Heading into the much-anticipated Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar match for Lesnar's WWE Universal Title at the "No Mercy" pay-per-view Sept. 24, I figured the bout would end one of three ways:
Either Strowman, arguably the hottest performer in the company, wins the title; there's a non-finish in which Strowman and Lesnar take each other out in a "holy sh*t" stunt; or Lesnar wins the match, but he does so in a manner that allows Strowman to keep his heat and aura of invincibility.
The one scenario I couldn't fathom is the one that actually occurred: Lesnar hit an F-5 out of nowhere to pin Strowman in less than 10 minutes. It was nearly identical to the finish of the Lesnar-Samoa Joe match at the "Great Balls of Fire" pay-per-view.
No disrespect to Samoa Joe, but he's not Braun Strowman. I can buy one F-5 beating Joe, but it should've taken a minimum of three to beat "The Monster Among Men."
We've seen Strowman pop right up after taking a German Suplex from Lesnar, not to mention seeing him walk away on his own power after an ambulance he was inside of was rammed at a high speed into an 18-wheeler.
Yet, a single F-5 put him down for a three-count. That's just absurd, and judging by the flat reaction from the crowd at Staples Center in Los Angeles, they felt the same way.
Not only did Strowman leave "No Mercy" without the championship belt, but he also left without his "monster card."
If WWE wanted to keep the Universal Title on Lesnar -- perhaps because Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the championship is going to headline WrestleMania in April 2018, as has been rumored -- that's fine, but it's mindboggling WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon would book a finish at "No Mercy" that he had to know would damage Strowman's character.
It's a shame, because WWE had done such a good job of booking Strowman as a monster heel, going back to when he debuted as a member of the Wyatt Family two years ago and continuing when he went on his own after being drafted to "Raw" in July 2016.
During my appearance on The Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast Sept. 26, Keller reasoned that Strowman was sacrificed to make the moment when Reigns kicks out of an F-5 at WrestleMania and defeats Lesnar for the title mean as much as possible. It sounds plausible, but if that is indeed the case, I think it's shortsighted.
Strowman is special -- well, at least he was before "No Mercy" -- and he could be a box office attraction for WWE for years to come if booked properly. In fact, a strong case could be made that the first-ever Lesnar vs. Strowman match should've been saved for the grand stage of WrestleMania.
Whether Strowman can regain the momentum he had before his match against Lesnar remains to be seen, but the Sept. 25 episode of "Raw" wasn't a great start. Coming off his loss to Lesnar, I was hoping Strowman would do something major on "Raw," such as wreaking havoc all night by attacking people backstage and interrupting matches.
Instead, Strowman beat up Curt Hawkins and threw him through the video wall on the stage, and then he defeated Dean Ambrose. It sounds good on paper, but manhandling a guy who's on a 118-match losing streak means nothing, and the video wall stunt didn't look all that spectacular. The match with Ambrose was laid out in a way that made Strowman look superior, but it would've been more effective to have Strowman destroy Ambrose and get disqualified rather than even caring about getting a three-count.
I'm not sure where Strowman goes from here. A program with his former leader, Bray Wyatt, will likely happen at some point, but that's not ideal at the moment since Wyatt just lost to Finn Balor at "No Mercy."
Perhaps a change of scenery for Strowman is needed. If WWE came up with a storyline reason for sending him to "SmackDown Live," Strowman could move into the WWE Title picture and
have fresh opponents in Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Randy Orton.
Regardless of what WWE does next with Strowman, it might not be enough to change the perception that "The Monster Among Men" is actually more man than monster after all.