April 7, 2014. WrestleMania XXX. The premier event for the most popular wrestling company on planet Earth was a rousing success. Anchored by the triumphant Daniel Bryan and the defeated Undertaker, WrestleMania XXX was an event that captured the attention of the world. With the launch of the WWE Network, Vince McMahon bet his company's future on his new vision of placing all WWE pay-per-views (PPV) on the WWE Network for free. It is a gamble that WWE should make, although it is always risky being first to do anything. The WWE Network will be a success eventually but not in one year as WWE irresponsibly projected to investors. Two or three years from now, WWE will be a company fat with profits, a 'Universe' unto itself. However, it could also be what it currently is now: A wrestling company without a vision.
While starting the WWE Network shows that the WWE business itself is innovative, creative, and risk taking, the WWE core wrestling product desperately lacks the vision displayed in WWE's attempts to grow it's business. Opportunities have come and gone and this company has failed to latch onto a talent and let his vision lead them to higher heights like Steve Austin, The Rock, and Hulk Hogan have done. CM Punk's pipe bomb promo provided an opportunity WWE failed to exploit. Punk's promo was such a breath of fresh air but it was more than that. It revealed how much mainstream America are fans of and care about wrestling. ESPN personalities began to talk openly about WWE and ESPN.com began running pro wrestling power rankings. Punk's promo was tweeted about, talked about, and shown over and over again to the point that it became a story much of America and the world had to follow. In the grand scheme of things, did it change anything? Did it revolutionize the business of wrestling?
No, it didn't, and CM Punk is no longer in WWE.
Opportunity usually doesn't come often to those who squander it but WWE has once again found favor with the YES! movement. Daniel Bryan is no one's choice in WWE but the world outside of WWE has chosen him. The world that is not part of the WWE 'Universe.' Let me define the WWE Universe because in my opinion it is not the fans of wrestling or WWE fans. The WWE Universe are the members of WWE that refuse to allow fans to influence the decision making process. Wrestling used to be a product that was tailored to insight fans as well as elate fans. Promos and matches used to be changed on the fly to make sure the people respond but no more. Promos and matches are scripted and forced, having no fluidity or flexibility to play to the emotions of the crowd. When a segment dies on Monday Night Raw, you don't keep watching to see if the talent of a Rock or Stone Cold can save the segment. Why? Because the promos, matches and segments are tailored to entertain the WWE universe behind the curtain, not the fans who paid for tickets or are watching at home.
How is it possible that Daniel Bryan is not leading teams like the Miami Heat in YES chants prior to or after playoff games? As a matter of fact, how is it possible that Bryan doesn't have vignettes chanting YES! with Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Donald Trump, P Diddy, Shaq, LeBron James, all celebrities who have a relationship with the company? Why not Steve Austin, Rock, or Bruno Sammartino, famous wrestlers who put the company on their back. You know why and I know why. Because the WWE Universe has no desire to even attempt to get Bryan to the top of the food chain. They don't want Bryan as the lead horse because the WWE Universe didn't pick him. Once again we are now witnessing WWE blow an opportunity to let the fans into the board room. WrestleMania XXX was essentially a moment WWE gave to Daniel Bryan because they were forced to do it. Not because WWE see's Bryan as the type of talent that can transform its core wrestling business.
What is troubling about this is that we may never see a true elevation of a wrestling star again, an event that takes place naturally between fans and performer. The WWE Universe doesn't want our input, they don't want our voices. They want a show that they feel is entertaining and therefore so should we. What happens to Daniel Bryan going forward is anyone's guess but the fact that WWE had no plans for him says a lot. It's not about Bryan's feud with Kane. It's about marketing and positioning. It's about branding. Bryan could have been a seismic shift for WWE, a branding vehicle to attract fans by the bushel. But there is nothing there. There is no vision for Bryan as champion or any vision for Bryan to lead the company as a whole. The WWE gave us Daniel Bryan World Heavyweight Champion, however they have not yet given us Daniel Bryan the massive brand that can lead WWE and pro wrestling for years to come. As long as the WWE Universe retains it's myopic view of its product, there will be no organically made stars and no transformative wrestlers or performers.
WWE has become a stockholder first entity. The stock price is the focal point and the WWE Network is being relied upon to set the standard and be the star brand of the company. Lost in this is the talent and a talent like Daniel Bryan who can bring in tons of cash if he is allowed to shape the WWE wrestling product in his image like all transformative champions have done before him. The network won't produce the cash flow that stockholders crave for another couple years. The Daniel Bryan brand is ready to go now, it is ready to earn money and earn fans and be different from anything WWE has ever done. The problem is the WWE 'universe' is just biding time until they can quietly push Bryan aside for their next chosen one. Wrestling was once an entity that waited for the fan to cheer or boo to have the correct vision for the talent and the product. A wrestling company that claims it's fans are a 'universe' and yet despises it's own fans for their honest reactions, would seemingly be certain to fail. Unless, you take away how PPV buys affect business.
Who cares what the world thinks now?