The Pittsburgh crowd once withstood the onslaught of Bane and his flock of unquestioning anarchists, but that was merely fiction, with the Steel City doubling as Caped Crusader’s Gotham.
Actual Pittsburghians in actual Pittsburgh went on a quest not to seek the Holy Grail, but to provide a soundtrack of rage, fury, sarcasm, and spiked mockery for Vince McMahon’s rendition of Swan Lake, better recognized as The 2014 Royal Rumble. The thousands of violinists he expected a melodic flourish from instead dropped trou and and sprayed methane in the direction of not only Batista, but the event structure as a whole.
How could the company be so off the mark? It’s not as if a vocal minority clamors for Daniel Bryan’s hand pulling the sword from the main event stone; it was the entire Pittsburgh crowd. And the entire Providence crowd two weeks earlier. And many, many other audiences, social media users, and just plain ol’ many Bryan fans in general.
This isn’t even merely off the mark. It’s in another galaxy, hurtled so diametrically yonder from the bulls-eye of viewer satisfaction that one has to wonder if McMahon’s loved ones are being held somewhere at gunpoint. Could this elaborate misuse of the people’s choice be McMahon’s way of keeping the bomb-rigged bus accelerated over 50 miles an hour?
Of course not, because that’s a movie, and a really good one as well. Though like Speed’s script, WWE reality is controlled by only the imaginations of those in power, traditionally with assists by the willing seat-fillers, at home and in the arenas.
Hulk Hogan was embraced by a world welcoming the closest thing it’d seen to a superhero peeled from a DC comic panel. The Undertaker was too unique to boo, hence his crossover onto the side of good for the most part in his storied career. Steve Austin and The Rock’s sneers and snides stood out in the mid-90s sea of commonality, and WWE’s response to rising faith from the t-shirt buyers was to instill their own faith in the Attitude Era’s charismatic pillars.
Inquisitive fans will often use the argument of crowd support in asking why certain performers get stonewalled by a double-paned glass ceiling, while company pet projects enjoy the escalator to the penthouse, while producing as much heat as a struck match in the Ross Ice Shelf.
This is where we find Bryan, bearded volleyball in a tense, seemingly unnecessary match between fans and executives, one side nearly deflating the ball with blood-red knuckle jousts, with the other coolly batting back with a dismissive, open-palmed strike.
Bryan’s height, or lack thereof, is pointed at as a possible reason why the rocket isn’t strapped to him. Makes sense, since the chosen class of Randy Orton, Batista, and Sheamus dwarf the height chart, while laughable attempts at offerings have come in the form of Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, and Mason Ryan over the past several years, each as interesting as a golf divot, and presented with that company aplomb, with little more than “he’s striking and athletic for his size!” as subtitle.
It would deign McMahon to give the same burst of zeal to a Bryan push that he does a man like Batista, whom would proudly play hero to millions if he didn’t take four years off to rip the company’s direction, and make a half-assed attempt at becoming the globe’s foremost Octagon-owning grandpappy, before realizing that MMA isn’t “mixed martial arthritis”.
There is an appropriate underscore to the fact that the last three Rumble entrants are marketed as beastly and brawny (Batista, Roman Reigns, and Sheamus) while the fourth placer was Bryan’s fellow mob-made icon CM Punk, who was yanked from the fray by monster-of-the-machine Kane. Barely in Punk’s 50 minutes of duration was the focus on him, a curious choice, given that past long-lasters get increased wattage in their spotlights.
It’s worth asking why the mogul quick to point out the support of the many, in addition to his own brass-balled genius, in building the WWE empire would soundly reject the latest wish, not whim, of his fund-funneling constituents.
I truly think Vince McMahon doesn’t know how to push Daniel Bryan. It’s not that Bryan can’t be presented as the glowing star on the WWE tree, as crowds have shown near Koreshian undying support for a man who appreciates every ounce of love. I simply believe McMahon has no earthly idea how to use Bryan.
Bryan’s not a muscleman. He’s not the prototypical superhero, and nothing about him is over-the-top, aside from his energy and his bandit’s mask of facial hair. McMahon has spent so much time dealing in unreality, the absurdly larger-than-life mythos of his action figures come to life, that when tasked with a mild-mannered everyman whose determination and dedication resonate at heroic levels to all walks of viewer, he simply can’t wrap his mind around it.
When Mick Foley can tweet about Bryan’s exclusion from the Rumble match with twitching disgust, that says a lot. It rings louder that, in about 90 minutes, that tweet received so many retweets, the total number surpassed that of the given attendance of the event itself. And the Rumble drew nearly 16,000 fans in Pittsburgh.
What’s obvious to one of wrestling’s all time greatest performers, he himself an underdog of Bryan’s plain-clothed ilk, reflects a wide margin of fans who easily see what an apparently out-of-touch businessman with his finger on the button, distant from the pulse, cannot see.
There will always be a chance that reality lands a right hook on the crow’s feet under McMahon’s senile eye, and he realizes what’s being missed out on. If he has ears, you can nix the boxing glove after hearing that Pittsburgh crowd all through the night. There could come that day where Bryan ascends in proportion to the support and demand beneath him, but the fact that he hasn’t yet rattles the mind.
Until you remember WWE’s history of illusory, spin-swift mechanics, then it becomes easier to understand. The company with the heartbeat spurred by abstract grandeur and smoke and mirrors doesn’t recognize real when it stands before them, index fingers pointed skyward.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
WWE Royal Rumble 2014 DVD
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