Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kevin Owens for the WWE title
This match is in a tough position. These two men are behind the 8-ball when it comes to getting the crowd invested.
That’s almost hard to fathom when you have a WWE title match between a Daniel Bryan at the top of his game and a finally returning Kevin Owens. That should be a match that fans are excited for. And while this isn’t by any means a groan inducing match, it’s a match that fans aren’t jazzed to see either man win.
Because neither is Kofi Kingston.
Two weeks ago, this was Kofi’s title match against Bryan and it was set to be a fantastic main event, a match that could get fans excited for a B-PPV just prior to WrestleMania.
Kofi Kingston caught fire heading into the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. An 11th hour replacement for Mustafa Ali, he first impressed the crowd by going over an hour in the SmackDown gauntlet match. Then he and Daniel Bryan were the last two in the Chamber for that WWE title and Kofi came within a hair of winning it. All the while, the fans chants for “Kofi!” got louder and more passionate.
Because of that response, and because Kingston picked up a tag win pinning Daniel Bryan the SmackDown after Elimination Chamber, Kingston was granted a one on one WWE title match at Fastlane - the first of his 11 year WWE career.
Kofi went on the Edge and Christian podcast that Friday, and while that podcast exists outside the world of kayfabe, the challenger said something that would soon enter the story. He told E & C that he’s been around long enough that he knows that things can change all of a sudden. He knows how this business works. One day you’re on top of the world and the next it’s taken away.
That’s exactly what happened.
The following week he was set for a WWE title contract signing. He and his fellow New Day members walked out more exuberant than usual. Shane and Stephanie McMahon played a video package highlighting all of Kofi’s accomplishments. Kingston cut a promo about it. It was a feel good moment the fans could get lost in because they watched Kofi put in the work for so long and were genuinely happy he’s finally getting his chance. This was of course by design so it’d hurt that much more when it was taken away.
Before he could put pen to paper, Chairman Vince McMahon came out and ripped it all away. He didn’t feel Kofi was “blockbuster” enough so he replaced him with the returning Kevin Owens. (Why Vince felt KO, the man who head butted him over a year ago, is more blockbuster than Kofi is beyond me. Perhaps it’s part of a Vince is out of touch storyline, but don’t hold your breath for follow up.)
Woods and E were livid, unable to contain their understandable frustration. Kofi, on the other hand, was solemn. Like he told Edge and Christian, he knew that things can change on a dime and perhaps knew this was too good to be true.
Now obviously, the reason for this move was likely to move the Kofi vs. Bryan match to WrestleMania given how well the fans responded to it and how popular Kofi has been. Win or lose, a singles match for a top championship at the biggest show of the year would be a huge accolade for the WWE vet. (Of course, a win would be fantastic.)
Unfortunately, that puts the Fastlane title match in a tough spot. Bryan has been fantastic as a heel. His current gimmick has fans booing him just a year after he came back from retirement. Kevin Owens has a sizable fanbase and his small sample size of babyface work has been good.
But neither of them are Kofi Kingston.
And because of that, no matter how good these two men are, the fans aren’t going to be able to give it their all. This match was a disappointment the moment they announced it. That’s a tough position.
To their credit, their back and forth on SmackDown was really good. And it was wise to keep Kofi off TV (he was on a PR tour with the rest of the New Day in India). It’s not going to be bad to the point that the crowd is going to crap all over it (though don’t be surprised to hear a “We want Kofi!” chant). These guys are talented enough to pull them in.
However, it’s not the match fans want and not the man who fans really want to see. And that’s just a tough spot for Bryan and Owens. We’ll see how they approach it tonight.
Kevin Owens will attempt to win the WWE title from Daniel Bryan tonight at WWE Fastlane, airing on the WWE Network at 7 PM. Keep it here to CagesideSeats.com for all your Fastlane coverage.
Who will win this match?
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