My Take #1 3/17/14 (Daniel Bryan and WrestleMania XXX)
On the main LOP page we were fortunate enough to see Doc rank what he thought were the 10 greatest WrestleMania Title chases of all time. His list was really strong. He took the liberty, as I will below, of assuming that Daniel Bryan will complete his quest and walk out as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion after WrestleMania XXX.
If it should work out as Doc and I assume...I think Bryan's story is the most compelling chase of all time.
I've been a huge fan of wrestling for somewhere between 25 and 30 years. I'm not a fly by night fan, or born in the Attitude Era, I know my wrestling history (at least over the course of my life). Stone Cold's first quest for the title, or his chase of the Corporate Champion were both exceptional. The Rock being as dynamic and entertaining as he is takes away from the second a bit for me. I would have been pleased as a fan regardless of who won that match. In my time as a fan, there has been no chase that has ever had me invested like Bryan's.
With this Bryan story...it's either a brilliantly crafted masterpiece of storytelling that added elements of realism with regards to how the WWE views a smaller talent as a Main Event star...or it was a referendum on the impact of the fans on a storyline.
Either way, the fans dictated that Daniel Bryan's star was much bigger than his 5' 7" frame.
I've never felt such a genuine distaste of the WWE product in my life as I felt when Daniel Bryan was time and time again being "screwed", being "buried". It all felt like what was playing out on screen was just an extension of the backstage politics that we smarks have followed on LOP for years. I was one of the naysayers who kept sitting there and saying "SEE! SEE! The WWE just doesn't get it, and they never will!" I felt like I was trumpeting Tito's mantra to anyone who would listen. We independently came up with our own theories that with the John Cena injury Bryan was only a placeholder until Cena came back. We both had decided that Bryan was the Foley, not the Austin.
When Cena returned and the WWE set the course of action to unify the titles...in my mind it was set in stone. Cena was back, and he would be the one to overcome the Authority Golden Boy Randy Orton.
Orton won the Unification Bout...and then retained all over again against Cena. I hadn't anticipated that result. Were they really going to push Bryan to the top? Suddenly, it all made sense, word leaked that "The Animal" Batista was coming back to the company, and there were designs on him Main Eventing WrestleMania with Orton. Again I spouted off "SEE! I TOLD YOU SO!".
Something strange happened though, at the Royal Rumble, when Bryan opened the show with Bray Wyatt; the fans expected to see him in the Royal Rumble. Bryan was not a part of it. Batista won, and in the process became the number 1 heel in the company. The only problem was, Big Dave was meant to be a face. The only reason he was a heel was for the simple reason that he was NOT Daniel Bryan.
Part of Stone Cold Steve Austin's meteoric rise was that he was viewed as the everyman. He wanted to beat up his boss, and did. He did the things we all wished we could do. Bryan on the other hand, isn't just VIEWED as the everyman, he IS the everyman. That is the beauty of Daniel Bryan. He's shorter than many of the fans in the stands and at home, he's a tiny man in a land of giants. People embrace his struggles, they embrace his successes, because he's NOT supposed to be there. He's the guy breaking the glass ceiling. The fans love him because he's proven that you don't have to be a giant in order to be a World Champion. You don't have to have muscles in places where I didn't even know muscles existed to be World Champion. You can just be a guy who looks like a lumberjack, and barely qualifies for some amusement park height restrictions.
And that is OK, as a matter of fact, it's more than OK, it's what the majority of the people in the stands want. Their voices were heard as they tried to blow the roof off of every building simply by screaming the word "YES!".
Barack Obama built his candidacy on change (whether he's succeeded or not is a debate for another day). He wasn't supposed to even be the Democratic Nominee, he was just a guy who happened to be running primaries. But suddenly "Yes We Can" and an eloquent speaker took the nation by storm all the way to the White House.
America loves an underdog story, and there's never been one quite like Daniel Bryan. Everything that's come to him has been (at least seemingly) despite the opportunities put in front of him, and somewhere along the line the fans fell in love with him.
One of the underlooked parts of this whole scenario is that despite the post SummerSlam treatment, Randy Orton did a great deal to put Bryan over and elevate him as a star during Bryan's "weak link" stage against The Shield. Orton putting Bryan over clean set the stage for Bryan as a threat to everyone, and Cena putting him over clean at SummerSlam eventually cemented that.
For Orton, the guy who helped make him, to steal that title and be the one he couldn't overcome because of all of the Authority interference, makes it even more compelling.
Never has a fan base been so ready for a babyface to triumph over hated villains the way that this has ended. As I said earlier, Batista was brought in to be a face, and was turned heel by the mere fact that he was not Daniel Bryan. He didn't make a standard heel turn (eventually he did), but the fans just dictated that he was a heel. They told the WWE, you can ask us to cheer him and we won't. He's not Daniel. When has something like that EVER happened? Cena gets boos, but they still trot him out there as a face.
The lean months, where it appeared that Bryan's push was over and he was relegated to a mid card Wyatt feud (which did what it was supposed to and "made" Wyatt) somehow did nothing to derail the momentum of the "Yes Movement". What Daniel Bryan, the fans, and the WWE have accomplished, no matter what was conceived and what was accidental is astonishing.
Whether the WWE actually made a calculated plan to create this situation for Bryan, or their decision making in the other direction prompted a fan backlash, and the fans have an organic and real connection with the underdog that is Bryan doesn't matter. What matters is that we are on the precipice of perhaps the single greatest story told in WrestleMania history. A triumph that was never meant to happen with a wrestler who was never meant to be there. It has a storyline that doesn't seem like it was written by the creative department, but rather constantly erased and rewritten by thousands of voices screaming "YES!".
Many wrestlers walk out and say they did it for the fans, but this time the fans can say they did it for Daniel Bryan, and THAT is why this is the greatest story in WrestleMania history.
Last edited by rayhagan1; 03-17-2014 at 02:40 PM.
The Devil's Advocate
Hey Ray, welcome to the CF.
This was a solid debut. I don't actually have much to critique on in terms of writing style, it was a very assured column. Perhaps a couple of instances of awkward phrasing, but in general this was well written. Of course, now we've established that you're a good writer of prose, that might seem condescending, but most debuts here suck. This one didn't.
I think the truth about Daniel Bryan lands somewhere in the middle; I think WWE knew they had something a bit special, and that the reaction to Bryan would grow if they screwed him over a few times more than if they gave him the strap. I think just how big that reaction would become was underestimated, and somehow in underestimating his stock WWE have actually magnified his reaction ever further, because it has looked even more they're holding him back.
This has been the most exciting rise I have known in pro wrestling (I haven't been watching anywhere near as long as you). I can't wait to see the pay-off, and I am convinced it will come at Wrestlemania, one way or another. I have held this belief since Summerslam, and it has been an incredible ride, particularly as I and my colleagues on The Right Side of the Pond radio show have been peddling what appeared to be a fairly insane theory at the time. What Bryan has been allowed to do is prove that this isn't just a passing fad - this connection has been steadily, and recently exponentially, growing ever since Wrestlemania 28.
Top stuff, I hope you keep writing. Take a look around, say hello to some other posters, and do stick around!
Thank you very much for the compliments. I certainly will continue to write, and make my presence known on the forum in other ways..
I believed after SummerSlam that Bryan would get a run with the title sooner rather than later. When they took the title from him a second time after the fast count, I sort of lost hope. The final nail in the coffin for me was when a "fast count"/"crooked ref" cost Bryan the title, but it was perfectly OK for Shawn Michaels as a ref to give him Sweet Chin Music. At that point it just felt like not only were they keeping him from the title, but logic itself had gone out the window.
I'm not entirely sure that the plan was for Bryan to be in this position from the beginning. I still firmly believe that if the fans hadn't reacted how they did, that Batista would be facing Orton alone.
That said, I'm NOT entirely sure that they didn't just play the fans like a fiddle and this was a plan all along. That space between what I believe, and what I can't rule out is what makes this so compelling.
The Underage Pessimist
Welcome to the CF, Ray!
A very neat debut piece. You have nice, clear formatting, and nary a grammatical mistakes there, which is more than what can be said about any debuting columnist. Just maybe work on branching out your opinions more, but that'll only come with experience. As a debut piece, this was much, much better than most that we see here, including mine. So, kudos!
I am enthusiastic in the same manner as you about Bryan's journey. There has been no storyline in my entire fandom that has generated as much emotion from me, and I'm thrilled at the prospect of what could happen at 'Mania 30. I have/had my own apprehensions about WWE's booking strategies, and even though I feel they haven't done well with all of it, the end result is something we've all been wanting to see, and then some. All's well that ends well, right?
I see you've posted another column. For more advice, go there!
Shine a light
WWE has really given this story all of its energy and time, when you consider where things were last summer. Bryan has been THE focal point of RAW since then. Whatever he was doing, fighting with Orton, Authority, Wyatts...the fans and WWE made sure that he was getting the most attention.
Good teamwork, heh.
A fine column and a well explained POV. Will it be the greatest Wrestlemania story? It'ss dependent on how his match goes with Triple H and then the main event title match if he wins the first. Bryan rarely fails in the ring though so you might just be right....
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