Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: Why Daniel Bryan Should Have Won The Royal Rumble & Why The Roman Reigns Apologists Are Horribly Deluded
By Maverick
Jan 27, 2015 - 3:52:03 PM

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Why Daniel Bryan Should Have Won The Royal Rumble & Why The Roman Reigns Apologists Are Horribly Deluded

I wasn’t expecting to be angry on Sunday night. There has never been a Royal Rumble event that I have not enjoyed on the night, even ones which I later recognised as substandard such as 2011 and 2012. However, as I wrote my review at 4am Monday morning UK time, fresh from the experience of seeing The Rock and Roman Reigns physically intimidate a WWE interviewer in ludicrously petulant fashion, clearly thrown by the crowd response to the former Hounds of Justice member’s win, I began to seethe. As I said at the outset, this surprised me. Last year, when Daniel Bryan did not appear for the Royal Rumble match, I was basically fine with it. Not only was he never officially announced for the match, I felt sure that the wave of momentum he had been riding would eventually see him added to the Wrestlemania main event. Even if he had not been, the Yes Man had been the focus of the summer and autumn months of 2013 and would have come around again eventually. I wanted him to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania XXX just like everybody else did, but I didn’t invest everything in him materialising as a surprise entrant and winning that 2014 Rumble. Moreover, although I do consider myself a fan of Daniel Bryan, I am not that big a fan. CM Punk was my guy back on the night of January 26th 2014, and as I type this right now, it’s Dean Ambrose. So I don’t write from the position of being a raving mark for someone and being butt hurt that they didn’t win. I write from the position of being absolutely certain that WWE have made an error of truly lamentable and historic proportions by ignoring the enormous popularity of the man from Aberdeen, Washington.

First of all, let me explain why it was absolutely essential in my view that Bryan win this year’s Royal Rumble and go on to topple Lesnar to regain the championship that he never actually lost in the first place. As soon as Bryan was brought out just before New Year to announce his in ring return and his candidacy for the Rumble match, raising the possibility of redemption, it was obviously the most compelling story that WWE could tell on the Road To Wrestlemania. Furthermore, with Bryan obviously being the guy The Authority did not want carrying the title, an obstacle- Rollins, Sheamus, whoever- could have been placed in his way at Fast Lane, which would have been highly interesting wrestling television in its own right. So quite aside from the Reigns issue, which I will get to in a moment, it was quite simply the right choice in storytelling terms, even more so than it was last year. I have read people say that it would never have matched up to last year, to which I say this: poppycock. A redemptive title win through the medium of a Rumble win in front of one of the most rabid wrestling crowds on earth, followed by an Eddie Guerrero tribute match with the Beast Incarnate? How could anyone possibly think that would be a second best storyline? And by the way, nobody complained when Stone Cold Steve Austin won at both Wrestlemanias XIV and XV. I don’t remember anyone thinking that winning the title against The Rock “wouldn’t be the same” as winning the title against Shawn Michaels.

Now we come to the thorny subject of a certain Roman Reigns. WWE clearly, around this time last year, decided that he would be their next superstar. This was fair enough. He has size, looks, charisma and has a CV full of excellent six man and tag matches. With a year to go until Wrestlemania XXXI, they could build him up to the point where his ultimate title win would mean something to the fanbase. In booking him against Evolution along with his brethren, they took their first step towards this as a badass Reigns called out Triple H repeatedly in the Hounds of Justice’s promos in the run up to Payback. All seemed set for a break out year for him. But then, as we know, something quite strange happened. The spotlight shone on Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, and they took the opportunity with both hands. Meanwhile, Reigns was lost. His character development was stunted by some bizarre writing, and his previously sure self in front of the camera became instead an awkward frat boy caught stealing test answers from the Dean’s office. What’s more, his development in the ring was severely arrested, as a pair of multi-man clusterfucks and a pair of bore fests up against Randy Orton did nothing to prepare him for the kind of longer matches he would be required to work in the run up to a title push.

Now, at this point, with a whole eight or nine months to go until Wrestlemania, it was more than possible for WWE to salvage the mess they had created for themselves with Roman’s singles career. But then he got injured. While Reigns missed October, November and most of December, Ambrose, Rollins, Wyatt and Harper put on some superb in ring clinics, while a worker from the previous generation of developmental call ups, Dolph Ziggler, rose from the dead, in company standing terms, to be the sole survivor in the best Survivor Series match in a decade. Never had so many of his peers looked so ready, and never had Roman Reigns looked so green, as he came back to engage in a never ending Big Show feud, during which he has continued to have a steady stream of garbage written for him. This is not his fault, but crowds have not taken to the comeback in the way they might have when they popped for his return at TLC.

Let me state this categorically: I am a fan of Roman Reigns. His work in The Shield was rightfully praised, and he was correctly pegged by most as a huge star for the decade ahead. But given everything I have detailed above, there is one simple fact that should have ruled against him winning on Sunday. WWE just do not have enough time for him to become good enough to convince in a match with Brock Lesnar on the grandest stage. It does not matter whether he is related to the Wild Samoans, The Rock, Yokozuna or Ra the Egyptian sun god, he is not ready for this. You can manufacture all of the studio sit down interviews and stare downs you want to, I do not buy this as a Wrestlemania main event and neither will most fans. I have read a good deal of nonsense about what is or isn’t a WWE main event talent. This is not the 1980s. There is really not that much of a “casual” fan base, not anymore. Almost everybody is clued in. Where, pray, are all these people complaining about Bryan being undersized? Where are they? People in the arenas cheer Daniel Bryan and “YES” their hearts out. People in the arenas lose their shit when Dean Ambrose bursts out of a car boot and sets about Seth Rollins with a tire iron. People in arenas love to boo Seth Rollins the RIGHT WAY for being the best heel in the business right now. People in the arenas love to see Dolph Ziggler strut his stuff and show off. So why would anyone think that Reigns is a better bet for a Wrestlemania main event than those guys? We are told that all of the above names sell a lot of merchandise (though not as much as John Cena or CM Punk did), and we know how people have reacted to their big moments. How did people react to Roman Reigns’ big moment? They booed him out of the building. Some will say that this was because he was not Daniel Bryan. I say that if he was ready to be top babyface, they would not have done that to him. I tell you this for a certainty, if Bryan had been eliminated but Ziggler or Ambrose had won, that crowd would have loved it and would have gone home very happy.

I am not saying that Roman Reigns will never be ready. I want to see him be champion one day. What I object to is the loathsome idea that someone new has to beat Lesnar to “become the guy”. Why is everyone so keen to pass torches around all the bloody time? Why does it have to be a generational moment every time someone wins a title? I look at it this way: who is in form, healthy and over enough to warrant a main event shot? Decide who those guys are and slot them in. Who will have a good match with who? What feuds will click? Who works a celebrity angle. And so on. Give the world the best card of professional wrestling you can. That’s ALL you need to do. The man who wins your main event does not have to be a guy, the guy, or any other stupidly portentous piece of semantics. He just needs to be the person who is the position to work best for that particular season. Who was positioned best for this Road To Wrestlemania? Daniel Bryan. But not anymore.

You all know me as one of the most positive columnists on the site. I am not a knee jerk guy in the least. You won’t hear me tell people to #cancelWWENetwork because I won’t be doing that myself. Firstly because I waited almost a year for the thing, and love it, secondly because Wrestlemania is not a one match card, and there will be plenty to enjoy regardless of what goes on last, and finally because all may yet change with Fast Lane ahead of us. All I am pointing out is that Roman Reigns is in grave danger of becoming a pariah figure when more patience might have seen him stand tall at Wrestlemania XXXII in Dallas as a universally popular champion. Might this all be a ruse to turn him heel like ‘98 Rock? Maybe, and if that’s so, I admire the balls of the booking, but those interviews, which I reluctantly watched, sure seem to be pointing down the “third generation blah blah blah I am a babyface” route to me. When you ignore your audience once, you play with fire. When you don’t learn your lesson and ignore them again, you risk ruining a bright young star and driving away fans in droves. As I say, I will most certainly not be one of those leaving or checking out, but that does not mean that I am not angry. I did not expect to be angry on Monday morning at 4am when I began my Royal Rumble review. But I was. And I still am. And have every right to be.

This is Maverick, requesting flyby.