As the ending to an otherwise fantastic SummerSlam 2013 pay-per-view event, the angle that closed the event was a huge downer.
Daniel Bryan had just won the WWE Championship from John Cena clean in the middle of the ring with a Busaiku Knee Kick, finishing off the third great match of the night. The crowd went wild, confetti and fireworks went off, Bryan thanked his parents while talking to the camera...and Randy Orton came out. He teased cashing in Money in the Bank, walked away, sneered in the middle of the aisle, and Triple H hit the Pedigree on Bryan. That was all Orton needed to win the title.
Triple H is now an evil, scheming McMahon, Randy Orton is a heel and Daniel Bryan is not WWE Champion.
As the ending of one of WWE's greatest in-ring events of all-time, it fell flat. You'll be hard pressed to find a card with three matches as good as Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian, Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk and Cena vs. Bryan were, but the lasting impression was a deflated crowd staring at Randy Orton as the Internet exploded.
As the start of WWE's new long-term main event storyline? It's not so bad, and it's easy to see why WWE made the decision to put the title on Orton.
How exactly would WWE Champion Daniel Bryan have fit into WWE as everything else sits right now? He doesn't have the half-loved/half-hated fan dynamic Cena has to support babyface challengers, and until Orton turned, there were no heels lined up to challenge him:
- Alberto Del Rio is the other champion.
- Dean Ambrose and Big E. Langston aren't ready.
- Ryback just lost a feud to Cena and needs to be rebuilt.
- Damien Sandow going for that title confuses his storyline.
- And everyone else is a babyface.
Orton needed to turn, and this was the obvious way for him to turn.
WWE now has a fresh heel champion on top in Orton. Not only can Bryan chase him, but so can CM Punk, Mark Henry, Big Show, Rob Van Dam and Dolph Ziggler. You can certainly make a good argument for Punk, Henry and Show's babyface turns being bad ideas, but they can't be undone all at once.
Having said that, there are some legitimate concerns with how exactly the switch was handled:
- Triple H and various other evil McMahon family members don't fit into the WWE Championship picture nearly as well as they did in the past.
- The angle left fans deflated to end the show they paid $45-$55 for instead of just being the cliffhanger ending on an episode of Raw, "ruining" a great PPV event.
- WWE ended two SummerSlams in three years with similar angles. At the 2011 and 2013 events, Triple H was the guest referee of a main event where a breakout star won the WWE Championship from John Cena, only to be attacked by a former associate of Triple H and lose the title to the Money in the Bank winner when he cashed in.
Most of that damage should be very short-term, though. Within a few weeks, memories of SummerSlam 2013 will all be about how great the top three matches were, and the WWE Championship picture will be filled with new possibilities.
Besides, Randy Orton and Triple H are heels. It's their job to make us mad at them for cheating the good guy out of his title.