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On WWE: Daniel Bryan, the IC title, the Network and the changing face of wrestling

Submitted by Zach Dominello

I’m very close to all but giving up on WWE. Everybody always says that they’ve had enough, that they’re going to quit WWE or cancle the Network, yet every week they tune back into Raw and never miss the monthly special events. I know because I just described myself (It's yerself!). But I think I’m really going to do it this time, sort of. I’ll probably never quit the WWE completely. I’ll always be interested in its current developments, and I’ll probably make an effort to see the monthly special events, whether it be live or a replay somewhere, but I have already begun reducing my WWE intake.

I watch NXT religiously because of course I do. It's great! I watch the Hulu version of Raw, and even though it’s already an edited down to 90 minutes, I still skip a lot of it. I still watch the monthly special events, though sometimes I wonder why. I have the WWE Network, but I’ve decided to drop it after this month for a couple of reasons. It’s good, but I need to cut back on my monthly subscription services. There’s no way I’m dropping NJPW World, and I enjoy reading and listening about WWE through the Observer rather than watching it all myself, so I’m sticking with them. I’d like to keep the Network, but it’s the subscription I get the least out of. I only use it to watch NXT and the Special Events. I’d love to spend hours digging through the vaults, but my almost one year old, my wife and my full-time job have other plans for me. So, sorry WWE Network, but you gotta go!

The other reason I'm dropping the Network and reducing my WWE intake is simply because I’m losing interest in WWE. It’s mostly their fault too, but it’s also due in part to there being so many excellent alternatives out there: New Japan, Dragon Gate, ROH, Lucha Underground, just to name a few. There’s a lot of pure wrestling that’s so much better than what we get from WWE’s main roster at the moment, and a wide variety of styles. I can enjoy Strong Style in Japan, lucha from Lucha Underground, Car Crash Style in Dragon Gate, comedy gold from DDT Pro. In WWE, besides NXT, all I get is WWE Style. However, the most important reason I’m losing interest in WWE, and the point I really want to discuss, is Bryan.

WWE has managed to find a way to completely ruin Daniel Bryan for me.

As Bryan Alvarez said on WON Radio, and I’m paraphrasing, it takes talent from WWE to ruin Bryan. One year ago, he was on top of the (WWE) world. Look at him now. SPOILER: Bryan as been announced as the 6th entrant in the Intercontinental Title Ladder Match at WrestleMania. Last year he opened WrestleMania with a very good match against Triple H, and closed the show by submitting Batista to win the WWE title. This year, he’s in a lower card multi-person match for a title that nobody has cared about in years. Last year, the fans willed Bryan to the top. This year, the will was there, but the geniuses in charge stopped listening.

Instead, WWE has dragged Bryan down to the levels of R-Truth and Stardust. No offense to those guys, who are both talented, but they’re nowhere near the level of Bryan in terms of popularity and importance to the company, and talent for that matter. I figured if Bryan wasn’t going to be the top guy, at least he’d be the number two or three babyface in the company. Now he’s closer to double digits. I’d take that Bryan vs. Sheamus match that nobody wanted over this any day. That Ziggler match that was teased for two seconds is looking might good right about now.

I am so completely dumbfounded and disheartened by this booking of Bryan. After returning from a very serious injury, WWE’s bright idea is to put Bryan in one of the most dangerous matches possible at WrestleMania? It’s almost like they resent him for recovering from his injury and are now trying to finish the job. It’s not like Bryan is going to phone it in on the biggest stage of them all. When he returned from injury, I expected him to wrestle a safer, more toned down style, but he hasn’t really done that. So, it’s likely he’ll go big in this Ladder match at Mania, despite the obvious risks.

It feels so careless, and kind of comes across as vindictive of WWE to book Bryan like this. And for what, the chance to win the IC title? The title that gets carried around in a burlap sack on Raw. Even Hulu skipped the IC title segment last week (They did show it this week, however). If this is all they brought him back for, why even bother?

Hold on a second, this post was supposed to be about hope. Two delusional hopes, to be precise. Well, here goes then. Let’s get delusional! Maybe this is actually WWE thinking big. Maybe they really do have big, ambitious plans for Bryan AND the Intercontinental Championship. Maybe they haven’t actually squandered one of the biggest talents in the company. Perhaps, and this is a big perhaps, the idea is to use Bryan to elevate the IC title.

The title has been about as useful as a paperweight for years now. You know what, I feel I should apologise to paperweights everywhere for that remark. They do a good job. They don’t deserve that comparison. In New Japan, the IWGP Intercontinental Title is regarded with such importance, thanks mostly to Shinsuke Nakamura, that it’s headlined New Japan’s biggest yearly show, Wrestle Kingdom. Meanwhile, the WWE IC title sometimes isn’t even defended on PPV. It has been booked so poorly for so long that it would take something miraculous to bring some prestige back to it. Well, if anyone can work a miracle, it’s the former WWE champion and WrestleMania headliner Bryan.

Every time the IC title changes hands, I always tell myself that this time it's going to be different. That whoever is holding it is going to be booked like a champion and defend it in great matches with top stars. What usually happens is the champion loses a bunch of non-title for a few weeks, and then the title changes hands on a Raw or Smackdown. And then the process starts again. And nobody cares. It's gotten so bad that I now feel sorry for guys when they win the championship. It all but guarantees that they're going to flounder for the next month or so.

It's with that in mind that my only hope is to embrace the delusional idea that this time things might be different. That with Bryan involved in the Intercontinental title picture, the belt will finally mean something again. With a former top guy in Bryan winning the belt, perhaps he can change the long running perception that it's worthless. Perhaps he'll defend it against other top guys. The match quality involving the title will surely go up. Maybe the title's importance will rise with it. I could see Bryan defending the IC title against say Dolph Ziggler or Dean Ambrose in the main event of a WWE special event. Actually, I'd really like to see that.

So yes, basically in my delusional world, Bryan is Shinsuke Nakamura and the WWE IC Title is the IWGP IC Title. Of course, this has all just been delusional ramblings of someone who's clearly losing his mind. I did warn you. In reality, the IC title's going nowhere, and it's taking Bryan with it. While that's happening, I'll be enjoying some NJPW and a bit of Lucha Underground.