I am still not sure what to make of Occupy Raw from last week. On the one hand, I thought the execution of the segment was good as it finally had Daniel Bryan getting a leg up on Triple H and left The Authority with egg on their face (even if momentary). However, I am not sure about the repercussions. The biggest one being the stipulation that if Bryan wins, he is inserted into the title match at Wrestlemania. On the surface, it makes it seem like his victory against Triple H is a foregone conclusion. Does the WWE (and more specifically Triple H), feel that this telegraphs Bryan’s victory too much and instead they should surprise everyone and have Bryan come up short? Does Triple H put forward that having the unexpected happen be what’s “best for business” (and coincidentally, his legacy by not losing to the little goat-faced troll)?
I feel it is a legitimate concern. Remember, from the rumor mills circulating, Triple H was scheduled to face CM Punk at Wrestlemania with Bryan taking on a heel Sheamus. While most fans were viewing Bryan on a hero’s quest against management that started at SummerSlam and would culminate at Wrestlemania, Vince McMahon and company only saw him as a minor storyline compared to the huge event of the return of Batista. They may be calling the audible to insert Bryan into the title match, or they may feel that giving the hope he will be is sufficient for the audience to shut up and take what they are given. Just be prepared for the worst. If the worst does happen, I encourage everyone attending Wrestlemania to leave as Orton and Batista make their way to ringside. Remember, silence can speak volumes.
Huge response last week to my column looking at the issues with women’s wrestling in the WWE and my proposals to improving them. Many people agreeing with my assessment and desire to see women treated as real competitors. Some felt they were very basic suggestions, but with the current state the division is in, they have to be. A lot of people agree that there is very little chance of significant change until at least Vince McMahon dies and no longer is forcing his view of women as the standard for the company. I do apologize for the sloppiness of my editing last week. Just goes to show when you are a morning person, do not try editing your work at 10:30pm. When I went back and read it after it was posted, there were some glaring typos, hanging thoughts, and poorly worded opinions. The most significant issue being that I seemed to leave the impression that I do not think that “attractive women” are capable of being wrestlers. That was not what I was trying to go with. The crux of my argument was that talent should be the first deciding factor, not looks. I feel that there should be a multitude of body types (just like with the men). However, to again just hire a woman because she is big and not paying attention to her talent is no better than hiring a skinny model who equally does not know the difference between a wristlock and a wristwatch.
Case in point, my wife and I did sit down and watch the Paige vs. Emma title match from NXT Arrival and were blown away. My wife likes Paige and Emma as while attractive and skinny, they are extremely talented. She likes Emma’s klutzy personality that goes away when competing (something that they have not allowed her to effectively show on Raw and Smackdown), and she is blown away by Paige’s talent. She really loved Paige the moment she hit the ramp for the match. As she pointed out, Paige had this look as she paused at the ramp that is reminiscent of many of the men. Paige stood there, looking at Emma in the ring and had the look of determination to beat her opponent. She was a competitor. What was great about the match was something one commentator lamented on was the lack of real rivalries in the women’s division of the WWE. Paige and Emma are both faces, but they (and the commentary) sold that neither liked each other and were determined to beat one another to claim the belt. One of the best moments was just before the end sequence when Emma had Paige in yet another submission hold and is screaming “Give up, Paige! Just give up!” Emma, the space cadet. It sold the importance of the match, the bad blood between the two, and the legitimacy of the two women as wrestlers.
Speaking of the commentary, it was some of the most refreshing I have heard in ages in professional wrestling. Now that I have learned I do not need to subscribe to Hulu or the WWE Network to watch it, I plunged into some more NXT goodness. Next week, David Spain will get his wish as I will tackle the issue of the commentary within the WWE. I just need to do a little more binge watching before I immortalize my conclusions.
Can’t Beat Him? Replace Him
We are back into more traditional fantasy booking this week. After finding Emma vs. Paige, I went and watched all of NXT Arrival. I was blown away by Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro for the opening bout. Zayn is amazing and this was my first view of him. As a more casual fan versus other writers on this site, I have not seen his Ring of Honor work as El Generico. I’ve read write-ups of his matches and his name and gimmick I felt was a great idea. He proves however, he does not need the mask to sell himself. After wrapping up Arrival, I went and watched a few more of his matches and some of his promo work. It got me thinking on the most effective way of bringing him up to the main roster (which he is more than ready for).
I take you now to about mid to late June of this year. Daniel Bryan has fulfilled his quest and captured the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania. He fought off Orton and Batista in a grueling hardcore-style match at Extreme Rules, and then withstood the power of the Animal in a one-on-one match at Payback. With each victory, the Yes Movement continues it ferocity of vocal support for Bryan. One would think that three months of this would be enough to satisfy The Authority that Bryan is a A-list talent. Of course not (otherwise where would be the conflict, or the reason for Triple H to still be on our television).
Also immediately following Wrestlemania, Sami Zayn makes his debut on the main roster. He wows the crowds with his moves and puts on some stunning matches. There are also several backstage vignettes featuring Zayn and Bryan. The first is the two meeting and Zayn talking about how Bryan as champion gives him hope, since they both cut their teeth on the global and independent circuit. If someone like Bryan can become champion, surely Zayn can. The two talk about keeping an eye on each other’s business, and on an occasion or two tag together.
Following Payback, Triple H makes it known that he is still not happy with Bryan in the position as champion. He still thinks of the Yes Movement as a flash in the pan and that while business is booming for the moment, it is just a fad, like Tamagochi (come on, you know the WWE will use a way-outdated reference to make the point). Triple H is all about finding talent that can sustain a crescendo; talent that will lead to the next Hulkamania, the next “people’s champion,” or the next Cenation. One night, Triple H puts Bryan in a gauntlet match to test the Yes Movement against a series of competitors he feels has the potential for that kind of momentum. After taking on a series of opponents that include Cesaro, and Alexander Rusev, the opponents surround the ring, looking to gang up on Bryan. The champ stands alone, but the crowd erupts as Zayn runs down the ramp and slides into the ring to join his inspiration. Only Zayn instead nails Bryan with his version of a superkick followed by the Blue Thunder Bomb.
The next Raw, Triple H comes out and talks about how his quest is over. He has found the perfect face for the company and the next craze in professional wrestling that will last for decades. He introduces the leader of the Ole Initiative, Sami Zayn. Zayn comes out, his beard a little tighter trimmed, and looking sharp in a three-piece suit. Triple H puts over how Zayn is absolutely perfect for every possible demographic for a company like WWE. He is Canadian and of Arabic descent, therefore giving him instant international appeal. He started out wrestling in high school gyms and bingo halls therefore he gets the thumbs up from the internet crowd who live in their parent’s basements. Further, he has a beard, which will appeal to all the Bryan fans. Zayn, unlike Bryan though, has the look of a champion. He is the right height, has a better body, and has the face that actually makes women swoon, and men envious. This naturally brings Bryan out to confront a guy he thought had his back as he promised to help. Zayn retorts Bryan is helping him. It is because of Bryan that Zayn after only a few months is on the fast track to being champion. It’s just not how Bryan thought the help would play out.
From there, a bitter feud emerges between two as the Ole Initiative is pushed to oversaturation in an effort to counteract the Yes Movement. T-shirts, signs, and endless discussion by announcers and The Authority look to make it a household term. Bryan and Zayn though are kept apart from physical confrontation. Zayn continues to compete with stealing the show from Bryan, determined to upstage him at every turn, and gets every chance to do so with the backing of The Authority. Zayn is entered and wins Money in the Bank. Bryan himself continues to take whatever challenges are thrown his way, including having to fight off Bray Wyatt for his WWE Title at Money in the Bank.
At SummerSlam, it is déjà vu for Bryan. After a grueling match against Brock Lesnar for the Title, he stands victorious in the ring, only to have his music interrupted by Zayn’s, who walks out with the briefcase. Zayn makes his way to the ring, and stands toe-to-toe with Bryan, smiling and teasing handing it to referee. Instead, he announces that The Authority felt it more fitting to wait and have Zayn crowned at Night of Champions, therefore he puts Bryan on notice that the countdown to the changeover has officially begun.
For the next three weeks, Zayn launches full-scale psychological warfare against Bryan, backed by the Authority. He tag-teams with Kane, he challenges and beats John Cena (with some shenanigans), and takes out Sheamus in a match in under 18-seconds. All the while, Zayn hangs around ringside or on the ramp whenever Bryan has a match. The Titantron even starts showing a “Countdown to Changeover” Clock (which also is presented on screen), ticking off the time until the match at Night of Champions. The match eventually comes and the two finally face off after four months of circling. The match itself brings the house down, but Bryan claims victory with a running knee that echoes throughout the arena.
The Authority is not happy with the outcome naturally, and immediately books the two in a rematch for Battleground. Given the short time between the pay-per-views, management looks to run Bryan ragged having him compete in match after match on every show, while Zayn is given only a couple of “tune-ups.” In another breathtaking, show stealing affair, Bryan again comes out victorious, but his victory is short-lived as once again, he is greeted by the specter of Lesnar, looking to lock the champion in the Hell in the Cell. Zayn on the other hand is shuttled down by management, feeling he was given too much too soon. He easily captures the WWE Intercontinental Title and takes on a bitter persona looking to hurt his opponents and climb his way back to the top of the company.
The inspiration for this storyline is a blend of the 1998 Corporate Rock with MeccaRabbi’s comment from two weeks ago suggesting CM Punk return to Raw in Chicago only to turn on Bryan and go corporate sell out. When I watched Zayn, I could see him being used as a “Corporate Bryan.” He has the beard and the moves, but also has a little more of the look that the WWE likes. He’s not an instant pretty boy, but they could do a couple of minor things to give him a more clean cut look such as having him wax his chest and do a little bit of a spray tan for that unnatural glow they feel their champions need. Is it far-fetched for them to take someone from their developmental system that is not a monster and slot him into the main event? Yes it is, but it is also different and it plays off the idea of The Authority going a new route in dealing with Bryan. They tried their prototypes of champions and failed, so instead they go with someone like Bryan, but more willing to play their game. There is a risk of this meteoric rise and collapse leading to Zayn’s burial, but I think there is an easy route to avoiding this. Like I said above, have him immediately win the Intercontinental Title, to show he is elite and hold it for an extended time, beating everyone viciously, looking to show that he has what it takes. From there, it is a matter of letting him climb back up, hopefully to an actual WWE Title run. With his skills, the fans will rally and support him. It is then up to the company and use him to his full potential and not squander it (cough Ziggler cough).