Remember Daniel Bryan? You know, that Ring of Honor guy who won the WWE title three times in the last year? The guy who won the opening and closing matches at Wrestlemania XXX? …That bearded guy from Total Divas?
In case you’ve forgotten, let me give you a little refresher. Daniel Bryan is, far and away, the best wrestler in WWE today. YOU were the ones that made WWE acknowledge that fact, by the way. Daniel Bryan has fought against his look, and his size, and his wrestling style, to become one of the biggest draws in the business today.
He’s also sold more silly gimmicks than any wrestler has in quite some time. Beard t-shirts? Check. Fake beards? Check. “Fear the beard” wristwatches? Check. And dozens of dozens of “YES!” branded items? You’d better believe it.
OH, did we forget about YES? The first chant in 15 years to transcend professional wrestling, and become mainstream. Go to any sporting event where the fans care. You’ll hear it.
Bryan is easily the most talented, money-generating draw professional wrestling has seen since the world was introduced to John Cena. It’s really obvious to anyone paying attention… except the folks at WWE.
WWE is set to air its annual Wrestlemania special on NBC. The show is trimmed down to one hour. In that hour, you’ll see The Rock, Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan hug it out, (my client) Brock Lesnar defeat the streak, and John Cena versus Bray Wyatt.
Wasn’t there a big WWE World Heavyweight title match on this show?
You can read pretty deep into this condensed card, and you should. It says a lot about what WWE (and probably, NBC) thinks about its “stars.”
Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Steve Austin are three of the biggest names in professional wrestling history. While they may not have much to offer now, they carry a lot of clout with the casual viewers. Channel surfers may stop and put down the remote when they catch a glimpse of these guys. It makes sense, even if you don’t really like it.
Same goes for the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. Both man have transcended professional wrestling – Lesnar by force. Also, this was the first truly shocking finish at Wrestlemania since Eddie Guerrero and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named stood together as champions. It makes sense.
Cena –Wyatt? Yes, Cena is the biggest star in wrestling today. But this was a midcard match on this show, whether you like it or not.
These three segments were good-to-great, but none were the reason that anyone bought a ticket, ordered a pay-per-view, or subscribed to the WWE Network. The fans paid to see Daniel Bryan win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He defeated all of Evolution to do it.
And that fact is going to be completely whitewashed, to remind you who you care about.
WWE does not, has not, and will not see Daniel Bryan as a top star, and this proves it. WWE sees Daniel Bryan as a midcarder who over-achieved, and worked above his pay grade. He’s Dolph Ziggler with a beard.
The unfortunate string of injuries don’t help that perception – or the comparison to Mr. Nemeth.
To me, this is infuriating. Daniel Bryan’s star fell into your lap, through no effort of your own. The guy worked his ass off through stupid angles, absurd feuds, and some pretty terrible writing, and still managed to become #1 to a large portion of your paying audience. And much like Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, and others before him, you’re going to do all you can to convince the fans that he’s not as good as they think he is.
How brutally absurd.
If you’re going to feature these matches on the NBC special, you HAVE TO plug that you can watch Daniel Bryan’s ascension to the title—Team Hell No, breaking away, the back-and-forth with Orton, winning and losing the title, and the Road to Wrestlemania –all on the WWE Network. You need to use it to sell your new stars, instead of highlighting your old ones. You need to sell the future of your company—Bryan, The Shield, The Wyatts, The Usos, Cesaro—and the Network, in whose basket you’ve placed so many of your financial eggs.
Push forward, instead of reaching back, and seeing which piece of history may spike ratings. If there’s nothing good to watch going forward, I don’t need to watch.
That’s why the national audience needs to see the incredible talents of Daniel Bryan. That’s why the national audience needs to see the freakish strength of Cesaro. That’s why the crowd needs to see The Shield make quick work of the New Age Outlaws and Kane – out with the old, in with the new.
And not to beat you over the head with tired clichés, but those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
In late-era WCW, a bunch of green-but-talented rookies teamed up, in an effort to push out the “old guys” and take their rightful place at the top of the card. After all, they were wowing crowds with good matches, cool gimmicks, and innovative new moves. So naturally, the young guys were the heels, and the guys who had been on top since the dawn of cable were the babyfaces. WCW told fans that the old guys were the guys to cheer. Screw the talented new guys. Cheer the other guys.
Daniel Bryan is the New Blood. I don’t have to tell you who’s representing the Millionaire’s Club. It didn’t work out so well for the New Blood. But hey, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.