Best: The NXT/Chikara Theory Continues
My favorite ongoing crackpot theory is that the WWE Universe is connected to independent wrestling promotion Chikara by WWE developmental territory NXT. It started as a paragraph in an old Best and Worst report and steamrolled into something I had to devote almost an entire podcast to. The crux of the argument is that Bray Wyatt is a bayou-dwelling demon that exists at the nexus of all realities (the “new nexus” of all realities, if you will) and binds the realities together. This is why Brodie Lee and Luke Harper are the exact same person, why Wyatt promos are littered with Chikara references and why guys who’ve BEEN in Chikara — like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan — are drawn to him.
Anyway, I’d let the theory lie dormant for a while, and then Bray Wyatt ambushes Daniel Bryan backstage on Smackdown and sings, “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” If you weren’t aware, Chikara’s currently experiencing a rebirth through a series of video vignettes called “Ashes.”
Just saying. One day Byron Saxton’s gonna show up in a Chikara Ashes video and you’re all gonna call me a prophet.
Best: Keeping This All In Perspective
If you missed the show, Daniel Bryan asked for a match against Bray Wyatt. To punish him, because punishing him is all they do, Brad Maddox put him in a gauntlet match against the entire Wyatt Family. If Bryan could defeat Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, he’d get a shot at Bray. Bryan fights harder than anybody, so he accepted it. He fought valiantly, too. This isn’t the first time he’s been put in a gauntlet match and triumphed. He pinned Luke Harper with a running knee. He inside cradled Erick Rowan and got the three. After that, Rowan continued the attack, but Harper rushed into the ring and … stopped him. It was weird, but not as weird as what was about to happen.
Bray Wyatt acted like he was going to attack, but didn’t. He turned his back and held his arms open for Bryan. THAT’s when the Wyatt Family attacked, drawing a disqualification, or getting the match thrown out, or whatever. It barely made sense. Bryan was battered beyond belief and beaten to the breaking point of sanity when Bray started in with his speech about togetherness and the lack of mercy … and Bryan agreed with him. Bray forced Bryan to crawl, basically bow before him and pledge his allegiance. He hit him with Sister Abigail, which Bryan blissfully accepted. They carried Bryan out, and when he was able to walk, they let him make his own decision. He turned to listen to the cheers of the crowd, and for a second you could see that indignant rage start to build up and break him free of the spell … but ultimately it was realism and true defeat that made him lower his head, shake it, and leave with the Wyatts.
So here’s where we stand: Daniel Bryan has not given up on the fans. He loves them and appreciates them, but he knows that what they do and say doesn’t matter. They can cheer him all the want, management is still going to keep him down. It’s what they do. It’s what the Summer Of Punk was about. Raging against the dying of the light. Fighting an unwinnable fight.
Moreover, this was SOMETHING HAPPENING ON RAW. A storyline progression point. A decision being made. Compelling television. Something to get us talking. WWE audiences are so conditioned to accept the world of John Cena and Nothing Ever Changing that anything beyond the status quo feels like failure. Like regression.
I’m not sure if I can “convince” you to like this if you didn’t, but I’ll do my best to explain why I did, and hopefully you’ll understand.
You might be saying: Daniel Bryan is going back to the mid-card/is being removed from the title picture/is being buried. It’s hard to differentiate being a “smart” fan from being an actual one when it comes to our favorites winning or losing — trust me, I’m the worst about it, I don’t even know where I’m coming from anymore — but remind yourself: wrestling is not real. If you’re upset about wins and losses, you have to be so from a fan perspective, because from an objective one, wins and losses are meaningless. Absolutely meaningless.
The definition of on-screen WWE failure, to me at least, is continued apathy and mediocrity. There are levels to this, of course. You’ve got guys like Kassius Ohno who got buried (for real) by the people in charge of making their careers happen, got embarrassed a few times and got fired. That’s “burial.” If the performer you care about is actually getting buried by the company he or she works for, it’s not gonna happen on television. Burial is the removal FROM television. If it happens on the show, it’s a work, because wrestling is a television show and not real sports. Then you’ve got guys like Ziggler or Zack Ryder. Guys who sorta “caught” and started selling merch and looking like they were going to be an important part of the show only to get shuffled back down into oblivion where you’re actually surprised if they ever show up or win anything. They have their jobs, so they aren’t being “buried,” but they’re being creatively ignored. That’s almost worse. Whether they deserve it or not is beside the point.
I cannot stress this enough, and if you never believe another sentence I type, believe this one: Wins and losses aside, a guy who just won three matches in the main event slot of WWE’s flagship television program and had about an hour of live programming dedicated to his angle is not being buried. He’s not “in the mid-card.” I’m aware that I’ve done some STOP REMOVING HIM FROM MAIN EVENTS complaining, but I was dumb and wrong. John Cena is the only person in WWE who isn’t “mid-card.” It’s John Cena and then everybody else. Bryan is important to the show, incredibly popular, moving a bunch of merchandise, having great wrestling matches on pay and free TV and has a creative team actively writing stories for him, whether they go anywhere or end well or not. That is the only objective definition of non-John Cena success in pro wrestling. “Mid-card” isn’t real. What the f*ck do you want?
You might be saying: This isn’t going to go anywhere. It’s going to end with John Cena “saving” Bryan or Triple H being involved and dragging Bryan down further. You’re probably right on this one. My cold wrestling heart doesn’t see Bryan triumphing on his own, or doing that cool thing I want him to do where Kane’s his “inside man” and they realize the Wyatts want to bring down the machine as much as they do to usurp Triple H from power and bring true, community-run anarchy to WWE. It’s probably going to be Cena vs. Wyatt in a Daniel Bryan on a Pole match. I feel your pain. I really do. But a few weeks ago I decided I was gonna try to enjoy these blissful little moments of success instead of obsessing about the awful place they’re gonna go, and dammit, I have to keep trying.
You might be saying: The Wyatt Family is boring and they’re bad wrestlers! I want Daniel Bryan wrestling good matches! You might be an idiot. Pay attention.
Best: CM Punk As A Counterpoint To Daniel Bryan
When CM Punk was raging against the machine, he claimed that he was the “voice of the voiceless,” a guy who was gonna say and do what the people wanted to say and wanted done to bring down John Cena, Vince McMahon and the oppressive hierarchy WWE had built for itself to keep people like him from succeeding. He did it, too. He won the WWE Championship, held it for ransom and had the entire wrestling world talking about him. It blew the doors off WWE. Then, because Punk’s goals are ultimately always just “make CM Punk succeed above all others,” he carefully glued the doors back into place, walked into the room and carefully shut them behind him.
Daniel Bryan’s trying desperately to break through those same doors. He’s fighting the same people Punk raged against. Trying to break the mold of what an acceptable Face Of The WWE looks like. Proving that talent and heart and dedication are all you need to succeed, not connections and good looks and timing. It’s interesting that while Bryan was trying so hard to grab the brass ring only for it to slip through his fingers that Punk was busy in his “own universe,” dealing with a betrayal in ONE MATCH for six months. When Punk came back to Earth, he stepped in alongside Bryan long enough to wrestle a few tag matches, but nothing ever came of it. He limply tried to save Bryan from the Wyatts once but got jumped by The Shield, so he’s still trying to fight them instead of doing ANYTHING to help the voiceless. He poses for goofy photo ops as John Cena’s little buddy, sorta like how he gleefully put on Triple H’s blazer only a few months after being consistently humiliated by him. In last night’s Backstage Fallout, Punk offers an explanation … that Bryan is “a man” and can “stand on his own two feet.” He’ll have to deal with it himself. Because Punk has better things to do.
Who’s the only person actually trying to help Bryan? Not the Big Show. Show only helped him out long enough to get his job back. It’s Cena. The same guy who fought valiantly for CM Punk’s right to be the true WWE Champion and eventually turned him into John Cena Tag Team Partner #2. Now Cena’s stepping in to cool Bryan’s fire, giving him “little buddy” status. Cena’s the one who’ll fight the Wyatts to save Bryan. He’s the one who’ll tag up and face insurmountable odds. Why? Because he’s nice?
No. Because he’s the Big Bad of WWE. He’s evil. He is the living, breathing Status Quo, and his job is to assimilate the nonconformists and make them just like him. He did it with Punk, and now he’ll do it with Bryan. Make them wear t-shirts and twirl them over their heads and love the Troops and go out there and entertain Each And Every One Of You. No individuality. No individual success. Success for the unit. For the team. Why do you think all the legends tell contenders they aren’t REALLY good unless they’ve beaten John Cena, and when they do, why it still isn’t good enough? Because “John Cena” is the only answer. He is the all-consuming monster at the end of this book.
Bray Wyatt might end up being the only thing to save Daniel Bryan. Think about it.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Next season on TOTAL DIVAS: Bryan takes Brie to live in the swamp!
“Are you kidding merightnow???”
Only on E!
The fact that every part of that made sense, makes absolutely none of it make sense
I hope he goes back and gets the rocking chair.
If we don’t have IRS running into the Wyatt’s next week, Old School Raw is a failure this year.
And then we’re going to Elimination Chamber. to take back the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Yeeeeeaaaaaargh!”
Brock Lesnar looks like Biff Tannen if he ODed on HGH or the nerve tonic Ken Griffey Jr. did.
I think A.J. Lee and Khali should form a mystically themed mixed tag team named “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board”
That podium is the only way Barrett can get elevated in the WWE
If that platform lowers while he just stares at them I will pay them money
Steph may as well have come out and said tomorrow is Tuesday.
See you next year, everybody.
I want more like this!
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