Doctor's Orders: The WWE Should Make This Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania
By The Doc
Feb 18, 2014 - 9:54:09 PM
The Snowman is a genius
Over the last few weeks, my columns have been telling their own story. From the Royal Rumble Preview on, they have been a tale of a fan trying to balance an ardent passion for the WWE product and the expectations of what he wanted to see at WrestleMania XXX. I have reasoned, I have studied, I have explained, and I have compromised. My emotions have hit lows not visited in several years and returned to their usual state of “going with the flow,” but have not yet reached any particularly notable highs. Just a few days out from the final PPV stop before the WWE goes into full “grandest stage” mode, I have come to the following conclusion and I hope that the WWE agrees: Roman Reigns is the future and Daniel Bryan is the present. Next year, the WWE should go all-in with the guy that fits the mold of what they want in the next great superstar, culminating in a WWE Championship victory for Reigns at WrestleMania 31. This year, the WWE should embrace what they have and make WrestleMania XXX Daniel Bryan’s night.
Bryan is a wrestler worth investing in. His quest to become WWE Champion is resonating with the week in, week out fan base in a way that I’ve not seen since Eddie Guerrero attempted to break through the proverbial glass ceiling a decade ago. When I write the second edition of The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, I may well be stating that I have never seen a wave of fan enthusiasm on such a level before. Steve Austin and The Rock were huge, but they were not universally loved across live audiences. I was a Rock guy, for instance. I could not stand Steve Austin. I had a friend who was the opposite. Is there anyone right now that is not rooting for Daniel Bryan? I look across the crowd when the WWE cameras pan the attendees and I cannot see anyone not chanting “Yes!” People are either just enamored with Bryan’s underdog saga or they are getting swept up by the emotional tidal wave that he evokes.
We, the people, deserve to get the story that our collective voice has gifted the WWE – Bryan’s glory – while the WWE builds the story that they would rather have – the rise of Reigns. Domestic ratings that pale in comparison to yesteryear and “paltry” PPV buyrates aside, the year-round viewership needs the Daniel Bryan story as much as the WWE needs the returning stars to boost the PPV audience to hit their desired numbers. Bryan makes US care. Hopefully, my research has offered some semblance of reason as to why the WWE makes the decisions that they make, but that does not change the fact that we want Bryan at the top this year – right now – and we’re prepared to ruin the WWE main-event if we don’t get what we want. We need a story to sink our teeth into this year. It looks like Undertaker’s match will be with Brock Lesnar, so though the majority loves The Deadman, his match does not have the usual appeal at the moment. Taker wants Brock and has for years, so he’s getting Brock, but the diehard fanbase needs more. Cena vs. Bray Wyatt could be great, but it’s not the “more” of which I write. The Shield breaking up will be a great appetizer, but we need a more satisfying main course. We need Mania XXX to be about Bryan. All of the other matches are fine – even Orton vs. Batista – if the feed fades to black on April 6th with 70,000 plus chanting along with The Beard in the world’s largest “Yes!” chant to date.
While watching the Elimination Chamber, I will be on the edge of my seat watching Bryan attempt to dethrone Randy Orton. Frankly, I do not believe that it will happen. Some of you don’t even want it to happen, insistent that the only place for Bryan to achieve his goal is WrestleMania. Many fans saw Mania XXX as a perfect time to reenact the memory of Mania XX in 2004, closing the show with the unlikely hero grabbing the brass ring. Clearly, that is not going to happen. However, in it failing to take shape, the scenario has achieved something potentially better – a gripping chase for the championship that, while certainly testing the wrestling world’s patience, could make Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania XXX unbelievably awesome. After Summerslam, I pegged Bryan vs. Triple H as one of the top matches for “The Show of Shows.” I remain adamant about it being the only match that makes the last several months of Authority-related shenanigans worth it. Others were equally as firm in their stance of Bryan winning the title at Mania. So, in a year when the WWE has so much at stake, why not give everyone what they want? Give Brock to Taker. Give Cena a new star to build. Give the WWE their Evolution dream of Batista vs. Orton. And, in turn, give us Daniel Bryan overcoming all odds and being the man for whom WrestleMania XXX will be remembered.
My suggestion? Have Triple H screw Bryan out of the title on Sunday. On Monday, with the world watching and readying themselves for the launch of the WWE Network, set-up the other proposed matches. Yet, to close the show next week, set-up Bryan vs. Triple H for Mania XXX, with the stipulation being that, should Bryan defeat him, he gets a title shot later on that night. Rather than borrow from Mania XX, go back another decade and use the storyline from WrestleMania X. Bryan vs. Triple H happens, as does Batista vs. Orton, but the winners of the two matches face each other in the main-event with the wrestling world overjoyed to have witnessed the definitive night of Bryan’s career.
Let it be known that I would be OK with Bryan simply facing Triple H at Mania and calling it a night as I think it would be a mistake not to do that match, but I do also think it would be a mistake not to have Bryan in the title match. So, do both.
Earlier at the Elimination Chamber PPV, The Shield and the Wyatt Family will clash in a match for which I am personally stoked. The result seems obvious. Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins will be given another reason to break up and, in doing so, will make it clear that Bray Wyatt and Company are the preeminent three man crew in the business. The Wyatts may go onto face John Cena and/or a cast of other legendary figures at WrestleMania and be the dominant faction of 2014, so they need the win. It may well preview what the WWE landscape will look like in San Francisco next year. The WWE has done a phenomenal job of booking this match. Aside from the silly ending to last night’s Raw that gave away the first physical altercation between the trios, the manner in which the WWE has built tension between the groups has been spot on. I’m chomping at the bit to see the clash.
“We The People” (assuming you’re with me) are also pretty damn pumped about seeing Cesaro in the Chamber. What a roll he’s on. He has just completed the best week of his career, wrestling the best tag team match of the year last week, scoring the biggest victory of his WWE tenure over Orton on Smackdown, and then offering the frontrunner for WWE TV Match of the Year last night against John Cena. Anyone that states that Cena does not do anything for his opponents is smoking something pretty potent that eradicates the memory. Cena does this regularly – he is a master at allowing talent to prove themselves at his expense. He rarely loses because he’s “The Man,” but like Ric Flair 25 years ago, Cena gives the Damien Sandows, Dolph Zigglers, and Cesaros of the world a chance to flourish in the ring against him. What the WWE booking staff does from there is often problematic. Anyhow, Cesaro is sitting pretty for the moment. The fans are enjoying his act and the officials are supposedly high on him. Granted, we have seen the February PPV push of a mid-carder into a similar spot in the past (Mike Knox, Kofi Kingston, Vladimir Kozlov, Ted Dibiase, Drew McIntyre, etc.), but none of them seem to have the talent that does Cesaro. The Real American is thriving with all the opportunities to show off his considerable in-ring abilities. I look forward to watching his match with Cena again later on in the year. That was absolutely tremendous work from both guys. Cheers to Cesaro…
A few other thoughts heading into the PPV:
-Cody Rhodes, I am convinced, can be a top WWE heel. There’s a load of untapped potential in him. I think it would be a major victory for his career if he could manage to get booked against Goldust at Mania, making it the fourth time in five years that he’s earned a featured mid-card singles match in an era where those are so difficult to come by.
-Elimination Chamber could be a “make or break” night for Titus O’Neill. He’s another guy who has a lot of potential, but he’s also fairly old for an up-and-coming wrestler. He showed in his backstage promo on Raw, yet again, that he has the charisma. I’ve enjoyed his angle with Darren Young, but a victory in a better-than-expected match would do him a world of good. If the crowd gets into it and they can deliver, I’d look for O’Neill’s star to rise quickly.
-The Tag Team Championships should change hands on Sunday. As I evaluate the landscape for Mania, I see a lot of intriguing young stars and not a lot of slots for bouts on the grand stage if the average number of matches from the past few years is considered. Based on the stature that the Tag straps have gained in the last 6 months of solid booking for the division, The Usos as champions defending against The Real Americans makes a lot of sense to me. All four guys are worthy of spots on the card and with the current position of Swagger and Cesaro at EC, it would be a nice, high profile Tag Title match that would continue to help restore the reputation of the championships. The titles are in danger of their usual place of irrelevance at Mania. When they’ve been defended, as they were last year, it is in a match against random guys with little team experience. The Usos and Real Americans are both very good teams with established time in the division.
-I liked seeing Christian as a heel last night. He is much better suited to use his skills to help get new babyfaces over. Big E for the IC title at Mania comes to mind as a way to take advantage of the name and talent that Captain Charisma possesses even at his advancing age.
-Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio intrigues me. I have, generally, been a Batista fan, present circumstances notwithstanding. Del Rio has done well to try and gain sympathy for Big Dave, while also offering himself up to the kind of intensity and power that has always assisted Batista in the past at maintaining his fan base and drawing new members to it. Sunday will be telling. Del Rio has been the king of 3-star matches since his debut. I cannot recall a single PPV match of his that has not qualified in that “good” category. I’ll put my money on ADR keeping his streak alive unless they make it a glorified squash, which it could very well be. If they have a good match and Batista can hold the crowd’s favor, you’d have to consider the Del Rio-Batista feud a big victory (if you're WWE officials, especially).
-Overall, I have enjoyed the last few Monday Night Raws and the build-up to the Elimination Chamber. Most years, I view the February PPV as a mere throwaway. Not this year. I’m quite invested in pretty much every match on this card. Should be a good show.
Tune in tomorrow at the new, standard start time of 5PM EST for "The Doc and Super Chrisss Show" as we preview Elimination Chamber, give our "Win/Fail of the Week for Raw" and look ahead to the launch of the WWE Network.
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