Iím not going to lie... when I first came to know of Daniel Bryan, via "Apter Mags" like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and back when he was known as the American Dragon or Bryan Danielson, I honestly wasnít impressed with his look, and because I had watched almost nothing but WWE for most of my time as a wrestling fan, I was trained into thinking unless you were tall, muscular, and tan, you werenít good enough. Since I was young and stupid, I immediately started disliking him because other people enjoyed his work, and yes, if I could take back some of those feelings I would, because of the childish nature I would approach things and now obviously regret. When he finally made it to WWE, it happened to be in a period where I had completely stopped watching professional wrestling, so when I finally found out he was working in WWE, I was more than a bit surprised, especially since he wasnít being used as a complete job guy like a Paul London or Brian Kendrick back in the mid 2000ís. He wasnít used in a tippy-top spot, but he was at least featured on a regular basis and in important segments and storylines.
Then it happened... WrestleMania 28. The day I finally jumped on the Daniel Bryan bandwagon. Even though I wasnít a fan of his, at this point I came to understand and appreciate his talents and fanbase, and WWE trying to bury him with an 18-second WrestleMania loss to Sheamus just felt wrong to me. It felt wrong to make someone look like a joke, and it felt wrong to rob the paying customers on what shouldíve been a great match by limiting the best worker in the country to simply walking into someoneís finisher immediately after the bell and trying to make that his lasting legacy. The crowd rebelled for the next hour or so, and hijacked the next night at Monday Night Raw with "Yes" chants. It was the first major Daniel Bryan rebellion, but not the last. Bryan spent the rest of the Spring dicking around with Sheamus and Kane, and then through some minor miracle, found a winning combination with Kane after going to some cheesy "Anger Management" classes.
After nearly a year leading the Tag Team Division, "Team Hell No" quietly separated as Daniel Bryan was surprisingly pushed into the Main Event of SummerSlam 2013, a WWE Championship Match against John Cena. I donít know if it was too much of a surprise, but Bryan went over clean in a MOTY contender, only to be betrayed by Triple H and pinned by Randy Orton via Money in the Bank Cash-In to end his reign at 5 minutes. They did rematches for a few months, with Bryan screwed over again and again, and that dastardly Abeyance got a longer reign as Champion than he did. Then to add insult to... well, more insult, they tried to shoe-horn BIG SHOW into his spot, stole the Yes Chants, and expected it to be draw high interest at Survivor Series. It didnít. A month later, in Bryanís home state, they produced a segment to hype the unification of the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles, and the main attractions were meant to be Randy Orton and John Cena, except the fans constantly chanted for Daniel Bryan who was just meant to be a background player. Suddenly, Bryan turned heel in a confusing and head-scratching manner by joining the Wyattís, but crowds wouldnít accept it, and thankfully Bryan turned back in a memorable show-closing segment with the crowd chanting wildly for him.
The crowd rebellions would continue, most notably at the 2014 and 2015 Royal Rumble PPVís, both under familiar but different circumstances. In 2014, Bryan was left out of the Rumble Match for reasons unknown, a Rumble that a returning Dave Batista was penciled in to win and move on to WrestleMania XXX to challenge Randy Orton in a one-on-one match, while in 2015, Bryan was brought back from a lengthy injury-related hiatus and inserted in the Rumble Match, only to be nonchalantly eliminated mid-way through, pissing the crowd off more while the "Chosen one" Roman Reigns went on to victory after long-time and long-in-the-tooth heels like Big Show and Kane dominated all the crowd favorites. The 2014 hijacking lead to a complete re-write of the Main Event, giving us one of the best (unintentional) angles to build to a WrestleMania, and two out-standing WrestleMania performances with Daniel Bryan standing triumphant to close out the show. 2015, Bryan was just another guy in a Ladder Match, put in a spot to restore prestige to the Intercontinental Championship, but a concussion later in the week put him on the sidelines immediately after a European Tour, and his last televised match was a so-so match teaming with then-US Champion John Cena against then-Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Tyson Kidd.
In another surprise, the second topic Iím bringing up isnít about any storylines, but the punishment of Titus OíNeil. For those who watched it live or when it was briefly available on the WWEís YouTube page, as the show was coming to an end, Titus OíNeil grabbed Vince by the arm in what was described as a "playful manner", only for Vince to shove him off quite angrily. The next day, Titus was sent home with a 90-day suspension, which was later reduced to 60-days. Now, I understand that no matter what Titusí intentions were (he says he told Vince "ladies first" so he didnít cut off Stephanie), he probably shouldnít have grabbed the owner on live television like that, but on the other hand, a 60-day suspension is the equivalent of a second wellness violation, and basically means Titus OíNeil will miss a WrestleMania payday. Iím not a big fan of his, but heís the ideal company man who is always promoting goodwill for WWE and doing tons of charity work, and even if he wasnít, 60-days would be a harsh punishment for anyone who doesnít have a history of being a trouble maker. I wonder if this means Titus will come back doing nothing but jobs on Main Event after WrestleMania....
And now, finally, for some Raw-related storyline advancement... Honestly, this was a really weak episode of Raw because of all the focus being on Daniel Bryanís retirement, and outside of the obvious Brock-Ambrose-Reigns teases weíll be getting done over and over every week, hereís everything else worth mentioning...
The Dudley Boyz, who quickly wore out their return by acting like it was 2002 again, finally turned heel on Jimmy and Jey Uso following a Tables Match against the New Day and Mark Henry. Iím sure someone, probably Vince McMahon, will think it was such a brilliant idea to turn Bubba Ray heel, but for the 7 people who watched Impact for the last 4-5 years, it comes as no surprise that Bubba works so much better as a heel instead of playing sing-along with the crowd because "tables are more important than winning." Devon... well, heís just there for the ride. The whole act is about Bubba Ray, especially when it comes to promos. This still doesnít solve the New Dayís situation, who are reigning Champions in limbo without credible babyface challengers.
A.J. Styles and Chris Jericho seem to be butting heads for reasons that arenít quite clear. Styles won his Raw debut against Jericho, and now Jericho wants a rematch. They eventually had said rematch on this past episode of Smackdown, after being interrupted at the beginning of the show by the Social Outcasts. It was a much better performance compared to what they did on Raw, definitely a 4-star effort, and Iím sure with Jericho winning (50/50 club!), it will probably lead to a "rubber" match at FastLane. Will the Redneck Pittbull pin The Ayatollah of Rock and Roll-ah for a second time?
Dolph Ziggler pinned Kevin Owens again. Is this going anywhere?
Why is Ryback dressing like Goldberg? He looks even more boring and unimportant wearing plain black tights, because he doesnít have an ounce of charisma to make him stand out.
What are the Wyatts up to? Weíre seriously a week away from a PPV and almost everyone has no direction, and that means weíre 5 weeks or so away from WrestleMania 32 and thereís nothing to get excited about. Way to go WWE creative team, way to go...
Goldust and R-Truth continue to do goofy comedy segments that will no doubt go nowhere.
From WWE Main Event, taped on February 9th from Portland, OR... Heath Slater (2-8) defeated Zack Ryder (2-6), making me start to question whether or not I should come up with a better name for this since Slater now has surpassed by the Ascension for being the biggest jobbers on the main roster... Natalya (1-1) defeated Alicia Fox (2-2) in a match Iím totally sure will be used in for something to do on Total Divas, and the whack team of Darren Young (3-2) and Mark Henry (5-0) defeated the even wackier team of Fandango (2-6) and Damien Sandow (1-1) because the overseas tour left them with a skeleton screw.
From WWE Superstars, taped on February 8th from Seattle, WA, but technically broadcast at a later date than Main Event... The Ascension (1-9) defeated Fandango (2-7) and Damien Sandow (1-2) to finally put a notch under the win counter, so maybe Heath Slater isnít safe, after all. I guess I should name this subject after Fandango, now, and with that, he might win both matches heís in next week... Zack Ryder (3-6) defeated Stardust (3-8), because Titus OíNeil isnít around to do it every week for the next two months.
1. The Main Event will be a Triple Threat Match pitting Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Brock Lesnar against each other to decide who gets to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H at WrestleMania 32. Since Roman Reigns is all but guaranteed to be victorious, thereís little interest from me in seeing this. The only thing that would come as a surprise, with Reigns winning, is if he actually pins Lesnar, but with Ambrose in the match, itís almost a lock that heís the one that will be taking the fall. No matter how hard they try to convince us anyone can win, thereís no chance in hell it wonít be Roman Reigns in the Main Event at WrestleMania, and I doubt theyíll throw us off by screwing him over... again, and then gifting him the Title Match anyway.
2. Kalisto defends the United States Championship against Alberto Del Rio in an angle that I would say died, but it never had much life to it to begin with. Just another example where it doesnít matter if both men have Lucha background, it doesnít automatically mean they have great chemistry. If anything, these two have negative chemistry, evident by their lackluster and sloppy performance at the Royal Rumble. With Sin Cara back from his shoulder injury, it makes little sense to keep a singles title on a Tag Team wrestler for much longer, so I wonít be too surprised if Del Rio regains it. Again.
3. Charlotte defends the DIVAS Championship against Brie Bella. Yup. Read that one correctly. I just noticed on NXT they didnít refer to it as a "Divas Match", but a WOMENS Match during a Non-Title bout. Hmm... sounds more classy and professional. Brie scored a non-title victory over Charlotte a few weeks back, and her man just retired in an emotional send-off, so she gets gifted a token Title Shot to work in his "Yes" kicks and leave the crowd in silence the rest of the match.
4. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks versus Naomi and Tamina. Weíre this desperate for padding out a PPV, that the 4th match announced is featuring Naomi and Tamina? Team B.A.D. imploded much like Team PCB (except quicker and less annoying), and since Becky Lynch was there, we have mis-matched partners who donít like each other fighting a common enemy together. I guess theyíre saving a good DIVAS Championship scenario for WrestleMania 32.
And that would be it for the announced matches. Iím sure the rest of the card will be revealed on this weekís episode of Monday Night Raw, with Fast Lane this coming Sunday night. Maybe theyíll throw Jericho vs. AJ Styles on the card, and maybe Big Show vs. Braun Strowman... the last one just gave me chills just thinking about it.
Final Thoughts: If not for Daniel Bryanís retirement taking center stage this week, I donít see Monday Night Raw presenting anything interesting beyond a midcard heel turn from the Dudley Boyz. Thereís only so much they can do to promote the FastLane Main Event, and literally everyone else is just spinning their wheels, stuck in the mud. Throw that in with the list of talent who may or may not be injured, and you have a skeleton crew working Raw and Smackdown. This time last year, thereís no way guys like Heath Slater would be appearing on Raw and Smackdown on a regular basis, but with such a thin roster (and unwillingness to call people in from NXT), weíre left with death-segments like that every week.