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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Riding the Roller Coaster on The Road to WrestleMania
By The Doc
Jan 28, 2014 - 10:38:41 PM

The Snowman is a genius

Being a fan of the WWE can be a wild ride, can it not?

Like we do with our favorite sports teams, we invest so much energy into the success of our favorite wrestlers that watching the WWE fail to deliver can be particularly grating on the nerves – especially since they are the one sporting company with the ability to listen to the people and give the audience exactly what it wants. There are times when what happens on WWE TV and PPV makes it difficult for me to maintain the attitude and levelheadedness that I would like to in these columns. Sunday was one of those nights. For months, I confidently stated the WWE’s intentions to push Daniel Bryan when it came time for WrestleMania season. The Royal Rumble, though by no means a definitive statement as to Bryan’s card placement for April, was definitely a blow to the people like me that have been championing the “stay patient” part of the #YesMovement. Several Hall of Famers publicly stated their displeasure with the WWE’s booking, joining forces with the live crowd in Pittsburgh and the millions around the world who were defiantly against the WWE’s chosen direction. Patience seemingly ran out. Mine was definitely tested.

After a few days of reflection, I think it is safe to state that the WWE missed a chance to get everyone completely pumped about the direction for WrestleMania. In college football, you hope for an enthralling final few weeks of the season to get you as excited as possible for the title game match-up. In wrestling, you hope to leave the Royal Rumble enthralled with the WrestleMania line-up in-the-making. The WWE did not deliver the pre-requisite to the biggest show of the year that you would hope for. So, now, the expectations change.

I’ll be honest in stating that I am the kind of fan that much prefers there to be more answers than questions. Unpredictability is a highly overrated, Attitude Era-centric thought process that I do not particularly care for. The “keep the fans guessing as to what the card is going to be” approach is not my cup of tea. The only thing unpredictable that I care for in wrestling is match outcomes. All the rest of the twists and turns for the sake of twists and turns in the plot are unnecessary and tedious, if you ask me. Give me the matches that I’m going to see on paper and then start building to them on TV. Take that effort put toward trying to surprise me and put it toward building a compelling rivalry with a winner that is difficult to call on match night. Just keep it simple. Take Summerslam 2005, for instance. Absolutely one of my favorite shows in WWE history. 8 weeks out, they announced Hogan vs. Michaels – a week later, they announced Jericho vs. Cena. I knew what Summerslam had to offer two months ahead of time and could sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s one of the things that I loved about WrestleMania 28 – Rock vs. Cena was announced a year in advance, Taker vs. Trips 2 hype started two months out, and Jericho vs. Punk became obvious shortly thereafter. I do not get much enjoyment out of having to guess from week-to-week until early March. Had Bryan won the Royal Rumble match, we could have spent the next couple of months high fiving and singing Kumbaya, celebrating 30 years of Mania history. I’m no hippie, but that’s my kind of Mania season. Everyone is happy, engaged in the product, and discussing the possibilities of match winners and quality, Hall of Fame inductions and their favorite Network shows. Instead, it is like a roller coaster that I’m being forced to ride. (Good Lord, reading that back lets me know how far removed I am from fully suspending my disbelief like I did as a kid).

I had hoped that the Royal Rumble would end with at least two matches teased that would have the wrestling world rejoicing that it was Mania season. If Batista vs. Randy Orton and John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt suit your fancy, then I guess you’re excited. You might be in the minority. In the event that the WWE does not change their rumored plans – rumors that now seem much more likely – it will take a lot of work to get me excited for WrestleMania XXX. As of now, I am like most of the nation was two years ago when we in America learned that we were getting an SEC rematch in the national championship game between Alabama and LSU – YAWN (it earned the worst national championship game rating in the modern era). I mean, it’s WrestleMania, so I’ll watch it…but it will be the least excited that I’ve been for WrestleMania since 1997 (which, coincidentally or not, drew the worst buyrate in WM history).

Amidst a diehard fanbase threatening not to quit watching Raw, but to hit the WWE where it would hurt them the most – on the internet (how ironic) sales for their soon-to-be-launching online Network – the WWE apparently did some rewrites last night and/or had a plan in place all along to address the diminutively statured but massively popular elephant in the room of the WWE Universe: Daniel Bryan. Planned in advance or called on the fly is frankly irrelevant. The bottom line is that the WWE needed to put Bryan in position to be a headliner at WrestleMania XXX last night. After Raw’s opening, he had just gone face-to-face with Triple H and done well in stating what was on his (and everyone else’s) mind. He looked like a star poised for big things in April. By Raw’s end, he was one of the six men slated to compete in the Elimination Chamber. There is a chance that he could win the title and go to Mania as WWE Champion. He could just as well get screwed and face Triple H (my suggestion since last year’s Summerslam). The opportunity exists for Bryan. The WWE offered hope last night. So, let’s focus on that moving forward. Convoluted suggestions as to how to rewrite recent history will not help the situation that already is. Rather, if you’re a fan of Bryan, you are best served to put all of your eggs in the “Bryan wins the Chamber” or the “Bryan wrestles Triple H” baskets. Unless the WWE just completely blows up their booking and has Batista ditch his title shot, Bryan’s glorious title winning moment at Mania is gone.

Personally, I think the WWE has made it unnecessarily difficult on themselves. Batista coming back was a good thing for business. Along with Lesnar, Taker, and Triple H, The Animal provided another relevant big name to be paired either with a never-before opponent like Brock or one of the many ready and able current stars that now have plenty of experience in major matches such as Bryan, CM Punk, and Sheamus. He just got undercut by Bryan’s popularity. Ray Charles could have seen that coming. He had no business winning the Rumble match this year and he didn’t need to. The Royal Rumble has historically been a place to confirm the rising star with tons of babyface momentum – HBK in ’96, Austin in ’98 and ‘01, Rock in ’00, Trips in ’02, Brock in ’03, Batista in ’05, etc. This seemed like the perfect year to use that formula. Bryan’s crowd reactions are like nothing I’ve seen since Eddie Guerrero at his peak in 2003/2004. Everyone that has ever gotten that kind of sustained crowd adulation has reached an elite level of success at shows like WrestleMania. I’m not complaining, but merely stating the obvious when pointing out that the WWE settled for an underwhelming single when they had a homerun ready to be hit. They may still end up producing a fabulous WrestleMania card, but at what costs? The Royal Rumble has many a wrestling fan ready to give up.

Batista will have to turn heel if they want him to be in the main-event. I am personally 100% OK with Bryan winning the title and facing Batista at WrestleMania in the last match. I never thought Bryan would go on last, but I don’t see that the WWE has much choice if they want their biggest show of the year to get a different reaction for the main-event of Mania than they did for the main-events at the Rumble. Bats is a tremendous heel when he’s got something to get off of his chest and he should have some serious fuel after the last couple of nights. At this point, if he does not turn heel, then he is going to be treated like one because the fans want Bryan in his spot. And that’s not a good kind of heat. It’s a “go away” reaction that suggests apathy rather than an emotional investment in his defeats. I think it would be great if the WWE took advantage of the situation at hand and let their original plan of Batista in the main-event as a babyface transition to The Animal playing the heel and Daniel Bryan stepping in as the babyface. It leaves Orton as the odd man out, but Orton’s career climaxed 5 years ago. I am a big fan of his, but not I nor any of his fans nor the WWE should be delusional enough to think that the Viper’s inclusion in a headlining match at Mania would serve a greater good for the present and future. He’s expendable right now. Bryan is clearly not. Batista obviously can’t be. Put two and two together.

Only the Wrestling Gods know what the rest of the card will look like. A triple threat for the title was hinted at last night. Punk wasn’t even on the show. The Wyatts looked like they were suddenly on The Shield’s radar. Sheamus is back. Taker is not. Everything is wait and see…but Daniel Bryan’s ascension cannot be wait and see. That must happen now. I don’t want to know what people will say or do if it doesn’t. I’m ready to stop this roller coaster. I’m ready for it to feel like WrestleMania is two months away. Right now, I'm not excited for WrestleMania 30. I should be. I'm easy to get Mania excited. Do something, WWE. In a hurry.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: If we got Batista (heel) vs. Daniel Bryan (babyface champion) at WrestleMania, would you be OK with it?


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