G’day Lords of Pain, welcome back to YES Relived, the weekly series where we go 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.
This week we reach our fourth title match of the series, as Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton fight over the vacated WWE Championship. The tile was stripped after Triple H accused Bryan of conspiring with referee Scott Armstrong to deliver a fast count at Night of Champions. Over the past few weeks Orton has claimed to have regained the fire that saw him scythe through the WWE roster years ago and Daniel Bryan has led a rebellion of ten other stars against The Authority. Tonight though it is time to put up or shut up for both men as they battle for the championship one on one at Battleground.
As a little bonus too I will be doing my first Sideplot Sidebar of the series and recap the incredible Rhodes Family saga that saw Cody Rhodes lose his job and his brother and father beaten down in the month leading up to Battleground. Folks you do not want to miss this one so strap in as we go back to Battleground 2013 for YES Relived
The Life Of Bryan
The lead up to tonight’s match between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton has been a long and winding road. In many ways these two are almost perfect opponents for this reality fueled feud that is based on the divide between the WWE and its audience. They represent polar opposites of what a WWE wrestler should look like: the blueprint for a traditional WWE wrestlers that Vince McMahon has always drooled over against the hard working indy darling that for so long the WWE shunned and labeled as too small and not marketable enough.
While Bryan is a self made man, who scratched and clawed his way to prominence in the post Monday Night Wars wild west of indy wrestling, there could be no more pure example of the WWE machine than Randy Orton. The son of a Hall of Famer who was himself born into the business, well over six foot and muscular, Randy Orton was always going to be a star in the WWE system. As JBL says, if you were going to create a WWE superstar from scratch they would look like Randy Orton.
Taking this natural contrast in history, personality and presentation and placing it in front of a crowd desperate to see change at the top of the WWE card poured gasoline on Daniel Bryan’s already burgeoning popularity. The countinuouise hoops The Authority made Bryan jump through only further played into the feeling in the wrestling community of backstage double standards where men like Bryan’s small mistakes were met with massive consequences, while Orton’s ilk had their transgressions swept under the carpet.
Coming into Battleground this meant all main event crowds were one-sided, gone were the splits of the Cena era or the negativity of the current generation, in its place stood a universally beloved hero against a universally disliked corporation.
The final interaction before tonight’s match saw Bryan once again get the best of his more fancied opponent. It has been clear that while Bryan has had to deal with The Authority’s underhanded tactics, when he step in the ring with Orton, Bryan is more than equal to the challenge but can he put it together tonight at Battleground?
Daniel Bryan v Randy Orton (WWE Championship Match)
As with many of his matches Bryan starts off getting the majority of the offence, backing Orton up into a corner and peppering him with kicks and strikes before the pair trade headlocks in classic Orton manner. Unfortunately for Orton though Bryan is a master counter wrestler and he quickly escapes the headlock, turning it into a modified Figure Four which allows him to posture up and get in some nasty ground and pound.
As we will see throughout this match, even though he may be smaller, Daniel Bryan is no underdo, more like a tenacious pitbull that constantly gives as good as he gets. However the second narrative of the match, Orton’s improvisational ability to deal out pain, begins to reveal itself as Orton crotches Bryan on the ropes and hits the prone Bryan with a clothesline, knocking him awkwardly onto his head as he comes off the ropes.
As Orton goes on the offence all the classics are there, the clothesline, the stomps, the powerslam and of course, the almighty chinlock. Bryan has scouted Orton too well by now though and is able to stay one step ahead and finds a way back on the front foot. Even when it looks like Orton has caught him out, tossing Bryan over the ropes as he charges off them, Bryan turns things back around, holding onto the top rope, catching Orton in a headscissors and throwing him to the outside before following through with a suicide dive.
The crowd is starting to work their way into this match as Bryan doles out punishment on the outside but unfortunately Bryan’s rally is short lived. As the pair move back into the ring Orton catches Bryan in a powerbomb as Bryan dives off the top turnbuckle.
At this point the match takes a turn for the worse, all the steam and momentum that has been building up is gradually sucked out of the match as Orton clamps on the most awkward looking Boston Crab you have seen. You can tell he has not put one on anyone for a while, standing straight up a wide, straight legged stance and not leaning into it or tightening it up at all. Embarrassing looking stuff from a guy that has been wrestling over ten years at this point.
After Bryan mercifully breaks the hold, things move to the outside and Orton looks like he is moving through molasses as he tosses Bryan into the post and steps. Michael Cole can’t stop gushing about how vicious Orton is but all I can think of is Donald Trump’s ‘low energy’ line.
In the lead up to this match Bryan promised that his background meant he could dig deeper than Orton who had been spoon fed success his entire life. That promise starts to become a reality as Bryan continues to absorb all of Orton’s offence and it only serves to fire him up more. As the match moves back into the ring the pair trade uppercuts and in a telling moment, Bryan starts to get the upper hand in one of his opponents signature spots. This gets the crowd back with a massive “DANIEL BRYAN” chant.
Unfortunately Bryan gets a little too zealous and ends up eating a huge suplex to the outside after Orton rolls under the ropes and Bryan tries to push forward his advantage.
Even after that nasty suplex it is clear that Daniel Bryan has the tools and heart to deal with Orton, victory should be on its way. On the outside, Bryan quickly escapes Orton, tossing him into the stairs and taking him back to the ring for more punishment. Bryan’s mastery is further shown when he manages to turn a misjudged crossbody into a flying clothesline in midair and is able to simply shrug off the feared RKO in a fantastic series of counters that ends with Bryan catching Orton in the Yes Lock in the middle of the ring:
The crowd is going mental because there is absolutely no escape for Orton this time, clear victory is in Bryan’s grasp.
“WEEEELLLLLL it’s the Big Show”
In an act of absolute narrative idiocy, The Big Show waddles his way the ring and pulls the ref out as Orton is about to tap. On the final episode of Smackdown leading up to this PPV Show Bryan literally saved the Big Show from having his neck broken by Orton but I guess he is back to doing The Authority’s bidding?
Bryan is looking as confused as I am while the Big Show has his best ‘woe is me’ puppy dog eyes but then he KO Punches Bryan and procedees to look even more forlorn. If ever there was a guy who needed some Jodan Perterson accountability lessons it is Big Show. You can’t look sad about the craziness that is going on YOU ARE THE ONE DOING THIS TO YOURSELF.
The match is still going though and Raw GM Brad Maddox comes out to wave in Scott Armstrong, the ref who screwed Bryan last PPV. When Orton goes to make the cover on Bryan, Big Show Pulls Armstrong out of the ring and knocks him out too.
I’m starting to wonder if Vince Russo is going to the the next man through the curtain but mercifully Big Show gets in the ring instead. Show confronts Orton who hits him with the classic primary school line, “do you know how much trouble you’re gona be in when I tell the teacher on you?” Well maybe not quite that but more or less.
Show then gives Orton the old KO punch just for good measure and looks around wondering what the hell happened. Brad Maddox sums it up for all of us as the Big Shows music hits to end the PPV and for some reason climbs the turnbuckle to salute the crowd, I mean come on dude.
No Result Announced
Rating: 2 YES’s out of 5
Well there you go, that gets my ‘bland and not memorable’ rating, which is sad because off the back of Bryan’s work it really had some high points.
However even taking out the absolute senseless ending I have some real problems with Randy Orton’s performance. Heading into this match he was meant to have ‘rediscovered his vicious streak’ but at no point in the match was there a sense of Orton acting differently. This could be any other match he has wrestled in the last ten years, there was no sense of urgency, no new moves, nothing makes this performance unique for him. No matter how much Michael Cole gushed about how much Orton had changed, nothing made his performance different from last month’s PPV.
Well at least he isn’t champion….. yet.
Subplot Sidebar – Hard Times For The Rhodes Family
Onto more fun things though and I wanted to introduce a new section, the Subplot Sidebar where I will seek to highlight some of the really great feuds that were also taking place during the Yes Movement. It won’t be every week but there is enough going on that I will have a few of these by the end of Wrestlemania 30.
As I have said in previous columns The Authority’s presence in the WWE provided a great basis for stories up and down the card, as the good guys fought against their tyrannical rule and the bad guys tried to one up each other to gain favour. It created a number of fantastic stories across the roster and in the early days of The Authority’s reign there were very few midcard stories as hot and exciting as the story of the hard time of the Rhodes family leading into Battleground.
Things kicked off when Cody Rhodes became one of the first superstars to speak up against Triple H and Randy Orton. Rhodes is a man who knows Orton all too well, having battled by his side in Legacy and fought against him as the stable imploded. After he questioned why Orton was trying to get out of his match with Bryan and raised an eyebrow at the constant interference Daniel Bryan was facing at the hands of The Authority, he found himself in the crosshairs of Triple H. The COO of the WWE decided to make an example of Rhodes, showing the rest of the roster exactly what happens to those that speak up, putting him in a match with Orton with his job on the line. A match he lost.
Hard times were not over for the Rhodes family though, as The Authority stepped up their oppression, giving Cody’s brother Goldust a poisoned chance to win back Cody’s job in another match against Orton. Finally, just to rub things in, Stephanie McMahon bought the patriarch of the family Dusty into the ring on Raw and gave him the option of granting only one of his sons a job on the WWE. When he refused to pick between them, she took pleasure in setting The Shield on the seventy year old and forcing The Big Show to knock him out, sending him to hospital.
There is one thing that tyrants never understand though. To them power is a game and fear the ultimate tool. Because they are ultimately cowards at heart, people who would bow down before terror if it was ever wielded at them, they can never fathom someone actually standing up once they have been backed into a corner. However in The Rhodes, The Authority wasn’t dealing with a family of cowards, they were putting hard times on a family that was steeped in a legacy of standing up to those that would hold power over the heads of normal men and women. Fighting back against people who tried to put hard times on them.
Indeed the Rhodes boys started the fight back, jumping the barrier at Raw and assaulting Triple H’s personal security team, The Shield while they were on their way to the ring. This lightning strike set the tone for the fight to come; even though the brothers were potentially outgunned the fire in their bellies would drive them to go above and beyond for each other.
Eventually The Authority would be forced to respond to these guerrilla tactics, inviting the entire family onto Raw, thinking another demonstration of their power would see this family submit. It had the exact opposite effect. As the seventy year old Dusty Rhodes squared up to Triple H, putting his own job on the line to give his boys a shot at winning their jobs back against The Shield, the same fire that burned in his famous 80s promo flared up in not just him but the boys that bore his blood.
To see how hot that fire burnt you only need to see the interview between the three family members right before their Battleground match. In his best promo work in the WWE, Cody channeled his Father’s famous monologue from years ago with some words of his own:
There is no distance too far, there is no length I will not go to protect this family’s future. And yeah, we are not the perfect family tonight we fight for our lives, we fight for our family.
As with all great wrestling stories, this climaxed in a match that infused the in ring action with the story that was being told. As The Authority’s representatives ,The Shield, loomed up in black there was no back peddling from either member of the Rhodes family. All three advanced towards this ominous black presence that threatened their hard earned unity. Despite being outmatched and not as succinct as a team, the brothers fire and love for one another is what held them together and allowed Cody to get the pin on Seth Rollins, handing Rollins and Reigns one of their first tag team losses, securing all three of the family’s jobs and blowing the roof off of the building in the process.
Later on the Rhodes brothers would go on to beat The Shield for the tag team titles but this night was, as the three men stood in the center of the ring, father, sons and brothers, arm in arm, with tears in their eyes it was the perfect culmination of their story. A tale of tyrants unjustly pushing hard times on a family that would unite together, and through their love for one another, would rise to the challenge and ultimately come out stronger than ever before.
Thanks for checking out YES Relived, I’ll be back next Saturday with the next chapter. if you would like to keep the conversation going you can reach me on Twitter @Sir_Samuel, let me know in the comments or have your say on the LOP Forums. It is a great place for in depth discussion and you will find an intelligent and engaged community.
A great place to start is a column called Dusty Down From Heaven a collaboration by two of the Columns Forum’s most creative writers Benjamin Button and host of The Legacy Series on LOP Radio, Mystic. They take a creative look at what Dusty Rhodes may be thinking up above, of his son’s move away from the WWE.