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AISIAS I SEE IT: Thoughts on Daniel Bryan “occupying” RAW
Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

From last week’s column:

“Unless tonight brings Hulk Hogan‘s announcement (using the rationale that the host of Wrestlemania XX give him the right) that he’s making a match for Mania with HHH vs. Bryan, I don’t know how they avoid turning fans off once and for all.

To me, the only thing that works is Hogan making the HHH vs. Bryan match for Wrestlamania 30; and making it the opening match as a qualifier for Bryan to join Batista vs. Orton in the main event if he wins. But even if we do get HHH vs. Bryan, how do you make fans believe there’s not going to be one more screwjob finish [in that match], with The Shield, Kane, Stephanie McMahon and the 101st Airborne rushing in to interfere?”

Well….it didn’t quite happen THAT way, but the end result wound up the same. I think.

Daniel Bryan has his match with HHH at Wrestlemania 30. Presumably that results in his insertion in the main event.  The way they GOT there was typical WWE, somewhat overthought, with a large helping of that campiness that WWE has been known for over the years.

Daniel Bryan came down to the ring, said the “Yes Movement is alive in Memphis”, then says The Authority doesn’t scare him, and he should have kicked Triple H in the face a long time ago. He went on to say HHH can’t have it both ways, being “corporate” and send people to do his dirty work (funny, I thought that was exactly what corporate types were SUPPOSED to do…but I digress) .

Bryan says that he will not apologize and says tonight they will “Occupy RAW”. Bryan eggs on the crowd and people start coming out, all conveniently wearing identical Bryan t-shirts. The break ends and both the ring and ringside area are filled with people of various ages, chanting “Yes”, and Bryan joins them, chanting from the turnbuckle.

Out comes the buzzkillers onto the entrance ramp. HHH says that it is “cute that Bryan has his own little Occupy Movement”, but they have 30 seconds to get out of the ring or security will be called. Bryan tells HHH that maybe the entire crowd will join them and go out to the parking lot and have a show out there. The crowd agrees.

HHH gets pissed and calls for security…all two of them…. who approach, and then turn and walk away. Stephanie McMahon goes into thermonuclear psychobitch mode, screaming at security, the crowd, Daniel Bryan, and everything and everyone nearby with a pulse not named Levesque. HHH tries to end the fun, sends Damien Sandow down to the ring “for a match”, who takes one look at the ring, and turns back and says no. Stephanie goes into thermonuclear psychobitch mode again, screams at Bryan that he’s “disrespecting her grandfather’s company with this movement”. Bryan says that all they have to do to end it for is for HHH to agree to a match with him at Wrestlemania 30. After more yapping, HHH finally agrees.

Then WWE finally pulls the trigger. Bryan finally says he forgot one more little demand: if he beats HHH, he gets inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 30 with Randy Orton and Batista. HHH goes nuts, but agrees as he’s dragged off.

So…fans finally have the match they’ve wanted…and that was (gag) “best for business”. But did WWE really need to be so hokey in how they did it? I mean, all look-alike extras, doing a satire on Occupy and the real-life #hijackRAW fans effort? It would have been timely if it were two years or so ago.

Wanna “hijack” or “occupy” RAW in era where you’re pushing how high-tech the WWE Network is? Use your own talent. If Sami Callihan (aka Solomon Crowe in NXT) was ready to come up…or as a way to bring him up, this would have been a perfect time to do a very slow introduction under his NXT “evil hacker” gimmick, where he has used a tablet computer to seize control of arena lights. Have Crowe as the unknown person helping Bryan to shut down the show until he gets what he wants. If you want, then add the people in the ring after the lights come back up. And please, dress them in some different Daniel Bryan shirts…and for a nice touch, dig up one or two ROH Danielson shirts for authenticity.

Face it, if WWE is going to sell the Network to an audience that will range from tech-savvy to tech-capable, it can’t keep using the same style angles it did 25-30 years ago to set up a storyline. They’re going to have to use characters like Solomon Crowe when they are appropriate. This might have been one of those times.

Nonetheless, fans have what they want, Bryan-HHH at Wrestlemania 30, and (presumably) Bryan in the main event at Wrestlemania 30.

The ratings apparently tell the story that Daniel Bryan and the whole underdog story is “best for business” as well. For the second straight week, the “Authority” vs. Daniel Bryan storyline blew away the rest of RAW in the quarter-hour TV ratings.

In the 18-49 male demo, the show reached its highest quarter-hour ratings between 10:02 and 10:12 pm EDT for the “Occupy Raw” skit, which finally set up the HHH-Bryan match at Wrestlemania 30, with the segment producing the show’s peak viewership at 1,922,000 viewers at 10:10 pm. These segments grew the audience over 600,000 viewers over the first hour, (800,000 viewers at its height) and was 300,000 viewers over the show’s overall number of viewers.

But in the end, there had better be a payoff to end Wrestlemania 30, or all this is for naught.

Until next time….

— Bob Magee