The Anti-Antagonist: 4 Months Later

Adam Gorzelsky

The smoke has cleared from a wild night of drama, passion, and superb story-telling both in and out of the ring. In its wake, there remains plenty of room for debate about the wisdom of the decision to pull the rug out from under a euphoric Daniel Bryan.

Some see a forward-thinking strategy allowing WWE to capitalize on the underdog continuing to chase greatness. Others are quick to note that WWE cannot necessarily be trusted to do right by Daniel Bryan in the long run.

At the moment, I really couldn’t care less which side is correct. The sheer fact that a heated debate exists is proof positive that the fans are invested…that WWE is doing its job.

In my mind, Summerslam was this year’s Wrestlemania, or at least what Wrestlemania should have been. The bloat, the pomp and circumstance, and all of the alleged mainstream hype were present. It was sold by WWE and wrestling analysts as a no-brainer decision. There was money to be made, even at the expense of more than six months of treading water.

From a business standpoint, it might have made perfect sense. From a wrestling standpoint, it landed with a hollow thud. Show me a casual fan who became hooked after Wrestlemania and I’ll show you 10 borderline hardcore fans who became disenchanted. Monetary success has to come at a price though, right?

Four months later, we finally are face to face with the reality that a great product and a great bottom line are mutually dependent, not mutually exclusive…that people watch when the wrestlers are stars, not when stars wrestle.

Say what you want about Total Divas, but a few episodes of that show has excited more casuals about wrestling than 3 years of the Rock combined. I watched Summerslam with two females last night who love the show, but are lukewarm toward wrestling in general. They felt bad for Daniel Bryan at the end of the show. He’s the new household name who was such a gentleman helping Brie Bella pack on last week’s show

They can’t wait for Raw tonight.

I understand that the touchy feely world of reality TV might not be the type of thing that die-hard wrestling fans see as a positive development. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that Total Divas is a symptom of a company that finally seems to be focused on the here and now. Summerslam was the perfect showcase of this positive direction.

Daniel Bryan chasing Randy Orton and fighting WWE’s glass ceiling provides months of possibilities. CM Punk once again has reinvented himself into a gutsy underdog who likely will be positioning himself for an elusive Wrestlemania Main Event spot. The Wyatt Family is a must-see attraction that provided a memorable sign of things to come.

Summerslam was a shot of adrenalin following a few months of solid programming…an effort that hasn’t gone unnoticed by fans running the gambit of all levels of commitment. The individuals who made the magic last night will be live tonight. They’ll be starring on a hot new show every Sunday and will be accessible to fans on a regular basis for years to come.

This roster appeals to the hardcore, to the casuals, and to the mainstream. It is capable of expanding the fan base and making the type of money on a consistent basis that instills trust from the powers that be.

More importantly, this roster is more than capable of ensuring that next year’s Wrestlemania money grab will come without the need to relive the past.

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