Braun Strowman, recovering from surgery last month, was pulled from the main event of the Royal Rumble Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar on last night’s episode of Raw, with a storyline being written that Vince McMahon pulled Strowman out of the match for destroying his limo backstage.
Later in the show, a fatal four-way match took place where Finn Balor emerged as the new No. 1 contender for Lesnar’s championship.
However, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer is reporting that Strowman being pulled from the match had nothing to do with his recovery. On Wrestling Observer Radio, Meltzer reported that Strowman, who is recovering from elbow surgery, was originally slated to lose to Lesnar at the Royal Rumble, which would set up Lesnar for a title defense against Seth Rollins at WrestleMania.
However, McMahon didn’t want to “cool off” Strowman with another loss to Lesnar. So, Vince simply changed his mind. But here’s the kicker, he supposedly changed his mind a few weeks ago, and WWE didn’t pull the trigger on the actual change to the match because, as Meltzer reports, the company felt like Strowman vs. Lesnar would be more attractive to ticket buyers than Lesnar vs. Balor.
Remember, WWE is trying to fill up a 70,000-seat stadium in Phoenix this year for the Royal Rumble, rather than placing the show in a more traditional arena setting.
If this report is true, it does feel a bit like a bait and switch. Also, I think WWE management is selling Balor short. Instead of looking at this situation as one where Balor might be a less attractive challenge, all WWE has to do is tell a good redemption story, and there’s one built in with Balor. He was the Universal Champion — the first one — for about 24 hours two summers ago. Here is his chance to win back his title. That’s a basic story that everyone can understand. WWE needs to give its audience credit and actually use its past to its advantage. All too often WWE wants us to forget about what they booked six weeks, six months and even six years ago. Vince McMahon has a reputation for thinking that no one remembers anything, but even if that’s the case, remind the audience. It’s not that hard.
Balor vs. Lesnar, if nothing else, is a fresh match. It might even give some new life to Lesnar.