When I first found out the WWE had signed Bryan Danielson, I was over the moon. Having watched the American Dragons career develop through the independent scene, having watched his work and matches in NOAH and ROH, I thought that finally, FINALLY, the WWE had brought in the kind of performer that could help elevate it's product back to the heights of the Attitude era. Danielson's in-ring ability and the WWE's production values were a match made in heaven.
Or so I thought.
Cue NXT, the name change, the losing streak, the limited air time and the constant undermining of his experience, personality and ability by Michael Cole and his mentor, the Miz. This was not what any of his fans were expecting. Every week we watched and hoped, patiently waiting for the worm to turn. Waiting to see the Danielson we knew and loved. We were offered mere glimpses; for a long time, his debut match with Jericho remained the highlight.
Then came Danielson's controversial elimination from NXT, followed by a teasing farewell speech which seemed to imply that the American Dragon would be seen again, and soon. The epic confrontation with Michael Cole followed, as did vindication against the Miz. The future was looking brighter by the day. The first season NXT rookies invaded RAW, they tore the place apart. Danielson choked out the ring announcer with his own tie, spat in the face of the poster boy of the WWE and kicked his head in. Danielson fans worldwide marked out like crazy. This was it! The push we were waiting for! The internet was ablaze!
Daniel Bryan released
Written: June 11, 2010
WWE has come to terms on the release of NXT first season rookie Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) as of today June 11, 2010. We wish Daniel Bryan the best in all future endeavours.
To steal a line from The Rock, what in the Blue Hell is going on? Only days after being heavily involved in one of the most controversial, imaginative and well-received storylines the WWE has run in recent history, he was released? Speculation ran wild - "outside pressures" were being exerted on the WWE. His actions (choking Justin Roberts with his own tie) had been too extreme for PG-TV. He had broken some unwritten company taboo over choking with objects. Cena/HHH/insert name here had manipulated him out of the company. He was being scapegoated. None of the theories made any kind of sense.
Danielson's Twitter account was changed to his real name. A solitary tweet was posted, saying he would comment when the time was right. Rumours ran rife, and then what already looked like an astonishing turn of events became downright bizarre.
An in-character John Cena - the face of the WWE - indulged in an unprecedented (for ANY contracted superstar) Twitter rant at the release, going so far as to sign a petition to have Danielson reinstated. What in the world was going on?
As the countdown to RAW continued, Danielson's name became a trending topic worldwide. In less than 48 hours over 10,000 people had signed the petition alongside Cena. Everyone was waiting for RAW, waiting for clarification. All we got was a brief and unsatisfactory explanation from Wade Barrett as to his absence.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, another Tweet from Danielson's account:
"Still not the right time, other than to say this: I am now available for independent bookings"
So is that it? Is Danielson's release legit? Call it wishful thinking if you want, but I don't think so. I still believe—more firmly than ever, in fact, that we are being subjected to an elaborate con-job. Let me give you my reasons why.
1 - Kayfabe:
When Carlito was released from the WWE not that long ago, he was a Pro on NXT and had just re-formed a tag team with his brother Primo. Upon his release, other than the post on WE.com, there was not a single mentioning on WWE programming where he had gone. Not a single word on NXT, not a single word on RAW. In Danielson's case, we've had the WWE champion speak out, JR speak out, and a certain amount comment on his departure on RAW. Carlito, they wanted us to forget. Danielson, it seems, they want us to talk about.
2 - The Golden Rule of Showbusiness:
Always, always leave the people wanting more. Every single piece of information we've had on this so far has left us with more questions than answers. There's been plenty of speculation as to his release, but no specific reason given by WWE themselves other than Barrett's brief in-character comment on RAW. Why was he released? Why did Cena choose to speak out? Even Danielson's comments on Twitter about 'Biding his time' have left his fans guessing and breathless with anticipation. Then comes the timing. Hype built on Danielson's release increased after Cena's rant. After being dropped after RAW, it has been re-built again by his latest comment. We are being kept on the edge of our seat while at the same time being given very little to go on.
3 - Enter the Dragon:
It's no secret that the name change to Daniel Bryan never went down well with his loyal following. There have been teases of Bryan's identity from the night of his elimination from NXT. "What's next for Daniel Bryan, I don't know... that guy might be done. But Bryan Danielson... God knows what's next for THAT guy!" again, building hype, keeping people guessing and speculating. OK, so on Danielson's next RAW appearances, this was put on the back burner, but the seeds had been planted. Again, on "Daniel Bryan's Twitter, the name Danielson was pushed forward. A repackaging of Bryan Danielson, a change to his own name and character has been teased for some time. By taking the Daniel Bryan character off TV, this 'release' can quite easily tie into that.
4 - The Vengeful Man:
Bryan's entire NXT and WWE career so far has been one of a man wronged: taunted by his mentor, scorned by the announcer, cut-off by the host, put up against seemingly impossible odds, and constantly topping the polls, yet eliminated from the NXT competition for being modest, by a decision outside the rules. Now, released from the WWE with no explanation given. And yet at the same time, his colleagues have praised him—Punk, Jericho, Regal all breaking their heel persona's to describe him as a potential star. Cena's rant on Twitter is an extension of this—someone coming to his side saying he had been hard done by, and wanting to see him get another chance. Bryan came into the WWE with a big reputation, and was the instant favourite to win NXT. The WWE have successfully reinvented him, if not as an underdog, then definitely as a man with something to prove.
5 - A New Form of Entertainment:
WWE have been pushing interactivity through social media heavily for some time now. Their stars are all being registered with social media accounts, and all appear encouraged to use them to interact with the WWE Universe. ALL of the NXT rookies of both seasons have been signed up to Twitter along with their pros. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and more are all strongly presented on WWE.com, and indeed have all been used widely on NXT to refer to both Bryan's fan base and point people toward his independent background. It cannot be a coincidence that the more surprising elements of this story have all come through social media: Danielson's name change, Cena's rant; is the WWE toying with us? Do we take a one-line statement on a Twitter account CREATED by the WWE as Gospel truth? Or is this an experiment in fan interaction? There is no doubt that the comments on Twitter have successfully built massive hype around the situation, and most likely influenced the number of people tuning into RAW this week to look for answers. This, for me, is the key area—the way the entire story has been played out almost completely online. And if it IS an experiment, who better to use as a test subject than the "Internet Darling/Youtube Sensation" that is Bryan Danielson?
Given all of the above, I firmly believe there's more to this story than meets the eye. As I said, maybe it's just wishful thinking; maybe I simply don't want to risk being subjected to a long con by the WWE. That's probably the case, but as things stand, I'm not going to believe that the WWE's release statement is the final word until I see Bryan Danielson signed up to a deal elsewhere. After all, in the strange and wonderful world of the WWE, the truth is often stranger (if not more entertaining than) the fiction.
This article was written the evening of Wednesday 16th of June. Since then, there have been a number of additional twists and turns in this story. The face of WWE, John Cena, has discussed the situation at length on radio, openly explaining the reasons for his Twitter comments and suggesting that a large enough reaction from the fans would be impossible for the WWE's money men to ignore. The WWE themselves have capitalised on the hype generated by Bryan's departure by posting a poll on their WWE Universe Facebook page, and at least one more of their contracted performers has commented on the situation. And of course, tellingly, Bryan Danielson himself has announced a number of appearances for independent promotions.
From the WWE's perspective, it may well be that any publicity is good publicity, and I expect this story to run and run.
Bring Back Bryan Danielson Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/bdaniels/
WWE Universe Facebook Poll: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=5034548&id=7175346442