“You’re just a poor man’s replacement for J.R!”
The words of a frustrated Daniel Bryan echoed throughout the WWE Universe last night during what had to be the best episode of WWE NXT to air to date.
I imagined that pro wrestling fans watching the program at home stood to their feet and cheered when Bryan, one of three NXT rookies eliminated from the “competition” last week, grabbed announcer Michael Cole’s skinny little neck and bullied him to the ground.
I know I did.
Actually, I stood up, screamed like a school girl, and yelled, “Kick his f#$%in’ head in!!!”
Bloodlust aside, last night’s episode of NXT provided just a taste of what pro wrestling fans have been clamoring for since the beginning of the WWE’s PG Era.
No, I’m not talking about a credible push for Bryan Danielson or Daniel Bryan, although the seeds for such a momentous event were starting to bear fruit before our eyes last night.
What I’m proposing is that the WWE has finally provided fans with the excitement, unpredictability, and chaos we’ve been yelling for.
Thank goodness for this well-needed breath of fresh air for what has been a pretty stale creative direction.
Granted, we’re not talking about a blockbuster episode of NXT here. It was a very average show even with the brief emotional outburst from Daniel Bryan. In fact, we’re not even talking about the advent of a new era in the WWE on the whole.
There is one major thing that separates last night’s NXT from its preceding episodes.
You want to watch next week’s show, don’t you?
That euphoric feeling that sits in the pit of your stomach is what we’ve really been asking for in regards to the PG Era. Between John Cena’s cheesy motivational speeches and RAW’s hit-or-miss guest hosting, fans have been bored with the WWE product.
But in the last two weeks things have picked up for RAW , and that effect seems to have spilled over into Tuesday nights on SyFy.
Daniel Bryan’s outburst last night, and his cryptic message after his elimination last week, gives incredible insight to the creative genius of NXT ’s writing team and the red pen of Vince McMahon.
However, in order to understand and appreciate the significance of this turn around in the product, we’ve got to take an over-analytical look at what we’ve seen and how it could possibly propel the product and Bryan Danielson into the outer reaches of the WWE Universe.
11 May 2010
Michael Tarver and Daniel Bryan Eliminated from NXT
Seven days ago, fans watched in horrified awe as Matt Striker announced that WWE Management called for the elimination of Michael Tarver and Daniel Bryan from the “competition.” The reasoning behind this call was due to comments made by both men who humbly accepted their shortcomings by saying they were the ones who should be eliminated.
Later on in the show NXT host Matt Striker interviewed both Tarver and Bryan, but it was Bryan’s response that generated a buzz around the WWE Universe.
Bryan goes on to mention that “Daniel Bryan” never wrestled on the independent scene, and had trouble beating the other rookies even though he gave Batista a run for his money. But yet there was this guy who kicked people’s heads in around the world, and this guy was even a champion in Mexico and Japan.
Bryan said that nobody knew what was in store for Daniel Bryan after being eliminated from NXT , but the future for Bryan Danielson was an entirely different story.
Other than being a kick ass promo by itself, there were a few things that made this moment memorable and exciting for fans.
Seeds were planted and fruit was harvested. The logic behind Daniel Bryan’s constant burial was necessary to separate him from everything he accomplished in the independent wrestling scene.
Say what you will about McMahon’s refusal to acknowledge a superstar’s accomplishments outside of the WWE, but it’s really a gift and a curse for all parties involved. As has been stated on WWE television consistently, “you’re nothing before you make it in the WWE.”
This forces product loyalty from the fans. Although it seems harsh to say that a wrestler hasn’t accomplished anything outside of the WWE, even if there’s evidence contrary to that thought, it is necessary to turn a “wrestler” into a “superstar.”
What was Chris Jericho before the WWE? Another young wrestler who’s talent was squandered by WCW? Now he’s one of the hottest bad guys in the business and is probably at this point near the top of the WWE’s food chain.
All of that began when Y2J interrupted a promo from The Rock, and the rest is history.
The same can be said for Daniel Bryan. Before the WWE, he gained a cult following from his work in the independents, Japan, Mexico, and around the world. People followed his career and respected his work because he was and is just that good.
But how large was/is that fan base? Do his followers number in the hundreds, thousands, or millions?
I knew about Bryan Danielson through ROH DVDs, but I have admittedly only seen a handful of his better matches, including a few on HDNet (which really isn’t the sum of his work). How many more people out there are like me?
The WWE’s goal is twofold: to take Bryan and turn him into a global household name and not an independent sensation (there’s a big difference), and to make the company profitable from his work. Everything that Danielson does in the WWE should not point to just him, but should also point back to the WWE.
In comparison, that’s one of the problems with TNA. The company has a bunch of great athletes, but none of them are really viewed as being home grown TNA talent. TNA wrestlers are day laborers for the company, while WWE superstars like John Cena and Edge are the company.
This is what they’ve done by burying Bryan. They made him remain clean shaven and keep his hair cut low to symbolically baptize him into the WWE as a born again WWE beast waiting for the right moment to be released in the WWE Universe.
Think I’m lying or too far off base? Consider the following:
-He started growing his beard out in this episode .
-The camera started shaking as his promo began to intensify (think of that brief Brad Pitt soliloquy in Fight Club )
-After he mentioned the name of Bryan Danielson, Matt Striker referred to him as “Bryan”
-With the WWE being so heavily scripted that they allowed him to cut that promo in the first place . I could be way off base here and looking at the situation too deeply, but when it comes to pro wrestling, there are very few things that are truly coincidental.
Besides all of that, if Vince McMahon didn’t see potential in Danielson’s profitability at this stage in his career, he wouldn’t have hired him at all.
The WWE Management Takes Shape . After Wrestlemania 26 , it was widely reported that the “Mr. McMahon” character died in the match between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart.
After all, that villain was born from the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Since that day, Mr. McMahon has tortured a number of superstars for the purpose of, well, just because he wanted to.
But with the death of this character, no GM’s for three of the WWE’s shows, and a Smackdown GM that is technically still on “probation,” who’s going to be the boss of the company?
Enter the WWE Management.
From a basic fan’s perspective, WWE Management equals to a non-televised Vince McMahon. He’ll make his edicts from Stamford, Connecticut and be recognized for doing so even if he’s not seen by the fans. Once you think about it, that’s perfectly logical and sensible.
It’s also boring.
From the perspective of a fan that has too much time on his/her hands (such as yours truly), the notion of WWE Management is baffling and inevitably pulls this fan deeper into the storyline and the product.
Think about it: Shane McMahon no longer works for the company, and Linda McMahon is running for a Senate seat. Mr. McMahon is no longer associated with the televised product, and Stephanie has been absent from our consciousness for a while now.
So who the hell makes up the WWE Management ? I mean, is it composed of a board of directors, or is it one person pulling the strings? Even if it is just Vince McMahon, why can’t he make these edicts by appearing on TV? What if it’s just a monkey typing on a netbook?
For me, this whole idea of a mysterious conglomerate manipulating the system behind the scenes is pretty cool, especially if they continue to do so without representation. You notice how everyone receives orders from the WWE Management, but no one has actually been to see them?
All of these questions keep fans engaged in the story as the WWE Management is referenced consistently in some form or fashion every week. We may not get the answers to them anytime soon, but at least it’s referenced every week, unlike some angles and story lines.
18 May 2010
Daniel Bryan Speaks Out About Elimination…AND HOW!
Once again, Matt Striker was saddled with interviewing Michael Tarver and Daniel Bryan. In what made very little sense in the long run, they’ve been invited back to NXT to answer the same question they answered the previous week: “How do you feel about being eliminated?”
I’d guess they felt the same way they felt when they were given the boot by the monkey with a netbook, except now they’ve been jobless for a week. I digress.
Michael Tarver once again bored us to tears with his spiel about being whatever it is he was or is, while Daniel Bryan takes on a decidedly different tone. In what was the second funniest line of the night, Michael Cole nonchalantly and blandly says, “Great…he’s back,” when Daniel takes the microphone.
He goes on to speak out against the system that held him down and made him conform to their idea of what it meant to be a WWE Superstar. He cut a passionate promo fueled by everything fans have been complaining about in the WWE.
In vintage form, Matt Striker cuts him off. Bryan snaps and says in his own way, “If you cut me off again, you’ll never walk again.” Striker shuts up.
Bryan then turns his anger towards Michael Cole, and essentially attacks him. At this point, I’m sure Cole wished he would’ve given in to Heidenreich’s advances all those years ago. Cole is frazzled for the remainder of the show, and all of a sudden fears Daniel Bryan instead of making fun of him.
This is when fans get the best line of the night from Daniel Bryan: “You’re just a poor man’s replacement for J.R!”
I laughed my ass OFF.
Fans Aren’t the Only Ones that “See” Daniel Bryan.
In the middle of his promo, Daniel Bryan got both CM Punk (former World Heavyweight Champion) and William Regal (former King of the Ring) to not only admit that he was good, but to also admit that he was better than his pro The Miz.
We all know that the man can go in the ring, and we questioned why the WWE didn’t acknowledge this and give him a well-deserved push. Go back up in the piece and read why this didn’t happen.
But by having Bryan, Miz, Regal, Punk, and even Chris Jericho in on this promo gave us proof positive that the WWE does acknowledge his wrestling prowess. What seemed like not much of a big deal should have been a huge deal for all of us that were foaming at the mouth to see him make an impact.
On top of that, Miz even looked nervous when Bryan invited him to come down to the ring to prove who the better man was.
So, if you’ve ever dared to say that the WWE doesn’t listen to the fans, I ask you to watch Bryan’s promo from last night and say that same thing without an ounce of doubt in your heart about that notion.
The Transformation Continues
I noticed that Bryan’s hair was a tad bit longer than usual, and he showed some definite personality in not only what he said, but through his actions as well.
This character that pushed Michael Cole around last night was definitely not the Daniel Bryan that pinned Santino Marella. It for sure wasn’t the Daniel Bryan that was being bossed around by The Miz.
All of these little, subtle things are necessary when building a superstar. How effective would Superman be if he looked like Mick Foley? Then again, how effective would the Mick Foley character be if he looked like Colin Delaney?
Compare Festus to Luke Gallows to Fake Kane, and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, think about pre-SES CM Punk and Creepy Jesus CM Punk. All it takes is making or missing a trip to the barber to create an entirely new superstar.
Michael Cole Descends Further Into Douchery. I didn’t have a problem with Michael Cole’s commentary skills, and I really don’t have much of a problem with his abilities on the whole. I even like his whole “vintage [insert superstar]” catch phrase.
Most fans think he’s absolutely terrible, and to each his own.
What really unnerved a lot of people were Cole’s condescending remarks about Daniel Bryan. It really got on fans’ nerves not because most had a soft spot for Bryan, but because Cole is just good at being a douche.
Each and every week, Cole succeeded at denigrating Bryan. His smarmy comments and self-righteous attitude towards Bryan and his followers caused most folks to hate to despise him to the point of burning effigies of him in the town square.
I honestly know a few people that have placed various medieval curses on him. I won’t name any names (Quinn Gammon) but it has happened. True story.
Curses and effigies aside, Michael Cole serves as the perfect sacrificial lamb to Daniel Bryan’s fury on his path to WWE super stardom. For everyone at home, Michael Cole garnered real heel heat, and in true pro wrestling fashion, we’re all waiting for the moment when Cole gets put squarely in his place by the man he said was a loser.
He didn’t seem much like a loser last night when Cole was cowering in the corner with Josh Matthews protecting him. But, that was the point all along.
True, there’s not much you can do against a commentator that’s best known for frosting his hair and agitating everyone born on days that end with a “y.” But, Bryan’s ultimate goal is to prove that Cole’s incessant blathering was groundless and incorrect.
The beautiful part of it all is that Michael Cole will continue to work to prove that Bryan is not only a loser, but a classless degenerate that doesn’t belong in the WWE after what transpired yesterday. It has been awhile since we’ve heard from a “heel” commentator, hasn’t it?
In the end, all of these things build upon what looks to be a swing in the downward spiraling momentum of the WWE’s creative direction on the whole. Not only have they succeeded in making the Daniel Bryan character interesting, but they’ve also provided us with a must-see TV moment.
It’s all of these little things that we’ve been asking for, and it seems as if the WWE has turned the corner in providing it for the fans. I’m not suggesting that the PG Era is over, nor am I suggesting that things couldn’t be even better in the WWE’s product at this point.
What I am saying is that after months of watching effortless episodes and lackluster pay per views, the WWE has finally done something to really engage the fans and keep us salivating for more.
The big question is, after so much time and effort has been spent on developing Bryan and making the NXT product worth watching, what will the follow through be?
I guess we’ll all have to tune in next week to find out.
“ Building Bryan Danielson : The WWE Genius” by Nathan Winters