Yesterday, Wrestling-Online ran a guest column by Shane Skwarek. Contrary to many opinions, Shane argued that WWE was doing right by the fans, giving them what they want in several areas, and that Daniel Bryan’s popularity has risen, in large part, due to the Authority’s (I assume he means WWE’s creative process – namely, Vince McMahon) decisions.
Shane also listed several instances where stars who were pushed at the behest of the fans have fallen on their faces. For example, Dolph Ziggler’s tendency to get injured led to him being de-pushed. Ryback was also pushed but, like Ziggler, fell out of favor with WWE, for one reason or another.
First, I want to address the cases where fans have demanded that stars be pushed only to come up short, and for whatever reason, not catch fire like they should.
I propose that the reason why most stars are pushed do not get over is by no fault of their own, but WWE Creative’s (and Vince McMahon’s) lack of trust to place fresh talent at the top.
While it is certainly true that John Cena has not won the strap in some time, he is still consistently (and prominently) featured at the top of the card. Randy Orton also has been at or near the top for quite some time. And now that he’s back, Batista is immediately thrust to the top of the card.
My issue isn’t so much with Daniel Bryan not being placed in the Rumble or losing to Bray Wyatt (though I do certainly have issues with both of those things). WWE’s problem lies not with the wrestler’s themselves, but with Creative (and Vince McMahon) refusing to let folks have a spot atop the card and stay there.
Contra Shane, Dolph Ziggler’s de-push happened not due to lack of ability, but because he voiced his feelings that he was not being used properly. He had lost his near-the-top spot long before this. His popularity was squashed by Creative’s insistence to keep him in the mid-card. Basically Ziggler, undoubtedly one of the best workers on the roster, got punished for speaking his mind. OF COURSE a wrestler is going to fall out of favor with the fans if they are not pushed properly!
Ryback likewise got de-pushed because he alienated himself from Creative’s good graces. Shane has a valid point here that he was green an inexperienced. This is one case where Creative’s actions are understandable.
Alberto Del Rio is now being placed secondary to Batista.
And John Cena’s getting ready to enter a feud with Bray Wyatt, who proved that he can hang toe-to-toe with one of the best in the business. If Wyatt goes over Cena and is pushed as a top guy, Creative will have done right by me.
And now, rather than fresh blood, who do we see at the top of the card?
Randy Orton, who has been in the company for the last 13 years.
John Cena, who has been at the top of the pack since 2005. That’s nine years.
The New Age Outlaws, who haven’t seen tag team gold since the late 90s, are well into their fifties, and quite visibly older both physically and visually. Last night, two 50+-year-old men defeated the Rhodes Brothers, who have helped bring new life into a tag team division that has been on life support for the last several years.
Finally, Triple H, who is now not at the top of the card per se, but is setting himself at the forefront of one of the main storylines.
Sound familiar? It should. Rather than put new blood atop the card, Creative and Vince McMahon opt to continually revisit the past relying on has-been stars and putting putting in old-timers into the main event spots. In short, they refuse to trust a new, younger guy in the top spot.
Now for Daniel Bryan.
First, anyone who bought a ticket or ordered the pay-per-view should have known that Bryan was neither in the Rumble nor at the top of the card. In that sense, fans’ vocal frustration at the event is somewhat undermined. They were getting exactly what they had paid for – if they had such a problem with the show, they were more than welcome to not buy a ticket or stay home. In many ways, their behavior was disrespectful to workers like Cena and Orton, who worked hard in their match but who were trying to follow an opening match that, quite simply, could not be followed by any other pair on the roster. Poor Batista, who signed a huge deal to come back and main-event WrestleMania, nearly got booed out of the building.
That crowd. Oh, that crowd.
My colleague might very well make the argument that the fans don’t always know what is “best for business.” That is true. It may be that, if Daniel Bryan is awarded a shot at the top spot, things may not work out. However, in the end, wrestling is a business. In the end, if the WWE says they care about their fans, they need to start listening to their fans. Last night, the fans were sending a clear message. They do not want to see Batista. They do not want to see Orton. They do not want to see Cena.
They want to see Daniel Bryan.
Shane thinks that Bryan will win the title at WrestleMania. At the moment, unless WWE changes direction based on last night’s events (which I hope they do), Orton is slated to face Batista. IF they are smart, WWE will heed the call of the fans and, as Shane suggested, put Bryan into the mix and make the main event a triple threat match.
Up until this point, however, WWE is NOT booking Bryan properly. He and Wyatt had the opening match, and undoubtedly, this was the mast of the night. Creative seemed to put Bryan at the opening of the card to get him out of the way.
If this was the case, unfortunately for them, their plan backfired. Daniel Bryan popped up over and over throughout the night. WWE’s response? JBL’s classic remark: “They’re cheering for a guy who lost his match!”
Guess who feeds the announcers lines like these? Vince McMahon. It is clear that, if he had his way, Daniel Bryan would NOT be at the top of the card. He doesn’t fit Vince’s vision of what makes a good champion – a chiseled, rock-hard big man.
With all due respect, I disagree with my colleague. WWE IS NOT booking Daniel Bryan correctly. Daniel Bryan’s rise in popularity is happening IN SPITE OF Creative, not because of them. When this happens (and it hasn’t happened to this degree, not even with CM Punk a few years ago), we have a genuine phenomenon on our hands. Daniel Bryan is receiving the loudest cheers of any star I can remember since Stone Cold or The Rock, and this is with Creative and Vince McMahon TRYING to hold Daniel Bryan down.
When this happens, it’s best to listen to your fans.
Are you listening, Vince?
About the author: Jon Beck wrote for the Wrestling-Online Newsletter for several years from 2001 onwards. A wrestling fan for over 20 years, he also specializes in Biblical Studies.