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Following his huge victory over Drew McIntyre on the April 26 edition of Raw, Braun Strowman has been added to the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania Backlash on May 16.
It's been a long road back to the top for The Monster Among Men, who hasn't held world title gold since dropping the Universal Championship to "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt at SummerSlam in August. Despite being on and off television throughout the past year because of various injuries, he's back and better than he's been in some time.
He joins McIntyre and Bobby Lashley in the WWE Championship picture. Those two have been holding down the fort on Raw in 2021. Adding Strowman to the mix makes matters more unpredictable come WrestleMania Backlash, when the three of them will collide in what should be a thrilling Triple Threat match.
Strowman's return in the the most impressive shape he's been in has also been encouraging to see. He's proved that he can hold his own among the elite in the ring on Monday nights so long as the booking doesn't fail him.
Ahead of his upcoming world title opportunity, Strowman took the time to talk to Bleacher Report about his journey over the past year, feuding with Shane McMahon, getting in peak physical shape and more.Check out the complete audio of the interview on the next slide, and read on for the highlights.
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Strowman failed to capture the Universal Championship on countless occasions before finally winning it from Goldberg at WrestleMania 36. He went on to have a solid albeit unspectacular reign that didn't feature much of note outside of his feud with The Fiend.
However, a lot has changed for him over the past year, specifically with how his character has been presented. He feels way more like a main event talent now than he did when he was universal champ, and he's excited for the opportunity to show the world he's ready for that spotlight again.
"It's just solidifying what I've been saying for months and months and months: The Monster is back on the top of the food chainwhere he belongs," he said. "It's been a long, hard road to get back into the title picture and stuff like that, but I'm looking forward to it."
Strowman referred to the WWE Championship Triple Threat at WrestleMania Backlash as a "battle of titans," and with no rules involved, it's going to be as big as it gets.
He's had a handful of singles matches with both men since 2018. In addition to beating Drew McIntyre on the April 26 edition of Raw, he also has worked well with Bobby Lashley any time they have shared a ring.
Thus, he isn't taking either of his adversaries lightly.
"Bobby and Drew have been able to bring even more of a monster out of me than anybody else has in the past," he said. "I know what they're capable of. I know how devastating both of them can be with the Claymore and The Hurt Lock. Unfortunately, I've been on the receiving end of both of them, and I don't look to end up that way this time. ... It's King Kong meets Godzilla meets The Incredible Hulk.
He expects Lashley and McIntyre to put aside their differences and join forces simply to eliminate him from the equation. Fighting from underneath is rare for him, but if it means taking out two top talents at once, he's prepared for any possibility.
"On any given day, they have pushed me to the limits," Strowman said. "They are both very, very dominant, dominant athletes. I won't give either one of them an inch. [As far as] who's stronger and who's badder. They're both badasses. Let's be real."
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Getting a significant singles push during a pandemic when there are no fans in the building isn't ideal, but Strowman wasn't about to let that opportunity to pass him by.
Winning the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 36 immediately made him the face of Friday Night SmackDown. Through no fault of his own, his reign was underwhelming because he didn't have many credible challengers and the show was light on star power at the time.
He returned to Raw in the 2020 WWE draft but had to take time off for a brief period at the end of the year to nurse nagging injuries. He seems to have picked up right where he left off and is a nice fit for the WWE Championship picture.
"What an honor it's been, through all this crazy stuff, to be able to represent the company and push forward through uncharted territories," Strowman said. "It was a struggle to figure out and get everything and keep our show going last year at the beginning of this pandemic. It was a learning process for everybody.
"Being thrown right into the fire, per se, and taking the company on my back, doing my best to keep carrying it forward, it was an honor to do it," he continued. "I feel like it was well-earned. I don't think I deserve anything. I believe I've earned everything that I have in my life, and that's why I think I've been in the positions that I am and continue to be put in the positions that I am."
He also acknowledged the record he apparently set on Monday's Raw in competing in a singles match, a tag team match and a Handicap match in the same night. That likely wouldn't have happened if the company didn't view him as a top talent on the Raw roster.
Having fans in attendance at WrestleMania 37 gave him the fuel he needed to keep moving forward and served as a reminder for why he got into the business. That said, his night on The Grandest of Them All almost looked a lot different because of a snafu that occurred during his entrance.
"I'll be honest, they blew so much CO2 smoke on the stage when I came out that I couldn't see anything, so I froze," he laughed. "I was afraid I was going to walk off the stage. We're talking like a 15-foot drop, so I just stood there. I didn't know where the ramp was. I didn't know anything. I could hear the people rumbling a little bit because they knew I was somewhere in that smoke, and as that smoke dissipated, the crowd just came alive, and I've got goosebumps right now thinking about it.
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Strowman's Road to WrestleMania this year wasn't without its flaws as he settled into a storyline with Shane McMahon.
Considering he walked out of WrestleMania the year prior as the universal champion, a meaningless midcard feud with Shane felt like a significant step down for him. That isn't even including the many awful segments they found themselves involved in on Raw leading up to the pay-per-view.
To their credit, they went out at WrestleMania 37 and had a perfectly serviceable Steel Cage match. Strowman enjoyed the experience of working with the son of WWE chairman Vince McMahon and revealed that they both wanted it happen a lot sooner than it did.
"It was a seed that had been planted for a while," he said. "Shane and I have wanted to do one for quite a few years now. Behind the scenes, we have a very good relationship, and let's be real: Shane's a lunatic. That works great with my style because I don't go out there and think about anything. I just do it. It ended up working out well."
Although The Monster Among Men finds himself embroiled in the WWE Championship scene, he likely would have gotten a shot at the strap months ago had it not been for an untimely injury. He brought up how he benefited from being away from the championship chase for a while.
"I was in the title picture all of last year," Strowman said. "Sometimes fans are fickle, and it's hard to keep them happy. One minute, they wanted you to be champ. And the next minute, they hate you and don't want you to be champ. I was thinking of something: 'How can I stay relevant and do something to better our show and help our product without being in the title picture?'
"I feel like everybody always wants to be champ. Everybody wants to be in the title picture. Not always is that what's best for our show. You have to take a step down and figure out how to fill in the gaps that need to be filled to make our product full, and that's what I felt like I needed to do at that point."
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Another positive that stemmed from Strowman's recent absence from WWE TV was that he was able to return in phenomenal shape, possibly the best he's ever been in during his time with the company.
His transformation in recent few months has led to some of his best work in recent memory. Although he didn't give too much insight on what he's been eating exactly or what his workouts consist of, he did admit that consistency is key.
"I try to tell people with getting in shape and working out that only 15 percent of it is done in the gym and on the treadmill," he said. "It's 85 percent mentally and preparation in the kitchen. I've always known how to eat, but at the end of the day, let's be real, healthy eating isn't always the most tasty stuff. I like cheeseburgers and pizza and cake and all those other things. But it was buckling down and telling myself, 'Hey, you can't have that.' It's not a diet; it's a lifestyle."
Adopting a better outlook on his health and making an effort to eat more nutrients has helped him tremendously in getting him to where he is today physically. After going through some personal hardships, he knew changes were needed and that his quality of life was of utmost importance.
He couldn't be more grateful for the many motivational messages he receives regularly from fans, telling him that they are inspired by his journey.
"Being fortunate with my strongman background, I know some of the top bodybuilders and nutritionists in the world and have been able to pick their brains and learn stuff," he said. "My whole life, it's been about getting in all these calories and pick up as much weight as I can. It gets to a point where your body can only take so much of that.
"Now it's training and teaching the muscles to do different things. I don't have to be picking up cars every day like it was when I was doing strongman. Every once in a while, I may flip one over if I lose my temper. Now, I lift weights because I want to look good naked!"
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It's no secret that Raw has been struggling creatively throughout the pandemic era, but the problems affecting the product have been prevalent a lot longer than that.
The April 26 episode, for example, was arguably among the weakest in recent memory. Of course, the Superstars aren't to blame for that because they are simply attempting to make the most of what they are given.
Strowman has bounced around from brand to brand since 2019 and has been there for Raw's highest of highs as well as its lowest of lows. When asked to name an aspect of Raw that he feels doesn't get the credit it deserves from fans, he was quick to point out how the entire roster works tirelessly to entertain despite the circumstances.
"The boys and girls in the back, we all work really, really hard," he said. "It's been a little chaotic because everything's been all over [the place], and people get sick and things change last minute. And part of me enjoys that, I'm not going to lie.
"This past Monday was a prime example. Everything was crazy because people got hurt, people were sick and stuff changes. All of a sudden, you're in three matches in an hour and 10 minutes' worth of a three-hour show. You're freaking out, but when you get out there and get it done and hit a home run, it's such a satisfying feeling."
As for what he feels could be changed or improved upon with Raw, he stressed that live television is a difficult business to be in, with ratings not being what they used to be. Putting together three-hours shows on a weekly basis is bound to take a toll, and enticing new viewers to stick around is a tall task.
"It's a tough time right now. With how technologically advanced, everybody is and the media and stuff like that," Strowman said. "It's a challenge for everything that's on television to try to draw live viewership. I'll be honest, I haven't even had cable in my house in the last decade. I keep up with our shows via our apps and social media.
"I think we're doing a good job with everything that's out there in the world, with everything at everyone's fingertips. I think we constantly go above and beyond to do everything we can to keep our viewers entertained and to draw in new viewers and demographics."
Catch Braun Strowman in action on Monday nights on WWE Raw at 8/7c on USA Network.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website,WrestleRant, and subscribe to hisYouTube channelfor more wrestling-related content.