September 1, 2013
Can Daniel Bryan’s current push succeed?
By MATTHEW BYER - SLAM! Wrestling
Without a doubt the hottest storyline in wrestling today is Daniel Bryan having the WWE Title stolen from him at SummerSlam when the guest referee Triple H hit him with a Pedigree and allowed Randy Orton to cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase so that he could become champion. Since that time audiences have been even more feverishly supporting Bryan in his quest for revenge and to regain the WWE Title.
So far the WWE, and Bryan himself, have done an effective job at eliciting support and sympathy from the audience. Such a thing is extremely rare and difficult to do. Unfortunately, all too often this type of push is botched to a large degree, resulting in the wrestler never being seen by the audience of the same stature as those who came before him.
Currently, there have been some troubling signs that this push to place Daniel Bryan as a legitimate main event star is being undercut to some degree. The last two episodes of RAW have ended with Bryan being beaten down firmly by the regime of Triple H and Randy Orton. If this trend continues one has to wonder whether or not Daniel Bryan's current push will succeed or crash and burn.
It is obvious that Bryan's underdog storyline against the establishment is modeled after Stone Cold Steve Austin's of the late 1990s with a very critical difference. Even when Mr. McMahon and his group got the better of Austin he was always made to look strong. Furthermore, Austin would frequently get the better of Mr. McMahon throughout their feud, and this helped to give the storyline an element of danger and unpredictability. So far the only moment where Bryan has gotten under the skin of his opponents has been the spray painting of Randy Orton's car. But that episode of RAW still ended with Bryan being beaten down by his opponents.
While Bryan will be facing Randy Orton at the 2013 edition of Night of Champions pay-per-view, to continue the feud Orton will likely hang onto the WWE Title through some nefarious means involving help from Triple H. From there the focus of the storyline will probably shift to having Bryan face Triple H, and it is at that point when fans will find out if the WWE is serious about Bryan's current push.
When looking at this situation critically there is a parallel with CM Punk's push back in 2011. During that period CM Punk was also transitioned into a feud against Triple H. He would eventually go on to lose to Triple H at a match at the 2011 Night Of Champions pay-per-view. Afterwards, while CM Punk was still placed in main event storylines, this loss to Triple H hurt some of his momentum and credibility as a main event star.
Going back even further to 2000, a young Chris Jericho upset Triple H for the WWE Title on the April 17th episode of RAW, but was forced to relinquish the championship when referee Earl Hebner reversed his decision. Jericho would go on to lose to Triple H at the 2000 edition of Fully Loaded, and it wouldn't be until late 2001 when Jericho would again get such a significant storyline push. Even when that happened there was a degree of difficulty getting the audience to buy into the idea of Chris Jericho being at the same level as Triple H, The Rock, and Steve Austin. Unquestionably, how Jericho's push in 2000 was handled affected the audience reaction in 2001 and 2002.
Currently, Triple H occupies a unique place in the WWE, as he is one of the last few wrestlers left from the dominant Attitude Era of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Achieving any kind of win over him will give any wrestler a degree of credibility that a win over John Cena can never achieve.
What this ultimately means is that the opponent that Bryan needs to beat is actually Triple H and not Randy Orton. Bryan already has several wins over Orton during the last year and having the chase of the WWE Title prolonged will not hurt the interest in the current storyline.
However, with regards to Triple H, he is the one responsible for cheating Bryan out of the WWE Title, and is the one with the legendary stature in the company. If Bryan achieves a victory over him this will be a signal that the company is serious about establishing him at the top of the card. While in the past the WWE may have been able to rationalize not giving CM Punk and Chris Jericho wins over Triple H in 2011 and 2000 respectively, due to their being other main event options, right now that is not the case.
The main event roster of babyfaces in the company is very thin and there is a real need to ensure that Daniel Bryan succeeds despite misgivings by some in management about his size. A win over Triple H by Bryan is a vital ingredient to achieving this end.
Until that happens there will be a lot of doubt as to whether or not this current push of Bryan is serious, or if he is just being used as a placeholder until such time that John Cena returns from injury.
Matthew always found it kind of amusing that after The Rock’s victory over John Cena at Wrestlemania 28 the WWE tried pushing The Rock as the greatest of all time due to his previous wins at Wrestlemania over Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin. Being The Rock has never won the WWE Title or successfully defended it at a Wrestlemania such an argument rings a bit hollow. Check out Matthew's advice column The Male Perspective.