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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Can The Establishment Story Work, Long-Term, Given Our Instant Gratification Society?
By The Doc
Sep 3, 2013 - 10:00:47 PM

The Snowman is a genius

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Since Summerslam, my biggest question has revolved around the manner in which the WWE would extend the story of "what's best for business" to achieve maximum benefit for Daniel Bryan. There are various theories in the Wrestling Media about who will ultimately give Triple H's Empire its comeuppance. Bryan fits that story so well that my thoughts have yet to deviate from the path that finds him emerging victorious at next year's Wrestlemania. The one hang-up I have had to fully committing to that scenario is the length of time between now and then, but it just has the feel of a long-term feud. Why thinking so far ahead, Doc? Well, I look at Wrestlemania like college football fan's look at the National Championship game. As CFB analysts do, I like to keep my eye on the prize to contextualize the current happenings.

So, how can the WWE keep a storyline started at Summerslam alive, well, and financially booming for Wrestlemania? They can keep doing what they did on Raw this week, for starters. I am not fond of Big Show circa 2013. Modern rehabilitation and nutrition for athletes have allowed careers to go on longer than in the past and there are but a very few WWE stars that I wish to see on the roster for ten plus years. Show is not among them. I like him. I respect him. Those of you who decide to read my book, "The Wrestlemania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment," will see how highly I think of him, historically. However, his character has done all it can do. With his durability, he has done everything that he can do on television (though he still does some good stuff in the ring, every so often). All that having been stated, I liked how they used Show on Raw.

Each and every week, the WWE is further establishing that Triple H's power play is going to be extremely difficult to overcome. Bryan is the target. The deck has shown, thus far, to be impossibly stacked against him. It is laying the foundation for a helluva come back that could make Bryan into a huge, Mick Foley caliber entity for the modern product. No, I do not think that Bryan has Austin, "all-time" potential. There are some obvious "Austin vs. Corporation" similarities that make Bryan vs. The Game Regime viably comparable. I believe his ceiling to be Foley in his prime planted in 2013/2014...and, make no mistake about it, had Foley circa 1998/1999 been transplanted to right now, he would make the WWE a ton of money as an incredibly relatable personality. I do think that Bryan's quest is a Wrestlemania, WWE Championship story arc because there is no modern Austin or Rock waiting in the wings to take that spot from him.

In order to stretch the arc from now until next April, there has to be several layers to this tale. Right now, we're still in the development stage of Triple H's heel "Establishment." What they accomplished on Monday with Big Show was to take even an "iron clad" contractual situation and make it seem as if it cannot be sidestepped by the authority. The WWE did a good job of explaining that, in my opinion, through Stephanie McMahon. I thought Michael Cole did a lousy job by specifically stating that it could be rescinded, but Stephanie more or less implied that Show could not afford to be in a lesser position than he already is. She was vague and it worked. Cole was specific and it sucked. All in all, I was happy that they addressed the contract. Let's not be too critical, here; the WWE is actually referencing the past despite it not necessarily being a perfect fit for their current television show. By pointing out Show's contract, I think it will resonate with the part of the fan base that pays attention to other professional entities. NBA contracts are guaranteed....but there's still an out called the amnesty clause. In other words, even the most well laid out contract is not immune to the "big bad guys with all the power."

Essentially, with Show, you've got a kindhearted guy that does not like bullying, but he's forced to take part in the bullying because he needs to provide for his family. How it relates to Bryan is because there are now a number of layers that he has to deal with. Show's situation sets the stage that Triple H can essentially call on anyone at any time to get in Bryan's way. That had to happen to make this story logically carry on for several months. Now, the entire roster can step in front of Bryan. Eventually, there will be some reprisal from not just Bryan but from the others that Triple H has been abusing via his power trip. For the time being, The Game has penetrated every level of the locker room. One thing that I liked about the Corporation was that it was a group large enough to create meaningful stories in the mid-card that were tied into the central theme of Raw. I feel like the Establishment can serve that same purpose after watching not only the link formed to Big Show, Dolph Ziggler, and The Miz, but now Cody Rhodes, as well.

Cody Rhodes had a potential star-making Monday Night Raw this week. I usually fast-forward through most of the matches on Raw because rarely do they mean anything to the bigger picture. I was 100% locked into Rhodes vs. Randy Orton last night. I've seen them wrestle a dozen times in the last two years, but never with the stakes that Triple H put in place. Rhodes rose the occasion. Everything from the backstage segment that started the downfall to the facial expressions during and after the match itself to the backstage promo that we'll be talking about years from now if he winds up becoming a big star...all of it was spot on. At some point, Cody is going to come back and be a part of where this storyline is heading. The feud between Triple H and everyone else is going to be all the better for it.

As much as I am enjoying the angle, I will suggest that this cannot be a case of the WWE having a week-to-week mindset. I do not know anything about TV production, but I have watched and studied the WWE TV product since the late 1980s. The last ten years have given off a vibe that there is very little long-term thought put into place with storylines, fanning the flames of the rumors that Vince changes everything on the Raw script half a dozen times - occasionally blowing up the show and starting from scratch the day that they go live. That cannot happen with this angle. If this is going where I think it's going, then they've got to realize that this is not 1998. The world moves faster. They know that. Their people are smarter than most of the fans that complain about their stupidity. What that means to the wrestling product is that people have short attention spans and Bryan is going to have to get in some licks very soon or they might lose some people. I'm already seeing the "Triple H is hogging the spotlight" comments springing up. What Triple H is doing right now is brilliant. It's playing to every stereotype ever created about his feelings toward the business. However, people aren't going to have the patience to sit through this if Bryan (et al) doesn't make a comeback (even if it's short-lived before the next wrinkle is introduced).

Fifteen years ago, McMahon got the better of Austin, but Austin got the better of McMahon just as much. The Rock got the better of Mankind, but Mankind got the better of Rock a fair bit, too. Bryan needs to get the better of Orton and Trips a few times if he's really the end game for the Establishment storyline. It would not surprise if Raw ended next week with Orton trapped in the Yes Lock long enough to get the crowd going nuts before Bryan flees the ring to avoid the Shield and others. We live in an instant gratification society. People do not necessarily need Bryan to win the title back in the next few months, but he has to inch closer to that brass ring. They may figuratively yank it away a little further once he gets his fingertips on it. That will be fine. They can make Bryan look 4 steps away from his goal in three out of four Raws, as long as for one Raw per month, he has that moment that gives his fans hope that he'll eventually get the job done.

Question of the day: What are the odds that Daniel Bryan defeats Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Night of Champions - 50:1, 25:1, 12:1, or 6:1 ??

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