After a mammoth half hour six-man elimination tag to open last night’s Raw, Braun Strowman’s elbow was shattered courtesy of Baron Corbin. (Or, to give his full name, Acting General Manager of Monday Night Raw Baron Corbin.)
Corbin – with the help of sudden lackeys Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley – sandwiched Strowman’s arm between two sets of ring steps, resulting in an injury later described by WWE as a shattered elbow.
According to Dave Meltzer, Strowman’s elbow problems are pre-existing and legitimate. He’s reportedly set to undergo surgery to clear out bone spurs, throwing his availability for TLC into doubt.
After the men’s 5-on-5 Survivor Series tag match, it seemed as though we had the Universal Championship picture figured out. As per the pre-arranged agreement with Stephanie McMahon, Strowman’s help in defeating SmackDown would grant him two matches:
- a showdown with Corbin, with the stipulation left up to Strowman himself
- a Universal Championship rematch with Brock Lesnar
In the opening segment of Raw, Stephanie moved the goalposts. Shocking behaviour from a member of the usually-trustworthy McMahon clan, we know.
Now Strowman’s title match will ride entirely on whether he beats Corbin – a bout he’s in with a very real chance of missing. For the record, Strowman picked a TLC stipulation at the eponymous pay-per-view on 16 December, only to be potentially put out of action half an hour later.
There are now several avenues for WWE to take en route to the Royal Rumble, each with different ramifications. Let’s take a look at each, and see how they might influence WrestleMania itself come April.
1. Strowman makes TLC, beats Corbin, and gets his rematch with Lesnar
This is the outcome that seemed most likely before last night’s injury angle (and elbow surgery speculation). It could still happen, but depends entirely on Strowman’s recovery time. Let’s not forget that the stipulation is Tables, Ladders, and Chairs – probably not the sort of match WWE would rush Strowman into if he wasn’t totally ready.
In this scenario, Strowman would defeat Corbin and move on to face Lesnar at the Royal Rumble (a date specified by Stephanie on Raw). For the Lone Wolf, this would seemingly signal a return to ordinary wrestler status – an added stipulation of the TLC bout being that if Corbin loses the match, he also loses his authority figure status. This would open the GM door for a returning Kurt Angle, an entirely new face, or perhaps a similar ‘acting’ GM role for Alexa Bliss.
Strowman would move on to the Rumble and – in all likelihood – lose to Brock Lesnar once again. We know that the Beast is set to appear at WrestleMania, the best platform for his ultimate defeat to the likes of Rollins, a babyface McIntyre, or maybe even a hastily-pushed Aleister Black. Then again, Strowman could upset Brock and move on to defend the title at ‘Mania against a fresh opponent (most likely a heel Drew). This would leave Lesnar to wrestle a non-title marquee match against a presumably legendary name, creating two big matches instead of one.
Realistically though, I’d expect Brock to fend off Braun once again in this scenario. The big question would then concern his opponent (or opponents) come April.
2. Strowman makes TLC, but loses to Corbin
This one sounds unlikely, but isn’t beyond the realms of possibility given Corbin’s deliberate targeting of the elbow. Should Strowman’s real-life recovery go ahead as planned, you can put money on the fact that his kayfabe recovery will still be ongoing heading into TLC. This would give Corbin reason to pull off a previously unthinkable upset – although he’d probably still need help from McIntyre and Lashley along the way.
This would, of course, lead to Corbin becoming the permanent GM of Raw moving forwards – a role he’s grown steadily more comfortable in as the months have gone by. That much would be certain, but the Royal Rumble would look a lot less predictable.
If Strowman does compete at TLC and loses his right to a rematch, there’s no guarantee that Brock would even be booked for the Rumble. There could simply be no title defence, saving WWE an appearance fee, and giving Lesnar one less bothersome wrestling match to have. He would then presumably drop the title at ‘Mania to the winner of the Royal Rumble or an Elimination Chamber match.
Honestly, I feel as though this scenario is far less likely than no. 1 – namely because it involves Strowman eating a loss to Baron Corbin. Even a win aided by interference and Strowman’s elbow injury would be rather jarring; Braun rarely loses to anybody these days, excluding Lesnar…
3. Strowman doesn’t make TLC, and therefore loses out on his Lesnar rematch
Now we’re going to take a look at a scenario where Strowman is forced to miss TLC, thereby forfeiting the chance at a rematch against Lesnar.
This immediately seems like the worst case scenario for Braun, but it’s actually not. If he misses TLC and Stephanie scraps the rematch, I think we’ve got our favourite for the men’s Royal Rumble match.
The law of averages is dangerous in WWE, particularly when it comes to inter-brand stuff – but simply put, Raw are due a Rumble win. Ever since the brand split was reintroduced in 2016, Orton, Nakamura, and Asuka have all won a Rumble and competed for the blue brand at ‘Mania.
I think if Stephanie takes Braun’s rematch away, he’ll be forced to earn it the hard way. Would you feel confident betting against him?
4. Strowman doesn’t make TLC, but the Corbin match gets rearranged
Just kidding; Stephanie wouldn’t be that kind.