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WrestleMania 30 preview: Only one win matters in the dawn of the 'Reality Era'

From attitudes, to PG ratings, to reality-based booking, never has the product been so influenced by its fans, thanks to the power of social media -- something WWE has been pushing on its "Universe" for quite some time. Well, be careful what you wish for!

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WWE's WrestleMania 30 pay-per-view (PPV) event airs this Sunday night (April 6, 2014) inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. For the first time in the history of the world's top professional wrestling organization, the "Showcase of the Immortals" will also stream online via WWE Network.

Because Cageside Seats is the one and only destination for all your industry news and notes (duh), it should come as no surprise to see our tireless drones doing a slam-bang job of previewing the individual matches (samples here and here), so I'm going to avoid the standard, paint-by-numbers preview of Wrestler X wins because reasons.

I'm also going to skip the "To buy or not to buy" spiel because honestly, if you can't swing 10 bucks to stream the biggest wrestling event of the year on your digital device, then you have bigger problems than whether or not Daniel Bryan leaves 'Nawlins with the heavyweight strap.

Which brings me to an interesting observation.

WWE has a chance to do something really special as it teeters on the precipice of a new era. Triple H, in some of his past promos, lifted the term "reality era" from the fine folks of the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) and that's as good a phrase as any.

When was the last time the WWE "Universe" got behind a wrestler the way it has with Daniel Bryan?

Even if you flashback to WrestleMania 28 and 29, the focus was on the actual matches, or the corresponding programs. Rock vs. Cena had a fan base divided, while the organization touted The Undertaker's vaunted "streak." But this weekend in "The Big Easy," the cheese stands alone.

Bryan should -- and likely will -- win the big one.

I think that's an important move for the future of the company. The term "best for business" is loosely applied when fans fantasy book, but one of the major points in BIG PALE's WrestleMania III breakdown of "The Slam" (see it here) is how WWE was able to grab the audience at its peak, after the main event build-up had squeezed every last drop of adulation from them.

Then gave them exactly what they came to see.

It's how you create fond memories and more importantly, it's how you continue to keep business on an upward trajectory. Imagine how great fans will feel after investing six months into the YES! movement and then finally watching it pay off in the WrestleMania 30 headliner.

And only coughing up $10 to see it.

Not only does it legitimize the "Authority" angle and the oft-questionable decisions that helped shape it, but it also leaves fans -- who routinely get burned playing the pro wrestling slots -- feeling good about the organization's change in viewing format.

"Oh man, I'm so glad I subscribed."

The timing here is not coincidental. In the days, weeks, and months to follow, you should think of the WWE Network and immediately remember the feel-good moment when Bryan stood atop the highest turnbuckle, gold around his waist, while 80,000 fans screamed YES! YES! YES!

Success by association.

The last thing anyone at WWE wants, is to have fans look back on the launch of the network and think "Oh yeah, that's when Creative fucked us over by having Batista win the belt on a corporate run-in." If you want fans to give you their money, sooner or later you have to give them what they think they're paying for.

And you can hear them chanting DAN-IEL-BRY-AN (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) from 2,000 miles away.

WWE can afford to jerk fans around on RAW or Smackdown! because there's nothing to lose. The only thing the "Universe" has to commit to, is a couple of hours on the couch in time slots that -- sans football -- are usually void of interesting programming.

That's not the case on Sunday.

There's more at stake than just a couple of pouty faces. WWE wants to open up the cash-flow pipeline and recruit fans for a new place to call home every month. It's kind of like when your favorite restaurant opens up a second location. You might enjoy hanging out there, but there's only a finite number of times you'd be willing to pay for a shitty meal.

I'm feeling pretty hungry this weekend and I've got my 10 bucks.

What is WWE going to feed me? I don't know just yet, but I'll undoubtedly remember what it tasted like when my network subscription expires in six months.

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