Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New WWE Champion: Did Bryan Danielson Just Debut in WWE?

Well that was certainly a surprise.  As WWE often does, the company shook up the Survivor Series lineup at the eleventh hour, and the for the second year in a row the WWE Title changed hands less than two weeks before the PPV, thus altering one of the top matches.

Daniel Bryan is the new WWE Champion.  Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is how mixed my feelings are about this development.  On one hand, I've been waiting four-and-a-half long years for Daniel Bryan to win back the belt he never lost.  On the other, AJ Styles was so close to eclipsing CM Punk's reign (mid-January would've been the benchmark).  On one hand, Daniel Bryan is now a heel and will undoubtedly be incredibly entertaining in that role (Please please please bring back "I have till five!").  On the other, Styles very possibly would've eked out a win over Brock Lesnar to avenge last year's loss.  On one hand we finally get to see the SummerSlam 2014 main event we were supposed to get.  On the other, that match was designed to be a complete squash and this could be too.  On one hand, this shakeup is super newsworthy and may create loads more interest in Survivor Series.  On the other, it's now kind of a heel vs. heel main event, where it used to be a clear babyface-heel dynamic.  On one hand, Bryan winning the title is a big Smackdown moment obviously engineered to create a can't-miss feel about the show and increase its ratings before Fox takes over.  On the other, they gave away a huge title change on free television with zero buildup.

So yeah, I'm conflicted on the whole thing, but mostly leaning positive.  After all, this ensures the AJ-Bryan feud will continue into December and we should finally see that match on PPV at TLC.  Between that and the likely Ambrose-Rollins match, that PPV is looking pretty sweet right now.  Plus the smart money would be on Bryan keeping the belt till WrestleMania at least, more or less guaranteeing a strong co-main event.

As for Bryan vs. Lesnar, I just want to see a competitive match like Brock vs. AJ was.  I imagine Brock has enough respect for Bryan to not just steamroll the guy, not to mention it would look really lame for a newly turned, newly crowned heel champion to get killed five days later by the other champ (WWE has done more insane things of course).  So I think it's realistic to hope for a reasonably back-and-forth match, especially if Bryan cheats his ASS off.  And on that note, I think Bryan should steal the win here.  Think about it; Bryan is definitely staying with the company for three more years, Brock may not be (no one knows what he's doing after WrestleMania at this point).  Bryan plans on wrestling every PPV and every weekly TV show, Brock won't be back till at least the Rumble.  Have Strowman and AJ both try to cost their respective enemies the match if you have to, have Bryan go full-on Zack Sabre Jr. and try to tie Brock in knots or win with cradles, have him go full Eddie Guerrero and cheat at every turn, I don't care how underhanded it is.  But Bryan should get the cheap win to give him plenty of heat going into TLC, a show Brock isn't wrestling on anyway. 

The other big news coming out of last night is that Becky Lynch is indeed off the show.  Becky vs. Ronda was fixing to be the hottest match on the show, so this is a real shame, as is Nia Jax's increasing penchant for injuring people.  If you didn't see the clip of how Becky's nose got broken, it wasn't a random blind elbow, Nia outright punched her in the face.  I get that accidents happen, but this is becoming an issue of inadequate training on Nia's part.  This is the second concussion she's caused in the last couple months.  It's becoming clear she was simply called up too soon.  So the upshot is, the company pivoted and is now fast-tracking their planned WrestleMania match of Ronda vs. Charlotte.  I'm not complaining, that should be really good, possibly better than Ronda vs. Becky from a technical standpoint.  But Ronda-Becky had a great build and Becky is one of the hottest stars in the entire company.  So that match clearly needs to happen, probably at 'Mania; they'll have an additional four months to tell the story that Becky got screwed out of her match.  Plus it seems like the company is now forced to accept that Becky is a babyface, no matter how badly they want her to be a villain.  Just roll with it, guys.  I'm glad Becky won't miss enough ring time to warrant being stripped of the title at least. 

One remaining question is who replaces Charlotte in the elimination match?  There's Mandy Rose, but that's pretty weak.  They could call up someone from NXT, but that might feel forced.  Or they could have Sasha Banks or Bayley jump to Smackdown since neither of them is on the card (which is nuts).

Regardless, Survivor Series boasts for the third straight year one of the most intriguing lineups on the main roster calendar.  Bringing back the elimination matches as a major feature, regardless how silly the RAW vs. Smackdown nonsense, coupled with champion vs. champion matches we wouldn't normally get to see, has tended to produce a fun lineup that feels fresh and isn't weight down by crappy ongoing angles.  How they end up booking it is always a major question mark; in 2016 the show was mostly well booked, in 2017 the main event was completely mishandled.  As usual this show could go either way, but I'm cautiously optimistic that we're looking at one of WWE's best shows of the year.


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