discussed last week what the IWC contingency is made up of. The know-it-alls. The fantasy bookers. The woe is me, Vince McMahon -hate- wrestling "victims". Essentially- nothing can make them happy.
But every now and then, the stars align and the mainstream fans along with the IWC'ers are under one umbrella of happiness. They all get what they want. It's rare, but possible. Think when Edge beat John Cena in 2006 after cashing in the Money in the Bank. Or RVD later that same year at Extreme Rules against Cena. In 2011, Punk would beat Cena to solidify himself amongst the top tier of superstars at Money in the Bank. Notice a pattern here? Money in the Bank against Cena seems to work- but last year also showed it works with different pairs, too.
Most recently on the RAW after Wrestlemania 29, Dolph Ziggler cashed in his MITB contract against Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship in New Jersey amidst a raucous crowd. The energy was electric all night, and as ADR lay there "writhing" in pain, the crowd was seething for a Ziggler cash-in. When he came in, the place came "unglued" as announcer Michael Cole loves to say. That is how to do it, folks. All the right pieces come together to create a truly special moment. I still get goosebumps watching it.
But even when the events appeal to everyone, the honeymoon period quickly loses its luster. The star might lose the belt weeks after, causing the IWC to throw fits that "Cena always has the belt." Or Wrestler X doesn't deserve it. It's a delicate balance, trying to make everyone happy- which is pretty much impossible.
With less than a week to go until Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans, the mainstream fans and IWC are headed for an impasse of sorts. Daniel Bryan, beloved by almost- if not all- fans will look to not win once but twice in the same night. First against HHH, and potentially against Batista and Randy Orton. That is, if HHH doesn't decide to Pedigree Bryan 45 times and do the finger poke of doom to both Batista and Orton.
The feud between Bryan and HHH (with Stephanie adding a little flavor) along with Cena/Wyatt has been the best built one leading to a Mania card that leaves much to be desired. A lot of it stems from the perception the IWC has of HHH from years past, and how he "lucked" into his position of power by marrying the boss's daughter. The power couple not only addressed that situation, but expanded on it with a brilliant promo, feeding off each other. The cherry on top was a video package that portrays the "YES!" Movement as a flavor of the month- one that HHH will look to dispatch in quick fashion.
The other reason this feud is one of the best built for the thirtieth edition of Wrestlemania is the fact that it's gone on for a long time. Some may point to last Summer, when Bryan got his shot at the title. He beat Cena, and lost it to Orton right away, thanks in part to HHH and a Pedigree. But if you really want to trace it back to the beginning, go back to 2010. Bryan was an NXT rookie, on a one hour show that seemed more of a gimmick than what it is now: a farm system. Making it to WWE was the accomplishment many thought, but not to Bryan. He had bigger visions, but none of which could be attained right away. For years, Vince and WWE management dared Bryan to break out, when they thought it wasn't possible. Bryan was a "vanilla midget", as Kevin Nash once called Chris Benoit and others in WCW. Bryan was just a superb technical wrestler, but not thought of as a wizard on the mic.
And he still isn't. But his willingness to do whatever is asked is what makes him special. He could have folded a while back and taken his ball and gone home. But he didn't. Bryan put up with an 18 second loss to Sheamus at Wrestlemania 28 in Miami. He carried Kane to a successful run as Team Hell No. And for the last 8 months or so he has been on the wrong end of the stick more often than not. But 'Mania looks to change things for the bearded one.
If it goes as thought, Bryan will finally wrap up his feud with HHH before winning the title in grand fashion later on. Some speculate Batista is still a realistic chance, but I would fear for the safety of everyone involved. With the reactions Bryan is getting, him as champion only make sense- storyline-wise and business-wise.
"What happens next?"
So let's say Bryan wins the belt and leaves everyone in New Orleans ecstatic and elated. The IWC would have gotten what it wanted, as would the mainstream/casual fans. As HHH suggested, will they get sick of Bryan after a few weeks and "throw him out" per say? Will he just be a flavor of the month? All signs point to no, but still begs the question....
"What happens to Bryan after he reaches the top?"
The easiest answer is simple: he stays there. The fact that the title is now unified makes it less likely it would be hot-potatoed to a new wrestler soon after. That would make the WWE WHC lose some of its prestige, and would also make the journey of Bryan's feel that it yearned for more. Give him new wrestlers to feud with. If CM Punk ever comes back, revisit Ring of Honor history and the WWE could easily slide him in as a new villian. Have Bryan feud with Lesnar in the summer. Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt will be ripe later in 2014, and after their many battles- they have all proven to have great chemistry in the ring.
"How long should Bryan have it to make it seem like a successful reign?"
To that I say as long as he's over to this extent. If people are willing to shill out the big dollars to see him, why rip it away from him? They already did that before. There are plenty of avenues to take, like the ones mentioned above. Have him retain the belt, add to its prestige. The last few months have really seen Orton as a lame duck champion. Him retaining the belt at Mania is not even a glimmer in the eye of WWE fans. Which leads to my next question.
What is the biggest potential feud for Bryan?
Outside of Lesnar, Wyatt, Punk and Reigns....one would be a sort of twisted re-visitation. John Cena, but as a bad guy. Bryan has done the heel thing before, and in 2014 is at the top of his face game. There's just no way "the little engine that could" can be a bad guy- at least not for a while. Plenty of people doubt the chances that Cena would turn (mainly because of Make-A-Wish and merchandise) but the need to evolve one's character always provides for new ideas and storyline branches. So it's always a possibility.
These are just a few ideas of what could be in store for Bryan. But at some point, the IWC's run will fizzle out and they'll be frustrated about something or someone again. Not everyone can be pleased all the time, and wrestling fans are more fickle than almost anyone. But for now, let's enjoy the ride that culminates on Sunday at Wrestlemania.
Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.