For hardcore wrestling fans the end of this week's Monday Night Raw was an ominous sign. No, not because CM Punk failed to show up. But because Daniel Bryan was left in a heap at the hands of the Authority and their muscular friend after a Batista Bomb by The Animal and a Pedigree by Triple H.
It harkened back to the day when Evolution ran roughshod over the entire Raw roster, where the only people who really benefitted were Hunter and his cronies. Could Bryan be the next Rob Van Dam or Booker T, the cult hero primed for the big victory, only for The Cerebral Assassin to get the script changed at the last minute and for them never to receive that moment? Would he be the latest in the long list of names who ended up less over from playing The Game, win, lose or draw, than they were before they drew that deceptively short straw?
Well, according to Dave Meltzer in his latest Wrestling Observer Radio show you should have no fear, as WWE is currently informing their business partners that Daniel Bryan will be pushed as the second biggest star in the promotion after WrestleMania 30:
"Put it this way, him and John Cena are going to be the two most pushed guys after WrestleMania, OK. I don't know whether that means he's winning the World Championship, I don't know what that's saying, but there have been things that have been sent out to people that they do business with and it's kinda like these are the people we're focussing on.... Well, all I know is number one is John Cena and number two is Daniel Bryan.... With CM Punk out of the picture, he's pretty clearly the number two guy as far as like that aspect of business goes, so he's fine. He ain't getting, the guy's not getting buried, it ain't happening, OK? Is he going to win the championship? You would think logically that he's going to win the championship at WrestleMania or a month later. That doesn't mean it will happen because things aren't always as you would logically think, but buried? They can't afford to bury him, you know, they can't afford to bury him now. I mean there may be a time when he does get buried, he may win the World Championship and get booked like Rey Mysterio as World Champion, wouldn't surprise me a bit, but they can't bury him as they don't have the depth to do so at this point."
Clearly it wasn't the plan for Daniel Bryan to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion after WrestleMania and it takes a lot for WWE to change their big picture direction nowadays, so that's why the title victory is far from guaranteed in the short term, even though he would benefit more from a run with the belt than the chosen one Batista. But one has to think it's coming long before the end of the year.
I'm sure even this news won't please some, but you're not living in the real world if you expect WWE to position someone above John Cena's status in the company until he hangs up the boots for good or someone catches fire at a level that he forces Vince McMahon's hand. Although Bryan is more universally beloved, he still doesn't move merchandise, tickets and ratings like Cena does with children and more casual fans, so it wouldn't be smart business to make him number one.
The most that can be expected is that Triple H puts Bryan over strongly and allows him to be elevated to the next level, which should happen as Hunter wrestles so rarely and we can't wait till WrestleMania 31 for the Authority angle to be blown off. CM Punk's departure should also motivate the McMahon son-in-law, as part of the reason The Best in the World is believed to have walked out is because he felt wrestling Triple H was beneath him and wouldn't be the main event of the show. So what could be better to stick it in Punk's face than going on last with Daniel Bryan, tearing the house down in a five star match and giving the crowd what they want by having the YES movement leader tap him out? Don't want Punk to ever come back? Make sure of it by doing your damnedest to turn Bryan into a bigger mainstream phenomenon than Punk ever was.