WrestleMania 36 was indeed a landmark moment for WWE as the two major men’s titles in the company changed hands. Braun Strowman beat Bill Goldberg to become the WWE Universal Champion for the first time, while the WWE Championship was strapped onto Drew McIntyre, the first Brit to own it after he pummelled Brock Lesnar.
However, while these title swaps are huge, they don’t really matter. And make no mistake, it’s not because the Show of Shows didn’t take place in front of a crowd or the athletes didn’t deserve it — it’s simply because WWE’s creative team mishandled how these belts should have been dropped in the first place.
In Strowman’s case, there’s no real clout in beating the veteran Goldberg. In fact, by dominating the 53-year-old and rag-dolling him around the ring, it was actually embarrassing. Seeing Strowman bully Goldberg in just under five minutes is a disrespect to both entertainers and the fans because this title is prestigious and deserves much more in terms of a worthy match. Now, this isn’t to knock Strowman for putting in work and paying dues or Goldberg for being a part-timer, but the veteran just shouldn’t have been in the picture.
Goldberg beat the Fiend when the latter was getting a hot reaction from the crowd, all so creative could then gift the title to Roman Reigns: a big mistake as the crowd turned on Reigns again. As for Strowman, he’s gotten the short end of the stick since 2017 with title fights against Lesnar involving other fighters just so Strowman could lose and still come out looking strong. 2017 is a prime example with a fatal four-way involving Samoa Joe and Reigns, while the 2018 Royal Rumble had Kane getting pinned by Lesnar in a triple-threat. Strowman was then written out of a Money in the Bank cash-in after Reigns beat Lesnar in 2018’s SummerSlam. He’d also lose a 2019 Universal title shot to Seth Rollins and also, he’d lose to boxer Tyson Fury that same year, compounding that it didn’t matter if he was heel or face, creative felt Strowman just wasn’t ready to hold a major title.
It’s disappointing because the fans loved him to the point that the “Get these hands!” movement reached a fever pitch. So right now, Strowman feels like a placeholder since Reigns asked to be pulled from the event. When the fans demanded it, the title wasn’t put on Strowman, so it’s hard to feel this is now a genuine narrative decision. Seeing as no one really asked for Strowman to get the belt, as they wanted it on Fiend, this free pass could harm the Monster Among Men’s career. Forced moves like this cause crowds to turn, as seen with John Cena, Lesnar, Reigns and recently, Rollins. When the iron is hot, creative needs to strike, especially with fresh faces, and Strowman in the past was someone who wasn’t that new enough to be considered ripe. He should have gotten a crack at glory back then. This shows a proactive company intent on building future superstars and also, it motivates the new breed.
The same goes for McIntyre, who’s been hot since he returned to the company. Instead, creative stuck him as a heel with Dolph Ziggler for way too long, and even after they parted, McIntyre wasn’t used as a solo beast himself. He was even put into a feud with Reigns, which fans felt could stymie his career, and it did for a while. As for Lesnar, Kofi Kingston became the sacrificial lamb for the Beast after creative decided to move past Rollins as the Beast-Slayer, and from then, fans knew it’d just be another era of the Beast appearing when and where he wanted.
While McIntyre getting the belt now isn’t as knee-jerk and reactive as Strowman as this feud was built before the COVID-19 restrictions came into play, one has to wonder if it should have been done when the fans were vocal, present and behind him even as an anti-hero. After all, there was no one to cheer the Scotsman’s big win and it really did miss the exclamation mark. But this seems like karma for all of the bad decisions made with these belts over the years. While it’s nice seeing Strowman and McIntyre, two titans in recent years, celebrating, it does feel underwhelming since the timing’s off.
Empty arenas, whether you want to admit it or not, detract from the wins and one has to feel their work ethic should have been rewarded when the spotlight was there. Fans wanted it, the wrestlers wanted it and the storylines were perfect to accommodate these wins, but creative seemingly didn’t have faith and confidence. As a result, what should have been crowning moments of glory and triumph aren’t resonating as much as they should for two giants who deserved a better victory party, with some diehards simply thinking it’s too little, too late.
Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre's big title wins at WrestleMania 36 don't really matter that much—and WWE's creative team should shoulder the blame.