The Wrestling Backfire: If You Tell Them They Can’t Have It, They’ll Want It More – The Story of Daniel Bryan’s Push

Fans have many different opinions when it comes to pro-wrestling. But the one thing most can agree on is that a wrestling company must provide the fans with what they want. Some people out there claim that the WWE hardly ever gives the fans what they want. If that were the case, WWE would have been out of business years ago. Nearly every wrestler that has been insanely over has eventually won the WWE title. I say “nearly” because there have, of course, been exceptions, so there’s no need to flood the comments asking “What about (insert wrestler here)?”

There has always been this perception, though, that Vince McMahon loves gigantic, handsome, bodybuilder-looking wrestlers and practically nothing else. That would indicate that Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, and CM Punk were just figments of my imagination, I guess. The dominant reasoning behind McMahon’s affinity for those types of guys is because they have a strong track record of becoming household names. Big, good-looking wrestlers cater to uninformed wrestling fans. It is simply human nature for casual fans to become more captivated by the muscular, larger-than-life wrestler than the one who looks like their next-door neighbor. The reason behind McMahon’s fascination with bigger wrestlers is natural: They’ve simply been good at making him money.

That is all Vince McMahon cares about, and he has said it, himself, numerous times. The idea Vince despises smaller wrestlers for no particular reason is nonsense, as he has treasured many smaller wrestlers through the years. They were the ones who made him money.

Now, to the point: What the WWE is doing with Daniel Bryan is a masterful idea. As I said earlier, fans will generally agree that WWE should give the majority what they want. After all, they are the ones who generate revenue for the company. I disagree entirely with the notion that fans do not know what they want. However, I vehemently believe that fans do not recognize when WWE should give it to them.

Back in 2008, one of my friends was an enormous Jeff Hardy fan, just like most of WWE’s fans were. He used to argue that WWE was a missing a massive opportunity with Hardy. It was an understandable claim; after all, Hardy was one of the most over wrestlers in the company. But while WWE kept perpetually building him up, seemingly foreshadowing a championship run, they never pulled the trigger. Finally, when it almost seemed hopeless that he would ever win the WWE title, he did, sending the entire arena — and my friend — into a frenzy. If it were up to my friend, or any of the other Hardy enthusiasts, he would have won the first title opportunity. By making the fans wait, WWE made the eventual payoff even more significant.

Jeff Hardy was a lovable loser, much like my favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. The fact that they came so close but could never pull it off only made it more gratifying when it happened. All of the anxiety of coming up short each time washes away, leaving simply a sensation of pure relief. There is even more wisdom behind the way WWE has booked Daniel Bryan beyond the Jeff Hardy example, though.

Bryan’s rise is more analogous to how Stone Cold Steve Austin rose up through the ranks. Many have claimed that Austin’s character exploded primarily because of how relatable it was. And sure, there are people who related to him because they do want to push their boss, but not all people hate their boss. I, for one, genuinely like my boss and hope he is reading this. Besides, when I liked Austin, I didn’t even have a boss. There were certain attributes that made Austin popular, but the key component to making him tremendously over was the amount of empathy he had. Think about it: McMahon’s character did not want Austin as champion because he represented the complete opposite of what a figurehead was theoretically supposed to be. McMahon’s character hated that Austin did not fit the stereotypical mold of a champion, which just caused fans to rally behind Austin even more.

There seems to be this certainty among fans that Vince McMahon hates Daniel Bryan and does not want him as a babyface title holder because he does not “fit the mold.” They even did something similar with CM Punk two years ago. Instead, WWE is using this misconception that McMahon abhors Daniel Bryan to his advantage. In fact, they have already been planting the seeds by having commentators characterize Bryan as “too small” and “unique.” McMahon has fostered this idea that he doesn’t believe in Bryan, but it is really just what he wants us to believe. If McMahon actually thought ill of Daniel Bryan, he would not be getting all this attention. It is all part of WWE’s shrewd plan.

On Raw, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were both sarcastically endorsing newly minted general manager Brad Maddox, with HHH suggesting that Maddox was irresponsible to allow John Cena to pick his opponent for the second biggest PPV of the year. They noted that Vince McMahon was not there and said that they hoped Cena would not pick who they thought he might pick because Vince would be livid. It only makes sense that they were referring to Daniel Bryan, the same person who McMahon has ridiculed on TV before.

There is no denying that WWE took a bit of a risk by allowing the fans to believe that they were choosing Cena’s opponent at SummerSlam because they could have preferred someone else. But it was a rather safe gamble due to how over Bryan has been with every crowd. Regardless, it worked exactly the way they planned. An impartial Cena decided not to pick his opponent but to let the fans decide instead, and the fans picked the wrestler McMahon supposedly did not want.

It appears as if WWE has set up something so subtle that even the smartest fans have fallen for it. They want you to think McMahon does not want Bryan to become champion, just like they made us believe he wasn’t going to get a title shot in the first place. WWE has used the dirt sheets to their advantage in the past. Most notably, they tried to make fans believe that The Rock and John Cena had genuine heat to make their promos seem more like shoots and that they might even shoot on each other in the ring at WrestleMania. Therefore, it is possible that WWE reported that Daniel Bryan would get a title shot at Money in the Bank and, later, that he would win the Money in the Bank ladder match to give off the impression that it was not going to happen. Of course, that would only serve to make the fans want it more.

WWE has deceived people — and I strongly believe are going to do it a lot more — into believing that Vince McMahon is standing in the way of Bryan’s success. The louder the fans chant for Bryan and the more they buy his merchandise, the more likely they will put McMahon in an uncomfortable situation, and put him in a spot where he has no choice other than giving Bryan the WWE title. It has been done before. Think about it, the more the fans support Bryan, the more WWE has teased the idea that they do not believe in him, which just leads to the fans supporting Bryan even harder. The truth of the matter is that WWE has placed its faith in Daniel Bryan, because for all the talk of height and weight, the only number that Vince McMahon truly cares about is his money in the bank.

Fans are going to think that they are raging against the machine by supporting Bryan to become champion. But it is exactly what McMahon wants, and I wouldn’t doubt if Bryan’s quest for the title becomes an extended angle until Bryan reaches his highest-point. So don’t be surprised if he loses at Summerslam, and you should not become discouraged because it will make you want to see it even more.



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