Baron Corbin and Braun Strowman, Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin. In some ways they are very alike, while in others they couldn’t be more different. When exploring their contributions to the Raw and Smackdown Live brands, it has been a very different road taken by each man. On one hand we have the Lone Wolf Corbin whom marches to the beat of his own drummer, stating that he will become the WWE champion, and on the other there is Strowman simply wreaking havoc on anyone and anything that crosses his path. It hasn’t mattered if it was one, two or three men that had stood in his way, Strowman has been built up to be this insane beast prepared to.
In comparison, Corbin’s booking has been very different. He’s a man seeking his rightful due, only thinking about himself. It is that reckless nature that has been both his blessing and curse. The most glaring difference between the two of them is that most cower at the sight of Strowman, whereas Corbin doesn’t care if they fear him because they eventually will.
Corbin was initially built up as a face on NXT, until he eventually turned and feuded with the likes of Apollo Crews and Samoa Joe. His matches against the likes of Adrian Neville, Samoa Joe, and Finn Balor all suggested that he was in line for a push as part of the NXT brand. What happened next however, was somewhat surprising. When he debuted at Wrestlemania, Corbin surprised everyone when he won the Andre the Giant battle royal. This achievement certainly showed that the company wanted Corbin to make his debut with a splash, as he captured this special trophy. Many will recall Corbin’s first feud as part of the Raw brand; his battles against Dolph Ziggler reflected the company’s desire to have him make an impact against an established, notable name. During their matches it was clear that Ziggler was going to do his best to make Corbin look as good as possible. To Corbin’s credit, he learned from Ziggler’s guidance to make it the most credible feud it could be. Once their feud came to an end, it seemed as though the next decision was how to help further Corbin. However, with the roster being as deep as it was on the Raw brand, he was moved to the Smackdown Live roster.
Strowman’s debut was as part of the Wyatt Family. His size was intimidating and his presence undeniable, and everyone knew that there had to be other plans in store for Strowman. Strowman’s booking has been clear since he debuted; he was the silent, brooding monster that didn’t have to speak to make the noise of a thousand men. Many may not be aware that Strowman had spent some time honing his craft as in the WWE performance center. He competed as part of the NXT roster on house shows, but wasn’t used on television. Some may be aware that Strowman in the past competed in and won several strongman competitions. His strength is not in question, but what is questioned is what has he taken from his somewhat brief in-ring experience, and how does he become a better wrestler?
This isn’t to suggest that he isn’t conditioned, but there is something to be said about building a repertoire in the ring and your versatility as a performer. Today’s fans aren’t compelled by slower moving, plodding men. Despite their size, a slower pace leads to the perception of a lack of compete level, which is often the biggest irritant. This isn’t to suggest that Strowman isn’t committed to getting better, he’s following the script as it’s being written for him. Brock Lesnar, who is a big man, can captivate fans, and his moveset suggests that he is dominant from when his theme music hits to when he walks back to the dressing room area.
As it stands now, Strowman has been a focal point of the brand leading up to and beyond the Royal Rumble. He started off simply enough as a man with a thirst for competition, who was fed countless no name wrestlers that made him appear even more fearsome because of how impressive he would be against them. The problem was it was clear that he wasn’t facing anyone of worth, and in fact by defeating James Ellsworth he actually managed to make Ellsworth a popular performer. After some time Strowman began to work a program against Sami Zayn, without question a David and Goliath tale for the 21st century. Strowman is able to tower over most men, and when it came to Zayn it was no different. However, facing smaller men that make the big man even bigger isn’t necessarily compelling storytelling for the viewing audience. If anything, it was Zayn who fans wanted to see ultimately succeed. While he may be battling Zayn from time to time, it appears that the ultimate goal is to have Strowman considered a legitimate contender for the championship
After looking at both Corbin and Strowman, their backgrounds are as different as their build up. Yet, when we look at their roles on their respective brands they aren’t all that different from this point. Corbin has feuded with the smaller, high flying Kalisto while Strowman feuded with the smaller and high flying Sami Zayn. Both opponents had the ability to bring their much larger adversaries along and make fans see just how dangerous they can be. However, Corbin demonstrates a mobility that can make his matches among the best not only on the Smackdown Live brand, but in the promotion as a whole. Take for instance his triple threat match against AJ Styles and Dolph Ziggler, which was a coming out party of sorts for Corbin as it was one of his best matches on the main roster. Corbin has been given a chance to be in the ring with some of the best the company has to offer, and in the process become a strong contender for the WWE championship in 2017.
With the new year here, what is next for Strowman and Corbin? It would be easy to suggest that Corbin is simply being built slowly in order to add to the depth of the Smackdown Live roster, while the idea appears to be entrenched in the minds of fans that Braun Strowman will soon become the WWE Universal champion. Fans have seen Strowman and Brock Lesnar face-to-face, and Strowman in conflict with Roman Reigns coming face-to-face with one another. The events of the Royal Rumble don’t suggest that Strowman will battle for the title in the main event of Wrestlemania. The narrative being told, going into Wrestlemania seems to be that Strowman is this monster among men.
In the case of Corbin, he may very well win the title, but maybe that isn’t the short-term goal. It is clear that the difference between Corbin and Strowman is Strowman is that, despite being built as monsters, the only way for Strowman to go is up. Can the same be said about Corbin? One would like to think that the promotion has faith in him, and that his contributions since joining the Smackdown Live brand are eventually going to lead to a main event push, or at the very least a run at the Intercontinental championship. Despite his recent matches against the likes of John Cena, AJ Styles and Dolph Ziggler, was this just a tease, or is it a small sample of what is to come for the Lone Wolf?
Both Strowman and Corbin can only beat down smaller competitors for so long before their character progression becomes stalled. The writers have seen this, and know that in order to give these monsters credibility they need to be elevated to the next level. Rather than feeding them talent whose sole purpose is to make these two look strong, facing notable contenders will only make them credible and believable as champions. Strowman’s path appears much clearer, as those he is in contention with for the WWE Universal championship don’t appear as assured of retaining their championship as John Cena is on Smackdown Live. These two monsters have a great deal ahead of them, and hopefully that also results in them crossing paths again, as they briefly did during the Royal Rumble, while their careers evolve simultaneously.