It seems as though the WWE has been reluctant to greenlight a Daniel Bryan push to the top position in the company. While he’s clearly being positioned in the main event slot at WrestleMania XXX, there’s still no telling if he leaves New Orleans with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
If Bryan defeats Triple H at WrestleMania and goes on to win the triple threat main event with Dave Batista and Randy Orton, it’s a good sign that the company intends to go with him as their top guy. Bryan doesn’t necessarily need to win the title at WrestleMania, but it makes the most sense at this juncture. Winning the belt down the road won’t mean as much as a main event victory at the show of shows.
Why all the hesitation? Simply put, as over as Bryan is on TV and as much as people love to chant “YES,” it hasn’t necessarily translated at the box office. As of last month, Bryan was still No. 4 in merchandise sales for the company, with John Cena leagues above the rest of the competition. House show business is right about where it usually is.
Is it fair for WWE to have qualms over making Bryan their top guy? Well, “YES.” If they feel he is unable to move the needle at the level they require, they are absolutely justified. Had it not been for the overwhelming fan reaction in Bryan’s favor, it’s questionable if he’s not in the same spot he was a year ago.
On the flip side, there’s no evidence to suggest Bryan won’t draw on top if given a full-blown run in the spotlight. It’s unfair to criticize Bryan for his supposed lack of drawing power mostly because he hasn’t been given the opportunity to be a top guy.
A good comparison can be drawn from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Before Austin was positioned as the top guy in the WWE, he didn’t necessarily boost business or move any needles. Sure, he sold merchandise and got over with the fans, but it wasn’t until he defeated Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV that Austin’s stock rose.
As soon as the WWE made it clear to the fans that Austin was their guy and they were going to run with him, they started to set box office records.
Will Bryan be the next “Stone Cold” Steve Austin? Highly doubtful, but until he’s given a run at the top with everyone in the company behind him, there’s no way to gauge his drawing potential. The ball is in the WWE’s court, and eventually they need to pull the trigger. Hopefully they’ll do it at WrestleMania.
The jury is still out as to whether or not Bryan can be a money player in the wrestling business, but the WWE has to do their part to make sure he’s seen as the top guy.