Back in August, WWE broadcasted a documentary piece that focused on Braun Strowman's journey towards becoming a WWE Superstar. In it, he opened up for the first time to discuss the storm clouds that have hovered around him and his family's journey since his birth. Under that strongman facade lies a man who has seen his fair share of trials and tribulations. In an exclusive interview with Lilian Garcia, Strowman opens up about one of the events that occurred when he was one year old - a car accident that almost cost his mother her life.
"I was one, pretty much a newborn baby. We were traveling back to my family's house in Wisconsin from my dad's baseball tournament somewhere near Chicago," Strowman began. "As we were driving back, a tractor-trailer driver fell asleep and ran my parents off the highway. They went down in a bank. A trophy flew back and hit my mom in the head and put her in a coma. She was in a coma for three months.
"When she finally came to, she was like a newborn baby. They had to teach her how to do everything again. Dad would hand me to her, and she didn't know who I was. It was an awful thing to happen but it brought our family closer. It really showed me what a man my father was. It's why I look up to him as my hero."
From that point on, Strowman embraced life in a different way, which included trying to find a silver-lining from every good and bad thing that fell upon him. During his pre-teenage years, he found himself fall into a dark rabbit hole that consisted of giving up what he loved to do - playing football and baseball. Strowman recalls the mischievous acts he was part of, and how those life choices ended up costing him opportunities.
"Unfortunately, a lot of lessons I learned about in life, I learned the hard way. I started hanging out with a group of people that were not necessarily good," he shared. "I started getting into drugs, and drinking, and skipping school. I mean, I'm like 13-years-old at this point. Being around people, you know, you get caught up in the peer pressure and stuff [so] you can fit in. I've never told anyone this, but when I was like, 11-years-old, I got caught breaking into houses. As much as that part sucked and I wish I could take it back, it also grew me to be the man that I am today."
It's no secret that pro wrestling is good at blurring the lines between fiction and reality; we like to see Superstars as superheroes that can sustain anything thrown at them. But as we grow up, we come to realize that those we look up to struggle just as much as everyone else. With the tragic deaths of Hana Kimura, Ashley Massaro, Brian Christopher Lawler, and Chris Benoit, this industry has spent more time now focusing on the mental well-being of their performers more so than in the past. It seems that mental struggles like depression and anxiety attack these performers the most, especially since many of them are on the road with no breaks in between. In Strowman's case, he admits that he found himself in a dark mindset just last year, but it was the love for this business and his talk with Vince McMahon that saved his life.
"You know, it was a culmination of things going on in my life. It was the beginning of last year - I went through a really bad breakup, and my personal life was just a mess," he antagonized. "With being a WWE Superstar, it's really hard to balance the road life and your personal life. I think that was a reason why my relationship didn't work out.
"I [also] got to a point where I felt like I wasn't important at work, so I had no escape. My mind and everything was all over the place; I was by myself... I was so mentally hard on myself in my personal life that I started letting it affect my business life in the grand scheme of things, when I have the most amazing job on Earth.
Strowman continued with how he came to McMahon following his dark thoughts, and the gratitude he has for him as a boss and father figure now.
"I got to a point where I felt like I was a number in the system," he goes on to say. "I needed to address this. I went in and I talked to Vince; we sat down and literally had a father/son conversation. He gave me this sense of reassurance and a sense of wealth that I thought I didn't have. That was just, like, wow.
"I can't thank him enough for taking the time. I mean, at the end of the day, he has so much stuff going on. You know how awesome of a human [being] he is, and how loyal he is, and things like that. And it's just the whole piece of the narrative that people try to push that he's a monster just makes me so mad, 'cause I know what type of man he really is. I'm forever indebted to him for him taking the time just to give me this reassurance."
Since COVID-19 has no expiration date in sight, it's clear that entertainers like professional wrestlers have to think wisely about how they'll carry forth their careers during this hectic time. For Strowman, he finds this period of time to be a great reflecting point on how far he's come in the company since his main roster debut in 2015.
"Up until the outbreak and stuff like that, like, at the beginning of the year, I spent 275 days a year [on the road]," he mentioned. "I stay at Marriotts, and I looked at my Marriott app, and in five years, I've slept at a Marriott 671 nights.
"Having this time at home, it could be bad. But for some odd reason, it's [helped me] to step back and go, 'oh my God, look what I have done in the last four-and-a-half years of my life.' From [being] two-time tag champs, Intercontinental champ, Money In The Bank, the Greatest Royal Rumble winner, Andre The Giant Battle Memorial winner, and Universal champ. It gives me a chance to step back and go, 'holy cow'."
You can watch Braun Strowman's full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Lilian Garcia -Chasing Glory with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.