So MetaFilter caught on to the Royal Rumble shenanigans, and I contributed a couple of cents to the conversation, partly to answer and contextualise other users’ questions about the whole wrestling thing in general, and party to elucidate, for myself as much as for others, why I’m into this crazy world.
And at the moment, it’s the politics of the situation that intrigue me the most. I mean, where does WWE go from here? This Monday’s Raw, after last week’s fortuitous snowstorm interruption, we got the first indication. It was an exercise in damage control, but more nuanced than we’ve come to expect from their direction as of late.
Yes, there seems to be a recognition now among WWE’s top brass that the IWC aren’t buying Roman Reigns as the new top face. Hence last week’s subtle tease at a heel turn via a particular self-assured (some would say cocky) promo, and this week’s set-up of a match between him and the IWC’s darling Daniel Bryan at Fastlane with the WrestleMania title shot on the line.
But they’re also attempting to take the heat off of Reigns and put it on The Authority, where it’s supposed to be. I mean, this is wrestling, and wrestling is all about tropes, and what’s more tropey in the modern era than ‘wrestlers get manipulated by the man’?
That’s how I’m reading it, anyway, and if it goes the way I feel it’s going, the outcome isn’t what the IWC hope to get. If they believe their golden boy Daniel Bryan is going over Reigns and into the WrestleMania main event, they’ve got another think coming.
Here’s what’s far more likely, in my book: Bryan brings out the best in Reigns at Fastlane in a great match, one that makes them both look strong, but Reigns has to win it.
The reason being, Brock Lesnar is the champ for this Mania (notice they’re not saying a shot against whoever the champion is come WM31, it’s a shot against Lesnar specifically) and he needs an opponent of similarly superhuman stature. Daniel Bryan is not that guy. In the world of WWE big men, he will always be the underdog, and let’s accept that it’s a role he can play amazingly well — hence the satisfaction of his title win last year, which was built up over months and months of struggle.
It just makes way more sense in this particular situation to have Reigns be the one to Superman-punch the stuffing out of Lesnar, and take the belt away from a part-time champion (and put it on Reigns, or even Seth Rollins if he cashes in Money in the Bank — though that scenario would work best if Lesnar goes over in the end). Whatever happens, no way is it going to be a five-star match, but since when has that ever been a primary concern for WWE?
Now, the interesting bit for me here is that they could book the Fastlane angle in a number of ways. They could have Reigns go over Bryan clean, but I don’t think anyone’s gonna buy that; Roman’s status is still being built, and WrestleMania is the time for him to peak, as it were.
Much better from a story standpoint would be for The Authority to get involved in a Reigns win. Then it would be Triple H and Stephanie, the characters and the company heads at once, screwing over Daniel Bryan while also putting Reigns in an awkward position. Will they turn him full-on heel? No, I don’t think so; they need a face (or quasi-face, anyway) to go against Lesnar. Better to go with intrigue: Will ambition let him take a tainted victory? Does it even matter, if he can’t trust The Authority not to screw him like they’ve screwed Bryan?
That’s the kind of story I want to see. But I feel like it won’t happen because, for one, the IWC is determined to shit on any angle that doesn’t end up with Daniel Bryan as champ and top face, and aside from that, I’m not convinced WWE’s creative department has the chops to see through this kind of a plot right now.
Yet I remain hopeful that some exciting TV can come out of this mess on the road to WrestleMania.