Like Daniel Bryan clamping on the Yes! lock, WWE had great theater in its grasp with the corporate makeover storyline.
However, it couldn't hold on.
Monday's WWE Raw opened with the challenger for the WWE Championship undergoing a corporate makeover in a segment that felt hurried and poorly planned. This could have been as entertaining as Bryan's time in anger management and could have been the catalyst for Bryan's latest character development.
With greatness up for grabs, the moment instead produced only decent entertainment.
Had WWE stretched this out over a longer period of time, had Bryan been allowed to be funnier and had the company explored the dilemma that Bryan faced on Monday, this may have been one of the most talked about segments in Raw history.
A Single Scene Versus A One-Act Play
Perhaps WWE has more in store for this storyline, but when Bryan ripped off his jacket and proclaimed, "I'm going to be who will always be," it seemed as if the climax had come and gone.
Stephanie McMahon wanted Bryan to change his look. She had him slick back his hair and put on a suit. Her father, snarling and menacing, wanted to further the transformation by having him shave his beard.
Vince McMahon offered influence in exchange for Bryan ditching his trademark beard.
Bryan's beard means to him what a mask means for a luchador and what hair meant to Samson. This was an intriguing moment. Would Bryan actually shave his beard in the hopes it would somehow help him achieve his championship goals?
WWE rushed through that moment.
In just a matter of minutes, Bryan went from donning a suit to reluctantly accepting Stephanie's changes to contemplating Vince's offer to tearing off the suit and rejecting the forced change.
This was an arc that would have been better served playing out over a few weeks. Imagine if WWE had attempted the same pace for Kane and Bryan's anger management storyline.
Under Dr. Shelby's guidance, Bryan went from frustrated to resistant to hugging it out on live TV.
The anger management story built over time, allowing the audience to watch Bryan shift. We saw him make anger collages one week and do role-play exercises the next. The pace allowed us to soak in and savor the story.
The corporate makeover angle deserved that same patience.
Instead, it becomes a footnote in the Cena and Bryan feud rather than its driving force. Moving it along so quickly also robbed Bryan of the chance to turn it into comic gold.
A Joke Versus a Recurring Segment
The anger management storyline had a string of hilarious moments.
The corporate makeover had the potential to be just as funny.
WWE could have stretched out each element. Bryan struggling with eating steak at the steakhouse could have been a segment on its own. The same is true is for his scene with the tailor, a possible moment with a hair stylist or a session with an etiquette expert.
When Steven Regal (William Regal) tried to turn Bobby Eaton into a gentleman, the result was one of the funniest segments in wrestling history.
This is how good Bryan's makeover could have been. WWE could have played up his roots, had him resist and squirm and overall his comic timing.
Bryan's run with Team Hell No showcased how great of an entertainer he was while his corporate makeover segment didn't allow him to spread his wings. What can one expect when the highlight of the story was Bryan forcefully shaving Wade Barrett's beard?
Perhaps WWE wanted to go in a different direction than humor. There was an opportunity for a deepening of Bryan's character and the drama of watching him make a difficult choice.
Amusement Versus Metamorphosis
Like musicians and artists, Bryan had to face the choice between remaining true to himself and achieving mainstream success. Cutting off his beard and becoming something that the McMahons wanted would be selling out.
However, selling out might come with championship glory.
Here was a chance to watch Bryan struggle with who he wanted to please most. Would he sacrifice a chance at success to avoid abandoning his fans? Would he cast aside his indy background in favor of becoming a corporate champion?
Bryan didn't have to sell out and become the McMahons' puppet like other wrestlers have done in the past, he just needed to struggle with the decision of whether or not he was willing to do that. You can't milk the drama of that difficult decision in a matter of 10 minutes.
Starting this story earlier and/or allowing it to go into next week would have offered more of a chance to explore Bryan's dilemma.
We would either see Bryan slowly transform into some sort of corporate tool or work through the temptation and become a stronger, more compelling rebel that the fans could get behind. Either way, the result would have been far more memorable than what we saw on Monday night.
WWE instead turned a novel into a few sentences and Bryan missed out on being the central figure of a moving drama or side-splitting comedy.
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