If you were watching WWE Monday Night RAW last night waiting for Bryan Danielson to show up, then you were wasting your time. His absence from the show was not part of a work. He wasn’t driving the limousine that thrashed Bret Hart around as part of a coercive plot to get the WWE NXT rookies their contracts. He wasn’t waiting the rafters, and odds are, it’ll be 90 days or so before any of us see him in a WWE (or TNA? God I hope not.) ring.
It was all real. The sponsor outrage, the potential blow back from Linda McMahon’s campaign, the firing, John Cena’s Twitter outburst Sunday night where he said he’d sign any petition to get the American Dragon back in a WWE ring. I heard from my well-placed source during RAW’s main event that the whole Danielson ordeal wasn’t a work, and that nearly everything that was being reported about the situation was true. Furthermore, Cena’s public display to get Danielson reinstated wasn’t part of the WWE’s in-character-only policy on Twitter postings. He went to bat for the Dragon and even left a message on his phone letting him know he was in his corner.
That’s about the only good thing you can take out of this, that John Cena and perhaps the rest of the WWE locker room, or at the very least, a big portion of it, is behind Danielson and thought his firing was bogus. Otherwise, this is the worst nightmare for fans of indie wrestling and Danielson who saw this as the biggest chance in the world for one of the little guys to make a big impact on the WWE stage. It was also a victory for corporate greed, cowardice driven by political correctness and the paranoid specter of a double-murdering degenerate junkie who still haunts the offices at Stamford to this very day.
Then there was the problem of reminding people about Chris Benoit, as if the first thing anyone thought about when seeing Danielson choke out Justin Roberts with his own tie was that piece of garbage, sub-human drug addict whose reckless lifestyle caused him to destroy not only himself but the lives of two innocent people as well. If that was the case, then why would Triple H, Shawn Michaels and even Danielson himself be allowed to use the Crippler Crossface or some kind of variant of it?
Of course, then there’s the business of the spitting on John Cena being an equal offense to the choke-out of Roberts. To that I say “lolwut?” Spitting on someone is an egregious offense against their PG nature, but putting someone in the back of a limousine and playing demolition derby with it isn’t? In most states, that’s considered attempted vehicular homicide.
So, with this laundry list of people who got offended, you’d think Danielson broke some major rules and maliciously set out to besmirch the good name of the WWE, right by “going into business for himself,” right? Uh no. The tenor of the angle last week on RAW was that the NXT rookies were unhinged. They tore down a ring, beat the crap out of announcers and innocent bystanders, destroyed property and wailed on three WWE wrestlers, two of which really had nothing to do with their grievances. It was supposed to be anarchy. Danielson was only doing his best to get the angle over, and in fact, he did the best job out of the eight men with the exception of maybe Skip Sheffield. For his troubles, he got fired because the wrong people got offended.
It’s stuff like this that makes it so hard to be a fan of mainstream wrestling. When the WWE is dominated by tight-assed corporate suits who don’t know the meaning of good television, or who fail to see that the nature of pro wrestling is to be violent, and when TNA is run by a rocks-for-brains money mark who lets retreads waste her money, it’s no wonder why many old-school wrestling fans are disillusioned and why it’s so hard for both to gain new fans the way that the WWF and WCW could up to the Attitude Era. If I’m in a WWE locker room right now, do I have to be on pins and needles with the actions I take in the ring? I mean, this isn’t the first time someone got fired trying to get an angle over. Remember Mark Copani, aka Muhammad Hassan? He was scapegoated for the writers developing a blatantly exploitative angle in the post-9/11 world. It didn’t help that he was a total loser backstage, but here’s the thing…
By all accounts, Bryan Danielson is a guy you want in your locker room. He’s an exemplary citizen and a guy who busts his ass to get angles over. If you fire him, then who the hell is safe? That’s the infuriating part about all this. The paranoia. It can be crippling to a staff of wrestlers whose task it is to execute the stuff that these writers, who can shovel crap onto paper with complete impunity it seems, from the script to the camera.
And in the meantime, while Bryan Danielson will come out of this as a major folk hero and probably a bigger star once he returns to the WWE (if he ever does), he still got a raw deal out of all this. And so did we.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.
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