Lutz's Blog: Daniel Bryan's push will test Triple H's influence on the WWE product
By Jeffrey Lutz
A power struggle is under way on WWE television featuring Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. It's a mostly pointless story line so far that apparently won't conclude until WrestleMania 30 in about seven months.
The angle has one redeeming quality, however. It's the remarks each participant has had about Daniel Bryan and the wisdom -- or lack thereof -- of pushing him to main-event level and handing him a match with John Cena at SummerSlam. It's interesting because it's probably real. Stephanie is stuck in the middle between her husband, Triple H, and her father, who of course thinks Bryan lacks the physical attributes and character makeup to be elevated to that level.
The only person sticking up for Bryan is Triple H. It's odd because Bryan is the type of performer Triple H's character -- and maybe even his real-life persona -- would make fun of and belittle for the same reasons Vince has had little positive to say about Bryan on television. I think Triple H's on-air opinions are real, too, because as a WWE executive he has plenty of incentive to help Bryan become as big of a star as possible. If Bryan has a significant run with the WWE Championship and stays at the top of the card for the foreseeable future, he'll likely have Triple H and his leadership toward new directions to thank.
That isn't to say, of course, that Triple H hasn't been involved in WWE booking in the past, because he definitely has. It's long been documented that he sat in on creative meetings when he was a full-time wrestler, and early in his career he was influenced by other members of "The Kliq" in encouraging his future father-in-law to push some wrestlers and pump the brakes on others. Ultimately, though, booking decisions weren't and aren't made unless Vince McMahon makes them. More people may have his ear now than in the past, but everything that happens on WWE television is approved by him.
McMahon, for all of the credit he deserves for attempting to capitalize on the popularity of Bryan that he probably doesn't understand, still seems determined to force Bryan to back his way into SummerSlam. Bryan accepted a WWE Championship match without having earned it. Some would call that opportunistic, but it doesn't line up with the values of a character who has cast himself as a "weak link" and been eager to prove to everyone that the description didn't fit. It's essentially a heel move to take a WWE Championship match without having earned it.
There is still plenty of time until SummerSlam, of course, but so far Bryan doesn't look strong. He failed to win the Money in the Bank All-Stars match, where he was taken out of by a mid-card wrestler, Curtis Axel in an angle that didn't feature a follow-up the next night on Raw, much less a payoff. McMahon may be testing Bryan's popularity to see if it is maintained through his character's difficulties, but it is of course more likely that he doesn't see money in Bryan and doesn't see a "larger-than-life" personality within a 5-foot-8 technical wrestler.
"Larger than life" is a term, at least within WWE, that has become passe. One reason for that is that wrestlers often use their real names, or at least names that could pass as real. "One Man Gang" or "Earthquake" sound a lot more intimidating than Mark Henry or Brodus Clay or Wade Barrett. Also, a wrestler's size has nothing to do with being larger than life.
The story featuring C.M. Punk, Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar includes three larger-than-life characters even though only Lesnar fits the traditional description. Punk and Heyman transcend their perceived limitations with quality, consistent performances. Doing great work and being unique is what makes a wrestler larger than life. Bryan does great work and is unique, so he's larger than life. That's all it takes.
Triple H, I believe, understands that. In his role as a WWE executive, he has scouted and signed talent of assorted physical attributes. For every ex-football player WWE has its eye on, Triple H has brought in a wrestler like Sin Cara or Sami Zayn who don't fit the conventional mold of true superstars. Getting away from the performance aspect of the business has likely opened Triple H's eyes to the numerous and varying qualities that make a wrestler popular and appreciated among fans.
Triple H also probably has something invested emotionally in Bryan, who was trained by Triple H's best friend, Shawn Michaels. Besides being educated by a legend in the business, like Triple H was by Killer Kowalski, I imagine Triple H identifies himself somewhat with Bryan, who appreciates and studies the history of the business and has a true passion for wrestling. On paper, Triple H and Bryan are nothing alike, but in that sense they share plenty of common ground.
The future of WWE is in great hands, it appears, with Triple H. His negotiations have helped bring past legends like Bruno Sammartino and Ultimate Warrior. His dedication toward finding the stars of tomorrow and refining the stars of today helped lead to the opening of the WWE Performance Center earlier this month. His enthusiasm for wrestling will attract talent toward WWE from all walks of life.
There is only one thing left for Triple H, the executive to do -- have the final say on a WWE booking decision. Daniel Bryan offers him that chance. The fans want it and Triple H seems to want it, too. Hopefully Vince McMahon is listening and he passes along that responsibility.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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