The last three months of booking in both WWE and TNA has been nothing short of atrocious. WWE has occasional bright spots but the booking largely has been depressing to watch because of the yo-yo like nature and complete lack of confidence in Daniel Bryan. TNA has been all about The Dixie Train and has been as big of a train wreck as one could expect with a money mark on the verge of imploding.
The booking has been so bad, it has often made me question whether all of us are out of touch with the current tastes of wrestling fans. For every positive item I’d write, I found myself aghast with at least three or four different incidents that made me shake my head and go, “Why is this burial happening on television?”
The mediocrity from today’s powers-that-be is enough to shake your confidence. The mediocrity from today’s powers-that-be is enough to shake your confidence. Thankfully, a respected voice has come out to preach the God’s honest truth. When Jim Ross speaks, you listen. When Jim Ross gives advice, you take notes. Jim Ross is to professional wrestling what Keith Jackson is to college football.
After watching AJ Styles make Dixie Carter “pay” by taking the TNA title and “leaving” the promotion, JR succinctly commented that he didn’t get what sports entertainment or pro-wrestling is today. You could hear wrestling fans all around the world scream, “Hallelujah!”
Jim Ross isn’t out of touch with reality. We’re not out of touch with reality as wrestling fans. Want proof? Take a look at the financials for both WWE & TNA right now. There’s a reason people aren’t buying the crap that is being pushed. It’s the people right now running the business who are delusional and stuck in a masochistic fantasy bubble where the fans are looked upon as completely stupid and wrong-headed in taste.
No example underscores this premise better than the last three months of the Daniel Bryan experiment. One principle has been universal this year in both WWE and TNA — when management gets out of the way of the wrestlers and lets them do their thing, the product on television can be high on quality. The program with Randy Orton, Kane, and Bryan versus The Shield was great to watch. The reason it worked so well is because there was no jealousy from the top. Vince and Hunter weren’t looking to try to sabotage Bryan because they didn’t see him as a threat. They let him wrestle and let him grow his fan support organically. And it worked! What a concept.
So, naturally, WWE did a very WWE-ish booking decision. They moved Daniel Bryan to the top of the card in an effort to claim that they truly gave him a shot at success but really pulled the rug out from under him as soon as they could find an excuse — any excuse — to bury him. Nobody knows how to bury other people in the business better than Triple H & Vince McMahon. They seem to relish it.
When John Cena “passed the torch” to Daniel Bryan at Summerslam, I noted at the time that this would be a make-or-break moment for WWE. Either they were going to go all-in with Bryan and give the man a vote of confidence or else they were going to show zero confidence in him and proceed to puff up his programs with all sorts of gimmicks and sideshow acts. Even before the Summerslam match happened, we got a good indication of how WWE management felt about Bryan’s ascendancy to the top. They said he wasn’t corporate, that he needed to shave his heard. Fine — anti-establishment angles are nothing new in wrestling. So, naturally, this was just another angle, right?
It turns out that WWE management really feels the same way about Daniel Bryan privately as they do publicly. They really do think he is a B-level player. Leave it to Jim Ross to point out the absurdity of this mindset.
Based on the WWE conference call this morning, executives were apparently disappointed with the Summer Slam PPV buys and the term ‘attraction’ was used as the reason. Couldn’t agree more. PPV’s are all attraction driven and they’ve always been.
However, the more that is given away on free TV and the more free TV that is provided in general the harder it is for attractions to be considered worth spending extra, big bucks on and adding to one’s cable or satellite bill.
So, let’s get this straight — Vince McMahon puts Daniel Bryan in the main event of Summerslam but does so half-heartedly and wants the fans to know this by mocking Bryan as not ready to be the face of the WWE. Then Cena does the right thing and puts over Bryan only for Vince to screw Bryan over by having Orton win the WWE title seconds later. And once the Summerslam PPV buy rate comes in below expectations, who gets the blame and heat? Daniel Bryan. Not John Cena, who is rushed back only two months after a torn triceps and given the Hulk Hogan treatment. Daniel Bryan is the one who gets blamed. As a result of getting the blame, WWE decided to take out their real life frustrations with Bryan by burying the guy each week and screwing over the fans with rotten finishes both on TV & PPV. And when those finishes fall flat on their face, who does WWE blame? Daniel Bryan. Because, hey, obviously the guy can’t draw. If he’s so good, he should be able to draw like Steve Austin even if management is burying him as a B-level player each week on television.
No wonder WWE has to rely on John Cena, Big Show, and Randy Orton as their top guys (again). They have no desire to actually build new stars! And then when they half-heartedly push fresh faces, they blame any failures on the new guys because obviously management knows what’s “best for business” and can’t possibly be at fault for being impatient with pushes or not being meticulous with the booking details.
The irony about Daniel Bryan’s ascension to the top of WWE is that it was WWE’s treatment of him at Wrestlemania in Florida that gave us an organically-charged fan fueled campaign to support him in the first place. Rather than reward the paying customers for knowing what they want, Vince McMahon & associates are going out of their way to punish the paying customers because they don’t appreciate what the fans like. That cuts to the heart of why Jim Ross says there are no new hot stars in WWE right now:
Plus, what new talent in the business today is truly “hot?” What new talent(s) provides must see TV and is in a professional ascension? Until someone new gets hot and connects organically with the audience then the shift in the perception of the genre, in general, isn’t likely to change any time soon.
Daniel Bryan was that guy. He was the hot star. John Cena put the guy over. Cena figured out that he needed a babyface ally on the top of the cards who could really wrestle & please the fans. He knew Daniel Bryan was for real. Three months after Cena did his job at Summerslam, WWE decided to come up with as many emasculating ways as possible to blow the Daniel Bryan experiment up. Their addiction to short-term ratings numbers & PPV buy rates has savaged their internal process of positioning new wrestlers to carry the company. Look at what WWE has done to Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Damien Sandow, and even Cody Rhodes. Rhodes is only getting a chance now to show what he can do as a babyface and that’s in the tag team ranks.
We’re not the stupid ones here. The puppet-masters running the wrestling show on the stage are right now. Jim Ross knows this. You know it and I know it.