There exists a minor debate between me and those who will remain unnamed (not due to disrespect or anything; they’re just numerous) regarding Bryan Danielson’s role in the current storyline, in regards to his winning the championship. I’m in the camp that says he should get it at Wrestlemania and others say it should wait until Extreme Rules. After minutes of exhausting back and forth, coupled with valid points on each side, we all came to a conclusion that satisfied all our minds: Bryan’s story was all kinds of screwed up.
If anything, you can almost exclusively pin that very blame on Bryan himself: he simply became TOO popular and the company didn’t see it coming. That’s to say, they knew he’d be popular but at no point – I reckon – did they anticipate that he’d be THIS popular. They could not have anticipated that he’d have entire arenas chanting “YES!”; they could not have imagined that college teams would be chanting “YES!” to hype themselves up or celebrate victory; they could never have fathomed that the state of Washington would have such an amazing year that only served to make Daniel Bryan’s career all the more potent, and yet it all happened, through fate, divine intervention, chance circumstance or the dumbest of dumb luck. Bryan Danielson, for better or worse, is the most popular man in the WWE, and with great popularity comes great divisiveness; this may or may not manifest as supporters and detractors though.
When it comes to Bryan, it comes down to the opening paragraph’s conflict. With Bryan’s popularity came confusion amongst the writers of the WWE product (I assume). For a company accused of catering to a casual crowd and fumbling any long-term storylines, the fault can’t really be pinned on them as much as we want to pin it on them; we CAN pin a lot of blame on them, mind you. Writers – and we at L.E.W.D. being writers – aren’t always able to anticipate when something takes off. Look at South Park for example: Eric Cartman was always a character Trey Parker and Matt Stone could fall back on for humor, but it wasn’t until the infamous episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die” that – and excuse my French – shit hit the fan. It established Eric Cartman as unspeakably evil and took an already clever show and moved it into a frighteningly dark direction that in my opinion wasn’t replicated until the season two finale of Morel Orel. Parker and Stone may have had an idea, but to have Eric Cartman compared to Archie Bunker and Tony Soprano was surely appreciated.
So let’s look at it. First Bryan is chosen by Cena to take him on at Summerslam. Bryan wins. Then Triple H and Orton conspire to take the belt from him and succeed. The storyline begins: Daniel Bryan versus the Authority. It continued in a somewhat broken pattern, having him directly confront them, then not, then moving him on, then taking on someone else, and perhaps that’s why I’m in the camp that wants him to take the belt at Mania, pulling double duty like they’ve been doing with him pretty frequently. While it might make more sense for Bryan to win the title against Orton in a third climactic battle come Extreme Rules, my point of view has another battle between the two as fruitless, Bryan having proven that he can defeat the man with and without interference already.
Along that same line of thinking, with Orton being the “face” of the Authority (I hesitate to say the Face of the WWE because I fail to see how anyone can dictate who is and isn’t such a thing), I see the upcoming (still unofficial but watch) match between Bryan and Triple H to be the epitome of physical conflict that could occur in the disjointed battle between the former and the authoritative assembly that has, much to the fan’s hypocrisy, kept people watching. A win for Bryan over Triple H at Wrestlemania would solidify his stock, a stock which really hasn’t been tested. Bryan defeated Cena; he defeated Orton; the proof of his relative ease in taking on opponents lies in that he likely would have won that very elimination chamber battle had he NOT let his gripes with Kane push him to attacking the man. Remember: Kane came out there to berate the Wyatt Family, not to interfere in the match.
All the same, I’ve long since contended that the real mastermind of the Authority isn’t Orton or Triple H but Stephanie McMahon herself, and a match between her and Daniel Bryan would be both questionable and rude. At the same time, it would be a subtle nod to what Orton had to do to really get Triple H’s respect (and hatred): beat her and molest her, in that order. As I write this I wonder if Stephanie is in the back, plotting to throw every possible roadblock in Bryan’s path before he gains what he really wants from them: a moment’s reprieve.
I’m not speaking on his habit of two matches a night either: I mean he probably just wants them to leave him alone. Who wouldn’t? He’s had everybody and their mothers thrown at him from a psychological perspective, straight up bullying from the authority who for all intents and purposes should follow the anti-bullying campaign more than anybody else. As a short guy myself, I found it particularly heartbreaking that they called Bryan out on his height; he’s only a couple of inches taller than me really. I found it even more unsettling that they referred to him as a “B” player, only upgrading to “B+” after a look of sheer disbelief on that man’s face (I can’t find it but if I do I’ll share it on another day).
There are also the promos. In the latest, Daniel Bryan bumrushed Mr. and Mrs. Pedigree, and it wasn’t Triple H who stepped in front of Stephanie to keep Bryan further away, but Stephanie who stepped in front of Trips and told the bearded submission master off. Eventually all of that will pay off, but I’ll be damned if I know when. Maybe it WILL end with Bryan vs. Orton one last time, and like I said: I don’t care to see it, not really. Triple H is above Orton on that brand of hierarchy and taking him on is like taking on Stephen Colbert in a big time event of cataclysmic proportions, and you get the actual physical proof of such a thing a month later when you take on Jim. Orton is Jim: he’s a tool for Triple H (Colbert) to use to advance a story.
Of course, it could also be in part due to CM Punk’s departure. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: his leaving screwed EVERYHING up; everything that was in place or set to be in place was thrown into disarray when he pulled an Eric Cartman and took off. If nothing else it shows just how much impact one man has, and while he wasn’t set to win the Royal Rumble (or was he and something had them do otherwise… no, he wasn’t) his continued presence in the main event scenes meant that he was to play some role, and his continued popularity says that it was to be a larger role than many of us can imagine. Main event? Doubtful. Major? Most likely.
I won’t go into the implications and new lore of Phil Brooks because frankly another L.E.W.D. writer has done a greater job at it than I thought possible from anybody, so kudos to Corbin Macklin. You can find those pieces here and here. My questions go as follows: the match, the implications and the history. In regards to the match, what would have happened had Punk maintained that match with Triple H and Bryan didn’t inherit it? Where would Bryan be right now? I assume he’d be fighting a high profile match that would lead to a title shot at Extreme Rules, to be honest. But we’ll never know. Two, the implications, which play more into the depth of the first question. We’ll leave those implications to wiser men than I. I apologize for the lack of wiser men than I.
But then we get the history. Regular conversations with the likes of Mr. Morris, Mr. Banks and Mr. Gammon keep them privy to my thoughts regarding stuff, and one of the things in the category in “stuff” is age. Not long ago, as I was rummaging through old stuff, I found a few things that brought back some fun memories from high school and college. Found an old fan I used to keep cool in my smoldering dorm room, a still wrapped pair of CDs I bought from a local artist in the middle of No-Coloreds-In-Sight, Georgia, an earring I thought a friend of mine lost around the time I discovered my second semester of my second year of college would have me in a solo dorm… er… uh… but most importantly I found an old mixtape I put together, one of the two major ones I made back in 2005. “Da Life and Times of C. Eazy Loot” was one of them and believe me when I say I was in a questionable place when I thought the world wanted to hear me rap; luckily that’s not the mixtape I found. The other was a playlist I threw together of some of the most hype songs I was hearing at the time, notably Lil Scrappy’s “Head Bussa” and Crime Mob’s “If You Got Ana”, both of which will, if played in public, cause me to go wild.
What got to me was how old this mixtape was. 2005; I have vivid memories of the year, even the slow creation of the playlist, down to where I was sitting and how I was scratching my then-puppy’s belly while I did it, but it was nearly ten years ago. Ten years. I felt old.
No, really, I felt like a fossil. But I was on the phone at the time too, speaking to friends about decades. Ten years, twenty years (two decades, also known as a score), and with Wrestlemania XXX this year it stood to reason that we spoke on Wrestlemania XX. That PPV, for me, is one of the standout events in the WWE’s history. Why? Not because the event was all that great; it was good but not nearly great. It was mostly forgettable in fact, at least in my opinion, but it had this moment:
It was glorious: this was a time where I was just starting to consistently buy PPVs, and dealing with folk growing out of watching the product whereas I was getting deeper into it, and looking back on it now I can say that while the Triple H-Shawn Michaels-Chris Benoit match was terrific the moment Benoit stood with that belt, triumphant after a long, long, LONG road, alongside his friend who had faced a similar road. It was Guerrero and Benoit’s night, and when I look at that match I said, “Oh crap, they can do it again…”
The circumstances for Benoit were different, mind you. For one, it was Benoit’s first world title. For two, he was taking on Degeneration-X, officially or otherwise. They hyped the man up though: they made you a Benoit fan, down to him entering the 2004 Royal Rumble at number one and winning the whole damn thing. He DECLARED that he would be the World Heavyweight Champion, and proceeded to do it in the main event in the biggest event in years.
Those are the moments that make Wrestlemania the spectacle is (usually) is. And the match itself could easily be recreated with Daniel Bryan if they throw him into the main event at WM XXX, but I’m more impressed by how similar it would be. It wouldn’t be Bryan’s first world title in the WWE, but it would be his first WWE WHC title, for whatever that’s worth. Bryan also didn’t win the Rumble; as a legion of booing fans will remind you, Bryan wasn’t even in the Rumble itself. The psychology behind the fans who wanted to see Bryan win the Rumble (not only was he not scheduled to be in it: we KNEW Rey Mysterio was!) and who fell silent and took on “Angry Miz Girl” faces after the Chamber is a 400 level college course in and of itself.
But were Bryan thrown into the match, he WOULD be taking on Evolution, and considering the role Triple H held ten years ago (seriously, TEN YEARS!) as the champion, it isn’t hard to look at the same kind of thing happening were a triple threat to take place as the main event between Batista, Daniel Bryan and the champion Randy Orton. Even the dynamics are the same damn near.
Triple H is the powerhouse. He’s big, he’s strong, he’ll rollout and roll over you like Whitney’s motherfucking Miltank in the Pokémon games. His strength is undeniable, as are his many title reigns. Batista fills this role, being a big, strong Miltank that nobody likes; also like a Miltank he is a one-trick pony that can be blown away the second you knock out his momentum and taunt the woman behind him. Or in Bootista’s (as this guy might call him) case, the woman that he’s in. You know, because he’s known for doing illicit things to women. Rather disrespectfully, I might add.
Shawn Michaels is the leaner, swifter pseudo-technician. He’s big but lanky, strong but wiry; he’ll kick you in the face like Hitmonlee in the Pokémon franchise. His talent is undeniable, as are his many title reigns. Orton fills this role, being a lean, tactical Hitmonlee that people underappreciate and, in this case, underestimate; also like Hitmonlee he’s seen as predictable. Hitmonlee is, as fans of the franchise know, restricted to kicks, and people tend to think they can telegraph Orton’s move set, but examining his little gauntlet let us know that he’s a lot more aware than we give him credit. Just ask Mr. Morris, who brilliantly laid it out here and here. If anything, much like Michaels, Orton is the most interesting of the match, the one who can really stop the show, the one who basks in the hate he receives and delivers tremendous quality, even in the midst of people not realizing it.
And that leaves Benoit. Benoit was THE technician. He was that man who could outwrestle anybody; competition meant either wrestling himself (insert masturbation joke here) or shadowboxing. He could work the ring, work the opponent’s body and made it a habit to tell stories in the ring, showing us that the biggest guy didn’t necessarily have to be the most impressive one. Sometimes the greatest surprises came in the smaller packages.
This is Daniel Bryan. He doesn’t fill the role: he IS that role. I may not have said it very often up here, but Daniel Bryan is everything Chris Benoit was, down to his finisher which is only a stone throw away from being the Crippler Crossface. Much like CM Punk adopted the flying elbow, Daniel Bryan adopted the diving headbutt. Bryan is more versatile in the sense that he has a more strike oriented move set right now though, such as his aggressive kicks and Busaiku Knee Kick that they refuse to give a name to. Ignoring the Pokémon metaphor (thinking about Whitney made me mad) the reason his moment would be grand at this year’s Wrestlemania if he won the title would be because it pleased the fans; it isn’t even about the title so much anymore as seeing the man succeed.
As I write this piece, I ask myself if I really want to see him acquire the title right now, but like I said before it was because of how oddly his story has been handled. Frankly I don’t think it much matters when he wins at this point: it’ll feel anticlimactic because there’s no real path they’ve followed outside of Bryan complaining about the Authority screwing him over. Without a logical A to Z, Bryan’s road will feel awkward, period. So sure, he can win at Mania, or Rules, or even the third Main Event of the month of July, but unless the road makes more sense, it’ll feel weird.
Maybe if they didn’t rush his Wyatt storyline it would make more sense, but even that felt like a detour BECAUSE it was cut so short. Bryan won at Night of Champions (or was it Vengeance? (same difference)) and the title was ripped from his hands, and from then on it became disjointed.
That’s another thing that made Benoit’s win so special: it was completely and utterly earned. Everyone is given a chance to be in the Rumble, but then you’re on your own. He started from the number one spot and defeated everyone he had to in order to win. He EARNED that spot; at no point was he given a handout because the people in creative didn’t know of a more substantial entry point. The fact is that Daniel Bryan’s world title run began when someone said, “I’ll give him a chance”. Literally. The set up was John Cena was told to pick his own opponent, and the only consistency of this whole story is that the Authority wasn’t big on him from the beginning.
That isn’t a “taint” so much as an asterisk. Everything may be an intricate plot to make Daniel Bryan the truest example of an underdog who made the most of his opportunities and got screwed over because the people who gave him those opportunities did not expect him to capitalize on them.
But that’s the gist of the “Yes! Movement”. I pondered on Bryan being the second coming of Benoit, and that has been more or less founded. I pondered on him having a similar moment at Wrestlemania XXX, but I don’t even think it’s quite possible anymore. The reception would be just as massive, and maybe that’s the thing that determines the moment. Either way we’re getting Daniel Bryan versus Triple H at the grandest stage of them all, and regardless of my feelings towards the possibility of Bryan headlining the program or getting the title, I’m sure Danielson and Hunter will make their conflict a good one.