At the beginning of Monday Night Raw, former WWE champion John Cena announced he was taking time away to recover from a torn triceps injury, just one night after dropping the title to long-shot contender Daniel Bryan.
As is the norm for a face-face rivalry (two good guys), Bryan wasn’t the overwhelming recipient of cheers in the weeks leading up to his tilt with Cena at Summerslam. Of course he’d enter the arena to a chorus of “Yes, Yes, Yes!” chants, but any mention of taking the title from the champ or becoming WWE’s “franchise guy” was met with a lukewarm response.
Bryan wouldn’t be in the spotlight of any significant rivalry with Cena lurking as a contender. That’s exactly why his exclusion from the roster for the foreseeable future is perfect for Bryan.
On Sunday night, Bryan fought his heart out to take the title from the overmatched champion Cena. It was a dream come true lived out on the big stage as Triple H, special guest referee and current COO of the WWE, smiled and embraced the undersized titleholder.
Cena mustered the energy to stand and shake Bryan’s hand at the match’s conclusion, finally showing the runt of professional wrestling the respect he deserves. Just as Bryan began to win over the crowd in attendance, Randy Orton‘s music hit and he hinted at cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase for an instant title shot.
Bryan didn’t back down – he threw his hands in the air, commanding the audience to join him in a “Yes” chant, urging Orton to hit the ring.
And just like that, WWE had us in their hands. Finally, there was no one calling for Cena. It was just Bryan and Orton, matched as equals.
Triple H then turned on Bryan, doing exactly what his father-in-law Vince McMahon wanted by costing Bryan the championship. The COO hit him with a pedigree and counted the slow, meticulous three, allowing Orton to cash in his briefcase with no fight whatsoever. It was a great twist to a phenomenal match and led to an intriguing night of action on WWE’s flagship show the next evening.
As Cena slumped toward the shadows Monday night, Bryan took over the show. His segments started and ended the evening as those in power continue their push of Bryan toward the upper echelon of main event talent.
He was kicked out of the arena by Stephanie McMahon, who berated him and his size at the show’s opening – areas the WWE has pinpointed over the last few weeks.
Then he hit the stage during Orton’s “Championship Coronation,” only to be beaten down by The Shield before Triple H allowed him to crawl into the ring. As Bryan began to stand, Orton nailed him with an RKO and the Corporation (Orton, Triple H and the McMahons) celebrated in the ring.
Now WWE has exactly what they want in an undersized talent who fans can rally around.
Bryan will be put through the ringer over the next few weeks, but management knows they have their guy. Each time he fails, fans will chant “Yes, Yes, Yes!” louder and louder, until he finally raises the championship belt yet again.