In case you missed it, Braun Strowman was pulled from his match at the upcoming WWE Royal Rumble pay-per-view, where he was scheduled to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. Instead, Finn Balor will be replacing the “Monster Among Men” in the bout, after winning not one, but two matches on RAW this week and pinning 16-time world champion John Cena in the show’s main event.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the plan “for at least a month” was always to pull Strowman from the bout, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he still hasn’t been completely cleared by WWE’s medical staff, stemming from a minor elbow surgery he underwent in December.
The decision reportedly dates back all the way to WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia, where they ran an angle where Lesner defeated Strowman to win the then-vacant Universal Championship back, but had to connect with a shocking five F5s including one on the floor to get the job done.
Vince McMahon apparently didn’t like the way the crowd reacted to the match, and the plans changed when Braun had to step away for elbow surgery ahead of WWE TLC. The idea was that if Strowman faced Lesnar at the Royal Rumble and the match actually happened, either they would have to do another screwy finish, or Strowman would have to lose again. Either option has its obvious cons.
Take this report with a grain of salt however. It does seem suspicious that WWE would bring Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman back to Monday Night RAW last week for the soul purpose of continuing the program with Braun Strowman, if the plan was to remove him from the match all along.
That being said, the Observer did also state that one of the reasons they hung onto the booking of Strowman as #1 contender for so long has to do with the size of the Royal Rumble venue, Chase Field, which can hold a little under 50,000 fans. The idea was that Strowman would sell more tickets than Balor in the title picture, so they waited as long as possible to make the switch.