Hustle Is Posting Right Now - Daniel Bryan's Excellent Adventure (Part Six - Crossroads)
Jan 9, 2014 - 9:26:25 PM
You rock, Maricel.
"See you at the crossroads.."
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be yet another Daniel Bryan column. As long as the man remains in the news, he will remain the subject of many columns, on LoP or otherwise.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about where Bryan currently ranks on the proverbial totem pole, and if you follow me on Twitter, you would know that I've been doing my fair share of pontificating recently. I was waiting to have enough content for a column, and I think I finally have it, so.. here it is.
If we're discussing Daniel Bryan, we obviously have to start with.. Daniel Wyatt. Let me officially go on the record and say that I hate the idea of placing Bryan in the Wyatt Family. To me, it doesn't matter if it's an actual heel turn or if it's some sort of "swerve" where he tries to "destroy them from the inside", as many have prophesized. My initial, face value reaction to the whole thing was that it was a waste for Bryan, and would only help to benefit the Wyatts, especially their leader. Don't get me wrong.. there's nothing wrong with trying to move Bray Wyatt up the card, in an attempt to make him a main event guy, but why do it at the expense of someone that is already established as a main eventer, but not established enough where it wouldn't move him down as you move someone else up?
The more I think about Daniel Bryan as Daniel Wyatt, the more I think of one word.. sabotage.
Strong word, I know, but hear (read) me out real quick. I'm going to give you a short list of people, and then I'll give you a moment to try and figure out what they have in common. Here goes..
- Randy Orton
- CM Punk
- Daniel Bryan
Go ahead and think..
Figure it out yet? I'll just tell you. Those four names had points in their career where their face pops rivaled that of John Cena, and in certain instances, exceeded that of John Cena, but suddenly, without warning, they were either turned heel or made to look like fools, moving them down the card and hurting their standing with live crowds.
Now, depending on your opinion of John Cena, you see that and think one of two things. Either..
A) WWE Bigwigs (some sort of combination of Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, etc) want to protect their "Golden Boy", not wanting the company's top guy to be getting smaller face pops than someone else, so they sabotage anyone that approaches Cena's "level".
B) John Cena himself goes to the WWE Bigwigs and complains that he shouldn't be getting lesser face pops than other people on the roster, so the company acquiesces to his needs, keeping their cash cow happy.
While I realized I'm biased, being a fan of Cena, I just can't see the second option being completely true. Do I think Cena is of a high enough stature that he can pitch ideas and storylines to the company, and they'll listen to them? Of course. If he walked into Vince McMahon's office right now and said the company should turn Heath Slater into their next WWE World Title contender, Vince would sit and listen to the entire pitch, but in the end, it's Vince's decision, not Cena's. If Vince doesn't want Heath Slater to compete for the WWE World Title, it doesn't matter how persuasive John Cena is with his pitch, because it won't happen. A lot of the "Cena Haters" in the IWC seem to forget that point, blaming Cena for his win/loss record through the years as if he, and he alone, is in charge of creating storylines and booking them through.
I think the first option is much more likely. Cena has made a lot of money, both for himself and the McMahon family, over the last decade. Love him or hate him, there's no denying that fact whatsoever. If he's the guy that the company wants to push as the man, and he clearly is, it ruins their plans a bit if he isn't getting the biggest face reactions. You'd think it would be something easy.. the guy who gets the biggest face pops is the company's top face, and the guy who gets the most heel heat is the company's top heel. Simple. If, say, Daniel Bryan is getting bigger face pops than John Cena, that should make Bryan the top face, especially when you consider his match quality, dependability, and merchandise sales, no? WWE can't have that, so they make sure it doesn't continue when they see it starting to take place.
When it happens once, it can be deemed a coincidence. Hell, when it happens twice, it can still be deemed a coincidence. At this point, though, with it happening to four different people in the last few years, I think we have long since left the coincidental territory. At this point, it appears that WWE is comfortable with having one guy in their top tier, and then having a small handful of guys in their second tier. When the top guy gets injured or retires, they can just reach down into the second tier and do it all over again, promoting one guy and one guy only. People can hate on that strategy all they want, but for the most part, it's been how the WWWF/WWF/WWE has always operated. It's almost always an era with one top guy, and then a handful of guys who are right below that level. Even in the Attitude Era, when it seemed like the roster saw a dozen main event guys, you had "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock (and some would even say Rock wasn't on Austin's level), with everyone else, from Triple H to The Undertaker to Kurt Angle to Mankind, clearly on the tier below them. If they've been running a successful business model for this long, why change it now? I can certainly see their line of thinking there.
However, on the flip side of that coin, if you're sabotaging people to assure your business model continues chugging along, aren't you costing yourself potential revenue? There was a lot of talk that the company was disappointed with the SummerSlam buyrate, with Vince McMahon all but saying the Daniel Bryan "experiment" was over because of the numbers. Had the company spent the weeks leading into SummerSlam building Bryan as a top talent, instead of portraying him as a midget who didn't belong in the main event scene, you have to think more people would have been willing to spend $60 to order the show. Most of those people were wondering why in the red hell they should spend their $60 to order the show when they just knew Cena would defeat Bryan, like he defeats everyone else. Here's the thing, though, folks.. despite what the average IWC member thinks of WWE's "poor" television ratings, pay-per-view buyrates and attendance numbers, the company's overall worth is skyrocketing. A recent report said that WWE's worth has now topped the $1.25 billion mark, with their stocks doubling in price since this time last year, with the superfuckingamazing WWE Network (finally) on its way very shortly, and with their television rights negotiations set to make them a stupid amount of money when their current deals expire later this year. If you put two and two together, folks, that means the McMahons have no reason to change their way of doing business, because they're making money hand over fist these days, even though Raw hasn't seen a 4.0 rating in five years, and even though pay-per-view buyrates are pretty much down across the board. As I said, they could be making more money if they tweaked things a bit, but if they aren't losing money, why wouldn't they continue doing what they've been doing? If I gave all of you $20, and said that you could just sit there and watch that $20 turn to $40 by doing nothing out of your ordinary, day-to-day schedules, but that you could turn the $20 into $50 by going in a different direction than you're used to, many (most) of you would enjoy your $40. Human beings are creatures of comfort, after all.
I know I'm jumping around all over the place right now, but is it safe to say that the majority of the IWC is unhappy with Daniel Bryan joining the Wyatt Family? A large portion of the IWC is downright pissed off about the decision, and another large portion doesn't like the move, but is cautiously optimistic and hopes that it will be leading to something big down the road. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that joining the Wyatts was a bad move, and will only hurt Bryan in the long run. The crowd reaction he received on Raw was, perhaps, his worst that any crowd has given him in nearly three years, and from the Smackdown spoilers that I've seen, that didn't exactly change with a new city. If the Smackdown bit is true (it's currently 12:35pm on Thursday afternoon as I type this), it's especially concerning, as the show was in Philadelphia, which is not only a smark-heavy city, but is the home of Ring Of Honor.. Bryan Danielson Country, so to speak.
But how can all of this be fixed?
In my opinion, WWE is running out of time and running out of chances to "fix" things that they tried to damage during the summer months. I feel, as many others do, that WrestleMania will be the final chapter of this particular story. Either Bryan will have conquered for good, and all will be forgiven, or he will be back down to the midcard officially, and I guarantee you that you'll see a lot of long-time fans give up on WWE altogether, just like many did post-SummerSlam. I want to look at what I feel are the only real options remaining for Bryan, whether or not I want to see the options happen, whether or not I think we will see the options happen, and so forth. In no particular order..
- Royal Rumble winner. The preferred method here would be if he won by going the distance, entering in one of the first two spots. It would fit his underdog character a lot more than, say, entering in the final spot and lasting all of eight or nine minutes before winning. Hell, have the Authority throw their weight around again by making him enter in the first spot, if you need to, although that might give the ending away a bit. Let's compromise a bit, and say that Bryan could enter the Rumble in the mid-to-high single digits and come out with the win. That could work. It has to be a win, though. In the eyes of the already unhappy, they aren't going to settle for him lasting 50-60 minutes, only to lose, and they aren't going to settle for him eliminating close to a dozen people, only to lose.
- Triple H's opponent at WrestleMania. This is one of the scenarios that has lost a bit of steam recently, but was heavily discussed by fans coming out of SummerSlam. Triple H, as leader of the dastardly heel "group", makes Daniel Bryan's life miserable for months on end, throwing road block after road block in front of him in his quest to become WWE Champion again. After overcoming every single one of those road blocks, Triple H decides to create one last road block.. himself. Different people placed different stipulations to go with this match. Some had Triple H somehow winning the WWE Title (or the WWE World Title at TLC) for himself, and then he declares that his match with Bryan would be "Bryan's last shot at the title, forever and ever and ever". Others had the stipulation being the Authority would have to disband if Bryan won. Whatever it is, the match at WrestleMania would be the culmination of the entire seven-plus-month storyline. In this particular scenario, Bryan would definitely have to win to satisfy the unhappy. You think people are upset now? Let Bryan lose at WrestleMania to Triple H, who technically isn't even supposed to be wrestling anymore, since he has lost his last two matches where his career was placed on the line. That match result would elicit anger from the IWC the likes of which we haven't seen in a long, long time.
- Undertaker's opponent at WrestleMania. This is where it gets intriguing to me. Long before Bryan was even scheduled to face John Cena at SummerSlam, I would often float the idea of him being Taker's WrestleMania opponent, just to gauge people's reactions. At one point, not all that long ago, someone the size of Daniel Bryan would never have been taken seriously as a challenger to "The Streak". Now, thanks to the match quality that Shawn Michaels and CM Punk helped deliver with Taker, and thanks to the way Bryan's matches are put together (heel or face, he doesn't back down from much larger opponents, and his striking is capable of nullifying size differences like it has in matches against the likes of Mark Henry, Big Show, Kane, Roman Reigns, etc, people could really see Bryan as a threat. On top of that, Bryan is the only man in wrestling that could possibly make Taker's crowd reaction at Mania come close to being on the heel side of the fence. I'm not saying Taker's reaction would be heel. I'm just saying that Bryan is so loved by the WWE Universe that it can rival how Taker is loved by the WWE Universe, and many a smark fan would be rooting for Bryan hardcore in that match.
Let me go back to that final scenario real quick, though. What if.. what if.. Daniel Bryan actually defeats The Undertaker at WrestleMania? Think about the ways that people are pitching Bryan getting his "revenge". Wrestlers have won Royal Rumbles. Wrestlers have won the Royal Rumble after going the distance. Wrestlers have defeated Triple H at WrestleMania. Wrestlers have defeated Triple H at WrestleMania to win WWE/World Titles. Nobody has ever defeated Taker at WrestleMania, though. Could there possibly be a bigger light at the end of this tunnel than having Bryan end The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak? Something that four WWE Hall Of Famers and eleven eventual WWE Hall Of Famers couldn't do?
How do we make that happen, though?
The scenario would be a lot easier if we still had the WWE Title and the World Title as two different things. I've mentioned scenarios in the past where a Royal Rumble winner could bypass his shot at either title for a chance at immortality, challenging Taker at Mania instead. That could have worked here, and it would even fit Daniel Bryan's overachiever character. He's been a WWE Champion. He's been a World Champion. If he won the Royal Rumble, I could definitely see a storyline put together where Bryan wanted to show the world that he wasn't the unworthy midget that people like Triple H and Randy Orton painted him to be. It could still work, now that there is only one champion, especially with four or five other people being in the WWE World Title picture come WrestleMania time, but I just think it would have worked better with the "make a decision" aspect as a part of winning the Rumble.
An interesting scenario would be Taker returning to save Bryan from a three-on-one beating at the hands of the Wyatts. The last time we saw Taker, he was feuding with The Shield, and it was Daniel Bryan who came to his aid, so it's an easy write to have Taker return the favor, even against a different trio. Bryan finally stands up to the Wyatts after being bullied around, yadda yadda yadda, they beat him down.. the lights go out.. The Undertaker appears when the lights come back on.. live crowd goes apeshit.. I continue to drag this sentence out.. and people are happy. The only way that turns into Bryan VS Taker, though, would be to have Bryan unappreciative of Taker's help, saying that he (Taker) only helped to prove the Authority's point that he (Bryan) is "too small" and "can't get the job done". Bryan wants to prove to everyone that he can get the job done, so he challenges Taker, and we have ourselves a WrestleMania match after perhaps a warm-up for Taker where he can team with Bryan to take care of the Wyatts on Raw or something.
As you can see, though, we're definitely running out of time. The Royal Rumble is only 17 days away (16, probably, by the time most of you read this), and WWE has done nothing in recent weeks to indicate that Bryan is a candidate to win. This long journey can't end with Daniel Bryan VS Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, folks. It certainly can't end with Daniel Bryan teaming with the Wyatts at WrestleMania. It just can't. We've come much too far, and have experienced far too much, for it to go that route.
Where do you stand on things, ReaderLand? Are you of the thinking that Daniel Bryan joining the Wyatt Family has essentially ruined his character, or are you someone who thinks this is merely a temporary storyline to keep Bryan busy for a few weeks? I want your predictions for Bryan's match at WrestleMania, too. If you forced to pick the match you think he ends up having, not the one you want him to have, what match are you choosing? Holla at ya boy and let me know what's on your mind.
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