
Braun Strowman’s recent feud with Sami Zayn was a perfect example of WWE’s classic, David v Goliath story being utilised effectively. Braun Strowman offered a very different opponent for the natural ‘underdog’ Sami Zayn, and it was a story, as Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels said that can be told just by the visual. Braun Strowman was a foe Sami Zayn had zero chance of defeating, that was the story, however, every time Sami Zayn would have the big man dazed or in serious jeopardy the fans bought into the fact that Zayn could indeed beat the unstoppable Strowman. Though Strowman was ultimately victorious, WWE was able to generate a strong reaction from the fans and tug on the emotion we all have when it comes to rooting for the underdog. It was organic and it was WWE reaching into their old bag of tricks and Braun Strowman was the catalyst behind this shift in direction by WWE.
Braun Strowman’s incredible start in WWE opens up a future full of possibilities for the WWE. Matchups with the likes of Undertaker and Brock Lesnar would most certainly be a spectacle, which WWE would love to produce and it most certainly would draw the attention of fans. Braun’s continued rise as a superstar would also provide WWE’s heroes an opponent for many years but most importantly, Braun’s rise to the top has opened the doors for giants to come to the WWE and take centre stage, once again.