Daniel Bryan returned to active duty in WWE just last week, and unfortunately, what’s old is new again. Bryan was pinned by Bray Wyatt in the opening match of Monday Night Raw. Despite his crowd reaction and the appearance that the WWE audience didn’t forget about Bryan’s magical run last year, winning the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania 30, Bryan is right back where he was about one year ago.
And fans are going to feel just as frustrated.
Remember the 2014 Royal Rumble, when Batista was booed out of the building after Bryan didn’t even enter the match? Get ready for more moments like that if Monday night was any indication.
Pinning Bryan less than one week after his in-ring return tells you a few things. First, WWE doesn’t care enough to protect him. They’re building Bryan for a feature match on Smackdown this week, too. That was set up with Kane’s interference, but it’s still an interesting choice to pin Bryan on his first match back on Raw, less than one week after he made his comeback. It’s not a good sign.
WWE is also building Wyatt, of course. My point isn’t that Bryan should have beaten Wyatt clean, it’s that the two shouldn’t have been booked in the same match. Not if you’re trying to build both of them. That’s why, given the result, it seems only one – Wyatt – is on an upward trajectory.
That “B-plus player” gimmick Stephanie McMahon likes to regurgitate relentlessly isn’t just a work. It’s a shoot. She means every word. That’s her perception. If you listen closely, the WWE audience will tell you what they want. It doesn’t seem like WWE is even trying to hear that message.
1) Sting made his return to WWE television, appearing on the stage in the main event, helping distract enough of The Authority for John Cena to sneak a rollup pin on Seth Rollins in a 3-on-1 match. Booked by The Authority earlier in the night, it mean that Ryback, Erick Rowan, and Dolph Ziggler would get their jobs back. If Cena had lost the 3-on-1 match, he would have been out of the Royal Rumble main event.
2) WWE’s By the Numbers promo video for the Royal Rumble was excellent, once again. Whoever puts that together deserves a raise.
3) WWE knows how to do nostalgia right. TNA’s ECW reunions always feel like the old guard coming back to the yard and wanting things to be just as they were. WWE did a very good job with its Raw Reunion show tonight. Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, and Hulk Hogan were used to hype the Royal Rumble in a roundtable while the nWo, APA and New Age Outlaws were in a segment against The Ascension. There will be naysayers who dislike the Ascension segment for them being on the receiving end of an Outlaw beatdown, but storyline wise it makes sense, and also, they fell victim to seven guys, technically. With Road Dogg and Billy Gunn working for WWE, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this lead to some television matches.
5) By the time we get to Wrestlemania, Brock Lesnar might be a babyface. He was booked as a babyface on Raw, getting into it with Rollins and the Authority, and the crowd ate it up.
With the injury to Roman Reigns and his promo skills lacking something fierce, watching the end of Raw tonight made me wonder if there were changes made for Brock and what he will be doing at the Royal Rumble and beyond.
1) Bray Wyatt def. Daniel Bryan
2) Dean Ambrose def. Bad News Barrett
3) Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods def. Tyson Kidd & Adam Rose
4) Paige & Natalya def. Summer Raw & Alicia Fox
5) Rusev def. R-Truth
6) Jey Uso def. The Miz
7) John Cena def. Seth Rollins, Big Show & Kane
The main event angle was terrific. The crowd was white hot and it pushed the title match Royal Rumble really well, all while tying in a separate story on the three fired wrestlers getting their jobs back. Look for Smackdown to build more of the Royal Rumble match itself, which was the case last week, but the By the Numbers video WWE ran was great, as always.
The Royal Rumble has aways been a two-match show, and this year is no different. The WWE Championship and the Rumble match sell the tickets, and network buys.