Welcome to the Fourteenth Article in this series!
"You cannot win, Sheamus. If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine..."
When looking back at Wrestlemania 28 it could be said that the PPV was quite good, but it didn't have the knock on effect that many thought it would at the time. CM Punk continued his reign as champion with a great match against Chris Jericho, but never really ascended to top dog status. John Cena had a good match with the Rock, but the fallout was non-existent, with the WWE basically throwing up their hands and deciding to do the same thing at Wrestlemania 29. The Streak remained intact against another part-timer and Kane and Randy Orton would be in a match that would be best described as 'passing the time'.
There was one match, however that was a turning point for one superstar. It was a match that made the audience scream for him and put him on the map as one of the most over wrestlers of the WWE- something that he would not relinquish for the next 2 years.
That it was precisely the wrong performer the WWE had in mind shows how much the actual match really worked.
It all started at TLC 2011. Mark Henry had his Hall of Pain Title Run cut short by Big Show in a chairs match. After the match, Henry knocked out Big Show leaving Money in the Bank holder Daniel Bryan to pick the bones- which he did to obtain his first World Heavyweight Championship- an event which came with a new catch phrase.
It would be safe to say that Bryan wanted to use the 'yes' chant to show himself as obnoxious and arrogant. What he and the WWE hadn't counted on however, was the emerging groundswell that was beginning to be shown towards him as people began to see this new attribute as a way to get the young tyro over.
Another superstar that was also gaining momentum was Sheamus. Having been pushed to the moon as a heel only to have been stalled and sort of lost amongst the shuffle of the Cena/Nexus feud, the Celtic Warrior was now in the middle of a face run that was beginning to gain quite a lot of interest from the crowds. Tough, unique and a good brand ambassador, there is no doubt that the WWE had big plans for the Great White in 2012.
These plans were laid out from the get go with Sheamus winning the 2012 Royal Rumble from Chris Jericho and deciding to challenge Daniel Bryan for the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 28. These two men who were shoved unceremoniously onto the pre-show the year before would finally have the chance to show the world what a match they could have together.
Yeah, well think again.
One kiss from AJ, one Brogue kick from the face from the Celtic Warrior and D-Bry's reign as World Heavyweight Champion was all over. It was the first match on the card and it lasted 18 seconds- 18 seconds that the announce team attempted to fob off as 8 in order for the WWE to break a record of shortest match, though it was soon abandoned when it became clear that the audience was not going to swallow that the kiss, the kick and the pin all took 8 seconds. Still, the WWE thought that Daniel Bryan could then get back to being a hell of a hand in the upper mid card and that Sheamus could lead Smackdown as a viable mainstream champion.
And then Monday Night Raw happened.
When the Rock- the Rock- cannot get a promo out because the fans are chanting the catchphrase of another superstar, you would be well advised to note said superstar's name. The WWE had severely underestimated how much people had like Bryan's in ring skills and had connected with his catchphrase. It went against every rule that Vince McMahon believed people wanted in their sports entertainers after all. Sure, Bryan was a great wrestler, but he was hardly muscular, nor was he immediately recognisable (his beard was far better trimmed back then). Furthermore, he wasn't a larger than life figure that seemed to be someone that would connect with the PG audience that McMahon craved. Sheamus on the other hand had all these attributes. Furthermore, he was a guy with a nice smile and a roguish charm that could be employed as a face of the company outside the ring as well as inside the squared circle. To McMahon it must have seemed like a slam dunk.
But to the WWE Universe it seemed like their guy was being dudded.
I could go on about the trials and tribulations of D-Bry's ride to the top of the WWE. How we all wondered when, if ever, the WWE were going to give him the respect he deserved. How every obstacle seemed to be more and more proof that Bryan would simply never get there because of idiots in creative who wanted to sell green wristbands rather than do something different.
The fact of the matter is though, he is now our WWE Champion in a way that John Cena, Batista, Brock Lesnar and others can only dream about. This is a guy that truly does feel like he suffered to get where he is. And it feels like we helped him to get there.
Wrestlemania 28 lit a fire under the audiences of the WWE. It showed them that this plucky little guy was being given a raw deal because the WWE felt like he wasn't proper championship material. Would we have had a CM Punk/Daniel Bryan feud if the WWE universe had not piped up? I sincerely doubt it.
The other upshot of all this which is not talked about as much is the terminal blow it inflicted on Sheamus' championship reign. In 2012 nobody- not CM Punk, not John Cena, nobody wrestled more televised matches than the Celtic Warrior as he showed himself to be one of the true workhorses of the company. He was tireless in his efforts in and out of the ring, but even with all of that effort he was still known as "the guy who squashed Bryan at Wrestlemania".
As the WWE tried to push him more and more into a sincere babyface, the audience resisted. After all, it's difficult to be seen as sincere and earnest when you've been seen to bury one of the most favoured talents on the company. Coupled with the fact that the creative team did not know whether to emphasise the brawling rough and tumble traits of Sheamus or this new 'Cena-lite' personality and Sheamus' babyface push came to a screeching halt when it became obvious to all that he wasn't doing the World Heavyweight Championship any favours.
In fact, Wrestlemania 28 also signalled the death knell for the World Title as a near-equal title to the WWE Championship. Some may say that 27 also had the WHC on first, but at least they had a match for it. After Wrestlemania the feuds in Sheamus' reign were fairly forgettable, including a terminally long one with Alberto Del Rio which may make it on this series for the damage it did for both competitors.
Overall Bryan vs Sheamus at Wrestlemania 28 would show the WWE that you can't keep a good man down. But you can put a good man in a position where he's hated for trying to keep another good man down.
That's article 14 folks! Next time we look at Steve Austin having to don his black and white costume in order to save the WWE from disaster! Will he succeed (spoiler: no)? See you then!