The pushback to making Daniel Bryan the undisputed king of WWE is misguided.
Arguments about his stature, drawing power and microphone skills all have holes. Fans have continually voiced that they want Bryan as the WWE champ and given a more substantial run as a main eventer.
The reasons why that shouldn't happen are getting drowned out by the key component of the formula that makes up a WWE megastar: feverish popularity.
Batista earned a spot in the WrestleMania XXX main event, a decision that led to impassioned backlash. Meanwhile, the most popular Superstar in the company continually bangs his head on a glass ceiling. If the company is truly hesitant about making Bryan a headliner, putting men like Batista and Randy Orton in that spot instead, it's not listening to its customers and getting caught up with anti-Bryan arguments that lack validity.
Argument: Bryan is not a good-enough talker
Even his most die-hard fans have to admit that Bryan is not an elite talker.
So much of WWE's history is filled with men who possess electric charisma. Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena have a special presence on the microphone that Bryan doesn't have. If that excludes him from being the face of the company then it should also prevent Orton from claiming that spot.
While Orton's mic work is underrated, he's certainly not in Hogan or The Rock's class.
Bret Hart wasn't known for being a fantastic talker either, although he had some classic moments armed with a microphone. Even so, Hart was perched atop WWE for the post-Hogan years thanks to great wrestling ability and a connection with the crowd.
Bryan has both those traits and, in addition, is plenty capable of handling himself verbally.
On the Jan. 27 edition of Raw, Bryan confronted The Authority about not being put in the Royal Rumble. The result didn't remind anyone of Eddie Guerrero's famous speech after he'd turned on Rey Mysterio or Mankind's moving interview with Jim Ross, but it showed off Bryan's ability to compel.
He exhibited great passion and energy while making fans care about his story.
In August, he showed that he could hang with someone of Cena's caliber on the mic. His portion of the pre-SummerSlam promo was spirited and genuine, something that has clearly appealed to his vocal fanbase.
The emotional power of that speech was worthy of the main event, even if it doesn't place him in the pantheon of great talkers. Like Hart, he can lean more on his in-ring work but deliver some standout promos from time to time.
Argument: Bryan is not a draw
Only the rarest of talents affect ratings, buyrates and attendance like history's greatest draws. The evidence states that Bryan is not among that group, at least not yet.
Numbers from the pay-per-view events where was he one of the star attractions aren't great. Per CagesideSeats.com, SummerSlam 2013 suffered a 62,000 drop in buys compared to the year before, and Night of Champions went down 14,000 buys from 2012.
Those figures serve as ammo for Bryan's critics, but there is more to those events stumbling than his name being on the marquee.
In recent years, it's been special attractions that have impacted pay-per-view buys the most. Brock Lesnar stepping into the ring against Triple H at SummerSlam 2012 drew a boast-worthy 350,000 buys, per PWMania.com. The Rock's return to the ring at the 2013 Royal Rumble pulled in 438,000 buys, a 14 percent increase from the year before, per WrestleZone.com.
It seems that fans are hesitant to shell out 45 bucks on a wrestling show unless it showcases a name from the past.
Bryan isn't the only full-time star unable to generate big numbers. When WWE decided to have Big Show rather than Bryan challenge Randy Orton at Survivor Series 2013, the results were unfavorable.
Wrestling Observer, via CagesideSeats.com, reports that the show did 179,000 buys, a number lower than the 2012, 2011 or 2010 versions of the event.
There was not talk about how poor of a draw Orton was afterward. Orton has remained the WWE champ ever since and headlined TLC 2013.
Blaming Bryan alone for the fall's drop in paid viewership is foolish. Fans often gravitate to great stories as well as toward big stars. Bryan's story sputtered, complete with an unfinished narrative about a crooked referee and a no-contest ending to a bout for the vacant WWE title.
When fans demanded and received refunds after Night of Champions, per PWInsider.com, that was a sign of general unhappiness among the audience and frustrations with WWE's storytelling. This is a big part of the limping fall WWE experienced, not Bryan's lack of star power.
The other issue is that WWE seems to be discounting its own power to turn stars into megastars.
When Austin's popularity began to skyrocket, WWE had him battle Hart in a now-classic Submission match at WrestleMania 13. The company pegged him to win the King of the Ring tournament where he made the coronation the launching point of his career. This was a case of building on momentum that fans and Austin had already generated.
Bryan, on the other hand, has watched WWE stick out its leg and trip him up on several occasions. That struggle against The Authority holding him down appears to be the story the company is cooking up, per F4WOnline (via WrestleZone.com).
It's a story that creates a potential issue: that fans will eventually buy into WWE telling them that Bryan isn't good enough, and by the time it shifts the spotlight his way interest in him will have waned. WWE continually convinced us that Austin was the baddest man on the planet, something it has failed to do with Bryan.
Where is Bryan's King of the Ring moment? Where is his equivalent of Austin vs. Hart? Giving Bryan those kinds of triumphs allows him to become a bigger star and possibly morph into someone capable of making an impact on WWE's numbers.
Argument: Bryan is too small
Bryan is 5'10''. Apparently for some WWE officials that means he isn't the wrestler worthy of the top spot. The reported thought process backstage was that Bryan's size is what led to pay-per-view buys disappointing.
That's when WWE went with Big Show in the title picture at Survivor Series.
PWInsider, via WrestlingInc.com, reports the following regarding the reasoning behind that move:
Big Show is main eventing WWE's Survivor Series pay-per-view with Randy Orton because there's a renewed effort within WWE to put larger or bigger wrestlers in the spotlight. This is the reason for Show being pushed and why we've seen more of Luke Harper and The Great Khali lately.
There's a feeling that Daniel Bryan was on top for a few months and WWE's pay-per-view buyrates have been down during that period. The feeling among upper management is that Bryan isn't a larger than life wrestler and that's what fans want.
Given the opportunity to replace Bryan as Orton's challenger, Big Show flopped. The Survivor Series main event was tedious and forgettable. Those who believed that determining who would succeed at the top was as simple as pulling out a tape measure learned a lesson that should have been learned a long time ago.
Shawn Michaels was infinitely more successful than Giant Gonzales despite giving up over a foot and a half in height to him because bigger isn't always better.
The fact that WWE officials reportedly believe that Bryan isn't what fans want makes one assume that there is rampant hearing impairment among the staff. Fans make it clear who they love, hate and are ambivalent about.
Fans took to Austin in the late '90s and their support was no secret. Every time his entrance music hit, arenas full of people exploded. When there is a Superstar who the fans aren't invested in collectively, there is instead a fog of silence throughout the building.
The response to Bryan breaking away from The Wyatt Family was reminiscent of the kind of pops Austin once received.
The rules haven't changed since Chris Jericho (just two inches taller than Bryan) was in the main event scene. Wrestlers of all sizes, shapes and styles get over and once they do, WWE must capitalize on it, not ignore it.
Mick Foley didn't fit the blueprint of the ideal Superstar, but still thrived.
His dumpy physique was a stark contrast to those wrestlers who came from a bodybuilding background. Still, fans took to him, cheering for him passionately, holding up signs that read, "Foley is God." He held the WWE title and battled the biggest stars in the company, flourishing in the heat of the spotlight.
Bryan is just as capable of doing that, at WrestleMania XXX and elsewhere. His fanbase holds out hope that WWE realizes that.
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