Cox Cable honored requests from angry fans who wanted a refund following WWE Night of Champions. The pay-per-view saw Daniel Bryan defeat Randy Orton for the WWE Championship, only to be stripped of the title the following night.
It was a storyline-driven swerve, and the troll job by the establishment was seen from a mile away by most fans and analysts.
Following the pay-per-view, which concluded after referee Scott Armstrong fast-counted Bryan into rarefied air as the worst two-time WWE champion ever, Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net said:
The fans seemed to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. The announcers noted that Bryan used the same move to beat Orton that he used to beat John Cena at SummerSlam, but they never mentioned the fast count by Armstrong. I assume the fast count plays into whatever Hunter does on Monday.
PWTorch posed a cynical question to its readers, asking if there is "any chance" Bryan holds the WWE Championship past Raw. The answers were basically different shades of no:
@PWTorch by the time you publish this it'll be over I'm afraid— Craig Byrne (@byrnie81) September 16, 2013
@PWTorch I really really really hope i'm wrong, but i expect there's going to be a swerve tonight, he hasn't won & title is vacant.— allan (@allanjswan) September 16, 2013
— James Anslow (@Guinnessbreath) September 16, 2013
This familiar storyline, featuring a family of tyrants abusing their power, is easy to follow. The powers that be are too strong for Bryan to succeed this early. Armstrong's fast count all but guaranteed shenanigans for Bryan's latest WWE championship win, and most fans knew it.
So how, then, was the bottom five able to take Cox Cable for a ride? Based on buyrates for the Mayweather-Canelo fight the night before, that bottom five may have comprised WWE's entire audience.
How did "It's Still Real to Me" guy successfully demand a refund for a plot twist?
Does Cox Cable think wrestling is real? Is this a vanity project for customer service? Was WWE in on this, possibly to simulate a fan-led revolt against the corporation much like the superstar-led revolution from Raw?
WWE issued a statement on the matter, via Nick Paglino of WrestleZone.com:
While certain fans may not have liked the continuing storyline following Night of Champions, we’re certain that the 3-hour pay-per-view event delivered all the entertainment and excitement expected from WWE.
It is the duty of a heel to work within his or her theatrical limitations to get ahead by the most questionable of means. The reason WWE pulled the rug from under Bryan was because it knew the stunt would get heat on the corporation. This was outrage by design. Condoning any form of a real-life apology defeats its own purpose.
WWE once booked Batista to win the WWE Championship despite reportedly knowing the injury-prone beast tore his bicep, according to PWInsider (h/t WrestleNewz.com), prior to the pay-per-view.
That's worse than what happened with Bryan, which was strategically designed to advance an angle, yet no refunds would be processed.
In October of 1998, the main event of Halloween Havoc 1998 between Bill Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page went off the air prematurely. The incident wasn't a work and can easily be considered as a refundable offense.
Right on cue, WCW aired the match for free on Nitro the following night as a make-good.
There was nothing legitimately deceitful about Bryan winning the WWE Championship given the circumstances.
Hopefully, this doesn't set a self-defeating precedent where clueless fans dictate the boundaries for heels. Otherwise, the underhanded tactics of intentionally vile characters could cost the WWE some valuable buys.
The pro wrestling apocalypse may have come sooner than expected.