G’day Lords of Pain, welcome back to YES Relived, the series that is taking us back to relive one of pro wrestling’s greatest ever stories, the rise of Daniel Bryan and The Yes Movement. Starting at Summer Slam 2013 and going through to Wrestlemania 30 I will be rewatching, reviewing and analysing Daniel Bryan’s story on a week by week basis with PPVs getting their own column too.
Last week we got to witness the oh so satisfying desecration of Randy Orton’s brand new Escalade and a fantastic match between Bryan and Seth Rollins as part of a Gauntlet match Bryan was forced into against The Shield. If you missed out on it all then you can catch it here gifs and all.
This week we will get a second helping of that delicious Rollins pie and also witness as The Authority stretch its totalitarian powers and force a good man to do bad things. But enough of the preamble, let’s get stuck in and watch as this story evolves. Why not fire up the WWE Network and watch along with me? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below.
The Life of Bryan
Welcome to Raw and we are greeted with the now familiar site of Triple H in the center of the ring, decked out in suit and tie, with The Shield standing guard at the bottom of the ramp. The COO wastes little time in introducing “the face of the company”, Randy Orton.
As Orton comes to the ring, Michael Cole does a great job setting a foreboding tone for the night, saying that a number of wrestlers have approached him backstage to express concern at the displays of power they have been forced to watch over the last few weeks, labelling it a ‘reign of terror’. The puppet of The Authority on commentary, JBL, immediately counters Cole’s suggestion but does little to alleviate any fears.
Orton eventually gets to the ring and picks up a mic to talk. I am never going to be overly excited by Randy Orton starting off Raw with a microphone in his hand so I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account of what he has to say. Basically he is angry about Bryan defacing his Escalade last week and thinks Bryan should give up his championship match at Night of Champions.
Triple H picks things up saying that he is worried about Daniel Bryan getting himself into dangerous situations by confusing popularity with what is best for business. He then says in 1992 there was someone who was popular but had no business being WWE Champion, Doink the Clown. Triple H says like Doink, Bryan needs to know his role, maybe they can bring back the Cruiserweight or European Titles for him.
At this point Bryan’s music hits and the man of the people comes out ready to punch back hard on the mic and the energy of the crowd rises to match. He has his serious face on tonight and says the only clowns around here are those two in the ring. He says they just don’t know what it means not to give in, Triple H gave up on being a man when he became a corporate sellout and Randy Orton gave up on being part of the WWE title picture until someone handed it to him. Bryan draws audible gasps from the crowd with this last line then asks the crowd if they think he should give up his WWE title shot at Night of Champions. Of course the results is a resounding NO chant.
The energy and intensity of this promo is really building up to something special and Bryan steps it up another level, staring daggers at Orton and Triple H and unleashes the first really great piece of mic work of this series:
“See Randy this is the part that you don’t understand because no one has ever told you that you can’t do something. I have been told my entire career the things I can’t do. I was told I can’t do any better than wrestling in high school gyms and flea markets. I was told I can’t get to the WWE and when I got here I was told I couldn’t be a top guy because all I was was a good little hand. I was told I would never be World Champion. And you know what? All of those things they told me I couldn’t do, all of those things made me the man I am today and made me know, MADE ME KNOW I can do things. I loved the fight, I loved scraping and crawling and every horrible thing I had to do to get here, I loved all of it and you will never understand it because you were given everything.”
Mid-way through this monologue the crowd starts chanting Bryan’s name. By the end Bryan is pointing and yelling wildly at the two men in the ring saying he doesn’t just think he can be champion, he knows it and deep down so do Randy and Hunter. Bryan ends with a final salvo:
“Randy Orton may have the genetics of a champion but Randy you do not have the heart of a champion.”
The crowd could not agree more and in the ring Orton is furious. As retaliation and to close the segment,Triple H books Bryan in a match with The Big Show for the main event.
As the night goes on we get a number of segments that keep the narrative going with Cody Rhodes approaching Triple H and Orton to voice his disagreement with the match. For his ‘dissent’ Rhodes is put in a career threatening match with Orton, which he loses. We also see Big Show initially put up resistance to the match but after Stephanie reminds him of his financial problems he is again pushed into the position of doing The Authority’s bidding.
Finally right before the main event we see Big Show come face to face with Bryan backstage telling him he doesn’t want to fight but he is under a lot of pressure. Bryan simply tells him that he doesn’t care and that he will beat him tonight.
Daniel Bryan v The Big Show
As we get to the main event of the night the rest of the roster files out to the top of the ramp, for the second week in a row they are being forced to watch as Triple H tries to make an example of Bryan.
The match begins with Big Show asking Bryan to leave, saying he doesn’t want to fight him but he can’t afford to lose. Bryan doesn’t want to hear it though and charges at the Big Show, however his strikes are easily overpowered and Big Show grabs him, throwing him out of the ring in another attempt to get Bryan to go away.
Big Show’s further pleas for Bryan to leave fall on deaf ears as Bryan runs back into the ring and takes down the bigger man with a baseball slide to the knees. Bryan’s relentless kicks keep the bigger man grounded as Show tries to get up.
Bryan then goes to his trademark corner dropkicks however on the third attempt Big Show comes back with a Super Kick that knocks Bryan right over. Show keeps telling Bryan ‘he doesn’t want to do this’ and pleads with him to leave so he can stop hurting him all while slapping him around the ring.
After some plodding Big Show offence Bryan manages to counter with another baseball slide, knocking the big man down and follows up with Yes Kicks. Continuing the narrative of the little guy keeping the big man down, Bryan counters Big Show’s attempt to get up with a DDT, flooring the big man again.
After his pin attempt fails at one, Bryan goes up to the top turnbuckle for some high impact but as he goes for his dropkick he is caught mid air in a huge spear.
Show gets up pumped and readies himself for the Knockout Punch but as the crowd chants ‘NO’ Show backs down, putting down his fist and stepping over the ropes. However an all too familiar piece of music hits the speakers as Triple H walks to the ring, mic in hand and tells Show to get back in the ring and finishes the match.
Show initially refuses but as his back is turned The Shield slip into the ring and start triple teaming Bryan, causing the disqualification and the end of this interesting but short match.
Winner: Daniel Bryan by DQ
Rating: 2 YES’s out of 5
Big Show immediately gets back in the ring to save Bryan but is stopped by Triple H who gets in his face. As Big Show watches on and does nothing The Shield hit a Triple Powerbomb on Bryan and then pick him up, holding him up for Big Show. Triple H gets in Show’s face again telling him to knock Bryan out. Show tries to leave again asking to be left alone but now Stephanie, his friend from years back, comes out and tells him to do it for his family.
With tears in his eyes for the second week in a row, Show pulls back his fist and knocks the helpless Bryan out to end the night.
One of the great things about The Authority’s presence in 2013 was how it gave every person on the roster an antagonist on the show to bounce off. Someone for the heels to suck up to and for the faces to get screwed over by. That sentiment rings very true for the start of Smackdown tonight as the show gets under way with a Town Hall Meeting. The wrestlers are on the ramp and in the ring Triple H is flanked by Brad Maddox and Vickie Guerrero. Even though Bryan is nowhere to be seen his absence conspicuously hangs over proceedings.
Triple H kicks things off by talking about Cody Rhodes, who lost his career threatening match against Orton on Raw but says anyone can speak up here ‘without consequences’ and he will ‘address their concerns.
Some of the good guys speak up and are more or less ignored, while some of the heels take the opportunity to kiss some arse. The things I enjoyed about this was how the whole meeting had the distinct feeling of a bad manager at work trying to address the terrible culture they themselves have created by defending their actions and ‘address concerns’ without actually wanting to change anything they are doing. It is such a perfect corporate vibe that I can really relate to from a few workplaces I have been in.
The segment ends with Triple H saying Bryan will face one of the members of The Shield but will get the courtesy of choosing which one.
Later that night Bryan makes his first appearance backstage with Renae where he says everyone knows his match tonight won’t really be one on one so The Shield can decide who will go first before the other two jump in.
Daniel Bryan v Seth Rollins
The Shield and Bryan make their entrances for the main event of the evening to predictable reactions, the Minnesota crowd is ridiculously into Bryan and don’t like The Shield one bit. I don’t know a whole lot about the USA geographically but this place strikes me as one of those blue collar cities that would have loved Austin’s fight with McMahon back in the day and they are sure loving Bryan tonight.
As the ring bell sounds all three Shield members are huddled in their corner. Bryan approaches cautiously, Roman Reigns steps forward as if to take the match but Bryan is blindsided by Seth Rollins to get things underway. After last week’s great tv match looks like we are getting Rollins v Bryan take two and you will not get any complaints from me about that.
Rollins pushes his early advantage with a barrage of stomps but the seesawing nature of their match last week immediately starts up again as Bryan comes off the ropes with a knee and unleashes his Yes Kicks at a furious pace.
As Rollins pulls himself up using the ropes, Bryan hits him with a clothesline that sends them both to the outside. Now if you remember last week it was after this exact move that the other members of The Shield caused a distraction which turned the tide of the match. Bryan has learnt from last week though and as Ambrose and Reigns approach, instead of waiting around, Bryan immediately throws Rollins back into the ring.
More back and forth begins in the ring but this time it is Rollins that gets the advantage, hitting a knee and tossing Bryan to the outside where the other Shield members trash talk as Rollins throws Bryan around.
Once they are back in the ring, Rollins grabs a headlock and Bryan starts to fight back with punches, getting a ‘YES’ chant from the crowd with every strike and downs Rollins with a sick snap German Suplex.
Bryan is getting seriously fired up now and starts to hit the corner dropkicks then goes up to the top turnbuckle and drills Rollins with a missile dropkick off the top. Bryan keeps pushing the pace with some ferocious Yes Kicks that whip Rollins head back hard and even though Rollins ducks the final one and pushes Bryan over the ropes, a furious Bryan lands on the apron and keeps slugging it out, hitting punches and smashing Rollins head into the turnbuckle.
Looking to hit yet another big move Bryan then climbs the top rope but Rollins hits an enzuigiri that knocks Bryan from the top right down to the floor on the outside and the other members of The Shield get involved while the ref’s head is turned.
This match is running at an absolutely crazy pace as the momentum swings back to Bryan and it is Rollins turn to get caught coming off the top top. Bryan clamps Rollins in the Yes Lock, is distracted by Ambrose and Reigns but releases Seth to deliver dropkicks to the other two, knocking them back to the outside.
This is just enough of a break for the seesaw to tip back Seth’s way but as Rollins tries to hit a clothesline off an irish whip Bryan ducks it and continues through the ropes diving head first at Reigns. This kicks off a simply awesome flurry of activity as he then arm drags Ambrose onto the floor and catches Rollins trying to dive through the ropes at him.
Now Ambrose and Reigns are down Bryan senses his chance, immediately rolls in, runs to the corner and hits the flying knee to take the pin.
Winner: Daniel Bryan by pinfall
Rating: 3.25 YES’s out of 5
WOW, that match was barely over six minutes but it packed so much stuff into it, really worth a quick watch if you haven’t seen it before. The pace was insane and even amongst the constant movement the match showed evolution from the one the pair had last week on Raw. Ultimately Bryan took a pretty easy win but this was a pre-Monday Night, pre-Kingslayer, pre-Wwe champion, pre Mr MITB, pre The Future Of The Business Seth Rollins and he just ran into a tornado of focused fury, a guy who had been beaten down one too many times who wanted to assert his dominance.
The second the match is over Bryan rolls out of the ring and retreats up the ramp, escaping the scrambling Shield members looking to get a cheapshot and the crowd is going absolutely berserk for this match and finish.
Bryan leads the crowd in a spirited Yes Chant but we can’t go home happy because he is blindsided by Randy Orton who hits him with the championship belt from behind. Another week, another shot of Orton standing over Bryan to finish on.
One of the most powerful and effective things about the past few weeks of TV has been how the WWE has built up The Authority to be an omnipresent totalitarian regime that touches all aspects of the product. Any fan of history will be able to look at the entity that now rules over the WWE product and see the classic hallmarks of authoritarian regimes of the past.
At the top there is the egomaniac, leader, Triple H who enters to a song that declares in its opening line, “All hail the King of Kings”. As The Soviet Union made heroes out of its athletes, The Authority has its hero in Randy Orton, a man whose mythos is a pure corporate creation. They have their SS or KGB is the muscle of The Shield, the Joseph Goebbels propaganda mouthpiece in JBL, even the sycophantic followers who spout the lines that they know the leaders want to hear from them.
One of the more subtle aspects of the writing is how they are creating their own false narrative that paints them as the hero of what is happening. Lines such as Triple H’s “you’re getting confused between popularity and what is best for business” acknowledges the crowd’s reaction but turns the truth into what The Authority wants people to believe. They also wrap everything they say about Daniel Bryan, the tip of the spear when it comes to resistance, in their own form of propaganda, painting him as an egomaniac who wants to overthrow the ‘selfless work’ The Authority are doing.
Like any battle to overthrow a regime, there are bystanders who get caught in the crossfire as well. Just this week Cody Rhodes lost his job for trying to speak to Triple H about Bryan and there will be more casualties to come. Like Nazi guards who ushered Jews into concentration camps ‘under orders’, this week we saw The Big Show, ‘just following orders’ as he knocked out a man he knew he should be supporting.
Finally there is the public nature of everything they are doing, brining the entire roster out to watch Bryan get beatdown is the public execution warning to any other dissidents that this could happen to them too.
To make the triumph at the end of this story mean something, the WWE needed to create a big dragon for its heroes to slay and over the last few weeks I believe we have seen a masterclass in doing just that.
That does it for this week, join me next Saturday as we build up to Bryan’s championship re-match at Night of Champions with a singles match with my other favourite wrestler of all time, Dean Ambrose. I look forward to seeing you then.
Thanks for checking out Yes Relived, if you would like to talk some more wrestling feel free to follow me on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or even better you can sign up for the newly restored LOP Forums. A great place to start is the series The Lords of Pain Heavyweight Championship, our site’s lineage World Championship title as judged by a panel of LOP Legends. They are currently up to the years of 1981-1985 and you can check it out here.