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Daniel Bryan's Title Fate to Be Determined
Now that WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan has undergone successful neck surgery, according to WWE.com, the focus shifts toward his status as a titleholder. Stephanie McMahon opted against stripping Bryan of the title on Raw, but she implored Bryan to appear on the following episode of Raw and to "do the right thing" by surrendering the belts.
Question on Everybody's Mind: Will Bryan Surrender the Titles?
There is obviously some measure of uncertainty regarding Bryan's neck, as the creative team has taken steps to kick the can down the road over the past two weeks. Bryan was initially attacked by Kane when it looked like he would have to surrender the titles, and then Stephanie issued what was essentially an ultimatum the next week. Handling things in that manner will allow both Bryan and WWE to get more clarity regarding his health by the time the May 26 Raw rolls around.
WWE certainly has options, and there is little doubt that Bryan's neck will dictate them. If Bryan isn't going to be out over the long term, then it is unlikely that WWE will take the titles from him. If he is going to miss months of action and multiple pay-per-views, however, the writers and the powers that be could very well decide that being without an active world champion for that long isn't the best thing for business.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
While only the doctors and Bryan know for sure how he is progressing and how he feels, the initial feeling is that it may not be a serious injury. WWE may still decide to play it safe and be conservative with Bryan in order to protect one of its biggest assets, but the company would also love to have him back in the fold due to his popularity. There isn't much use in speculating on when he will return to the ring, but the fact that he is scheduled for Raw is promising, and it is probably a clue that it may be weeks rather than months before he comes back.
Even if Bryan is only out for a few weeks, stripping him of the titles could still make for a great storyline. It would enrage his fans, but that is a positive since The Authority's pre-WrestleMania heat would be restored, and Bryan's rabid fanbase would be galvanized. It would also allow Bryan to reprise his role as the title-chasing underdog, which is a naturally great angle. That would probably require a booking overhaul, so WWE will likely try to avoid that if it can, but perhaps it should take that choice under serious consideration.
Backstage News on Bryan's Possible Return (Wrestling Observer Newsletter via WrestlingInc.com)
WWE Takes a Beating in Stock Market
WWE programming is in a state of flux right now due to the uncertainty surrounding Bryan, but the issues stretch beyond the ring as well. WWE made headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past week, as its stock experienced a nearly 50 percent drop due to a lower-than-expected television deal with NBC Universal, according to Maggie McGrath of Forbes.
Question on Everybody's Mind: Is WWE in a Financial Crisis?
It is understandable why the sudden drop in stock is disconcerting to WWE's fans and shareholders. Such a significant drop isn't often seen, and it didn't help that financial analysts used it as an opportunity to espouse doom and gloom regarding the company's prospects. On top of all that, Vince McMahon lost $350 million along with his title as a billionaire, per Dan Alexander of Forbes.
That certainly isn't an ideal situation from Vince's perspective, but there are a lot of factors and a lot of reasons why the stock buckled. It can also be said that there are equally as many reasons why panic shouldn't necessarily set in. It remains to be seen how WWE will handle things and if any big changes will be made, but there is no real reason for fans to stress over it.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
As awful as the stock situation looks, this was bound to happen all along. WWE boasted the top-performing sports stock of 2014's first quarter and saw it increase by 75 percent, according to Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes. This came after the announcement of WWE Network and during WrestleMania season, so excitement was basically at an all-time high. Due to the volatility of the stock market, that wasn't a sustainable level, and things ultimately came crashing down in a big way.
Investors used the NBC Universal deal as the reasoning behind the drop, but the reaction didn't necessarily match up with what triggered it. WWE didn't score a contract that was double or triple the previous one, but it was still a 70 percent increase, per Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times.
There has also been an overreaction to the WWE Network subscription numbers thus far. The fact that there are 670,000 subscribers is viewed as a disappointment despite the fact that one million is the goal for the entire year, while 1.3 million to 1.4 million is needed globally, according to McGrath.
WWE Network has yet to launch anywhere aside from the United States, so it's safe to assume that WWE will get tons of subscriptions from wrestling-crazy countries like Canada and England among others. That should generate a ton of revenue in and of itself, but nobody seems to be taking it into account.
WWE's business model isn't perfect by any means, but the stock dip isn't indicative of the true financial state of the company.
Vince McMahon to Make Changes? (PWInsider via WrestlingInc.com)
Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena Feud Fails to Impress
The feud between Bray Wyatt and John Cena has been a huge part of WWE programming ever since Wyatt cost Cena the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton at Royal Rumble. Cena and Wyatt have continued to trade verbal and physical barbs, and they will lock horns once again at Payback when they go head to head in a Last Man Standing match.
Question on Everybody's Mind: Can This Angle Be Salvaged?
There have been some great moments at various points throughout this storyline. Wyatt has cut several excellent promos, and Cena has responded effectively at times. The build toward their match at WrestleMania XXX was actually quite good, but the result of that bout was not as Cena won for no real reason. Things started to go downhill from there with Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan losing a three-on-one handicap match to Cena, which made Wyatt look incredibly weak.
The angle started to rebound when Wyatt employed the children's choir, but the shark was officially jumped at Extreme Rules. Wyatt beat Cena in a steel cage match, but only after Harper and Rowan stopped Cena from exiting on multiple occasions. Cena still could have won, but he was stopped by a demonic child in what was an embarrassing moment for wrestling fans. Unfortunately, the feud hasn't gotten much better since then.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
In the weeks following Extreme Rules, Cena has enlisted the help of The Usos to fend off The Wyatt Family. It hasn't been particularly effective, though, and it certainly hasn't increased excitement surrounding their match at Payback. Wyatt's promos have still been entertaining, but they have also been repetitive in that the basic concept is always the same.
We've also seen more of the same from Cena, including his random penchant for turning to comedy despite the fact that he is supposed to be involved in a very serious situation.
The issue when it comes to the Last Man Standing match is that there is no desirable result. If Cena wins, then he will almost certainly have overcome all three members of The Wyatt Family, beaten the odds in ridiculous fashion and made Wyatt look terrible. If Wyatt wins, though, it will obviously be with tons of help from Harper and Rowan, which doesn't help his credibility at all. Regardless of how WWE decides to book this match, hopefully it marks the end of the feud because it just doesn't feel fresh or relevant anymore.
Wyatts to Possibly Be Involved in Payback Title Match? (Wrestling Observer Newsletter via WrestlingInc.com)
RRR Season 5 Fantasy WWE Standings
1. Mike Chiari: 290
2. Tom Kinslow: 57.5
3. Donald Wood: 50
4. Brandon Galvin: 27.5
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