The following is a sentence I never thought I’d ever see myself writing: Daniel Bryan is currently involved in the hot and controversial main event angle against Randy Orton and HHH.
For many reasons it’s still a hard concept to even comprehend, yet every time Daniel Bryan emerges from the back, goosebumps overtake my body in sheer anticipation of the bearded one. This angle has been polarizing to fans as some are excited to see Daniel Bryan being elevated to the main event and being entrenched there. Others however are tired of the same old storyline being recycled from 1997 with the authority figure being HHH, another recycled trope from professional wrestling. It's a given that storylines will re-emerge every now and then as only so many stories can be told in professional wrestling, but what is the real issue at hand?
Yes, this is in fact a recycled storyline. Sure there have been authoritative General Manager angles written over the years, but nothing as impactful as what has transpired the past two weeks on Raw. HHH is Vince McMahon personified, trying to keep Daniel Bryan out of the main event picture and not be the face of the WWE that he wants. This is as close as WWE has come to the Steve Austin storyline that drew in a new generation of fans in the process. While it's exciting to see an angle re-lived, there are some stark differences between 1998 and today.
For one thing, it wasn't all about the business as HHH's go-to phrase appears to be "best for business". As a fan of professional wrestling, at no point have I been intrigued by the numbers behind the scene too much. I'm not worried about PPV numbers or as HHH stated, "ratings that were through the roof" (sure if your ceiling is built for Hornswoggle). What concerns me is the action inside the squared circle more than anything else. I don't understand why it has to be a "business decision" as so aptly put by The Game. Whatever happened to the classic wrestling story of just hating someone? But of course, HHH has always been about talking business.
During the buildup to HHH's match against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 28, HHH initially declined the opportunity to face Undertaker because he knew he could beat him. If he did in fact defeat The Undertaker, it would be bad for business because Undertaker's mystique would be lost forever.
"Undertaker is a brand; a brand that is good for business."
At what point do us as fans stop and realize that is not what is important to us? Why would we care about branding, marketing and that which revolves around the business side? Why is this mantra that has been repeated over and over by HHH so important to him? It's the only narrative he now knows as the COO of WWE.
Gone are the days of Degeneration-X where he could lash out and act against the status quo. No more spit shield for Sgt. Slaughter, no more impersonating the Nation of Domination, and most certainly no more impersonating Vince McMahon and talk about cocks. None of those personalities or ideals exist for HHH any longer. Simply put, he is a businessman. What more else can you discuss as a man in power? The business of course.
Back to the present day angle and we are hearing more of the same. Only this time it's what's "best for business". The business side doesn't matter to fans. We care about the story being told in the ring by competitors on a weekly basis. Quarterly conference calls, who needs them? PPV buyrates, who cares? Ratings, like those matter as much as they did back during the Monday Night Wars? Seriously, why do ratings matter, and for that matter every quarter hour?
WWE is the only game in town on Monday nights, and they have been one of the most consistent draws year in and year out. Do I need to know that RAW drew a Nielsen rating of 2.8 to justify my excitement or apathy towards an episode? If a PPV breaks 200,000 buys when last year it was around 185,000, does that really matter in the bigger picture? No it doesn't.
Some fans are intrigued by the business side of WWE, and they have every right to be interested in those numbers given WWE is a publicly traded company. But if there is nothing better to discuss on a THREE-HOUR SHOW than business talk, then something's wrong with the product being put forth. If I want to talk business I'll change the channel and listen to someone egregiously spout off erroneous economic policies on one of the four major news networks. So why has this angle not been universally slammed for its short-sightedness and repetitive form? Two words, Daniel Bryan.
The internet is quite forgiving when it comes to its darlings, myself included. What makes an angle is not only the story, but the characters and content as well. Would fans be embracing this story if it was Randy Orton and HHH standing tall as the new corporate regime against John Cena? Hardly. This story would have been dead in the water the moment it came to fruition at Summerslam. So because it involves a new body in the main event, many fans are willing to embrace change while things stay the same. For that matter, why does it have to be Randy Orton?
If someone else were to have taken the spot of Randy Orton, WWE could have had the potential to make two stars instead of one. Imagine if Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes or Wade Barrett was given the rub as WWE champion over Orton. Sure, Rhodes might be a stretch at this point, but what does it matter anyway? After all, HHH proudly stated this past week on Raw that the WWE Championship was his property and that Orton was simply holding it for him. Who says Ziggler or Rhodes couldn't fit into that role? What's so great about a new seven-time WWE Champion being back on top? There's nothing exciting about seeing Orton hold the belt, especially when there is potential to have someone else in that spot that may perhaps have a greater impact on the business in the future as opposed to a guy who is on his second strike via the Wellness Policy? Anything that makes this angle fresh would be an improvement over its current state.
While some may complain that HHH is the figurehead and the man in power, this is exactly what fans were clamoring for when CM Punk was standing toe-to-toe with HHH in the ring, and instead we got Kevin Nash and HHH remaining face while not putting over CM Punk the slightest in the process. To be fair, the infamous "Kevin Nash, OMG LOL thought he was dead" line was almost worth it all…almost. Fans wanted to see heel HHH take over and be the thorn in Punk's side as he attempted to regain his WWE Championship that Nash cost him. HHH's reputation, however, certainly precedes him when it comes to elevating talent and putting someone else over.
How many times has someone on the other end of a HHH feud come out better than they were before it ended? Batista, and that's it. Chris Jericho, Booker T., CM Punk, Goldberg, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, (on multiple occasions). These are names of superstars whose careers were irrevocably damaged because of feuding with HHH. The fear is that something similar will happen with Daniel Bryan in this case because, much like Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan is the newest toy for HHH to play with, and he will use him however he sees fit to proliferate the notion that he is the best in the company and he sets the standard for just how tough or over someone is.
As is life, nothing is perfect and that is certainly the case with the main event story in WWE. Though Daniel Bryan is being elevated to the main event, it comes with a price of HHH being involved. Of course we won't know what WWE's endgame is until the story reveals itself to us fans, and it's likely Daniel Bryan will end up being put over at some point. The question is when and by whose hands?
One thing's for sure, business is about to pick up.