Monday, March 3, 2014

Instant Feedback: Stone Cold Daniel Bryan

Austin/McMahon for a new generation
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Daniel Bryan is presumably straight edge. He has hair upon hair upon even more hair. I bet his beard has a beard. He is technical prowess personified, and is a gnome in the land of giants. Cosmetically and technically, Bryan could not be any further from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (an argument could be made that Austin himself was more gifted on the mat than WWE would ever let him show, but for all intents and purposes, Stunning Steve and Stone Cold might as well be two different people). But tonight, he became the spiritual successor to Austin, the antihero for a new generation. This role was one that fit him ever since Trips pedigreed him at SummerSlam, sure, but the autumn felt like a giant holding pattern, a rut for Bryan to go up against a proxy in Randy Orton who hadn't been as realized as even The Rock was when he was Austin's foil.

But even though Bryan and Trips had always been at odds, they never clashed the way Austin and Vince McMahon did until tonight it seemed. A palpable tension filled the air of the Allstate Arena, aided slightly by a group of fans who wanted to see an appearance from another one of Bryan's Ring of Honor alumni brethren, but while the RAW hijackers provided the kindling, Bryan, Trips, and Stephanie McMahon provided the spark, the fuel, and snail-trail of gasoline residue that lit the arena on fire. When Bryan told Triple H to make him get out of the ring, I got flashbacks to when Austin shoved McMahon back into his entourage (which included Sgt. Slaughter!).

Of course, I still believe that a match with Triple H isn't the best-fitting one for Bryan at Mania. He should be wrestling for the title. All of Austin's matches with McMahon were at B-pay-per-views, and McMahon always made sure his proxies and the WWF Championship were the main fighters and goals for Stone Cold respectively. However, I'd be stupid to deny that putting the Knee-Plus into Trips' face and pinning him clean in the middle of the ring wouldn't carry a hefty bit of cache, especially if Trips keeps playing to the vocal and emotionally invested fans in the audience who already see him, fairly or not, as the guy who slept his way to the top of the company, held everyone down, and went all Baby Boomer Dad on everyone else for not pulling themselves up by the bootstraps keep taking the red meat.

The fear, of course, is that Triple H will think the template he laid out on NXT ArRIVAL with Antonio Cesaro and Paige winning their respective matches over hated rivals only to embrace them afterwards is the best way to go. I hate to shit on an outcome before it happens, but Triple H beating Bryan at Mania feels like a nightmare scenario, no matter the context. Still though, the underdog has to take his lumps before he can overturn the tables. I know that feels like a tough pill to swallow. I'm not sure I'm ready to put my trust in the company to do right by the story, which should see Bryan leaving Mania as a conqueror above all other conquerors.

Then again, how many times did the looming dread hang above my head when watching Austin navigate the maze of Crash TV finishes and screwjobs galore? I don't know if Bryan will get similar successes against his Vince McMahons, Rocks, and Undertakers. I also don't know if WWE showing every sign of having CM Punk come back without him actually showing up is a testament to their capacity for trolling and a foreshadow for how Bryan is going to turn out. But no matter the differences between the two, I'm still getting that antiheroic vibe from Bryan that I got from Austin 17 years ago. I can only hope against every logical thread in my body that the results will be similar.

And as an addendum, I don't care if Stephanie McMahon was wearing a skirt tonight. I'm sick and tired of having my favorite wrestlers be scripted to say things that suggest wearing women's clothing is a sign of weakness or other misogynistic chestnuts. Cut that fucking bullshit out, and don't make me feel icky for rooting for my favorite wrestler.