Daniel Bryan was able to finish Kofi Kingston easily on RAW last night, but it's obvious that the WWE is setting him up for a heel turn. They are making sure to show that he is still viewed as a submission specialist, but they also want him to keep his championship no matter what.
This isn't the first time they've done this. In fact, it's the same formula they used for Christian's heel turn.
Take a figure beloved by Internet fans and after giving him a career-defining win, turn him cowardly heel. One who is willing to do anything to keep his belt.
It is the exact same plot and it could work, except for one thing.
Christian is a WWE veteran and the fans have already learned to support and hate him. He has run through the gambit of every emotion with them and produced almost every kind of response possible.
When he is a heel, the fans will hate him. When he is a face, they will cheer.
Bryan had just won his title and facing Mark Henry and the Big Show would have helped sell his plucky underdog gimmick along with his focus on submission wrestling. It would have taken time to build it up, but it could have worked.
And that is something the WWE needs to remember. Really great characters take time to build up.
Steve Austin didn't just walk out and make fans go wild. It took years of toiling in the shadows and slowly building up the Stone Cold persona to make them care. He was showing who he really was, just as Bryan had been in the last few weeks, and it finally got over.
It takes time to build a following, especially for a wrestler like Bryan who isn't the most charismatic.
He could have done it with the right amount of time. After all, facing giants like Big Show or Henry would have made the fans naturally love him.
Having the smaller man be the villain and the giant be the hero doesn't quite make sense. It clashes against not only society's ingrained nature as an audience, but against the legends and tales that have been told through history in different cultures.
It is human nature to believe the smaller man should lose and the larger man should win. It is also human nature to want to cheer an underdog because many times it is more relatable to the audience.
Now, they don't even have that.
The WWE had a chance to build Bryan up that way and create a character who could have been a crowd favorite. He still might get there one day, but for now he has taken a major setback to his growth.
Hopefully, this at least gives him a decent title reign. It may be his only shot.