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MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - The Problems with Daniel Bryan and Christian as WWE Main Eventers
By Mr. Tito
Aug 6, 2013 - 11:37:21 PM
SummerSlam is in the air... Often called "Wrestlemania Jr." during the past, notably how the show was a non-gimmick one (unlike Survivor Series & Royal Rumble) and due to it often having matches that spun from Wrestlemania. Nowadays, WWE stuffs multiple Pay Per Views between Wrestlemania and SummerSlam so that the feeling of being a direct Wrestlemania sequel is now gone. However, the WWE still reasonably treats SummerSlam as a bigtime show, possibly as a unofficial kickoff to the "Fall Season" of the WWE after the casual wrestling fanbase takes a few months off during the Summer.
This year's SummerSlam is no different... It boasts a unique match up that is sure to draw big numbers, CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar, while having a match-up that fans have begged for in Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena for the WWE Title. Meanwhile, the WWE seems like they've just settled for Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Title, although some longtime fans actively root for Christian to be World Champ. The Undercard has a few other interesting match-ups for fans such as Bray Wyatt vs. Kane and former tag team partners squaring off in Damien Sandow vs. Cody Rhodes. We'll probably get a few more matches sprinkled in here or there through next week. But the "core" of the show is already here. Lesnar vs. Punk gets me to buy the show, while hopes of Bryan vs. Cena succeeding could land this as an all-time great SummerSlam.
As I watch the hype for this show, I can almost see what WWE Executive Management (Vince, Stephanie, Triple H, Kevin Dunn) wants... While CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar will be the most important match-up of the show, SummerSlam might be about making WWE Management's darlings, Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio look good either at the show or shortly thereafter. If you have high hopes on WWE Title or World Heavyweight Title contenders Daniel Bryan and Christian respectively, you could be upset by the show's end or maybe by the next Pay Per View when one or both quickly drop their titles.
Vince McMahon is a HUGE fan of Alberto Del Rio. It's a fact. Those with backstage access have reported it often, as Vince seems to be glued to the television whenever Del Rio is wrestling. Based on the way Del Rio flaunts his riches, it's much like Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase of the 1980's. Dibiase was created to be as an extension of Vince McMahon's personality and Del Rio seems to be in that same light. Del Rio appeared to be developing nicely in 2011 under the Smackdown roster when he was chasing the World Heavyweight Title. Del Rio was able to win the 2011 Royal Rumble but lost against Edge at Wrestlemania 27. Edge retired and thus the World Heavyweight Title was vacated... However, before Del Rio could continue his persuit, Del Rio was drafted to Monday Night RAW with Vince already crafting WWE Title plans for him. Shortly after Wrestlemania 27, Vince cemented plans to crown Del Rio as WWE Champion at SummerSlam 2011. Many in the internet community mock the WWE for its lack of long-term planning, but in this instance, Vince actually had the plans. WWE was going to later tour Mexico that fall and it would be good business to have Del Rio represent the WWE as WWE Champion there.
But a problem occurred... CM Punk got crazy over before the Money in the Bank 2011 event with the whole expiring contract storyline and of course, the "Pipebomb" speech heard around the world. WWE had no choice, along with signing CM Punk to a nice extension, to give him the WWE Title. WWE fans were demanding it! However, the long-term plans of Vince McMahon were in tact. Del Rio had to end SummerSlam 2011 as WWE Champion! And that he did... Kevin Nash interfered for reasons still unknown to this day (thanks WWE Creative) and it allowed Del Rio to cash in his WWE Title "Money in the Bank" briefcase to become WWE Champion. Vince McMahon made his favorite wrestler become WWE Champion while disregarding what the fans wanted (CM Punk as champ) in the process. Vince briefly gave up on his hero by November 2011 when CM Punk gained the WWE Title for a year long run. Del Rio was turfed to the Smackdown roster for 2012... But to start 2013, the WWE turned Del Rio face and gave him the World Heavyweight Title. That allowed Del Rio to defend against the revamped "We the People" Jack Swagger that didn't draw much interest for Wrestlemania 29. Del Rio would lose the World Title on the following night on RAW to Dolph Ziggler cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase.
Alberto Del Rio would turn HEEL once again and tick off many fans by taking the World Heavyweight Title back from Ziggler. Here we go again... Rushed character change and rushed World Title around his waist. Thanks to the flipping and flopping of the Smackdown brand roster (and confusion as to who is actually on it), the WWE was short on face opponents for Del Rio to wrestle. They've already burned Sheamus's character out with fans despite the hard pushes to get him over as World Champion of the Smackdown roster. Dolph Ziggler gets to enjoy a feud with Big E Langston... So the WWE management settled on Christian.
Christian first joined the WWE during 1998. Aside from his TNA Wrestling stint between late 2005 through late 2008, you've had a healthy dose of the guy as a WWE fan. Certainly, throughout his career with WWE and TNA, Christian has enjoyed moderate success. He's a hardworking wrestler, knows how to work a match, and has remained mostly durable despite some of the highly dangerous matches he's wrestled involving ladders. The guy has been around forever and because of that longevity, people know him well enough to give him a decent pop when he comes out everytime. They are used to seeing him by now...
But he's not a Main Event draw. I can just visualize the crocodile tears flowing after stating that, but you cannot convince me that a Houseshow headlined by Christian as World Champion would draw well. Particularly without the WWE hype machine behind it tohelp draw a few thousand. WWE's many attempts at getting Christian over as a singles wrestler and possible main eventer justify that opinion, sorry to say. There's a reason why the WWE let Christian go during 2005: they could afford to. In case you haven't noticed, the WWE has NEVER regretted losing a single wrestler to TNA Wrestling. Why? Because the majority of TNA's former WWE wrestlers already had their prime years in the WWE. WWE already destroyed Christian's health while seeing his best in those TLC matches. They already tried Christian as a singles wrestler before his 2005 TNA departure. It did OK in the midcard, but "Captain Charisma" wasn't catching on to be anything higher than that. If he was drawing and numbers among fans (houseshows, merchandise, ratings, etc.) indicated as such, WWE wouldn't have let him go to TNA Wrestling. They let him walk.
Sure, Christian "Cage" did well in TNA, but all former WWE stars have a leg up on the other wrestlers when joining TNA Wrestling. He was a big fish in a small and shallow pond, and along with Kurt Angle whom the WWE just happened to let go, drew nothing additional for that company. That's despite his 2 championships there... WWE took him back during early 2009 and where did they put him? The "awesome" Extreme Championship Wrestling third brand of the WWE. Yes, because all top drawing wrestlers go there... Christian has been a Smackdown specific wrestler for the last few years and has done alright for a WWE veteran. He still has solid matches, many older fans still like the guy, and there appears to be some tread left (surprisingly) on his 39 year old tires. I am, in no way, saying the guy should be cut from the WWE roster... Veterans that can still go have a place on the WWE roster... See Chris Jericho.
But many fans need to understand this principle in pro wrestling... Longevity does NOT automatically turn a wrestler into a Main Eventer.
Just because Christian (or any wrestler) has been around FOREVER and paid many dues, it doesn't equate being a legitimate Main Event wrestler. He has to be a draw first... He needs to have the star power to convince more casual fans to WANT to see more of his talents in the ring. It's just not there and it has never been there. There is NOTHING wrong with being a lifelong midcarder... Had the WWE cared about about their midcard titles, such as Intercontinental and United States titles, Christian could be that midcard presence that is always competitive over those titles. Many wrestlers on the way up could use Christian to (a) learn how to perform well in the ring and (b) to elevate to the next level. Christian was an excellent Tag Team wrestler... And gee, guess what? WWE badly needs tag teams right now. Give him a current wrestler in need of a purpose... I guess Miz & Christian? Why not? Something like that...
If in the PEAK of your career during 2000-2005 that you couldn't convince WWE fans that you could be a top guy, how can you prove that in 2013? While Christian was wrestling those TLC matches during 2000-2002, many of today's current WWE fans were in diapers. How can he be a draw with them? Christian may have lucked into this match and I expect Del Rio to go over to continue to be Vince's darling as World Champion.
Before you get on me about how lousy the WWE main event scene is with younger wrestlers getting pushed too early and not being over for a World Title... Go read my past columns. You are PREACHING TO THE CHOIR about guys like Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, Jack Swagger, and Miz. I agree 100%. Certainly, you could argue that Christian getting pushed is no different than any of those guys, including current World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio... But that just underlines the overall problem that WWE Creative has endured for the past few years: nobody is getting over.
Unless, of course, your name is John Cena. Cena is over bigtime with the kiddies... Houseshow and merchandise numbers show that bigtime. Pay Per View and television ratings numbers, not so much... But he's a big draw with the kids and a nice spokesperson for the WWE, especially in the post-Benoit world where the WWE craves good public relations. The other guy who is a proven draw with the WWE is CM Punk, who in contrast to John Cena, can pop a Pay Per View number when on top for certain matches. He's drawing well with adult fans, most of which are sick of Super Cena. That's despite the booking going against CM Punk for the past few years. CM Punk was derailed by Vince's boy, Alberto Del Rio in 2011, and wasn't headlining Pay Per Views as WWE Champion during much of 2012. Rock, John Cena, Kane, and Undertaker's whipping boy in 2013, but at least the WWE realizes the huge potential of CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar for 2013. At least someone within the WWE Executive Management team (Vince, Stephanie, Triple H, Kevin Dunn) has some sense to give we, the fans, that match.
Then there's Randy Orton...
Like Christian above, Randy Orton has been on the WWE roster FOREVER now (11 years and counting) that fans are used to seeing the guy and will pop for him at live events. Furthermore with Randy Orton, WWE booking has been extremely favorable to him with his 9 World Titles won since SummerSlam 2004. Being around forever and having extremely favorable booking has made Randy Orton appear to be a draw. Yet, what has he done for the Smackdown roster as its "star"? How many Pay Per Views have popped in viewers with Orton on top? Same argument with Christian... Do you trust Randy Orton to be a regular Houseshow draw based on his own starpower without the WWE machine behind it? I don't... He's a WWE darling based on how he's a personal friend backstage of Triple H and Vince McMahon loves the guy because his father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton, helped Vince make money at Wrestlemania 1 in 1985. Vince LOVES next generation guys from parents who helped make him money or did a big favor for him (like Kevin Dunn's dad saving WWE taped shows from a burning car).
And Randy Orton is getting another strong WWE Title push despite Daniel Bryan getting a big WWE Title shot at SummerSlam 2013.
I instantly became ill as Randy Orton won the briefcase at Money in the Bank 2013 during the "All Star" match for the WWE Title. He was mostly a Smackdown branded wrestler for the past few years and winning the WWE Title briefcase pushes him to the RAW roster. Just great... But Daniel Bryan was the one getting over. Fine, we'll endure a Randy Orton vs. John Cena match at SummerSlam, could be worse... Then, it became worse. John Cena was able to choose his SummerSlam 2013 opponent, thanks to new "General Manager" Brad Maddox being so generous. Cena picked Daniel Bryan. Sure, that was exciting... But Randy Orton won the Money in the Bank briefcase during the night before AND Orton threatened John Cena about cashing it in earlier on that RAW. Then, this past Monday, Daniel Bryan teamed up with John Cena and Randy Orton against the Shield. After the match, Randy Orton went on the attack and delivered the RKO to both John Cena and Daniel Brian. Almost cashed the Money in the Bank brief case in...
Daniel Bryan gets the SummerSlam WWE Title shot, so why isn't the focus on him instead of Randy Orton?
You can almost see Orton put over coming and also smell that fresh pile of dirt to BURY Daniel Bryan's momentum, in spite of what the WWE fans truly want. WWE's Executive Management (again - Vince, Stephanie, Triple H, Kevin Dunn) resents the WWE fanbase for the way they actually reacted to the Wrestlemania 28 quick finish between Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan. It was supposed to be Sheamus's "Wrestlemania Moment" and the fans ruined it, in their minds of course. Since then, you've cheered "YES! YES! YES! YES" and got ridiculous things like his Team Hell No tag team with Kane over while not appreciating Sheamus or his storyline ex-girlfriend, AJ Lee, as they bounce from storyline to storyline, gimmick to gimmick. Meanwhile, your enjoyment of the Shield seems to be declining as they just so happen to not be wrestling Daniel Bryan as much now... You, the WWE fanbase, want to see Daniel Bryan as one of the company's top stars. You've demanded it for the past year.
Give the WWE credit... They DID book John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan for SummerSlam 2013... But the problem is that we have lots of bullshit surrounding it.
For one, we have Randy Orton. He's being pushed hard despite Bryan getting the WWE Title shot at SummerSlam. That Money in the Bank cash-in threat is there, much like Alberto Del Rio had it against CM Punk at SummerSlam 2011. Then, there's the McMahons. Week after week now, Vince McMahon has belittled Bryan as a smaller wrestler who can't cut it in the WWE or become champion. Stephanie McMahon ridicules Bryan's image, and pushed that stupid makeover angle this week. Oddly enough, the storyline is dictating that Triple H defend the guy... But the worse part is what John Cena said about Daniel Bryan this week. Cena doesn't have creative control over his scripted words, so what he said was at the directive of the McMahons and the WWE Creative Staff. How he belittled Daniel Bryan's past wrestling career was insulting... Comparing what Bryan did to Arena Football? What the hell is that about?
If you read fellow LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com columnist Hustle's August 4th, 2013 entry about Daniel Bryan, you'll easily read how accomplished and experienced Bryan is as a wrestler. In fact, knowing his past actually makes Daniel Bryan a more credible opponent to John Cena IF the WWE had the guts to promote that. Furthermore with Daniel Bryan, his offense is such that it makes him a credible opponent to anyone thanks to his abilities. Despite being 5'10" and probably just above 200 pounds, the equalizer with Daniel Bryan is his ability to STRIKE his opponents with kicks and high impact moves. That's why Chris Benoit was credible... Despite his lack of size, his offense and striking ability made him appear credible to take down large opponents. That's why Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero didn't look as credible as Main Event wrestlers or World Champions... They lacked that ability to strike any opponent with a strong punch, chop, or kick that would physically impose their will on any size wrestler. Daniel Bryan and Chris Benoit strike opponents hard and appeared credible to hurt any sized opponents.
When are we going to hear Michael Cole talk up Daniel Bryan's ability to strike his opponents with those kicks? That is what should, in terms of psychology, allow a man 5'10" to defeat any person on the WWE roster. Do you think that even the Big Show could take some of those Daniel Bryan kicks to the head? Please... Those kicks are vicious and the WWE hype machine should be pushing that hard.
HOWEVER - We're being treated to a Randy Orton push and threat to cash-in Money in the Bank, Vince McMahon belittling Bryan over size, Stephanie belittling Bryan over looks, and John Cena's scripted lines disrespecting where Bryan came from.
That's a broken WWE, folks... It's either setting the table for a MUST WIN for Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam 2013 or a diminished WWE Title reign if Bryan actually wins it. You know that Randy Orton will be there waiting for Bryan after the show. And do you think John Cena goes away quietly? Sure, Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena vs. Randy Orton could deliver some great matches... But that's not the point.
Daniel Bryan is over NOW. You have to strike while the iron is hot in pro wrestling and wrestling fans can get impatient. If the WWE blows Daniel Bryan's momentum here, it's just another guy not named John Cena and Randy Orton that they've buried. Funny, as Bryan also came from the Ring of Honor... Nice pattern we're seeing here.
I'll be happy to see Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena on PAY PER VIEW to actually happen... In many ways, I don't care that much about the outcome because I'm somewhat convinced that a 5-Star classic could convince WWE Management that Bryan can be their guy... But I've watched the WWE closely since 2004 and I've seen the way they ENJOY pushing John Cena and Randy Orton to the moon. 22 World Championships between them since SummerSlam 2004. Seriously.
It's no wonder why the Zacks financial analyst downgraded the WWE Stock from "Neutral" to "Underperform". WWE is unwilling to not only surrounding its top stars with strongly booked talent, but failing to put in a plan to eventually replace them. John Cena and Randy Orton can't wrestle forever and current numbers show that they've peaked in their starpower. The future drawing power of the WWE is at risk for being too protective of 2 guys who debuted in 2002, 11 years ago...
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