Monday 17 March 2014

Washington Hero

A special moment seems almost certain to come Daniel Bryan's way at WrestleMania XXX. A match between him and Triple H has been confirmed for the show, with the stipulation being that if he wins Bryan will be added to the evening’s main event, which will pit Batista against WWE champion Randy Orton (although I wouldn't put it passed WWE to alter to this to a more generic inner progressions stip). Bryan seems guaranteed to beat 'The Game', because WWE are not in the habit of advertising matches like these and not having the stipulation outcome and because they’d have an incredibly angry, vocal crowd on their hands to ruin the show if ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ won. A Bryan win will undoubtedly provide him with a WrestleMania Moment™. A second one is possible if he wins the title later in the night. But that's nowhere near as definite.

Whatever happens we're definitely getting this match at WrestleMania
I can see two ways for WWE to go with the triple threat main event. The first is to give Bryan a second WrestleMania Moment™ and have him relieve 'The Viper' of the title. The second is to have Batista win and have Bryan start his third reign at Extreme Rules. Basically, the third reign seems like it’s coming soon, it’s just a question of how soon.

Both options have their good points. D-Bry winning the belt(s) at 'Mania would give him a second big moment of the night, provide him with a career highlight (albeit one not as impressive as beating ‘Stone Cold’ and The Rock in a single night), and produce the popular result on the company's most watched show of the year. Two big moments, one of which would be a title victory, would be a great payoff for everyone that's followed and supported Bryan during his journey up the card. WrestleMania should be about feel good moments and drawing a close to long term storylines. That ‘Mania will be WWE's most watched event all year makes it the natural place to do it.

There are, as already mentioned, arguments to be made for holding off on Bryan getting the title back until Extreme Rules. Let's start with the fact that Batista is the hottest heel in wrestling. It may not have been planned and it may be more about not being Daniel Bryan but 'The Animal' is the proverbial heat magnet. The reaction to him winning the title would be extraordinary. If WWE could bring themselves to have such an important show end with boos they could send Batista’s heel character into uncharted territory. The heat he would get on TV shows would be incredible, and if handled right that could be channelled into a successful pay-per-view at Extreme Rules. Make use of him while he has something to offer.

A rematch at Extreme Rules, either a singles encounter between Batista and Bryan or another three-way involving Orton, could be big for WWE (and they should be looking for a strong follow up show to keep encouraging people to sign up to their Network). ER is being held in Washington state, Bryan's birthplace. Having him win the championship in his home state, by pinning mega bad guy Batista, would be a great moment. It would also keep him in the challenger role for another month, one I think his current character is better suited to than champion.

Something similar could be achieved by keeping Orton as champion until Extreme Rules. The main difference is that he's not as hot an act as Batista, although also in 'The Animal's' favour is the fact that he feels like a fresher opponent for Bryan because Orton has been linked with the bearded one, on and off, since last summer.

And of course we can't entirely rule out the prospect of Triple H altering things so he can progress to the title match. I think the chances of that happening if the Bryan v Trips stip is changed is massively unlikely: WrestleMania feels like Bryan's night. That said the scenario of 'The King of Kings' beating Bryan and then being the one to face him at Extreme Rules (however such a match would come about) would have something to it. It would again keep Bryan as an underdog for a month and allow him to go into his home state to get the career highlight victory. I don't think this is likely though. I'm certain Triple H will lose that initial 'Mania bout, no matter what the stipulation may become.

The situation as a whole reminds me of WrestleMania XX. That show saw Chris Benoit go in as one of two challengers, with the following month's Backlash being held in his hometown of Edmonton. It was clearly a sequence designed by WWE to help the charisma deficient Benoit gain acceptance as a leading act. The desired reaction came WWE's way both at 'Mania XX and Backlash '04, but long term Benoit failed to hack it at the top. That was a result of Benoit's inability to connect with fans, not a lack of support from WWE.

Bryan doesn't have that trouble, which is part of the reason I think he'll be headlining for a lot longer than Benoit managed. The similarities between the setups makes me think that WWE are going to do what they did with Benoit and have Bryan win the title at WrestleMania, the right result on the right night, and go into Washington as the hero.

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