As challenger Daniel Bryan heads into SummerSlam, you have to wonder what a loss to John Cena would mean for his credibility with fans.
Undoubtedly, Bryan is on fire right now as a babyface.
He’s receiving huge reactions from the crowd and churning out some of the greatest wrestling matches ever to air on free television—his terrific bout with Antonio Cesaro on Monday, in particular, was spellbinding.
His profile outside of the company has also risen: Thanks to his real-life relationship with star Brie Bella, Bryan has also been all over the marketing for E!’s Total Divas show, due to premiere this Sunday
Wow. Back in his ROH days, who would have ever thought we'd see Bryan Danielson: E! reality star?
So, things look good for the former Nexus member. He has a great chance of being one of the few upper midcard guys who can solidify himself as a true main eventer.
Of course, if he falls to Cena at SummerSlam—which is a distinct possibility—it’s doubtful his ascension to the main event scene will go quite so smoothly.
Despite his talent, the wrestler still has a few things working against him.
He’s short, has an average physique and is not particularly photogenic. He’s very much the polar opposite of what Vince McMahon has pushed before.
As I’ve discussed in the past, his track record as a ratings draw is patchy. He may very well be struggling to get over as a draw, like CM Punk and Alberto Del Rio before him.
It’s also worth noting that, on this past Monday’s Raw, viewing figures for the third hour of Raw—promoted around Bryan going through a gauntlet of various superstars—fell considerably, indicating there probably wasn’t a huge amount of interest around the segment. (Although, as PWTorch notes, he did at least do decent numbers with male teens.)
These factors, coupled with a credibility-killing loss at SummerSlam, could kill his main event prospects.
One only needs to look at Ryback’s predicament to know that WWE has to tread carefully when booking the Bryan/Cena match.
Heading into his Hell in a Cell match with then-WWE champion CM Punk, Ryback was the hottest star in the company. Hugely popular with fans thanks to his intense charisma and monster babyface character, Ryback was well on his way to becoming the next Goldberg.
Until, of course, he lost to Punk at the pay-per-view. His momentum evaporated, and it was all downhill from there.
Bryan’s supporters must be hoping he avoids a similar fate.
Sure, he may be talented enough to overcome a loss at SummerSlam, but why risk it?
Why can’t WWE put the title on the star, anyway? OK, so Money in the Bank winner Randy Orton is probably due for a WWE title run at some point, but there’s no reason Bryan can’t have a run with the belt for a month or two before that happens.
Advice to Vince McMahon: Bryan needs to win at the pay-per-view if he’s to reach the next plateau and maintain his credibility with fans. Anything else is just going to hinder his promising career.