Daniel Bryan will challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship at this weekend's (Aug. 18, 2013) SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV) event, which emanates from Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
I wasn't so sure at first, but over the past few weeks, both performers have managed to convince me that this is, in fact, a legitimate main event, rather than a transitional storyline cobbled together to keep the fans entertained while Creative cooks up the next big thing.
Part of that has to do with Bryan's meteoric rise in popularity, which is a direct result of his hard work and talent. But it would also be a bit marky to overlook the Rudy-factor in his quest for the gold, opposite a wrestler who ironically, at least behind the scenes, is the real corporate champion.
Yes, I'm looking at you, Mr. PhD from the University of Word Life.
Cena has been carrying his weight in a program that would have allowed him to play trampoline, bouncing Bryan's heat to the fans (and back) as he paints by (five) numbers before, during and after this weekend's headliner. Instead, he's done some of the best work of his career (proof), giving fans a reason to dig in, microwave some Jiffy Pop and see how this thing unfolds.
It's a grade of A+ in Wrestling 101.
That's why I'm so puzzled at the last-minute decision to have Triple H -- no longer an active wrestler -- inserted into the match as a special guest referee. I'm sure I echo the sentiments of many pro wrestling fans when I ask aloud, "Okay, but why?"
The easy answer comes from the power struggle (kayfabe) behind the scenes, as Trips and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon play tug-of-war over who has the right to be called champion. Vince wanted the gloriously slimy Brad Maddox to officiate in hopes of an L.A. screwjob, while Aitch decided to do the honors himself to prevent any funny business.
Thanks, Hunter, but let's not ignore the observer effect.
That's really what my issue is with this booking decision. A lot of fans have cried foul over what on the surface, appears to be yet another attempt at Triple H to stroke his own ego (at best), or take over a segment because he can't stand to see something so awesome that doesn't include him (at worst).
It also doesn't help that the last time he pulled a stunt like this, the "Summer of Punk" turned into the summer of bunk, complete with McMahon's eventual removal from power. Will Bryan suffer a similar fate? While there's no guarantee that history will repeat itself, you know what they say about betting a horse by its record.
Sniff, I love you, Pop.
No matter how you slice it, Monday's announcement diverts attention away from the Cena vs. Bryan match. And considering how powerful their program has been, that's really where it belongs. Sure, I enjoyed the tampering from Vince, as well as the interference from Trips, but that was scaffolding in the construction of this year's SummerSlam.
You got the job done. Now step back and let us see the finished product.
Even if Triple H does nothing but call the match right down the middle (unlikely), the formula has still been diluted, as his presence alone suggests tomfoolery. With just a few days left before the event, we should be talking about Cena, Bryan and the belt.
No more, no less.
Instead, the boards have come alive with theories as to how things will unfold during the big finish.
Before Monday Night RAW (results), we were pretty much left in the dark. Now, we have a fairly good indication that something will go awry. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and if Triple H is out there, then it's only a matter of time before Vince is, too.
Though I will admit the return of a motorized Johnny Ace would render this argument null and void.
If we came all this way just to watch Cena vs. Bryan dissolve into some half-baked clusterfuck, you know, "so everyone is booked to look strong," then WWE has cheated its fans, as well as its performers. We deserve a clear-cut winner and loser on Sunday night, because that's how the psychology of this narrative has been written.
And it can just as easily be unwritten if McMahon and Helmsley play helicopter parents.
I don't care if
someone Bryan turns heel, or if there's a surprise ending. What I do care about, is how it's packaged and delivered. I was relatively optimistic heading into this weekend, but now that Triple H is donning the black-and-white, I'm not so sure.
For once, it's not time to play the game.