Braun Strowman became WWE‘s newest Universal Champion on night one of WrestleMania 36 after defeating Goldberg in a blink-and-you’d-miss-it match that barely lasted two minutes. As is expected of any modern Goldberg bout, the match was a ho-hum affair which mostly consisted of finishers being strung together in sequence to end the match as quickly as possible. First, with four spears delivered by Goldberg, followed by three running powerslams from Braun to put the former WCW powerhouse away. But in this case, the match itself isn’t what WWE fans should be excited about; its all the fascinating new potential programs WWE just unlocked by making “The Monster Among Men” its newest champion.
As a last-minute replacement for Roman Reigns, Strowman walked into the match as a huge underdog to actually defeat Goldberg for the title. Despite declining in-ring abilities, Goldberg remains a big name who can draw an audience, and many felt WWE was content to have him bury Strowman quickly and save a title change for whenever the Reigns bout could be rescheduled. Strowman has spent most of his five years in the WWE in the upper midcard fulfilling the role of “jobber to the stars,” so the win against Goldberg should prove to be the highlight of his career. It’s a feather in the cap of a fan-favorite wrestler who always seemed to come up just short of getting that monster push which never quite materialized and only won his first mid-card singles titles a few months back. But the most exciting element of Braun Strowman’s title reign most likely won’t be Braun Strowman — it’ll be all the possible challengers he can now be paired with.
For much of the past six months, WWE’s top two titles have been held hostage by two part-time champions in Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. They’ve held the titles because they both have name recognition with a casual audience. Still, their part-time status means the weekly WWE television audience rarely gets to see those titles defended. With a part-time champion, the audience knows it’s not going to see that title defended until the next PPV — and even then there still might not be a title match, as Brock Lesnar proved by electing not even to have a title match at the Royal Rumble.
WWE also tends to fall into the habit of scheduling part-time champions to defend their titles against challengers who the audience knows don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning the match. With all due respect to the likes of Richochet and Rey Mysterio, their recent titles programs against Brock Lesnar didn’t have a speck of drama in them because everyone watching knew exactly who’d be standing at the end of the match. Strowman’s victory over Goldberg was so surprising precisely because he seemed like exactly the type of wrestler who was not quite important enough to win when he walked into the arena.
Walking out now as champion, Braun cuts such a fascinating figure because just about any challenger he can be paired with should come off as a credible threat, and the match-up possibilities are endless. He could take on Roman Reigns in the feud originally planned for Goldberg. He could give The Fiend a chance to get his title back in a Wyatt Family feud. He could pair with a smaller wrestler, like Daniel Bryan or Kofi Kingston, or a larger one, like King Corbin. If WWE follows through with a Superstar Shakeup at Raw after Mania, he could end up in a program with Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, A.J. Styles, Randy Orton, or even Edge. Most of these programs would be brand new for Strowman, and every single one could realistically beat him — or be beaten by him. His reign could potentially be measured in hours or months — he might just be keeping the title warm until the next SmackDown, get cashed in on at Money in the Bank, or hold on to the title for multiple programs for the next several months.
As long as someone like Goldberg (or Brock Lesnar) holds onto a top title, its storytelling possibilities become mired in predictability. Everyone in the audience knows they won’t see that belt defended for months at a time, and won’t see it change hands unless the challenger is one of WWE’s top stars. Just about anything could happen during Braun Strowman’s title reign — and that’s a very, very good thing in a division which could use a little more uncertainty.
Further Reading: Missing WrestleMania May Actually Save Roman Reigns’ — Here’s Why
Braun Strowman just became WWE’s Universal Champion. His title reign should be marked by unpredictability – which is exactly what WWE needs.