It's hard to keep a good man down, but sometimes it's the smartest thing to do. Fans were outraged when Daniel Bryan didn't get his number called to participate in the Royal Rumble on Sunday.
Bryan is without question the most beloved WWE Superstar in the world today. Not since Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were in their prime have we seen a man so universally adored.
As a matter of fact, the adoration for Bryan amongst the WWE Universe may have even surpassed those two legends.
The man is awesome in the ring, and he has the everyman qualities that have endeared him to millions. I've personally interviewed him, and unless he's the world's greatest actor, he's one of the nicest celebrities I've ever had the privilege of speaking to.
As cool as all that is, it isn't what drives decisions amongst those in charge in the WWE.
As well as we know our names, we should understand the WWE will always do what's best for business. Fans can cry and whine online in comment sections like the one this fine site supplies and on social media.
The tweet below says the WWE should give the fans what they want and is representative of a larger, collective opinion many fans had after the Rumble:
To a point that's correct, but to a larger degree, it can create a self-destructive trend. While it would have been cool to see Bryan flying around in the Rumble, it's easy to understand why he was buried yet again by The Authority.
The Universe Running the Business Is a Bad Thing
Because of the athleticism involved, it's easy for fans to forget that wrestling is about storytelling as much as in-ring maneuvers. These stories have authors, just like sitcoms and dramas like Law and Order: SVU.
The fans of these programs—and the WWE—agree to watch the content and to go on the journey provided by the men and women who write the scripts.
Sometimes we like what happens to our heroes; sometimes we don't. But at the very least, we want for the performers to put on a great show and to be believable as possible while we allow ourselves to drift into this alternate reality.
Because the WWE chooses to blur the line between reality and fantasy, the situation gets a little more complicated for its fans.
Nevertheless, the last thing the company should ever do is give fans exactly what they want. While it would provide immediate satisfaction for the masses, ultimately, things would become predictable.
Every time fans wanted to see a Superstar elevated to a championship level, they'd pitch a fit online, boo like crazy in every arena across the United States when their guy loses and chant his name 457 times at every event.
The fans would then be the bookers and/or creative team.
If you are a fan of the highly regarded cop drama NCIS, would you want to be in charge of everything that happens to main character Leroy Gibbs? Moreover, do you think the writers of that show would allow fans to completely dictate the direction of the Gibbs character?
The answer to both of those questions is probably no.
As a WWE fan, you agreed—whether knowingly or not—to come along for the ride. Let it tell the story.
The Power of the Internet
The Internet is a powerful presence in the world of professional wrestling.
For those of us old enough to remember what it was like being a "wrasslin" fan before the worldwide web, you remember how cool it was to be surprised by what happened on wrestling programs.
Nowadays, returning Superstars have to be smuggled in and out of arenas like contraband to conceal secrets. All it takes is for one person to see Chris Jericho in the hotel where the WWE Superstars are staying, and a rumor is launched, and expectations for a Y2J appearance is on every site in the world.
Also, criticism is spread like wildfire, and those with a following can influence the masses quickly. Mick Foley dropped this tweet after the Royal Rumble about Bryan's absence from the main event. It was retweeted over 22,000 times.
Even Bryan got in on the act with this tweet. You gotta love when kayfabe meets real-life emotion. This was retweeted over 11,000 times.
Bryan continued the me-against-the-machine angle on Raw. Check out his nice mic work with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
This becomes an army of Bryan supporters against those in charge of storylines in the WWE. The company could say: "Fans, you win. Bryan is going to be the man for the next year." But would that really be the right thing to do?
Smarks Will Never Be Happy
By nature, many fans of pro wrestling are too smart for their own good. Blame the Internet. Blame the personality type required to really be able to thoroughly enjoy the art of this brand of entertainment.
Whatever it is, it creates what most refer to as a smark.
These are smart fans who are still enough of a mark for the content to tune in faithfully. To satisfy themselves, they pick apart just about everything that happens on WWE programming.
The highest grade most smarks will ever give a match or pay-per-view is a B. It just isn't cool to ever be impressed enough to rate something an A.
What are you, crazy?
The WWE can't alter the direction of its storylines for this group of fans any more than it can for those who live and die with one Superstar.
You can't please everybody all the time. Some folks won't be pleased at any time.
If the WWE Gives In, Could Bryan Become the Next John Cena?
Remember when John Cena was the man, and the crowd reaction was far more cheers than boos? The WWE made him the Superman of the company. The man who is able to kick out of 57 finishing maneuvers, give an Attitude Adjustment to a horse and give a Five-Knuckle Shuffle to a Transformer.
Now, his act is old in the eyes of just about every fan older than 10.
Boos ring out louder than the cheers in nearly every arena he performs in. He's still the consummate professional. Cena still works his butt off in matches and is capable of delivering spirited mic work.
But the Universe has turned on him because he just wins too much.
If the WWE allows Bryan to reach Cena status, what's to say at some point, the Universe won't turn on him too? The nature of people is to tear down stars once they reach the top.
Has Bryan taken enough of a beating to make him immune from ultimately having "yes" chants, turn to
"no" chants and boos?
It's hard to tell.
You're Still Watching, Thus the Plan Is Working
More than anything, the WWE wants viewers and attention. That's what the business is about. Sure, it's a monopoly. Anyone in its position wouldn't have handled things any other way.
Bryan hasn't been taken off television, and he isn't being relegated to midcard status. He's a part of major storylines every week and has had a cup of coffee with the WWE title.
Fans want a lengthy run, but they're watching with baited breath in anticipation of Bryan finally overcoming the odds.
The key word there is "watching." As long as fans are tuning in, the WWE is doing its job. You could even see it in the demeanor of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H on Monday Night Raw. They were prepared for the backlash, and they even teased the audience.
Triple H said this in a kick rocks tone: "Did somebody not get what they wanted?"
A huge crowd at the Quicken Loans Center in Cleveland booed, but it was a packed house nonetheless. In this movie, the good guy still hasn't won, but his fans keep showing up because they don't want to miss his big moment.
The longer the WWE can continue to string the Universe along while waiting for Bryan's day in the sun, the better it is for business.
Follow me. I go back like Blackjack Mulligan and Abdullah the Butcher.