Professional Wrestling Rule #24: The extent to which the kayfabe wrestling establishment is against a wrestler is inversely proportional to the extent to which the real life wrestling establishment is behind that same wrestler.
I watched Summerslam with a small group of recently converted (thanks to me) WWE fans: three straight women, my wife and two of her family members. Like many women who watch wrestling, I suspect, their affinity towards a particular male superstar often depends, at least partly, on how sexy they find them. I know for a fact that’s why one of these ladies has become a CM Punk mark who also can’t help but sympathize with John Cena. Another is a big Randy Orton fan who has also taken a shine to Cody Rhodes. So we have the “pretty boys” accounted for. All three, however, have recently jumped on the Bryan bandwagon, not because he’s “hot”, but because “he’s so ridiculous, how can you not love him?” Fair enough.
They are all new to the wrestling game having watched WWE programming regularly for little more than a year. Consequently, they haven’t yet ascended (or descended some might say) to the level of meta-fan in which many people who read this blog (myself included) reside. They don’t understand the cyclical nature of wrestling; the signs that one era of wrestling has ended and another has begun; that sense of history that informs our expectations, often tempering our excitement, but sometimes, just sometimes, allows us to savor a wrestling event in a way that the casual fan just can’t fully understand or appreciate.
After Bryan beat Cena clean in the middle of the ring, these three ladies erupted in applause. All they wanted was a feel-good moment and they got it. Bryan had won his victory. He had his moment. For them, his only job (and ours as fans) was to bask in the afterglow of thunderous “YES” chants, confetti, and the knowledge that, at least for a short time, he would carry the biggest championship in pro-wrestling.
My wife looked over at me, expecting to see jubilation. I hadn’t moved, I hadn’t cheered. I sat at the edge of my seat staring intensely and unblinkingly at the TV screen. “C’mon, Hunter..” I said “…do it.”
It was only after Randy Orton sauntered down to the ring that I rose to my feet. I began jumping and screaming like a ten year old in my living room “Do it, Hunter! Do it!”. And then it happened: the sweetest Pedigree I can ever remember, followed by a three count and the shortest WWE title reign since John Cena lost the strap to Batista at the 2010 Elimination Chamber. A collective groan came from the girls and I…
…completely lost my shit.
When I calmed down enough to enjoy my euphoria in a more calm and collected manner, my confused wife turned and asked me “But I thought you loved Daniel Bryan? Why are you so happy?”
“Because…” I said “..this only happens once every seven to ten years”
What they failed to see is that WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, at this stage of his career, has no place to go. His momentum has been built through the idea that he is fighting something rotten ingrained in the wrestling establishment. John Cena could be the complete embodiment of that idea, or their could be something much larger and sinister at play.
The bottom line is that a complete victory, in storyline terms, does nothing to advance Bryan’s popularity. In order to win the WWE Championship everyone must scale a mountain. The WWE Championship is at the top of that mountain, but your legacy is defined by how big of a mountain you scaled to get there. For mega fans of Daniel Bryan, like me, even a large-sized mountain won’t satisfy us. We want it to be Mount Everest.
After watching this past Monday’s episode of RAW, there is little doubt in my mind that this is the sea-change we’ve been waiting for. WWE has now revealed the mountain Bryan must climb to reclaim what is his and it’s as looming and ominous as any could be. It is the same mountain Steve Austin scaled when he lost to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13 and spent the next year battling the McMahon family before finally capturing the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 14. Bryan’s ascent has the potential to be as thrilling as any wrestling angle in history. With both the fans and the WWE machine behind him, there is not limit to what Bryan can achieve. His time has truly come.
Two weeks ago I wrote “The World Is Ready For Daniel Bryan”. We are ready and now, apparently, so is the real life McMahon family. Enjoy the ride, my friends. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is it.