Barnett's WWE Raw Blog: The ups and downs of WWE's new heel regime
By Jake Barnett
WWE Raw Blog: The ups and downs of WWE's new heel regime
There is a lot to like about the direction of the program between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. First, we continue to see fantastic matches from both men on television. Randy Orton had a very fun encounter with Christian that did a nice job of recreating some of the great moments from their previous matches, but mixed it up enough that the whole thing felt fresh. Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins took some chances and put on a brutal looking spectacle that had the crowd invested throughout. It's nice to see Daniel Bryan's interactive crowd setup for his running knee get a big reaction. The crowd was into it and they popped big for the three count.
Verbally, both men also continue to put in good work. The opening segment really drove home the character development that was done last week, with both Orton and Triple H coming off weaselly and Bryan staying resolute in the face of stacked odds. There seems to be a bit of work left to really cement the role of the heels, because Orton and Triple still get quite mixed reactions from the live crowds. I think they can fix the situation by having both guys go after the crowd, but they've been reluctant to do that thus far. Bryan has continued to surprise me every week with how much more depth he finds in his character, and it is my hope that he continues an evolution towards a more serious tone. His delivery seems to be unintentionally comedic at times, and the sooner he can improve on it the better.
Some of the content on the heel side of this feud seems a bit off to me, however. The central premise of the story revolves around Daniel Bryan's lack of size and unrefined appearance, and why it makes him a poor choice to be the face of the WWE. The story seems like a no-brainer, since that has been Vince and company's presumed assessment of Bryan by his fervent internet fan base since forever. The execution of the story creatively has left some holes left unfilled, and I think WWE has to contemplate them and address them before too much time passes:
Who are they writing for? I don't think WWE fans give one single shit about WWE's corporate structure, the nuts and bolts of running the company, or how the company is perceived by the public at large. The McMahon's are obviously driven by protecting company prestige, gaining mainstream cultural acceptance, and raising the awareness of their brand. You can see it in the way the announcers talk frequently about social media activity and viewership numbers, plus all those info slides that bring WWE shows back from commercial. In a lot of ways I get it, because I'd do a lot of the same things if I were in their position, but I don't think it makes for very good storyline material.
When Triple H says what he did wasn't personal, and what he did to Daniel Bryan was “the right thing for business”, I think most WWE fans just shrug it off and wait for a dramatic personal conflict to get engaged in. Too often it feels like the show is creatively formulated to please the McMahon's and their personal tastes, rather than general audience appeal, and at times it can be really detrimental to the product. My biggest hope is that this Daniel Bryan story is an attempt at self awareness, and eventually we'll see an upending of the tea table in terms of storyline conventions. The McMahon's are currently playing characters that are riffs on what internet communities like to think about them, so maybe the eventual comeuppance will be worth it for cynical long time fans. Fingers crossed...
Where does this story leave the rest of the WWE babyface talent? I don't think it's a secret to anybody that WWE is missing some star power on the babyface side of the roster. With Sheamus and John Cena going through surgery, and Randy Orton turning heel, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk find themselves in a situation where they need to carry a lot of extra water. It seems bizarre that WWE would go out of their way to point this out, which is exactly what they've done the past few weeks at the close of Raw. While Daniel Bryan takes hellacious beatings , the rest of the roster continues to stand stoically on the top of the ramp. Not one other wrestler was principled enough to put their job at risk to defy Triple H in order to save another wrestler from being victimized. We'll have to wait and see to tell if they are setting up another walk out or rebellion, but at this point it just feels like the babyfaces are getting plowed under for the sake of getting a program over that didn't really need the help.
One of the most important character traits of a good hero in any story telling scenario is that they have a moral code that they hold themselves to. Any hero worth a shit will rebel instantly against injustice, even when all hope is seemingly lost and lesser men would have caved in to the demands and pressures of a powerful enemy. Daniel Bryan seems to have slid comfortably into that role. Where is the supporting cast? The interviews on stage by Renee Young made Big Show, Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz looks like slaves to a corporation and the paychecks it gives them. Why is it that even the heroes in this sports entertainment fantasy world cave into the same pressures that force wage slaves in the real world to stick with their 9-5 suckfest week after week, year after year? Fans will remain behind a babyface through losses and beatings, as long as they don't give up. What happens when they don't even try? Seems like WWE wants to find out.
Is the Triple H and Randy Orton relationship going to make sense eventually? I wasn't going to beat a dead horse here, but the changes in Triple H and Orton's relationship dynamic this week bring up some questions. Why did Triple H say he had no love lost for Randy Orton in his promo last week, only to buy him a Cadillac this week? I can understand the logic of begrudgingly carrying on a business relationship with a long time enemy if it serves you, but would you buy that person a car? Out of your own pocket, no less? Also, why didn't Randy Orton cast an evil gaze at Triple H when he said the WWE Championship is his personal property, and Orton was only holding it for him? Is Randy Orton not bothered by Triple H indicating that the belt is his? Is he really that servile? In any case, this whole situation positions both men awkwardly based on their history, and long time fans who are aware of it have to be scratching their heads.
All the confusion surrounding the Orton and Triple H relationship just serves as another reminder about how the McMahon characters feel redundant. Having Randy Orton turn full heel and attack both Daniel Bryan and the WWE fans that support him would have been more than enough to create a hot angle to carry the next few PPV's. Prior to SummerSlam, I was pretty skeptical about the McMahon's involvement in the Cena and Bryan storyline, and after what we've seen since that show, I think it was warranted. It hasn't added anything to this storyline thus far, and I think it would be better without them. I'm guessing Triple H is involved in this because WWE wants more star power on the show heading into the NFL season, but I'm not sure it's having a positive affect on this story and the overall direction of the company's story telling.
Do you have questions, comments, or concerns? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @barnettjake.
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