Have WWE fans lost its alternative to the status quo?
Whelp Gang, for those of you who watch WWE wrestling than I don’t need to explain how much of a hit to fans last night’s Monday Night RAW was. Although Daniel Bryan’s career being over was a growing possibility in the fans mind considering he has been on injury reserve for much of the last two years, there was always hope in a number of fans that he would return healthy and be back performing in front of fans like he has been since 1999.
For those that don’t follow wrestling, this will take some explanation as to why an undersized, skinny, shaggy looking guy who is often referred to as a goat can bring about such emotion upon his announced retirement.
For over 30 years now, professional wrestling was dominated by very large, often steroid-addled, monster men, Thanks to Vince McMahon running the biggest game in the pro wrestling world. His preference for large body builder style wrestlers with limited skills in the ring not only became a thing of parody but was one of the big reasons he stood trial in front of the U.S. justice department in 1994. The top stars were the ones who were over 6 feet tall and 250 pounds (or more) of muscle. Anyone else was either put into a tag team at best or the guys you saw lose to the big guys every week on television. As a result of that, a culture was grown that wrestlers had to inject themselves with all kinds of chemicals to become stars for the WWF. A culture that the WWF encouraged whole heartedly. It doesn’t matter if a wrestler was popular with the crowd or not, Vince chose his stars. Vince liked big muscle men, so they became the standard.
Daniel Bryan was one of the ones to buck that trend.
The WWE, as it is now, doesn’t put an emphasis on in-ring ability. Sure there were guys like Bret and Owen Hart, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, and Ricky Steamboat, amongst others, but the WWE style put WAY more emphasis on guys who had limited move sets but were larger than life characters they could market to kids. Hogan, JYD, Cena, Big Show, Diesel, Roman Reigns. Vince picked who got the spotlight, not the fans. Vince doesn’t care f you can put on a wrestling clinic in the ring. So your big stars became guys who only had a limited set of repeatable moves making their matches paint by number affairs.
Daniel Bryan bucked that trend too.
The WWE wants everyone to think that they exist in a bubble. That nothing else matters and if it didn’t happen in the WWE, it doesn’t matter. Hell, they repeated it just about every week now thanks to AJ Styles arriving on the scene. Despite the hypocrisy of trying to peddle their WWE Network full of non-WWE content that they went out and bought, let alone all the DVD releases talking about stars careers outside of the WWE if you aren’t making money for Vince, it doesn’t matter.
Yup, Daniel Bryan, and his fans didn’t go for that.
The WWE doesn’t believe in their stars becoming popular unless Vince says so. Any comments that old fart has made about “Brass Rings” and questioning the drive of his own talent roster if full of shit. Vince micromanages everything and tells that marketing department who gets the most t-shirts and figures, whose face you see on the posters, who gets the DVD. He dictates who got the most air time, who got the spotlight, and who the fans were supposed to cheer for the most, no matter what. It didn’t matter when TV ratings nose-dived and the top hero of the company was getting booed out of buildings that weren’t sold out.
Guess who got the biggest cheers from the crowd?
Daniel Bryan really was the guy who wasn’t supposed to make it. Despite WWE sometimes making us believe some of it’s stars overcoming odds to be where they were when in fact Vince rolled out the red carpet for these people, Bryan really was the underdog story of the business, but more importantly, he was a harbinger of change for fans who long felt that the WWE had grown stale, predictable, and out of touch. He really was an alternative. While we were being told that John Cena and Roman Reigns were the big hero we were supposed to focus on, people were cheering for Bryan. When the WWE told us we were going to watch Triple H’s two hand-picked buddies headline the biggest event of the year, the fans said otherwise. While the WWE likes to take credit for everything like some New Coke conspiracy, I’m less than convinced. Unlike Coke’s response back in the day, the WWE isn’t that smart, but they ARE that stupid.
What is the most troubling for us fans that things have ended like this is ironically this isn’t how things are supposed to go. We al were waiting for Bryan to make his comeback, once again proving the establishment wrong and shaking up the status quo. We were waiting for him to headline shows with guys like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, A.J. Styles, and usher in a new era away from the traps of the past. Hell, the WWE had even teased Bryan’s retirement before, only for him to come back.
Not this time. As Bryan said himself. He was damaged more than he realized. He just can’t go anymore. Sure there has been talk that the WWE refused to let him go even though he passed other medical testing, but that doesn’t matter. The WWE says you can’t go, then you don’t go.
I had a lot going through my mind on this, wondering if this meant that any kind of change was now over. That Daniel getting hurt like this was the excuse to shove more addled muscle-bound monsters every week. Was it time to get out?
But while Bryan’s story is seemingly over, what he has done has barely begun. I really thought about it and while right now the alternative to what we as WWE/F fans have been fed over the decades is slim, they are there. Cena’s not going to last forever, neither are Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry. Sure, Roman Reigns seems to have a long fruitful road ahead of him, but he’s going to have to fight someone down that road. He’s going to have to have a roster around him to make it work. You have Styles, Zayn, Owens, Balor, Itami (Hopefully), Nakamura and others that will step up. Will they be the phenol that Bryan was, maybe, maybe not. But the point is, not all is lost.
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