The Royal Rumble left the entire WWE Universe up in arms, turning to the internet to express their disapproval for the event. Although it is very possible that this is just due to ignorance on the part of the WWE, I did leave myself room for one sparkling optimistic question: is the booking now a means of working the audience, as opposed to the execution on the air? The curtain was pulled back a long time ago. We know this, we were told this a lot during the attitude era. Wrestling is a show, not a competitive sport. The problem is, how do you really work a crowd when you have pulled back the curtain? Easy, you don’t pull back the curtain, you pull back a decoy curtain.
Devoted fans stopped watching wrestling for pure narrative a long time ago. It became fashionable to be a “smart fan,” and have some idea as to who is “over” and who has “heat.” If you’re reading this, you know all the insider terms already. The drama still exists, but the focus is no longer what happens within the narrative, but the policing of the writers and the decisions that they make.
Think about it, you have watched with bated breath many times in the last decade, not because you wanted the hero to overcome the villain, but because you thought the villain needed to win the present battle in order to make the hero eventually winning the war more fulfilling. When it didn’t happen, you were left scratching your head and wondering how the booking team missed such an obvious story-telling mechanic.
Bringing us to the present, Daniel Bryan is currently the most over guy in the company. He is universally beloved by smart fans and the mainstream audience – something that rarely happens. There is no shortage of support at every show he is on. Can the powers that be really be failing to see this? If you think about it – the booking (potentially) is genius. The internet was lit on fire after the 2014 Royal Rumble. Daniel Bryan was white-hot on social media, everyone was talking about the Royal Rumble. Yes, they were complaining, yes they were furious, but they were talking about a WWE event in droves, that is remarkably good for WWE. The most furious fans are also the most captivated and I would be willing to wager copious amounts of money that everyone is going to tune into the post-Rumble Raw under the guise of, “say it ain’t so.”
The only issue is that even the most patient WWE fan is beginning to get jittery about is: are they [WWE] compliant or negligent in this booking? Too many times since Summer Slam, I (and I am guessing many of you) have thought I knew where this story was going. With each digression I sought solace in thinking that this was merely the curved path with a great ending to an epic story. But as we have seen in the past, sometimes these path digressions lead the wrestler astray. Perhaps this is what WWE wants the fans to think, making Bryan’s eventual triumph that much sweeter. Unfortunately, we have to wait longer, with the potential payoff simply being that Dave Batista gets a main event title shot at Wrestlemania 30 (and wins). I’ll reserve my opinions of Batista mostly for the upcoming episode of Doing the Job this Tuesday, but suffice it to say – bad move. The fans made that as clear as possible during the payperview. He’s not the guy. He was barely the guy the better part of a decade ago and he certain is not the guy now.
What if Daniel Bryan not even being in the Rumble is a brilliant work? Mick Foley tweeting his disgust could just be part of the act. The fact that Daniel Bryan did not even appear in the Rumble match could be testament to this. Daniel Bryan tweeted: “Sorry guys, the machine wanted me nowhere near the Royal Rumble match. But I thank everyone for their support. YOU are the #YESMovement” Definitely has the markings of a very well-crafted kayfabe work. Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part, but what would be better, If Daniel Bryan were eliminated from the Rumble (possibly by Batista) or that he was never even in it and now can legitimately gripe that this is the only reason for Batista’s victory? I like the latter more.
I am going to keep my head high for a little while longer. One on hand, the fans would have shaken the very foundation of the building if Daniel Bryan entered the Rumble match and WWE would have created another magic moment, but on the other hand, Daniel Bryan’s stock went up even more in the past 18 hours. The fans were not booing Batista (directly), they were booing the booking staff for booking Batista as the winner. Yes, some of the anger is directed at Batista for coming back in the first place and getting in the way, but we all know that Batista did not get to book himself the winner – that was the writers behind the scene. Batista is merely the frontman. A booking staff cannot really be a heel though, can they? Well, if they are playing the part of the heel, of course they can. If the booking is what the fans pay attention to, then that is where you work them, “behind the scenes.”