Op/Ed: This Isn’t What We Want, WWE

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On Sunday night, January 26th, the WWE decided to ignore the wishes of their fans in almost every regard by having Dave Batista win the 2014 Royal Rumble. I’ve seen them shove wrestlers and story angles down our throats before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this bad and I don’t think I’ve ever been rendered this upset by it. As I’m writing this, it’s 11:30 at night and I had a piece finished and ready to be posted tomorrow morning, but I decided to crank this out instead. That’s how mad I am.

batistaBefore the Rumble started I had said to my friends that Batista was probably going to win so that he and Randy Orton could main event Wrestlemania, because that sadly sounds like a Wrestlemania main event, a terrible Wrestlemania main event, but a main event nonetheless. I didn’t want to believe that it would actually happen, but of course, here we are. What I wanted to happen was what every person in that arena in Pittsburgh wanted to happen. We wanted to be surprised by Daniel Bryan being announced as entrant number 30 and we wanted him to win. If you’ve been watching WWE programming for the past couple of months, you know that this is what should have happened.

The problem that we have right now is that WWE thinks that we want to see Batista in the main event of Wrestlemania and they can’t comprehend a world where that isn’t the case. Tonight they got a good look at that world when an entire arena of fans booed the outcome of the Rumble match and there was an overflow of negative tweets. As soon as the crowd realized that Daniel Bryan was not entering the match, they completely turned. Our last chance for a happy ending was that maybe WWE would call an audible and give the match to Roman Reigns.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a Batista fan, but tonight made me HATE him. I’ve never thought that he was the worst, but I can’t think of a single match of his that I have ever really enjoyed. The fact that he won and that he is going to main event Wrestlemania really drives home the old thought that only big guys can be a success in WWE because that’s all that management wants.

In the Rumble match, we got the message loud and clear: WWE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT WHAT WE WANT.

We want to see Bryan in the top spot and we were given that for the shortest amount of time possible. Instead of booking him where the crowd wants him, they’re going to throw in the big guy that’s going to be in the Marvel movie. There’s a part of me that can almost understand their logic because of the movie, but past precedent would lead me to believe that Batista would find himself in the top spot regardless of his Guardians of the Galaxy role or not. Batista is the type of guy that Vince McMahon likes and he’s also the type of guy that WWE has conditioned part of its audience to like.

bryanDaniel Bryan doesn’t fit the mold of a Vince McMahon wrestler. He’s not huge and he wrestles a fast and exciting style that the crowd has really gotten behind. Daniel Bryan is the underdog and because of that the fans have been able to connect with him in a way that they haven’t been able to connect with a top star in quite some time. At every possible turn, WWE has been trying to derail the popularity of Bryan, but it hasn’t worked. Bryan has fans chanting for him all the time, even when he’s not in the ring. Nobody has been as over as Bryan is now since Stone Cold Steve Austin in his heyday.

The fact that Batista won and Bryan didn’t is the perfect evidence that WWE is out of touch with its audience. I’m not saying that you need to give the audience what it wants all the time, but what happened at the Rumble is WWE crapping all over their fans.

Tonight on Twitter, I said something that I never thought I would ever say and I never wanted to say, but the fans at the arena should have started throwing garbage into the ring. I find the throwing of items into the ring (outside of streamers) to be incredibly disrespectful, but it would have sent a message. You’re going to fill the ring with garbage, fine, we’ll do it too. As fans, we shouldn’t take stuff like this anymore.

It’s up to us to put WWE back in touch with their fans. The crowds need to keep up the constant Daniel Bryan chants. We need to get on Twitter and flood their feeds with what we think. WWE, when one of your respected legends is tweeting this:

Foley

YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

You’re rolling out the Netflix of wrestling in a month, you can’t leave such a horrible taste in the mouths of your fans right before. This Royal Rumble might be enough to keep fans from buying upcoming Pay Per Views, who is to say that it won’t stop people from ever ordering the WWE Network in the first place?  I have to wonder if anybody was happy with the money they spent on the Rumble.

I’m interested to see what happens on RAW, not because I’m excited to see the next chapter in the story, but I want to see what they do for damage control. The fans completely turned on them, how the hell do you rebound from that?

WWE is facing the problem that I’ve had with them for years; they don’t see talent until we force them to see it. That’s the only way that people not named John Cena and Randy Orton have found their way anywhere near the top of the card. For whatever reason, they’re choosing to ignore us when it comes to Daniel Bryan. By having him lose in the opening match, it’s beginning to feel as though he’s just losing to spite us for not liking the right wrestler. We don’t know what’s good for us and apparently Batista is good for us. But that’s not true at all. Batista is summed up by his belly button tattoo: AWFUL. Daniel Bryan is the best wrestler in the world right now and the fact that he isn’t being treated as such is a travesty. I always try to see the logic in WWE’s booking choices, but it is so completely and utterly flawed right now. Saying that they’re out of touch is the only explanation. This leads up to two questions:

  1. networkWhat is the WWE going to do about this?
  2. What are we going to do about this?

We can hope that WWE listens to the Royal Rumble crowd or we can just get louder and make them listen. As long as we continue to support them, they’re just going to keep doing this. Make your voice heard and stop giving them money because they don’t deserve it right now.

I honestly can’t be more upset that I was correct with my pick to win the Rumble because it was the absolute last outcome that I wanted. Sadly, it was what I expected out of them. We shouldn’t have to put up with a product that disappoints us this much. Hopefully the 2014 Royal Rumble will be looked back on as a turning point in the wrestling industry. Hopefully this will be the catalyst that brings lasting change to the WWE.

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Kelly Harrass is a comic shop worker and writer from Milwaukee, WI. You may know him as Mahoney's wrestling watching sidekick on Last Week in PoP! Find him on Twitter @comicgeekelly and email him at [email protected]

Comments (7)

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  1. Jason Knize says:

    Lance Storm suggested on Twitter that chanting doesn’t do anything…and if we really want to make a difference, we should tune into all of Bryan’s segments on Raw/Smackdown and tune out the rest of the time. That’s a great point….but how are we supposed to know when he’s on? And furthermore…there is a LOT of great talent in the WWE right now….Bryan, The Shield, The Wyatts, Ziggler, Punk, AJ, Cesaro, Big E Langston, Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Sandow, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston….why should I rob myself of seeing these young (and not so young) stars come into their own? I already missed CM Punk’s entire rise to stardom because of Krispen Wah.

    There is so much movement in the WWE currently to build towards the future…so moves like this are really out of character….but not really. Are they just trying to get every last drop out of the tank of guys like Batista, Orton, Cena and Brock before they are forced to build the new generation? It’s entirely frustrating.

    But I really want to punish them for this move. Do I do so by taking a leave of absence from WWE programming? Do I skip becoming an early adopter of the WWE Network and skip Mania altogether? I’ve done it before…I can do it again. We could all go to every WWE Event and chant for Daniel Bryan and others like him until we’re hoarse…but eventually we’ll just stop caring.

    This is what they get for making us care.

  2. Great article, Kelly. Royal Rumble 2014 should go down in history (and rightly so) as a fascinating train-wreck and a perverse social experiment, reaching Bash ’89 levels. We’ve seen crowds react this way to an occasional match (HHH/Steiner, Lesner/Goldberg) or wrestler (X-Pac), but never an entire show that I can recall. I can’t remember the fanbase and WWE Creative (i.e. Vince) ever vehemently disagreeing so much about who should be pushed. I hope tonight’s RAW crowd keeps up the pressure so last night can’t be written off as a one time fluke. YES! YES! YES!

  3. Jeremiah Vetter says:

    The greatest thing I would want to happen is for the crowds to leave their seats during all Orton, Batista, HHH segments. Go to the bathrooms, concessions, smoke break, or just hang out in the hallways. Have those guys enter the ring in an empty arena. Once they’re done, the crowd returns to watch Cesaro, Ziggler and co. Or take a page from College basketball and have somebody hand out newspaper for the crowd to hold up and read during Batista/Orton segments. Do something that affects the tv broadcast.

    Crowds need to take over matches like they did with Cena v Orton last night with “You both suck”, “this is boring” and “Daniel Bryan” chants. I can only hope the New Orleans crowd can pull this off for ‘Mania.

  4. WWE is in a weird place right now. With the Network coming up, it feels to me like (and I could be completely off-base with this) that they’re relying on the “established draws” as a crutch to carry them to the launch of the Network. Like, “Let’s give the ‘Universe’ people they’re familiar with and love (snicker) to build the momentum toward when this beast goes live.”

    The problem with that is, the hardcore fans that are going to be buying the Network regardless don’t want these guys. We’re after new guys. Bryan. Punk. Hell, the only part of the Rumble match that the crowd *didn’t* boo last night after they realized Bryan wasn’t going to be in it was when Roman Reigns was getting offense in on Batista.

    On Knize’s point, there’s *some* momentum in building towards the future…but not nearly enough. They’re still leaning on guys like Orton, Cena and Batista and “guest-stars” like Lesnar and the Undertaker to carry the majority of their television. The future stars that should be built now are given a cup of coffee in a main event match and then shoved right back down. Frustrates the hell out of me.

    We’re at a junction where they’re too stubborn to give us fresh stars and we’re too stubborn to accept the old guard. We have to be louder and more vocal – and maybe even vote with our wallets – if we’re gonna win this battle.

  5. Travis says:

    Guys I really think this is a slow burn. Extreme Rules takes place in Seattle, WA the month after Wrestlemania. It will happen

  6. Kelly Harrass says:

    Having a big angle finally pay off AFTER WrestleMania is almost as bad as having it not pay off at all. If they were to do that, it still shows that they have no confidence in Bryan’s ability to carry the company.

    • Jason Knize says:

      Yeah, for once an angle should pay off at Wrestlemania instead of the night after or the PPV after. And I’d say it’s already been a slow burn…the D-Bry story has been going for at least 6 months now.

      Any change in direction from this point by WWE creative is reactive, disingenous, and heartbreaking that they couldn’t just do it in the first place.

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