Wrestling Column: On Daniel Bryan Post-Royal Rumble

By Gary Mehaffy |  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Yes or no.

Two little words, two simple meanings.

Yes is seen as a positive. No is often seen as a negative.

Yes means certainly. No means absolutely not.

So, are we to assume that the results of the Royal Rumble means that the powers that be in WWE have now said ‘no’ to an actual Daniel Bryan run at the top of the card? Are we to assume that the fact that he didn’t appear in the Rumble itself, sending the internet into a tailspin, means that he is dead in the water? Does it mean that they see him as simply a ‘good little hand’ who can go in the ring and who has a cult following, but in the grand scheme of things can’t be a difference maker?

I think the answer to those questions is ‘no’.

He is towards the top of the card (but way below John Cena, admittedly). They know he is talented or they wouldn’t allow him the opportunities to prove it – remember, the same ‘authority’ for want of a better word who ‘hold him back’ are also the same people who allow him to shine in the ring night after night.

They also know that he could make a difference. Let’s be honest, he already is. Maybe not in merchandise sales and ratings points as we have heard again and again, but when virtually every TV crowd hijacks the show with their deafening chants of ‘Yes’  it’s more than just a coincidence. It isn’t just a fad, either. ‘Fandangoing’ was a fad – and an enjoyable one at that. Zack Ryder was a fad – and I’m sure he’s glad he gave over his web show to the WWE! Or not. Ok, in both of these instances there were issues that stopped their development (Fandango had a concussion and never got his push back; Ryder was simply phased down and out, and boy does it show with him! At least when Dolph Ziggler’s push went downhill he still came out looking and wrestling like a main event wannabe. He didn’t just sulk backstage and accept his lot in life). But in Daniel Bryan’s case they are still pushing him and allowing him to shine, so let’s not get carried away with the hysteria.

But there is one flaw in the logic of Daniel Bryan being allowed to get over. One point that the IWC are right on – he hasn’t ever been treated as ‘the man’ in WWE.

I heard Dave and Bryan discussing this point this morning on the post-Rumble Wrestling Observer Radio. A comparison was made with Edge and Jeff Hardy. Now, they held off a little too long with Hardy (he should have beaten Orton at the Rumble 2008) but he did stay at the top of the card and for a short time was the most popular wrestler in the industry. Persistence and dedication and eventually the WWE top brass could not hold him back any longer. Ring any bells?

As for Edge, when he was given the belt at New Year’s Revolution in 2006, he popped a rating on Raw the following night, which again surprised management and allowed him to have a short run with the belt and then several more title reigns after that. Regardless of what HHH may have said recently, Edge was a top star in the company. But he was allowed to be credible and given wins over top names in the company to maintain that spot.  Bryan hasn’t had that luxury – and don’t say ‘What about all of the wins over Orton at the end of 2013?’

When he beat Cena at SummerSlam I fully expected Orton to cash in and take the title. The HHH pedigree was an added bonus, because – I thought – this will play in to the next PPV (Night of Champions) and Bryan will win the title, the fans will love it, all will be right in the world and then we can see in the next month or two through to Survivor Series whether he can move ratings. All of this would be contingent on them promoting him as ‘the man’, not promoting him in the way that Chris Jericho was when he was champ before losing to HHH at WrestleMania 18.

Let’s be honest – Bryan, had this worked out in a perfect world,  would have been champion during football season. The ratings for Raw are notoriously at their lowest with that level of competition. Had they given Bryan the ball and the ratings held up – or were higher than they anticipated – then we could say that he was a genuine viable top tier guy. But we don’t know – and therein lies the problem. They have never given him the chance. I don’t think the ratings or house show ticket sales arguments can be used at the moment to decide if he is or isn’t in the upper echelon of the company. He is being promoted as a high mid card/low main event calibre WWE SuperstarTM. And have we not been told that for the last couple of years it is the brand and not the individuals who draw the house? Cena being the exception to the rule. But then again, he has been pushed (adlittedly too much at times) as the man for most of the last decade.

Daniel’s tweets last night after the Rumble are right on the line of real life/storyline, and that’s good. It is intriguing. It gets people talking. But there needs to be a payoff. There needs to be a sense that WWE management are listening to the fans and do ‘what’s best for business’ by giving him a chance to succeed or fail. Only then can we say once and for all whether he really is the next big thing. Or ‘a’ big thing. If they do that – give him real credibility as a main eventer, an extended title run (eventually) and let him sink or swim as a ratings mover – will he succeed? Will he rise to the absolute top of the business? Will he be a genuine game changer?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

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