When Daniel Bryan captured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX, optimism for his character was running wild. Occasional nightmares of Rey Mysterio‘s run as World Heavyweight Champion did creep into my mind, but I did my best to block them out. After all, the WWE would never make the same mistake again, right?
Sadly, this company has no intention of portraying Bryan as a legitimate, special champion. They’ve also made it clear in little over a month’s time that he doesn’t sniff the upper echelon of protected WWE performers.
Case in point: Bryan’s current feud with Kane. What vaunted heavyweight champion runs away from his competition? How many babyface world title holders in the history of the promotion have been forced to hide from “monsters”? Can you imagine Hulk Hogan in 1987 getting into his car and speeding out of an arena in fear of Andre the Giant? Yeah, I can’t either.
Apparently, the WWE is more interested in getting Kane over as a comic book villain than making Bryan out to be something special. Every time he and Brie Bella high-tail it out of an arena, part of Bryan’s aura dies.
In reality, this is par for the course. Anyone who has followed the WWE for an appreciable period of time knows this is their M.O. When the fans want somebody in the top spot, and that somebody doesn’t jive with the opinion of the front office, the company will go out of their way to prove their paying customers wrong. They do this by booking the performer into oblivion, giving the fans no reason to care about their favorite star.
Bryan isn’t dead yet, but he’s well on his way. The longer this feud with Kane lasts, the quicker the downward spiral will commence. The good news, if there is any, is that the program will likely end at WWE Payback on Jun. 1. The plan is for Bryan to defend the championship against Kane in a Buried Alive match. Chances are it will be Kane, and not Bryan, who finds himself six feet under.
To be fair to WWE, the program with Kane was not supposed to last beyond Extreme Rules. Vince McMahon wanted Batista to challenge (and lose to) Bryan at Payback, but Batista balked at the idea. It’s hard to blame him – who wants to lose to a geek? It’s not a good sign when top stars are refusing to job to your world champion one month into his title reign.
Will Bryan’s run as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion wind up being a success? Like anything else in wrestling, it’s going to depend on how well he’s booked going forward. Do I have confidence things will turn around? Absolutely not.