The current title reign of Daniel Bryan is emblematic of a champion who is still being booked like the mid-card talent the WWE suits believe he is. His reign is nothing more than a placating nod to the wrestling forum outrage and anti-John Cena crowd that shouts the loudest, but he is playing second-fiddle.
Maybe he isn’t even a fiddle, as the entire membership of the Shield, Bray Wyatt, Cena and Triple H are being booked in relevant storylines while he drowns in quicksand feuding with Kane. He has been relegated to Stephanie McMahon’s whipping boy, as the other mentioned stars are being primed for the spotlight. Primed to be the faces of the company the brain trust wants.
This is not a situation unique to Bryan as several former stars have been subjected to such second-rate booking even as they held the title. Most notably, Macho Man Randy Savage, Bret Hart and CM Punk were treated similarly, probably for various reasons, but mainly because Vince McMahon simply didn’t believe in them to be the No. 1 guy or the face he was looking for.
Macho Man always wrestled in the shadow of Hulk Hogan, while Hart took a backseat to Shawn Michaels. Eeven though Michaels was prone to behavioral issues that led to several absences, he was still the guy Mr. McMahon wanted to lead the WWE. CM Punk — the longest-reigning champion in the modern era — notoriously skipped town, tired of being treated like a mid-card wrestler.
Punk was obviously angered at being booked behind Cena, still the golden boy and likewise, this treatment clearly explains the rift that has kept Savage out of the Hall of Fame and is exemplified in the tortured bitterness of Hart, who still discusses the past with a massive chip on his shoulder.
It is highly likely, that had the WWE brain trust believed in Punk, they never would have let the situation unravel and would have done everything to prevent him from leaving, but they just weren’t willing to commit to him long-term.
Similarly, it is difficult to imagine Mr. McMahon orchestrating the 1997 “Montreal Screw Job” on a wrestler he felt was capable of being the face of the company. It is because he never viewed Hart this way, that he was capable of devising such a scenario and who benefited from that heinous injustice, McMahon favorite, Shawn Michaels.
Such preferential treatment was never shown to the likes of Savage, Hart or Punk as they were unceremoniously dismissed or used to prop up the favorites of the McMahon family and all of this leads us back to Bryan. It should be clear to anyone watching that the WWE views the members of the Shield more positively, as they are currently booked in a feud with Triple H and the reformed Evolution, which is far superior to the current storyline involving Bryan.
It’s also clear that they have huge aspirations for Wyatt, who has been engaged in an elongated feud with poster boy, Cena, and has one of the more intriguing storylines going. Meanwhile, Bryan is mired in a mediocre story, with an out-of-shape Kane as the once popular anti-authority plot is nominally represented by the screeching and howling of Stephanie. Additionally, anytime your Diva wife needs to be involved as a selling point, you might be getting booked as a mid-card Champion, regardless if you are main event PPVs or not.
It should have been evident while watching Extreme Rules that the crowd, while behind Bryan, seems to have moved on, despite the insistence of those who think otherwise simply because fans chant “Yes” a lot. Those same fans still chant “What” and Steve Austin hasn’t been in a match in over 10 years, so repetition of your catchphrase is not an indication of overall popularity. Besides, those same fans chant “We the People” and you’d be hard-pressed to convince anyone that Jack Swagger is popular.
Bryan is a mid-card talent masquerading as the WWE Champion and fans can chant “Yes” all they want, while the internet forums with “hardcore” fans express all the outrage they can muster, because it won’t change a thing. The “Authority” has spoken, and Bryan will never be the face of the company.