Stars are born on the road to WrestleMania, and Daniel Bryan is a star in the making.
The reactions Bryan receives on TV are akin to those of Steve Austin and the Rock when they were starting to explode. Has Bryan moved business the way Rock and Austin did? Of course not, but he hasn’t been given the chance. Every time Bryan seems ready to emerge, Vince McMahon pulls the carpet out from underneath him. In many ways, the 2014 Royal Rumble PPV was a perfect example of the stop-and-start push that has frustrated Bryan and his fans.
First of all, given the way the night played itself out, Bryan should not have lost clean to Bray Wyatt. While I understand the importance of making Wyatt look strong, Bryan needs to be winning as many matches as possible right now. The match itself was really, really good, but the WWE should have known better than to go with a clean finish when they could have easily done a run-in or disqualification.
It was such a good match that Bryan and Wyatt would have stayed strong despite a non-finish. Instead, the WWE painted Bryan as the clear-cut loser and the fans in attendance let the company hear it for the rest of the night.
The return of Dave Batista to WWE has also hurt Bryan’s push. Batista is already a star in the eyes of the fans. He does not need to win the Royal Rumble to solidify his place as a top competitor. If anything, now is the time for Batista to give back and help other burgeoning young wrestlers. The fans in Pittsburgh felt the same way and loudly booed Batista as he hurled another blossoming young wrestler, Roman Reigns, over the top rope to win the match.
Had Bryan won the Royal Rumble on that night in front of those fans, there’s no telling what it would have done for his career. Through it all, he wasn’t even an entrant in the match and the fans were resigned to chant his name in matches he wasn’t even involved in.
Professional wrestling is an industry that should understand the importance of striking while the iron is hot. Bryan is piping hot right now, but it seems like the circumstances surrounding WrestleMania won’t allow the WWE to take advantage of it. Or, maybe they just don’t want to.