Monday, February 3, 2014

Instant Feedback: Pyrrhic

The king of hollow victories?
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Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton get together and tell stories. They're not old wives' tales or spun yarns about golden days. They are chapters in a combat journal, a war epic where each battle has its own flavor. With a larger battle looming in the distance, one with four deadly competitors joining them in the unforgiving structure made of steel and LEXAN, either man's strategy would have made sense. Orton, a man without a country, would want to end the match quickly by targeting the arm, the balance center for Bryan and the main instrument of his YES! Lock. For Bryan, taking out the leg and going for a leg submission would bring the match to a swift end and prove to the world that he could take out the Champion in five days. But the layers to the story were thicker than just preparation for a future date.

At the show's beginning, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon teased that maybe more than just pride or preparation were at stake in this contest. They reversed field on everything they had espoused since SummerSlam. The insincerity in their voices and the ambush they laid with Bryan's former best friend Kane indicated that party line was facetious, but to an insecure Champion and a hungry challenger, tone of voice becomes irrelevant. Orton has been clashing hard with his bosses, Bryan desperate for approval from his bosses. They willfully ignore things like track record and inflection and even the truth.

So, they got into the ring and employed not a strategy that would end the match quickly. Orton didn't even begin to work on Bryan's shoulder until after the commercial break. Bryan didn't go for moves that elicited quick tap-outs on the leg. He worked it over on the ringpost while taking his sweet time, and his Indian deathlock was more deliberate than a shithead Ted Cruz filibuster. Their intent was injury, but was that debilitation intended for weeks from now or for a more current time?

The face of the company, one owned by vainglorious blowhards who want perfection no matter what cost, has to be perfect. A man with bandages compressing his right shoulder and wrapped tightly up the arm is not a man worth putting in front of statuesque bronze godheads. A man who limps cannot lead by example. Victory was not enough. If being the face of WWE was at stake, then victory had to come at the expense of not only winning, but also making the other guy look far shabbier than the condition you ended up in.

Ultimately, while Bryan won the match, Orton won the war. The Authority chose him, and really, unless Kane had come to the ring to aid his former friend before a moment of total distrust caught him off guard, the decision was never in question. Orton's paranoia wouldn't let him see it, and Bryan, galvanized by the journey his favorite football team completed the night before, couldn't possibly know that the deck was stacked against him even if he should've had Admiral Ackbar screaming his signature line in his head from the moment Stephanie McMahon uttered doubt in her steadfastness against Bryan as company symbol.

But victory for Orton came at a great cost. He's down a leg and has four more challenges left. Maybe Orton's paranoia is justified. Then again, if he can come out of the other end of the Chamber with his two belts, like Pyrrhus of Epirus, he may not care as long as his hand is raised. He is proving that he can carry more of a story than just "Show up, RKO, leave." I'm looking forward to his turn as the madman whose regard for his soldiers, or in this case, his own health, is about as low as his self-awareness.