Just a few weeks ago, Braun Strowman had no storyline and was not expected to be on WWE’s WrestleMania card. His feud with Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro that saw him win his first singles title but then lose it at Elimination Chamber had been dropped and that trio moved on to battle Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak.
With no build-up, no promos, and barely any notice, one of the biggest matches at WrestleMania was changed on the go-home episode of Smackdown from Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns to Goldberg vs. Braun Strowman. Since he was only cleared of leukemia a year ago, Reigns pulled out of WrestleMania for good reasons, as competing at the event would have been a health risk. WWE replaced him with Strowman with hardly any mention of Reigns’ situation, not because Strowman was next in line or won a match to become the new Number One contender, but because he wasn’t on the WrestleMania card and someone needed to take Reigns’ spot.
Strowman always seemed like a borderline World Champion, but the stars never aligned for him. His WWE career kicked off as a member of the Wyatt Family, but his standout size and power separated him from the pack and led to a singles push. He won the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2018 but lost the title match to Roman Reigns at Hell in a Cell that year, then lost another Universal championship match to Brock Lesnar at Super Showdown.
Ever since those title opportunities Strowman had been in mid-card Hell. But, he started showing signs of a recent comeback when he won his first singles title, the Intercontinental championship, over Shinsuke Nakamura. It looked like Strowman was finally getting a run with a title, until he lost it at Elimination Chamber to Sami Zayn in a 3-on-1 Handicap match. That feud was instantly dropped and Strowman had no planned match at WrestleMania. . . until the chance to face Bill Goldberg for the Universal Championship simply fell in his lap.
There have been plenty of moments in wrestling history when circumstances dictated a change of plans, but never has anyone seen a comparable situation to Strowman’s. In November 1995, Big Daddy Cool Diesel won the (then) WWF championship in a house show over Bob Backlund. This was only a few days after Backlund won the title from Bret Hart at Survivor Series and Diesel broke off from Shawn Michaels to turn face the same night. The quick transition from Hart to Diesel was bizarre, but at least it was clearly done to give the popular Diesel a run with the title. Braun Strowman had practically zero buzz going into the abrupt change of plans at WrestleMania.
Braun Strowman went from not even being on the WrestleMania card to winning the WWE’s most prestigious belt from one of pro wrestling’s most iconic names. The number of wrestlers to get a clean victory over Bill Goldberg can be counted on one hand, and Strowman beat him in only two minutes and ten seconds. Even though most fans are aware of how old Goldberg is and how little he can actually wrestle at this point in his career, in kayfabe beating Goldberg cleanly is almost as a big a deal as beating Brock Lesnar cleanly, as WWE showed the next night with Drew McIntyre’s victory over The Beast. No matter what happens next, Strowman will always have that achievement next to his name as someone who defeated Goldberg.
While some fans were probably tired of WWE crowning Roman Reigns champion at multiple WrestleManias, Reigns defeating Goldberg for the Universal title at the latest WrestleMania would have been a lot more predictable than having Braun Strowman do it. Going into WrestleMania, the whole reason why Goldberg was brought back to become Universal champion again was so he could put Reigns back on the mountaintop a year after returning from leukemia. Now, the futures of Reigns, Strowman, Goldberg, and the Universal title are all up in the air.
Whether this is the start of a long run with the belt or if he’s just a transitional champion temporarily holding onto the belt for Reigns or The Fiend, Braun Strowman’s mega-push out of nowhere makes him the most unlikely — and luckiest — World Champion in WWE History.
From being left off the WrestleMania card to beating Goldberg for the Universal Championship, Braun Strowman is the luckiest champion ever.