WWE's decision to make the story of Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt flash fiction rather than a novel didn't affect the electricity and effectiveness of the climax.
Bryan split from The Wyatt Family sooner than expected—before the story truly had a chance to develop—but it still worked. The emotions created by Bryan's celebration atop the steel cage proves that not all WWE narratives have to have the same pattern or pace.
He'd only been a part of Wyatt's creepy clan since Dec. 30. Wyatt and company hounded, thrashed and obsessed over Bryan for weeks.
Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Bryan agreed to align himself with the monsters who had been snapping at him all this time.
Just two weeks later, WWE delivered another surprise. On the Jan. 13 edition of Raw, that shaky alliance came to an end.
Bryan and Wyatt teamed up to take on The Usos inside a steel cage to close out the show. An inadvertent collision between Wyatt Family members helped Jimmy and Jey Uso escape. As the brothers celebrated, Bryan and Wyatt shared a moment swollen with intensity.
Wyatt wanted to continue the violent, abusive relationship they had developed in their short time together.
He set up for Sister Abigail's Kiss, but Bryan resisted. He stared at his new leader who barked at him, urging him to defy him, screaming "You want to hurt me?"
Bryan had already had enough of being the prized beast of burden in The Wyatt Family. His subservience lasted only long enough for him to realize how much he hated the taste of it.
Fists balled up, he went after Wyatt.
Erick Rowan and Luke Harper rattled the cage from the outside, but they could only watch as Bryan toppled their father figure and then raised his hands in victory.
Most fans would have had this story go on for far longer. The payoff would have been promised, but come months after Bryan joined the "family." The typical formula would have stretched this alliance past the Royal Rumble and maybe even after WrestleMania.
The truncated version not only frees Bryan to continue his pursuit of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but it resulted in a bigger climax than one would expect from such a short story.
The Providence, R.I. fans, seemingly disinterested for much of the night, erupted as Bryan took down Wyatt. It was another case of Bryan receiving the kind of pop reserved for only a select few.
What a moment!!!! Is Daniel Bryan the most truly over wrestler since stone cold?! It's a legit… http://t.co/KvQQWqRwVr— IG : Rosenbergradio (@Rosenbergradio) January 14, 2014
Monday's big moment worked partly because Bryan never completely gave into Wyatt. There was always resistance—the alliance had cracks before they could all form a cohesive unit.
In six-man action against The Usos and Rey Mysterio, Bryan tagged himself into the match, taking Rowan off guard. Harper then slapped Bryan's back to put himself into the bout. A staredown ensued.
This was not the unity that we saw when The Shield debuted; this was a man who begrudgingly sided with his enemies, but never fully lost himself.
For Bryan to give up—as we thought he did as 2013 closed—seemed unlike him. To watch the knight put down his shield and join the dragon was disheartening.
Monday's Raw showed that he never truly gave up. He emerged from his flirtation with darkness seemingly a more intense and focused challenger going forward.
This experience can allow Bryan to play the part that best suits him—destroyer, pit bull and sword-swinging warrior.
When Bryan slipped out of his Wyatt Family gear and revealed his red wrestling trunks underneath, it felt like we were watching a superhero's birth.
WWE could have put off that moment until March, but in this way, he goes charging into the Royal Rumble teeming with momentum. This way, the story has no change to drag, to wander or to become watered down.
For anyone upset with the hurried narrative, Wrestling with Subtitles spoke to the lesson learned from Monday's success.
Sometimes you don't need to turn heel in an angle, and all angles don't need to be 5 weeks long. This isn't over, but Bryan is. #Raw— WrestlingW/Subtitles (@WrestleSubtitle) January 14, 2014
There is no need to worry that Bryan's popularity has waned in the face of WWE's booking of him last year. He is still a red-hot commodity awaiting a true shot to be on top of the company.
That's a story that has been several months in the making, one that will result in an even bigger celebration once it comes to its long-awaited conclusion.