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  • Braun Strowman on his future goals, a curious SummerSlam booking decision, Matt Riddle’s TakeOver plans and more from around the world of wrestling.
By Justin Barrasso
July 31, 2019

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Braun Strowman: “I will main event WrestleMania”

Braun Strowman is wrestling’s most talented giant. 

No one else matches Strowman’s combination of size, athleticism, intimidation, and promos. The big man hasn’t stopped improving since he started bear hugging opponents on his Raw debut in August 2015.

The current plan for Strowman is to continue to be used as a special attraction, which is an integral reason why he has never won a singles title. Strowman was the runner-up in this year’s Royal Rumble, then was paired in a storyline with Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che and Colin Jost before winning the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 35.

“Mania was great, I had the opportunity to work with some pop culture guys doing a little bridging outside of the gap of what I’ve normally done with my character,” said Strowman, who is 35-year-old Adam Scherr. “That was a good thing because it got my face out in front of more mainstream media and audiences that don’t necessarily watch wrestling. We were just talking about this at work, and I want to say it had 257 million views in outlets outside of wrestling in a matter of a week. It wasn’t ideally what I wanted to do at WrestleMania, but it was a good thing to do at WrestleMania.”

Strowman has worked a storyline with fellow powerhouse Bobby Lashley that included the memorable Raw open where the two behemoths crashed through the LED wall. With the other high-profile spots already taken, Strowman and Lashley are each other’s best option for a match of significance at SummerSlam.

But Strowman already has his long-term goals mapped out.

“I will main event WrestleMania,” said Strowman. “Hopefully more than once on my way to a Hall of Fame career.”

The 6’8”, 340-pounder even took the time to book the main event for WrestleMania 36.

“I’ll start with a main event against Drew McIntyre,” said Strowman. “And I’ll tell you who will win: me.”

WWE CEO Vince McMahon is known for his ability to add memorable giants to his marquee, and Strowman’s charisma and believability in the ring has made him instantly recognizable in wrestling.

“I still watch a lot of matches from the big guys,” said Strowman, who competed in Strongman competitions before enrolling in the WWE Performance Center. “Andre The Giant, Big Show, Mark Henry, Kane, The Undertaker, I’m picking and choosing little things and mannerisms, and then putting my own twist on it. I’m not trying to be like anybody else, I’m trying to be the first Braun Strowman.”

The name Braun Strowman was chosen at the Performance Center, with Strowman sounding like strongman and the first name Braun serendipitously being mentioned at the right moment.

“Figuring out my name was a fluke thing,” said Strowman. “I was in the Performance Center and Ryan Braun’s name came up across the screen on SportsCenter, and I thought Braun had a really good ring to it.”

Ryan Braun is the left fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, and the two had the chance to meet this past May.

“I was in Milwaukee in May and threw out the first pitch and Ryan Braun was the catcher,” said Strowman. “I got an awesome picture wearing the custom Braun Strowman jersey that said Strowman on the back of mine, and I was next to Ryan and he had Braun on the back of his, so the picture looking at our backs said Braun Strowman.”

WWE made their commitment to Strowman clear this past spring with a five-year contract extension, and wrestling’s signature big man is already envisioning his string of world title runs.

“But it’s not a necessity right now,” said Strowman. “I don’t need something to boost my character. I get some of the biggest reactions out of anyone just walking out because of my sheer size and ability.

“It would be cool right now, but I’m here for the long haul and I have many, many more years of WWE in me. There’s plenty of time.”

Trish Stratus returns for SummerSlam… but against the wrong opponent

In a match made official this week on SmackDown Live, Trish Stratus is returning to wrestle Charlotte Flair at SummerSlam.

Becky Lynch, who went from feuding with Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania to working with Lacey Evans up until June, defends her Raw women’s championship on the same card against Natalya.

To quote Pat Patterson, this is banana.

Lynch needs better opponents to make her title reign meaningful. Neidhart is very good in the ring, and Evans has lots of potential, but neither present a credible threat to Lynch. And neither moves the needle in terms of anticipation before one of the biggest cards of the year.

Dripping with charisma, Lynch still needs the right opponents, which she hasn’t had since Rousey took her sabbatical. Lynch and Flair have largely been kept separated since May, which is smart considering they’ve already worked against each other so often. But the storyline with Evans didn’t do any favors for Lynch, and the same can be said for Neidhart.

Asuka would also have made sense for a SummerSlam opponent for Lynch. Although she is currently tagging as part of the Kabuki Warriors with Kairi Sane, Asuka is not on the SummerSlam card.

Asuka defeated Lynch at the Royal Rumble by making her tap, which could have been an easy way to reignite a story between the two for SummerSlam.

A match between Lynch and Stratus also would have added a tremendous amount of excitement entering SummerSlam, especially considering that Stratus would have a lot of the crowd in her hometown of Toronto behind her. That would have allowed Lynch to show off her edge, creating even more interest in what will happen during the remainder of the summer.

Instead, all we have is a missed opportunity.

Matt Riddle seeking redemption following loss at TakeOver XXV

Matt Riddle’s opponent for NXT TakeOver: Toronto has yet to be announced, but it is hard to imagine the card without the presence of one of wrestling’s most electrifying talents.

The last time we saw Riddle on NXT’s weekly show was two weeks ago, when he destroyed Arturo Ruas in the opening bout.

Riddle, who once starred for the UFC, makes technical wrestling a joy to watch. Structuring that match as if it were in the Octagon was a smart choice, and the fight favored Riddle as soon as he connected his Final Flash knee strike to the head of Ruas. The match ended by referee decision, which gave it a different feel than a typical pinfall or submission victory.

Following the match, Riddle was attacked by a man in a mask, revealed to be a returning Killian Dain. After a forgettable run on the main roster with Sanity, Dain is back to add depth to the singles division—and his return sets up a new program for Riddle.

[youtbe:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6NooWCpB6o]

A beast like Dain is a great match-up for Riddle, who works well with mobile big men, but never too far from Riddle’s mind is the chance to wear gold in NXT.

Velveteen Dream successfully defended his North American championship against Riddle at TakeOver: New York during WrestleMania weekend on April 5, ending Riddle’s undefeated start in NXT.

“That loss to Velveteen still burns in my soul,” said Riddle. “I’ve got a feeling I’ll get that back before my time here is up.”

Dream is defending his title in a triple threat match at the TakeOver in Toronto against Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne. But Riddle is hungry to add championship gold to his resume. In addition to Dream’s North American title, he also wants a match with a rival from U.K.-based Progress Wrestling, United Kingdom champion WALTER.

“Here is my plan,” said Riddle. “I’d like to hold the North American title, then go to NXT U.K. to fight WALTER. Then I’ll take his U.K. title.”

The 33-year-old Riddle will one day be the face of NXT, but he is fully aware that NXT is a terrain that is going to take time to conquer.

“I don’t think NXT has ever been stronger,” said Riddle. “For me, I’m going to obtain some goals, redeem some losses, and definitely have a good time along the way.”

The (Online) Week in Wrestling

• Renee Young gave an honest assessment of her commentary on Raw, but the outburst of support in her defense spoke volumes.

ESPN’s Marc Raimondi had a very interesting interview with CM Punk, who threw cold water on the idea of wrestling for AEW.

• Cody Rhodes responded to the Punk story with an interesting take. 

• Speaking of Rhodes, he’ll be in a six-man tag at this Saturday’s TripleMania with Cain Velasquez, who is making his pro wrestling debut, and Psycho Clown. 

• Coming this October, Beyond Wrestling is moving to Thursdays… and its Americanrana show from this past Sunday at Foxwoods is available to stream at www.IWTV.live.

• Ring of Honor stars Silas Young, Tracy Williams, Josh Woods, and Television champ Shane Taylor wrestle in a four-way “Proving Ground” match that will be broadcast this Saturday on YouTube at 7 p.m. ET. If Young, Williams, or Woods wins the match, the reward is a TV title shot at ROH’s Summer Supercard on August 9 in Toronto.

As the Wrestling Inc. story notes, this week’s Raw rating could have benefitted from a continuing storyline from last week’s reunion.

• As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a good time for an ice cream bar. 

Alex Hammerstone entering Pro Wrestling NOAH’s N-1 Victory tournament

Alexander Hammerstone is bringing a piece of Major League Wrestling overseas.

The reigning MLW National Openweight champion, Hammerstone is going to Japan to wrestle in Pro Wrestling NOAH’s prestigious N-1 Victory tournament. Hammerstone will wrestle in the A Block of the 10-man tourney, which includes NOAH star Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura, Go Shiozaki, and Masa Kitamiya.

Formerly known as the Global League, the tournament shares similarities with New Japan’s G1. It is point-based with 30-minute time limits, and the winner gets a shot at NOAH’s GHC heavyweight champion.

Only 28, Hammerstone is rapidly approaching his tenth year in the business. He started training in Phoenix, then honed his skills at FSW in Las Vegas.

He won the National Openweight title this past June in a victory over Brian Pillman Jr. that concluded a four-man tournament to crown the first-ever champion, and his character, promos, and work in the ring have all flourished during his run with the belt.

“Holding a championship in wrestling is always something that has meant a lot to me, but MLW has a national and international presence so this is a much larger scale,” said Hammerstone. “I’m the first ever guy to hold this title so I’m setting standard and subsequent tone of what fans can expect from it, and on a bigger scale, how people perceive our company because the champions represent the brand.”

Outside of New Japan Pro Wrestling, the only promotion in the world with such an emphasis on factions is Major League Wrestling. Along with MJF and Richard Holliday, the charismatic Hammerstone is an integral part of The Dynasty.

“MJF is one of the greatest personalities in wrestling today, and he’s put extra pressure on us to find our own personality,” said Hammerstone, who will have even more opportunity to be the company’s top heel when MJF starts full-time with All Elite Wrestling in October. “We’ve challenged each other to stick out and be the top heels in the company, which has forced me to reinvent myself and think twice about how I do things.”

In an era with more diversity in wrestlers’ size and stature, Hammerstone stands out at 6’3”. His trip to Japan will mark his third trip to the country, but never for this many dates in such a prominent position.

“I’m working at least 14 dates over four weeks,” said Hammerstone. “Japanese wrestling has this aura about it, and there’s good reason for it. Some of the best wrestling in the world comes out of Japan, and NOAH is next-level competition. I want the fans who aren’t sold on Hammerstone, The Dynasty, and MLW to watch and see what I am able to do.

“This partnership between Major League Wrestling and NOAH is going to be huge. MLW is going to the next level and we make news almost on a weekly basis: we’re televised in a new country, the first-ever pay per view, and now the deal with NOAH.”

After the announcement of the partnership between the two companies, the best choice from the MLW roster for the N-1 Victory tournament was, to many, Davey Boy Smith Jr.

Smith has years of experience in Japan and works a physical, hard-hitting style, and he is also Hammerstone’s dream opponent for the MLW pay-per-view in November.

“Regardless of how I feel about him, Davey Boy is one of the best wrestlers in the world,” said Hammerstone. “I still want to get in the ring again with him, whether that happens in Japan, the pay-per-view, or anywhere else in the world. I’m not looking for scraps, I’m not looking to hit my favorite moves or wrestle on pay-per-view just to say I did. And Davey Boy and I have some unfinished business.”

Hammerstone now looks to seize the biggest opportunity in his career against some of the industry’s best in the Land of the Rising Sun.

“I’m going to set the wrestling world ablaze and build the kind of buzz for this company that’s never happened before,” said Hammerstone. “I want to wrestle with the best and come out with my hand raised.”

Tweet of the Week

Then. Now. Forever.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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