We first knew Daniel Bryan had the chance to be a big WWE star when the fans in the greatest Miami area (and beyond) raged against the machine after he was booked to lose the world heavyweight championship to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28 in just 18 seconds. He didn't even appear on Monday Night Raw the next evening, but that didn't matter.
The "YES!" revolution had begun.
Fast forward nearly two years later and he's as over as ever, at least with the fans. But the machine is still holding him down, messing him around at every turn. And while some fans are taking the "wait and see" approach to the story, others have had enough after watching him get screwed out of the WWE championship title at four straight pay-per-view (PPV) events, including last night's (Sun., Oct. 27, 2013) Hell in a Cell back at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.
Some of that is simply fandom. After all, you want the guy you support to win and when he doesn't, you're upset about it. That's not exclusive to wrestling, that's with all things in life.
But some of that is also pessimism born of repeatedly being let down. And maybe simply a want for good storytelling, which hasn't been what we've been given.
The problem, of course, is that everything that has happened over the past couple months has been building to a very clear cut conclusion, and WWE is outright refusing to give the fans said conclusion. Bryan has shown that he's one of the best, capable of winning the title by virtue of being better than the talent he's up against, like Randy Orton. However, the machine, dubbed "The Authority" by WWE, does not want this to be the case, so he's been screwed over time and again to ensure he doesn't get the chance to carry the company's flagship title on his not so broad shoulders.
Eventually, though, being the hero in this story, Bryan will overcome, right? That's the idea in a story like this, at least. The bad guys place many obstacles in front of the good guy, forcing him to go through a great deal of adversity, only for the hero to persevere and overcome in the end.
In this story, however, the good guy hasn't overcome. He's scored a few victories along the way, sure, but in the end, he's been left lying on the side of the road, a victim of the latest tank the heels rolled out to run him over.
At one point during the ride, Triple H referred to Bryan as a "B+" player. He's really good, a great hand in the ring and one of the top guys in the company, for sure, but he's never going to be the number one guy.
That never should have been said if the plan wasn't always to make him the number one guy. Because if he tries and fails, then by default Triple H's words ring true: Bryan is still just a "B+" player, a great hand in the ring who will give plenty of great matches but never make it all the way to the top.
That's why his loss to Orton last night stings so very much, smoz finish or not.
Does this mean WWE has "buried" Bryan? Certainly not. Anyone who suggests such a thing needs a refresher lesson in pro wrestling vernacular. On the contrary, Bryan has been solidified as a main event level talent, meaning he can always headline a show and he'll never be out of place.
But that doesn't mean this story hasn't failed. Because the story being told always centered on Bryan overcoming the odds, persevering through the struggle against those who wish to see him fail, and becoming the face of the company, if only for a while.
As each month goes by, each PPV event or TV show fades to black with Bryan failing to prove he is that guy, it becomes less and less likely he eventually will. The "wait and see" approach isn't a bad one but each passing failure is a threat to the enthusiasm that once existed for the seemingly inevitable success.
The real trouble comes when you look at the top stars the powers that be in WWE deem as top stars and see how they were/are booked. Hulk Hogan won the WWF championship and didn't lose it for four years. He was the main event in almost every WrestleMania he took part in, including against Sid Justice in a meaningless singles match over an awesome Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage title bout. Vince McMahon tried to screw over Stone Cold Steve Austin at every turn, but "The Rattlesnake" always overcame. There were bumps in the road, sure, but he was in the main event at WrestleMania winning titles.
But, really, we don't even need to look to those two, who represent the brightest a star can shine in pro wrestling. We could simply look down two matches on the card at John Cena, who returned from an elbow injury to win the world heavyweight championship from Alberto Del Rio.
He won, clean, mind you, after a story was laid out that had him overcoming any psychological block that existed with his arm being put in danger by the unforgiving Cross Armbreaker submission employed by his equally unforgiving foe. WWE told the story well and stayed true to it: Cena is the hero, Cena got hurt, Cena is recovering, Cena is back to battle for the title but maybe too soon, Cena is up against a vicious opponent who seeks to put him back on the shelf, said vicious opponent very nearly does so but Cena overcomes to win and stand tall in the end.
That's an "A+" player.
As for Bryan? Four straight PPV shows, four straight teases that he would overcome, four straight revelations that he did not.
A "B+" player indeed.