Randy Orton and HHH have had the upper hand on Daniel Bryan a majority of the time- and that's not a bad thing.
If you have been watching WWE television for the last few months, one recurring line that stands out is, "What's best for business." HHH started it when referring to why he cost Daniel Bryan his title at Summerslam. HHH's real-life wife Stephanie McMahon continued it. Their former corporate champion Randy Orton began uttering it. This line is not just a quote uttered by WWE personalities- it's a philosophy used to actually enhance their current product.
Years ago most of those in the internet wrestling community (and still a good chunk to this day) believed HHH had married into success by wedding the boss' daughter, Stephanie McMahon. Wrestlers cried foul, believing HHH had cut corners to get his spot while rarely, if ever, putting others over. In the mid-nineties, HHH was part of The Klique, then soon after a part of D-Generation X- one of wrestling's most famous stables of all time. After DX disbanded (I don't count the money-grabbing, watered-down 2006-2010 version) in the late 90's, HHH was in the main event picture and had the WWE title more often than not. He was known for coming out each and every week on RAW to give long, drawn-out promos and became synonomous with the term "bury". (This means to prevent another star from gaining fame, usually by beating them over and over again, or other times verbally during promos.)
In 2006, HHH seemed to turn the corner. He lost by submission cleanly to John Cena. Cena would go on to be the company's golden boy, and still is to this day. HHH would remain a face (good guy) up until WWE's most recent turn of events. Daniel Bryan beat Cena at Summerslam, and HHH wasted no time in Pedigree'ing Bryan for Orton to pin him with his Money in the Bank contract. (The contract inside allows that superstar to "challenge" for the belt at the drop of a hat...or in this case a skull.) I put the term challenge in quotations because most of the time, the MITB holder waits for a moment of weakness and uses it to capitalize and gain the WWE title.
Bryan was the hottest superstar in a very longtime, Orton was a stagnant bore on the mic and in the ring, and special guest referee HHH would become involved in the WWE title switching hands at some point. While a lot of IWC'ers (myself included) bemoaned the third moment, it worked with the first two moments to produce one hell of a storyline.
When reflecting on it and not in the moment, all the stars (in this case WWE ones) aligned for a storyline with plenty of legs to it. Orton had purpose again. He wasn't a pandering, bland babyface. He was a dirty, self-serving heel who was sick of caring what others thought. Bryan's star did not fade out like some feared. It brightened by the day. "YES!" was not just a rallying cry anymore; it was a lifestyle to get past any obstacle put forth. Sold-out arenas around the country were full of fans who continued to chant it loudly. It had been a long time since fans had become disgusted and revolted at the hands of a title change. While those in disagreement were not aware, HHH and company were looking at the big picture.
What I had expected after HHH cost Bryan the title was him to come out
and be the Game of 1999-2000. That character consisted of a heel who was
bent on his own agenda and cared for no one else. What I was surprised
is the evolution (no pun intended) of his heel character. It's a
tongue-in-cheek nod to the IWC's perception of the Game. He knows he is
thought of as a seflish, scheming, politicking star- and he's using it
to his advantage. Stephanie herself acts as his righthand woman,
complimenting her powerful husband perfectly. They are on the same page
and using their collective starpower for better.(But please, Stephanie- enough of belittling Divas champion AJ Lee. It serves no purpose, not even in storylines.)
This was set to be their big storyline, set to not only make Bryan into a star, but a host of other wrestlers as well.
Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler and the Shield have been given plenty of time to show off their characters and abilities as well. (This is also in due large part to the absence of John Cena, who had surgery on his elbow.) The Shield continue to look strong and are out of their brief slump in the early to mid summer. They are the unofficial bodyguards/henchment of the "Corporation 2.0" as some call it. They don't just win matches- they win cleanly and convincingly. Roman Reigns' spear continues to captivate, while the brash nature of Dean Ambrose and the versatile ability of Seth Rollins only add to make the triumvirate of champions (US/WWE tag) a major threat. Dolph Ziggler had been muted and held back at first, but in recent weeks has shown progress and determination to rally against the heels. Rhodes is embroiled in a heated rivalry with HHH and Stephanie as well, "fighting" for his job back as well as respect not only for himself, but also his family.
Big Show has gone in and out of the main event scene, from good to bad and bad to good more times than one can count. He has been World Heavyweight champion, WWE champion, WWE tag champion, U.S. champion and Intercontinental champion. He has had sabbaticals, but is a company man and has put up with a lot. But he must be thankful for this chance, because it shows in his most recent efforts. He isn't just a big oaf meant to be shown off like a giant freak. He is a performer capable of not only various in-ring storytelling, but also a wide range of emotion. His character has depth than just "guy who wants to beat people up". He, like Rhodes, is fighting for respect- and in storyline, money. HHH and Stephanie have exploited Show and degraded him many times over, to the point where fans are dying to see Show knock the Game's head off with his massive fist. In a time where we want things NOW NOW NOW, watching a storyline build over time makes the comeuppance far more gratifying than if it were to happen after one week. Viewers are legitimately angry about a fake sport- but that's the point. They become emotionally invested in on-screen characters; just like a movie. The difference is that these guys (and gals) travel on the road 250+ days a year and battle through many various injuries- all for the sake of entertainment.
While some may argue that Bryan and Show getting "punked" over and over again is tiresome and that they should get over on HHH and his goons, I believe this big-picture thinking is quite refreshing. But speaking of punk, where is C.M in all of this? Of course he is battling Ryback and Paul Heyman (and Curtis Axel- sort of), but that storyline has yet to intersect with that of the new regime's power trip. Quite a few times, HHH has had the roster stand on stage to watch matches, berate them or have them voice opinions. None of those times CM Punk was on stage. I believe that at some point, Punk, Ryback and Heyman have to be inserted in some fashion into this angle. They are too useful not to be utilized here.
A good heel always believes they are right and can sometimes convince
fans they are, and in this case...HHH's reasoning really does make
sense, even if you don't want to admit it. HHH (in-character) really believes what he and Stephanie are doing is what is best for business. Daniel Bryan, Big Show and the rest of the wrestlers trying to buck the system believe they are doing what's right. This back-and-forth struggle for power and respect is not only fun to watch and try and foresee- it's what is best for business.
Like it? Love it? Hate it? Contact me on Twitter @SeanNeutron.