TCWNN#30: Who’s Working Who?

A lot can happen in a week.

We went from anticipation over one of the most exciting moments in recent memory, to confusion over one of the most disappointing and infuriating decisions ever made. Bryan Danielson, aka Daniel Bryan, fired from the WWE at the behest of some unknown force more powerful than Vince McMahon, for choking Justin Roberts with his tie during the NXT beat down at the end of Monday Night Raw. Yes, really. Don’t act like you don’t know already.

At this point, there’s really nothing to say about it. You either think it’s a work or you think it’s a shoot, and either you’re entrenched in your position or you’re bouncing back and forth like a pinball every time John Cena makes a tweet (can we take a moment and just think about how ridiculous websites like Twitter have made conversation? I just had to talk about John Cena as if he were a canary). And hey, I understand. The entire situation is completely surreal, and hard facts are hard to come by. I get why people would want to think it’s a work, or why they just can’t decide. The details are fuzzy, but at this point we have the gist of it: someone more important than Bryan Danielson saw the tie choke, and insisted something be done about it. Despite this, a lot of people are still insistent we are being worked. And at this point this need to believe seems to be bordering on the desperate.

For example, in the face of a perfectly legitimate write off for the Daniel Bryan character (a throwaway line from Wade Barrett about Bryan felt regret and is never to be heard from again, which of course creates a reason for him to be heard from again down the line), many declared that this was evidence of a work; that the WWE would never mention him if he had actually been fired. Alternatively, they argued that it meant that he was instead the unseen limo driver who battered Bret Hart around at the end of the show. Both of these ideas required massive stretches of imagination. Not only have they explained away character disappearances on air before, but to say the WWE would ignore Danielson’s firing disregards the fact that, aside from Wade Barrett, there was exactly one other NXT rookie who was important enough that the WWE would have to explain his absence away: Daniel Bryan. And this was not a firing akin to the Wellness related releases of Umaga and Carlito; this was a forced release of a guy that by all reports the company wants back as soon as possible. The limo driver argument is just plain absurd; if they’re assaulting Bret Hart for contracts, why would they pretend one of them wasn’t a part of the group anymore? Perhaps if they hadn’t mentioned Bryan at all and left the audience wondering where he was, that idea would at least hold water.

Another example is the aforementioned John Cena tweets, which even made Dave Meltzer hang his hat on the “work” rack for a hot minute. For the ultimate company man to speak out publicly against a company decision, via a medium that he has previously used to push storylines? Once again, it understandably makes sense to initially cry “work”. And yet, looking at it from a storyline perspective, it makes absolutely no sense for Cena to be clumsily multi-tweeting (there’s that canary again) a statement in Daniel Bryan’s defense. The man spat in his face and kicked him unconscious. That doesn’t warrant a request for a “fair match”, that warrants a call for revenge. That’s the main thing people seemed to cling to from Cena’s tweets: the line about getting to have a “fair match”. But think about it: what kind of fair match did Daniel Bryan ever have? Other than his first match with Chris Jericho, there wasn’t a single match longer than a squash. So really, the idea of a fair match can just as easily mean Cena wants him to have a match longer than 2 minutes. As with most of the evidence supporting the work theory, it’s actually inconclusive. Cena has since gone on to clarify his statements in an interview, yet this has only furthered the cries of work from a vocal minority within our already vocal minority of wrestling fans known as the IWC.

I could go on (and on, and on…), but I won’t, because this has all been done to death. What I find more interesting is seeing just how hard some of us are willing to stretch just to cling to the longshot belief that this nonsense firing isn’t actually happening. And it makes me wonder why.

Why aren’t we willing to accept that this is exactly what it appears to be: an unfair and unavoidable situation, brought on by an outside force? Why do we so badly want this to be a work (and even those of us who have accepted it as a legitimate firing would rather it be a work)? It’s not just because Bryan Danielson is most of our choice for best wrestler in the world, and a longtime favorite of the internet. And it’s not just because it’s such a bizarre and unfair turn of events that further alienates us from the WWE’s PG rated sports entertainment.

I think what it really comes down to, is that the internet wrestling community is composed mainly of the die hards. We’re the people who stick with professional wrestling through thick and thin, even when the WWE is trying to shove clean and wholesome sports entertainment down our throats while still having characters commit attempted vehicular homicides. And so we want this to be a work because it would mean that for once, the WWE is actually thinking about us, and they’ve come up with a way to push a guy that we love, in a way that’s marketed to us. We want to believe they’re finally caring about us as much as we care about their product. But I’m sorry, they’re not, and they never will. We’re working ourselves.

There’s no growth in an angle that works only the vocal minority. It isn’t going to make them any more money, or increase the ratings, or grow the fan base. That doesn’t mean the WWE isn’t smart enough to use this firing to try and up their main man’s stock with his harshest critics (for if there’s any semblance of work in Cena’s comments, it’s surely a post-release attempt at that very thing) and increase hits on their website (the WWE Universe Facebook page today put up a “should Bryan Danielson be rehired” poll for that very purpose). There’s no question that the company is doing what they can to make the most out of a bad situation, and I’m sure Danielson will be back with the company before his no compete clause is up, but that won’t make it a work.

But you can bet someone is going to claim it does.

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