Once the underdog fulfills his quest, as Daniel Bryan did at WrestleMania 30, the narrative has to shift.
WWE has to find other elements of Bryan's character to focus on or risk delivering a stagnant story and an underwhelming title run. Restarting the same arc can only work so many times.
Bryan heads into his battle with Kane at Extreme Rules with the odds firmly against him.
It's a position he has occupied several times over. A severe beating from an underhanded foe has left him injured and forced to head uphill in his upcoming bout. Kane walloped him on Monday's Raw, leaving him writhing on the mat and eventually earning him a trip on a stretcher.
As powerful and effective an image as that was, it can't be the one fans see before every big match.
Bryan has been suffering like this since last August but finally had his triumphant moment at WrestleMania. Triple H had been pressing his thumb down on him for months.
Flip on an episode of Raw from the fall, and there's a good chance it will feature The Shield, Randy Orton or Big Show leaving Bryan out cold at Triple H's urging.
Having to get up as often as Bryan did made him look gutsy. Having him finally overcome Triple H's tyranny, the terrible odds against him and the fact that he's a short dude in a world of behemoths made the end of WrestleMania 30 stirring.
WWE can't just keep Bryan's role the same now, though.
He defeated Triple H with no tricks and no flukes. He won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after battling earlier that night. He's the king now, not the hungry rebel leading a coup.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were the underdogs before Super Bowl XXXVI. That changed after the team starting winning championships. The word "dynasty" replaced talk of being the dark horse.
Were David to beat Goliath three, four times in a row, folks would start changing who they put their money on. You can't just look at the matchup the same anymore.
There has to be a change in how Bryan is perceived as well.
A part of what has made the dynamism of John Cena's character so minimal is that WWE so often tries to turn him into the underdog despite how often he's held world titles. He's beaten the odds at a rate that forces the oddsmakers to rethink their numbers.
Bryan is obviously more of a physical underdog than Cena, but the logic still stands.
To make Bryan's championship tenure more compelling, WWE has to dig deeper. There has to be another way to present Bryan than just the likable guy who is out of his league.
Edge faced bigger opponents all the time. He's 6'5'', but when you go up against men like The Undertaker, Big Show and Kane, that suddenly doesn't seem very large.
WWE billed Edge as "The Ultimate Opportunist." He was wily, quick to jump on an advantage and often outsmarted his opponents. This added an intriguing element to who he was.
Triple H had a similar reputation as "The Cerebral Assassin." His cunning was key to many of the stories WWE told with him.
While both those men were heels when they most lived up to those nicknames, history shows heroes with their own interesting characters as well. Steve Austin was portrayed as the toughest guy in the company during his prime, and before that, WWE sold Bret Hart as superior in terms of in-ring execution.
Those are all preferable to WWE constantly focusing on Bryan's height and selling him as being physically outmatched each time.
Zero in on his submission skills instead. Paint him as a fireball of a wrestler or a mat wrestler capable of exploiting his foes' weakness.
WWE has already shown us just how powerful making Bryan more of an asskicker can be when he tore through The Shield last year.
In these moments, Bryan came off as a pitbull gnashing at all the lions around him. This is where the company should return with him as his reign continues past Extreme Rules.
Jim Ross wrote that Bryan "will be a WWE World Champion who will go into the vast majority of his Title Bouts as the underdog. If that isn't a sellable story, then I don't know what is." He's right. The underdog tale is a marketable one.
Just like any story, though, it loses its power over time. WWE already delivered the climax of Bryan's underdog journey, having him emerge from WrestleMania's main event with two gold belts in his hands. Rather than repeat that trek, the company would be better off finding a new path for the bearded warrior.
It's time to wrap up the "Bryan as underdog" volume and pen a new one.
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