Braun Strowman added to his WrestleMania legacy this year in a cage match with Shane McMahon.
Strowman’s WrestleMania portfolio, one that already included teaming with a 10-year-old to win the tag titles at WrestleMania 34 and eliminating a Saturday Night Live cast member to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 35, now features tossing McMahon off the top of a steel cage last month at WrestleMania 37.
“Let’s be real here. I’m a ground-based athlete, so that was unreal,” says Strowman, who is 37-year-old Adam Scherr. “You have to give mad credit to Shane. I could hear the crowd come alive when we were on top of the cage. Shane literally gave his body to me, trusting his life in my hands, and that rumble from the crowd gave me goosebumps. It was an honor to go out there with him.”
Cage matches have a long history in pro wrestling but a surprisingly limited one at WrestleMania. This allowed for another creative spot when Strowman ripped through the cage to get his hands on McMahon, who was trying to escape.
“Ripping through the cage, that was an important moment,” Strowman says. “We’re here to show something that’s never been before. That’s where you become a legend in this business, so I hope those moments live on. I was very happy with what we did, and I’ll remember those reactions from the crowd for a long time.”
Strowman won the match, which was built on a story arc of McMahon bullying his larger-than-life opponent. Though it took a heightened suspension of disbelief to believe that narrative, Strowman noted that it portrayed a difficult piece of his past.
“My whole life, I’ve always been judged,” the 6' 8" Strowman says. “That’s what I liked about this story line with Shane. I look like a giant, and I’ve always dealt with stereotypes. That’s what I was trying to tell in the story with Shane. Just because I look a certain way, that doesn’t mean I can’t be more than that. I love to read, I love to learn. There’s a lot more to me than just my size.
“I know what it’s like to be bullied. I was a fat kid growing up and I was constantly bullied during childhood. People would think less of me or didn’t think I could accomplish something. I’ve been proving people wrong my whole life, and it’s a wonderful feeling. That’s what I wanted our younger viewers to see in that story line with Shane.”
Body image continues to play a significant factor in his life. A former strongman competitor, Strowman’s weight jumped from 285 pounds to over 400 while he was actively competing. Over the past year, he has taken immense pride in tightening up his look to present a leaner, healthier version of himself to the world.
“I hated the way I looked,” Strowman says. “I’ve always struggled with body dysmorphia. It’s still a tough battle, but I try to remind myself it’s a process and I have my whole life to work on this. I admire the work I’ve put into this to change my life for the better.
“I needed to make some changes in my life, and since I was given some extra time at home because of the pandemic, I wanted to do something positive with it. I worked with a nutritionist, I worked with a new trainer, and I revamped the way I ate and what I do at the gym. It’s a whole new lifestyle. It’s been really cool for my mentality, and the feedback from people around the world has been so inspiring. I’ve had mothers message me that they’ve changed the way they cook for their kids. Someone messaged me saying he lost 200 pounds after seeing my transformation. That’s very humbling. It’s been a learning process for me, and I am really enjoying the experience.”
Now weighing in at 349 pounds, Strowman is more confident with his work in the ring, and even happier with his presentation.
“I’m finally listening to my body,” Strowman says. “I used to be so worried about just getting big. I was on path to do a bodybuilding show until I tore my meniscus back at Survivor Series last year, and that put a damper on my cardio. A lot of this is mental, and I’m working to give people the absolute best I can.”
Strowman’s work has evolved over the past year. He was thrown into the universal title picture when Roman Reigns opted out of WrestleMania 36, then won the belt from Bill Goldberg. He dropped the title to Bray Wyatt in August, and he is now back in the championship fray, seeking his first run with the WWE title.
Strowman has made magic in the ring with reigning WWE champion Bobby Lashley. They were particularly great together in the summer of 2019, including a pay-per-view match at Extreme Rules. Strowman has been inserted into the current title story, which prominently features Lashley and Drew McIntyre, leading to a triple-threat match at Backlash on May 16.
“Bobby is a specimen, Drew is a specimen and I am a specimen,” Strowman says. “This is King Kong meets Godzilla meets the Incredible Hulk, and we’ll see who is the top of the food chain. Bobby and Drew are so talented. The Last Man Standing match I had with Bobby [at Extreme Rules in 2019] is my favorite match of all time and they pull out a different side of me. There is nowhere else you’ll see three guys go at it like this.”
Strowman has exhibited a new confidence in the ring, the byproduct of his five-month run as universal champion. Even though it took place in the empty-venue period of the pandemic, he feels that that stretch allowed him to elevate his in-ring storytelling and overall presence.
“This is a profession that takes time,” Strowman says. “I have less than six years on the main roster, and less than eight years in a wrestling ring. Working through the pandemic without a crowd, that was hard. It was so strange to have nobody there, hearing every breath you’d take. Looking back, that experience has made us better. We had to tighten up our game.
“I’m a big advocate of learning something new every day. That’s what happened for me in WWE. This is where I belong. I love learning more about adapting and entertaining. I’m my own worst critic, and I read more of the comments than I should, and I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but I know I’m good at this. I’m the best damn Braun Strowman, I’m the best big man in the world. I’ll swear on that. There ain’t nobody on this planet my size that can do what I can do, talk like I can talk and wrestle like I can wrestle. I’m going to continue with the mindset. Why would I think any less of myself?”
The goal for Strowman is to work his hardest to draw in new viewers while also keeping the attention of the current fan base, and the build and execution of his program with Lashley and McIntyre will be a great opportunity to do so.
“It’s going to be hard-hitting and it’s going to get physical,” Strowman says. “This isn’t going to be a superkick party. We’re going to beat the hell out of each other.”
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.