by Billy Carpenter
I should probably preface this by letting you know that my thoughts are my thoughts…they don’t necessarily reflect anyone else on the 4CR staff. I sometimes get the feeling that people think everyone here at 4CRwrestling.com & 4 Corners Radio share the same thoughts and ideals about everything in the world of wrestling, but that is definitely not the case. That is certainly not a negative either-contrarily, it’s the best part of what we do and our very essence as a group. We don’t agree on everything and we definitely don’t get angry at one another for having opposing views on any subject. That said, my stance on this topic will most assuredly not be a popular one—in fact, I’m sure I’ll receive a negative response or two. If you want to comment, fine, but I implore you to read the whole way through. But with that out of the way, I’d like to focus on why I’m writing this today…
July 2013. WWE is riding a creative high that they really haven’t had in years. New faces have been introduced and pushed, tag teams are a “thing” again—hell, even the Divas division was receiving a shot of adrenaline thanks to a 5’2” dynamo named AJ Lee. But one man in particular has emerged as the one who could be the next major star for WWE, and his rise to overwhelmingly popularity was due to the fans’ support of him. Daniel Bryan, who I proclaimed as being the “most organically over wrestler since ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin” found himself preparing for a shot at the ‘golden boy’, John Cena, and his WWE title on the second biggest show of the year in SummerSlam. The weeks leading up to the PPV saw the intensity in Daniel Bryan’s support increase—arenas around the country were deafening in their chants of “YES!”, all in unison. Considering his opposition at SummerSlam, many were rightfully hesitant to believe that WWE would actually do right by their fanbase and actually have Bryan win the title. But then…it happened! Not only did Daniel Bryan defeat John Cena, but he did it clean—no shenanigans, no controversy, no doubt. Randy Orton came down to cash in his MITB briefcase as I had predicted and, thanks to special guest ref Triple H, walked out of SummerSlam as the WWE champ. Some were furious when this happened, but I was happy with that outcome. So many good things came about from this—Bryan became a “made man” with a clean win over the biggest star in the company, Randy Orton returned to his heel roots (which he’s MUCH better suited for), we had a new WWE title program that didn’t involve Cena and we kicked off a new storyline that had the potential to encompass every show and both brands with the later anointed “Authority”.
Heading into the next PPV, ‘Night of Champions’, the cheers for ‘The American Dragon’ remained just as strong and had possibly even grown louder. The story had been set in place: “The Authority” had the man they wanted as the face of their company in Orton and would do whatever they could to break Daniel Bryan—the fan’s choice. Our choice. The story was familiar, shades of the aforementioned Steve Austin against Mr. McMahon and his corporation during the company’s most profitable era almost 2 decades ago. Each week on the various 4CR shows, we discussed the progression of Daniel Bryan into the WWE’s top “face” and how we wanted to see the storyline play out. I had said that if they plan this right they could stretch this out to WrestleMania 30, where Bryan would claim the company’s top prize on its grandest of stages. I felt they had done a good job with introducing other elements into this conflict to help further expand the story—The Big Show’s woes and contractual obligations, the firing of Cody Rhodes and the Rhodes/McMahon rivalry, HHH threatening to fire anyone who helped Bryan. The one thing that they HAD to do was keep their new star the main focus. All of the other moving parts are great as long as your hottest commodity is kept as the centerpiece and was made to look viable in the weeks leading up to the rematch. This is where I started to see some problems with how this might go. There was a stretch of EIGHT consecutive shows (RAW & SD!) where our hero was left lying to close out the show. It wasn’t until the September 9th edition of RAW—6 days before the PPV—that he finally stood tall over the champion. Not the most promising of outlooks for Daniel Bryan especially when you consider that old ‘E theory about the person standing tall on the go-home show. Also, some of those “moving parts” started to take the spotlight—Show’s moral dilemma became a big part of the broadcasts and the Rhodes Dynasty’s conflict with the COO & company was being done to perfection. Daniel Bryan was no longer the focus, or at least not the singular focus. Then we get to ‘Night of Champions’…
This is where, for me, everything started to come undone. Yes, Daniel Bryan (kind of shockingly) won the rematch, but it was supremely tarnished. So much so that the talk on Twitter wasn’t about how Bryan had won, but how quick Triple H would reverse the decision. Sure enough, that came about 24 hours later on RAW. Herein lies the problem with this storyline now, for yours truly—instead of me buying into the fact that Daniel Bryan will (eventually) win the WWE Championship and I being jubilant in that moment, I can only wonder how the powers that be will screw him out of the title when he does claim that victory. This is the main reason I had no interest in Battleground because outside of Big Show interfering, I predicted the outcome down to the “t”. The worst thing that creative could’ve done, in my view, is what they laid out to take place at ‘Night of Champions’. Daniel Bryan should’ve never won the title there. I had said, like I stated earlier in this writing, that they could stretch this angle out to WrestleMania. But in order to do that, they needed to strategically plan the steps to get us there. Throw everything at him to screw him out of winning the belt at NOC & ‘Battleground’…a “last chance” match at ‘Hell in a Cell” that the corporation finds a way to take from him…maybe a Survivor Series “Team Bryan vs Team Orton” match to keep his momentum on the upswing…have him finally go 1-on-1 with Triple H at the ‘TLC’ PPV (and win)…earn his title shot back by winning the Royal Rumble…and then he finally rids himself of the dark cloud hovering over him by winning the WWE title at WrestleMania 30. Now, that’s just my plan. It didn’t necessarily have to go exactly like that, but doing the bait & switch at ‘Night of Champions’ rattled my enthusiasm in this story something fierce. Now, as we head into the third PPV offering in about 6 weeks, it’s become very clear that the magic that was in the air in July & August has clearly dissipated.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m still as big a fan of Daniel Bryan as I’ve ever been. He’s still over with the audience. It would please me to no end to see him achieve that which he so richly deserves. But WWE had something—something very real…something that was genuinely created by us, the fans—and they failed to capitalize on it. Starting with him trying to prove himself to not be the weak link in Team Hell No, to helping usher in actual pro wrestling back to our Monday nights and his rise throughout the summer—the build was perfect. WWE, for whatever the reason, was actually smart enough to sit back and let the ‘YES!’ chants grow and grow and for all of this adulation to build amongst the fans for Bryan. It felt as though change was in the air as it relates to our favorite “sports entertainment” company. But they failed to score a touchdown in the red zone, opting instead to play it safe instead of taking a chance. They’ve taken too much of the focus away from him and placed it elsewhere—Big Show vs Stephanie McMahon, Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs The Shield, Big Show vs HHH, even Shawn Michaels coming back as the special referee for the HIAC matchup. The supporting cast has now become a bigger story than the protagonist and I’m left wondering where the misstep really took place. Sure, Daniel Bryan is getting great reactions still but one could surmise that his famous monosyllabic catchphrase is what is truly over. Besides, if you’d just started watching WWE over the last 2 weeks you might be inclined to think that particular chant is synonymous with the Big Show, as he’s sort of taken to using it. There’s time to fix this, but I’m afraid that by the time we get to the new calendar year, the “Summer of Bryan” will not be remembered as the launching pad of WWE’s next big star but a passing fad full of “what could’ve been”.
I knew when I wrote this that it wouldn’t be of popular opinion, and that’s ok. I wanted to use my forum to talk about how I felt and I encourage healthy, intelligent feedback. I think this article could spark some great debates and intellectual conversation about a topic that every WWE fan has an opinion about. Let’s keep the conversation going on Twitter and Facebook and I look forward to not only talking with all of you out there, but watching my follower count drop as a result of this piece. Have fun, wrestling fans…it’s what it’s all about.