Raw Afterthoughts is coming up shortly, but here's some thoughts on "Occupy Raw" and how Wrestlemania has been shaken up for your reading pleasure in the meantime.
Heading into the Royal Rumble, it all seemed to be in alignment. Hardcore wrestling fans were going to get exactly what they wanted from WWE – change.
The stage was set. Daniel Bryan, robbed of his title-winning moment at SummerSlam by a Pedigree and a Money in the Bank cash-in by the established “authority”, would enter the 30-man Royal Rumble match. He would fight through 29 other men and win the Rumble. Then in a storybook moment, he would capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from (most likely) Randy Orton as 70,000 or more in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome chanted “YES!” in unison.
But the Batista decided to come back, and WWE welcomed him back with open arms. Bryan’s dream moment became just another Shattered Dreams Production.
Fans haven’t let Batista or WWE brass forget that they didn’t like that move by booing him out of the building in Pittsburgh, as well as everywhere else he goes. In turn, that created a major problem for WWE. What did they need to do about the main event? Be stubborn and stick to the plan, or make a change to placate fans? Add in to the equation that WWE had the Network coming on line. They had to realize that unhappy fans could translate into other areas of their business model as well.
Since that night in Pittsburgh, fans haven’t let WWE forget they wanted change. In fact they have demanded it. Without using those exact words, fans have quoted the late Owen Hart's call – “Enough is enough and it’s time for a change!” Bryan’s big moment has been teased over and over again, and has in fact been well done. In arena after arena, the fans have continued to rise up along side of him.
So the shake-up has arrived. Last night on Raw, it came in the form of a visual that caught me completely off guard. A number of fans dressed in Bryan’s newest “Yes!” t-shirt filled the ring and ringside area, chanting along with him in an “Occupy Raw” moment that brought the flagship show to a halt until Bryan got exactly what he wanted:
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania 30. And if he wins, he gets a shot at Batista and Randy Orton in a triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
In a unique moment that reinforced Daniel Bryan as a man of the people, the mistreated Bryan has been handed an opportunity to claim the championship that has eluded him since SummerSlam. Winning the title, and having a legitimate run with it, would provide a sense of endorsement.
This angle is not without minor criticisms, though. It dances very close to bringing too much of the modern day political scene into wrestling. When you're asking fans to be united behind a character, the last thing you want to do is introduce such a divisive topic to the story. Also, with everyone dressed in the same t-shirt, it made it feel more scripted and sanitary than a true act of emotional outpouring of the fans. But these criticisms are minor in my opinion and take very little away from the angle itself. Triple H and Stephanie were pitch-perfect as the heel authorities as well, setting up a good final build to the match.
One other thing WWE managed to accomplish is save their Wrestlemania main event by all appearances. The majority of fans were not on board with the main event of Randy Orton vs. Batista. As we alluded to in previous RingRap Audio shows, the level of hate for that match will easily surpass the crapfest that was Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg at Wrestlemania 20. Adding Bryan to the mix easily corrects that problem and gives fans a cheering interest in a match that they otherwise would have been bored by.
There are tons of conspiracy theorists out there who already are saying that Triple H will crush Bryan and end his dream. I don’t believe that noise. I do believe that behind the storyline “best for business” catchphrase, Paul Leveque truly does know what is best. His going over Bryan at Wrestlemania does nothing for his own stellar career as he continues the transition to a full-time corporate executive. The future is in talents like Bryan, and the time to strike is now.
With only a scant 26 days left until what some refer to as “the show of shows”, Wrestlemania got a whole lot more interesting. For the fans who have clamored for change, WWE has again given hope that satisfying real change is coming at Wrestlemania. The story of Daniel Bryan's rise to his first WWE Championship run certainly is not over yet, and “Occupy Raw” wrote an extremely interesting chapter last night.