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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Daniel Bryan vs. The Establishment
By The Doc
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:24:52 AM

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Question of the Day: Where do you think this Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H/McMahons/Randy Orton storyline is heading?

For those of you unaware, Randy Orton is one of the best heels of the modern era. His complete lack of relevance for the last two years, at least in comparison to the majority of his first eight years on the roster, might have blinded you to that fact. Orton once created a persona that did not rely on multi-minute interviews to be wildly engaging. He is a master of facial expressions and body language. No one in the Wrestlemania Era has done more with less natural ability on the microphone. He may make you pay more attention to the details to appreciate his greatness, but it is there. The same thing that makes his sadistic character must-see makes his matches fascinating.

For those of you unaware, Triple H is one of the best heels of all-time. It has been since 2006 since we last saw the evil Trips. In recent years, "The Game" has been whatever he has needed to be - a hybrid of all his various personalities from his eighteen year career. He was always at his best as the bad guy. Like Orton, there is something about Triple H that makes booing him as organic as breathing air. You may have forgotten since it has been so long, but in a time when it became popular to cheer wrestlers that were really good at being bad, Trips convinced the entire wrestling world that he was the scourge of the universe. He understands the WWE. As a heel, Trips is one of the best talkers in the business, capable of setting himself up to take the fall in the end as well as anyone ever has. In the WWE, the role of the villain is to be slain by a conquering hero.

To see these two former rivals complimenting one another and shaking hands was a moment lost amidst the more important story being told about Daniel Bryan rising up to become the unquestionable #1 babyface in the WWE for, at least, the time being. It was a moment that we should not forget because, in the context of where this storyline could eventually go, it will be important in setting the stage for what Bryan must overcome on television to achieve the full potential of the angle. I was, personally, thrilled that the WWE acknowledged the tensions between Orton and the McMahons from years ago. Storyline continuity, on the surface, is not really that much to ask for. Yet, it is often lacking in the WWE. I told a reader of my Summerslam Review that I would think less of the angle if there was not some sort of explanation for their decision to join forces considering that, four and a half years ago, Orton tortured the family with punts and kisses. Stephanie McMahon even hugged Randy. I never thought I would see that on TV. The union of the heels was explained. That's all I could ask for. The fact that they went back to Triple H's Evolution-starting promo from 2003 ("the coal that will be squeezed into the next diamond" - Trips 2003 ; "the coal has become the diamond" - Trips 2013)...well, that was just incredible attention to detail. Bravo.

The final segment on Raw purposefully stacked the deck against Bryan. What a deck it is. Orton is a ten-time World Champion and one of the best established "names" in the business. To defeat him to win the WWE Championship would be difficult for Bryan, in and of itself. Yet, backing Orton's play is the McMahon family, featuring the legendary 13-time World Champion, Triple H. It may be "Wikipedia-ish" to mention their stats, but is there a better way to emphasize what Bryan is up against? That's just the outer layer of the onion. Peel it back and you have what might best be described as "The Establishment." Triple H, Vince, and Stephanie are the key decision makers in the WWE. To put them on TV to definitively state what many in the fanbase have assumed for years to be their preference for an ideal WWE Champion is a fascinating modern take on what sparked Steve Austin to become the most popular star in wrestling history. With Orton - the wrestling equivalent to the Peyton Manning NFL Quarterback mold - leading the way as the characterization of the perceived McMahon Family credo, Bryan is in a unique position to tell a classic story.

It is amazing to see how far Bryan has come. From Tag Team Champion at Wrestlemania 29 to drawing comparisons to the Austin half of the illustrious Stone Cold vs. Corporation feud from the vaunted Attitude era, Bryan has emerged as the candidate most likely to become the WWE's next big star. For the first time, I can conceivably buy into the theory that states that Bryan will be moved into the role of "face of the company" as Cena transitions slowly to the special attraction role that someone of his age and mileage should. I am still in a state of mind where I will have to see it to believe it. Bryan is not Austin. Stone Cold at least had the size and the athletic pedigree. Bryan is unique. Triple H and Stephanie played to a lot of the stereotypes that fuel the corporate-minded critical detractors in stating that Bryan is more or less a "helluva hand"; that he's a great challenger and worthy member of a solid position on the roster, but is not "top guy" material. You would be ignoring modern pro wrestling history to suggest that Bryan actually could be "The Man." There is no precedent set for a wrestler of his size being the "franchise player." However, it is hard to argue with we are seeing.

On the surface layer alone, Bryan is being pushed as the focal point hero opposite the heel faction comprised of Orton, Trips, and the McMahons. He beat John Cena, resident franchise player, clean in the middle of the ring on Sunday, had it acknowledged by Cena and Stephanie on Monday as point blank, "clean in the middle of the ring," and then assumed the position of top babyface for the foreseeable future in the final segment. The deeper layer reveals that the WWE is acknowledging that Bryan has been chosen by the people that attend their shows worldwide as the top babyface in the entire company. There is not a more consistently "over" presence in the WWE than Daniel Bryan. Two months ago, the WWE greenlighted the audience to fully embrace Bryan as an elite star and they have responded with thunderous applause. Sunday and Monday nights were just the confirmation that Daniel Bryan has earned his place at the roundtable.

It remains to be seen if the angle that we saw on Monday night will be the vehicle that pushes Daniel Bryan to ultimate glory or if it will merely be the WWE's latest attempt at creating a strong heel contingent to do battle with bigger names (like Cena or Punk). The way that I see the feud playing out is Bryan overcoming the odds to take the WWE Championship away from Orton, but then having further obstacles thrown in his path to keep him from remaining the champion, ultimately leading to a match with Triple H at Wrestlemania XXX. What's "right for business" is to build a third star that can be on at least Punk's level and close to Cena's. How to best accomplish that feat boils down to a Wrestlemania headliner. Star-making performances in the conference championship game are nice, but the Super Bowl is the place where legends are made. I will go into more detail on this matter during my radio show collaboration with Super Chrisss this evening, but suffice to state that I do not believe that Bryan can chase the title for a full eight months in this day and age. Come Christmas/New Year's, I expect Bryan to be WWE Champion again. Either way, no matter what happens, Bryan has joined what I will from here on refer to as "The Chosen Few" - the elite group of WWE superstars that creative always "has something for" leading to exciting, in depth stories. A few years ago, we had Edge, Batista, Jericho, HBK, Taker, and Triple H joining Cena in "The Chosen Few." As of late, with so many departures in recent years, it has been "The Chosen VERY Few," making the product somewhat "ho hum." The more popular, over, consistently excellent stars that can be added to this generation's "Chosen Few," the better off we'll all be as wrestling fans.

Daniel Bryan vs. The Establishment/The Status Quo is going to be a fascinating, engaging story. Already, it has turned a period on the WWE calendar that traditionally lacks energy into must-see weekly programming. What the future holds is difficult to predict. Yet, I took my daughter's alphabet magnets and spelled out "YES!" on the refrigerator, so they've got at least one member of the Wrestling Media locked in, anxiously anticipating how it all plays out.

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Join The Doc and Super Chrisss tonight on LOP radio at 6PM. We'll be talking about Summerslam fall out, John Cena's departure, Daniel Bryan's ascension, The Establishment, and Wrestlemania XXX implications from the last few days of WWE programming.

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