Friday, February 13, 2015

Vince McMahon Has Lost It

According to F4WOnline.com, Vince McMahon earlier this week held a meeting to announce that he was going to change the Wrestlemania 31 main event previously slated to be between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns into a triple threat match, adding Daniel Bryan into the mix. The report states that Vince is making this change because fans have been outspoken in their displeasure of WWE forcing Roman Reigns on us before all parties are ready.

Roman Reigns won the January 2015 Royal Rumble match in order to ensure his placement into the main event with WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31. The problem, however, is that this was long-reported to be the case, and Reigns has yet to show enough growth in his character and on the microphone to be deserving of the top spot. Fans booed Reigns out of the building, but it wasn't so much a dislike of Reigns, but rather of the booking of the entire Rumble match as well as the decision of Vince & co. to spearhead "the next John Cena."

While most fans (myself included) were pissed that Bryan was not the hand-picked winner (and furthermore how he was eliminated), I think it's safe to assume that fans would have been fine with a number of outcomes--including Reigns--had WWE known how to book their spectacle battle royal. Bryan was eliminated from the match by Bray Wyatt very early on, and it left us with no direction for Bryan going forward. Then we watched as Big Show and Kane teamed up to dump everyone over the top rope, including Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose, all the way up until Reigns, when Kane and Show decided to try and fight each other. There was no sense of urgency to get Reigns out of the match. Barely an attempt. Why? Because WWE got lazy in their booking of the finish, like they always do.

But let's go back a couple years to Royal Rumble 2013, when CM Punk's historic championship reign ended to The Rock leading to Cena's Rumble victory to set up the "epic" rematch of Once in a Lifetime. Fans knew ahead of time what the case was. WWE had an opportunity then to find a way to write Punk into the matchup instead of feeding him to The Undertaker. Even at RAW when Punk challenged Cena for his position, WWE could have done then what they've now seemingly done the two consecutive years following, and righted their wrong. But Punk was written out, because Vince & co. felt it was "best for business" to go with Cena vs. Rock II.

Punk eventually went on to have arguably the best match of the night--and maybe the best Undertaker has ever had at Mania--while Cena and Rock more or less stunk the place up for a second year in a row, saved only by the spectacle that is The Rock wrestling.

Fast forward to January 2014 when Batista was set to make his big return and CM Punk was booked at #1 to enter the Royal Rumble match. Batista entered the match to cheers. He got blown up, fans had no reason to care. Meanwhile, a younger Roman Reigns bullied the entire roster to set the single-match record for eliminations. Punk was tossed unceremoniously over the top rope. Entrant 30 showed up on the screen, and fans were ready to erupt for the hottest star in the company--Daniel Bryan--only to be presented with Rey Mysterio. Mysterio took on the role of top heel for the night... his first tenure as a heel in WWE. Fans revolted. Fans wanted so badly for anyone other than Dave Bautista to win the Rumble that they booed Mysterio because he wasn't Daniel Bryan, and cheered Roman Reigns because he wasn't The Animal (this year they cheered for super athlete villain Rusev because he was the last surviving non-Reigns guy).

Batista won, got booed out of the building (starting the trendy name Bootista) and set up his date with Randy Orton and WrestleMania XXX. Obviously, the wise choice would have been Bryan vs. Orton to culminate their 8-month feud which started at SummerSlam when Bryan beat Cena cleanly only to have Orton cash in after Triple H hit Bryan with a Pedigree. WWE's reasoning for Bryan not being in the Rumble match was that he was concussed the previous monday night on RAW, yet he still had a grueling match with Bray Wyatt which all-but-stole the show at the Rumble. Having Bryan come in at 30 and get a couple quick, easy eliminations surely would not have been more brutal than what he went through with Bray Wyatt.

The Yes! Movement kicked off and WWE re-wrote their plans after fans voiced their displeasure, and Bryan was added to the Mania main-event, capping off a long, emotional road. Bryan went on to victory in the main event over Orton and Batista and fans gathered from all over the world to participate as Bryan celebrated. All too suddenly it was over, as Bryan's demanding in-ring work had worsened his condition, forcing him to the sideline for surgery on his neck. Bryan was out for most of the year while Cena was forced back into the title picture before Brock Lesnar capped off the most dominant performances we had ever witnessed as wrestling fans.

On the December 29th episode of RAW to close out 2014, Daniel Bryan announced his intentions to return to the ring and compete in the 2015 Royal Rumble. The Verizon Center in Washington D.C. exploded with Yes! chants, unlike anything I have ever heard. I would know, because I was there in the building that night.

Now, after fans voiced their displeasure with Reigns winning and Bryan not even having a fighting chance at the end of the Royal Rumble match, Vince has back-tracked. Even in what I called the most fortunate circumstance in WWE history with a blizzard cancelling RAW from an arena the following night, Heyman and Reigns went on to set up the main event perfectly. Paul Heyman made Reigns vs. Lesnar the perfect main event. It also helped that Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler engaged in setting up their own match on Twitter.

Now, Vince has pulled a 180 because fans did not take to Reigns, who appears to be turning heel now because of the booking change and Vince thinking that the heat is on Reigns, and not the company or himself.

I am ecstatic that Bryan is now included in the main event, because he should be. This is Bryan's position in the company. Every week, he gets the biggest reactions. It is not just the YES! chants... it is a cheer for the guy. When he is in a rest-hold, the crowd gets more hype for Bryan than it does anyone else. The only guy who comes as close is Dolph Ziggler. Brock Lesnar was as over at Royal Rumble; Seth Rollins was when he crashed through Lesnar and the Spanish announce table. Nobody else really comes close.

Bryan vs. Brock was the perfect main event on paper. Bryan is the underdog who never lost his title. Brock is the beast who has conquered all, almost in ease, at will. Bryan defeating Brock cleanly one-on-one would have been the ultimate booked victory. It would have allowed us to suspend disbelief. We know if Reigns wins that it was the creative decision the entire time. There are ways to book in the reality era, no matter what Triple H tells Steve Austin. Booking the underdog that everyone loves is one of those ways. And despite what the WWE thinks, we're fans of the wrestling... the movies barely mean anything to anyone in this world. If the movies were that important, the triple threat match at Mania this year would be Mizdow vs. Orton vs. Santino.

Vince McMahon could have just stuck to his guns and given us Brock vs. Reigns and Bryan vs. Ziggler (preferably an hour-long match, if not an iron man match). Instead, he has decided we are best off getting Brock vs. Reigns vs. Bryan (even though he introduced a stipulation of Bryan vs. Reigns for that shot). We all know Reigns still wins this match. Bryan is only there to appease us for one more night. Yet another hero of the fans buried because he is not the guy that was made by Vince McMahon. He no longer has fortitude... testicular or intestinal. Vince McMahon is out of touch. Word to CM Punk.

I am a Roman Reigns fan. He has a lot of potential and clearly could be the top dog for a long time. But right now, Daniel Bryan is organically over with the crowd, live and at home, and WWE has missed on every opportunity with the guy on their own behalf. Going forward, WWE is in horrible territory with the Royal Rumble. Splitting the titles again and going with two brands would not be a wise decision, either. And if Vince or Triple H think that those "heel crowds" or "smart towns" are rare, I caution them to consider that Wrestlemania and the following night on RAW both qualify as "smart, heel crowds." Not the best way to label your feature audience going into your version of the Super Bowl. Bash the NFL all you want, WWE... you're in for a flat-tire ride if you keep at it.

8 comments: