It's certainly not unexpected, but it's still disheartening to read. According to PWInsiderElite.com (h/t WrestlingInc.com), while WWE isn't outright blaming Daniel Bryan for the drastic decrease in pay-per-view buys for SummerSlam over last year, management feels the numbers would have increased over last year if he were a bigger guy.
Daniel Bryan is undersized by WWE main event standards. This is true. It's also not a legitimate reason for him to be kept out of the main events, though.
But what of the decrease in PPV buys for SummerSlam and Night of Champions, the latter of which did its lowest numbers ever? Doesn't that show that the fans don't buy Daniel Bryan as a headliner and/or a legitimate threat? Not inherently, no.
Daniel Bryan has broken through in terms of popularity. There's the argument that the fans just like chanting "YES!"; but I don't buy it, since Bryan has been selling a ton of merchandise as well, and not just "YES!" shirts.
SummerSlam would have been an interesting test in terms of what type of business he could do in traditional wrestling metrics if both the heels and John Cena didn't verbalize every single perceived flaw they think he has: He's a short, ugly troll. He's not going to be marketable as champion. He can't win.
Even virtuous John Cena who gifted him the title shot didn't take him seriously enough.
Hell, even in Bryan's initial big moment that started all this, where Cena picked him as his SummerSlam challenger, they played off of his (average in real life, below average in WWE) height for a sight gag.
If you keep telling the fans that that someone isn't good enough, isn't good-looking enough, is too small and so on, then eventually one of two things will happen:
1. They'll start believing you.
2. They won't start believing you, but they'll get so beaten down they don't see the wrestler as having a prayer and lose interest in buying tickets/the PPV.
Regardless of which of the two it is, they have the same effect.
WWE said he's too ugly, small and overrated to be a top star, so now SummerSlam did a bad number by SummerSlam standards. Then they kept reiterating that in addition to beating him down for eight shows in a row, and Night of Champions did its worst numbers ever. As a result, those in WWE who were opposed to his push can say they were proven right.
You can argue they were. You absolutely can. But it's a lot harder to argue that it was solely because fans weren't into Bryan that way. If WWE went all-in with Bryan during the buildup to SummerSlam, yes, you could.
They didn't, though. They did everything they could to brand him as an ugly, sawed-off loser whose fans are even bigger losers for liking him.
I have to say it's a little odd, in light of this, that WWE is heavily pushing that, both on screen and in real life, he's engaged to be married to one of the women they they push as basically being the epitome of female beauty. He's too ugly to be a star, he's too small to be a real man...yet he's with one of the women we really, really want you to want to ravage.
I guess nobody engaged in enough critical thinking to get to that point. The same way they didn't think enough to realize that trying to prove themselves right meant the company would make the company a lot less money.