Will WWE go all the way with Daniel Bryan? I’m not sure.
I have no doubt Bryan is their top performer. His Raw match vs. Seth Rollins (a/k/a The Shield’s designated jobber) was amazing. Hard to believe the Kaitlyn “secret admirer” segment was on the same TV show. Cringe-worthy.
Fan response to Bryan has also been amazing, especially on the last two SmackDowns. He’s got old-fashioned babyface fire, and the crowd rallies around him spontaneously. It’s organic. That’s the best way to be over.
Bryan’s continued involvement in a comedy gimmick – witness the continued “weak link” debate this past SmackDown, which silenced the crowd – makes you wonder what WWE really thinks. His involvement in a tag match at the Payback PPV makes you wonder what WWE really thinks. Tag matches = WWE purgatory, though The Shield has changed that somewhat.
Though The Shield is cooling somewhat.
If Bryan ever sheds the beard, that will be a symbolic move forward. The beard makes him look stupid, which is what WWE wants.
Bryan may be the best all-around performer in wrestling. But he doesn’t have the look, or style, that WWE wants to see succeed. And WWE dictates reality.
The one possible chink in Bryan’s armor: Much of his fan reaction is by rote, spurred by the “YES!” routine. Is Bryan truly over, or is he just a trigger for something the fans enjoy doing? It’s a subtle difference, but it’s a difference.
Ryback, meanwhile, is dead as Dillinger.
He can’t talk. AT ALL. He can’t work beyond that dopey musclehead squash style. His initial push was based on always winning. Since then, Ryback has lost too much, and his character hasn’t been expanded enough to compensate.
Instead of playing to Ryback’s strengths, WWE has exposed his weaknesses. WWE is the world’s No. 1 sports entertainment company. But they keep flunking Wrestling 101. If WWE wanted to keep Ryback on top, they should have put him with Paul Heyman and told Ryback to NEVER TALK AGAIN.
When Ryback loses to Cena at Payback, he’s done. He might as well be Skip Sheffield again.
Follow Mark Madden on Twitter: @MarkMaddenX