I have, for much of his WWE career, not particularly enjoyed Finn. I found the entrance in NXT to be weird and lame, his work to be underwhelming and his title reign to be disappointing even when all three had the Demon was involved (only less so in the case of the first one). Then his struggles to return to form with mostly middling performances in his post-surgery shows throughout last year certainly made me wonder if not only had I missed peak-Prince Devitt but that he would never anywhere near there again. But as he’s moved onto feuds with people considerably bigger than him, though not proportionately less athletic, there’s been a massive uptick in his work. Like a strong point guard, it’s less that he needs help creating his own offense — the slingblade counter during Braun’s carousel spot stands out specifically — as he needs others to help him facilitate the extraordinary.
And, thankfully for us, Strowman did exactly that. After the incredible job they’ve done over much of the last year getting Strowman in place to be a larger than life, superhuman figure through his feats of strength, they are now starting develop his actual narrative arc. The emphasis, of course, being on *his* narrative arc., as Strowman is finally reaching the point where his character is a means to its own end. He controls his destiny, both as a performer and persona, because the crowd recognizes him as a self-possessed characters with motivations, tendency and enough of a narrative sample size to both predict where he’s going to be going in a given moment but without so much bag that he feels pre-determined in any way harmful to his long term prospects. The crowd appreciates and understands where he comes from, at least partially what his values are and how he carries himself when carrying others.
Which is why these two performers seeming to click in such a familiar, almost familial, way isn’t a coincidence. Teetering on the brink of being an unsolvable problem, defeating someone like Braun takes more than just luck, charm or natural ability. It requires a full accounting of your faculties as well as a significant emphasis on planning as well as a willingness to deviate from that plan when it risks becoming a liability. Ever since Roman’s attempted murder of him, Braun’s never felt like a true monster, but instead something closer to a misunderstood beast who isn’t out to hurt anyone as much as make sure that’s establish himself as the dominant one in a given dynamic. He’s focused, sometimes dangerously, on the idea of power and what it allows him to do in a given moment. Which is where Finn comes in, as a bold but somewhat flawed hero who helps someone like Braun realize that smashing is all well and good, but smashing with purpose is a chance to do good. He can show Braun the power of courage, and of the strength of your convictions, to be a positive force in the company. In the mean time, him not making Finn into a Smashburger will have to be good enough for us.