Friday, May 11, 2018

To Leave or Not to Leave, The Daniel Bryan Question

Is Bryan a geek? Who cares, it's not really germane to whether he should stay unless he thinks it is.
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Bryan Danielson should quit WWE, inasmuch as I think every wrestler should quit WWE. Vince McMahon holds too much power in the wrestler-promoter dynamic, and he sets the worst examples for other promoters with his blatant disregard for the independent contractor label and his bullying of the collective vis a vis unionization. A mass exodus from WWE by the workforce would force his hand and "allow" unionization (inasmuch as capital can allow or disallow the attempts at collectivization). Danielson would be a powerful figurehead to lead the movement, or hey, he'd be just fine being a part of the exodus. Hell, even if he alone just left WWE over the unfair labor practices, he'd be making a powerful statement in and of itself. As the leftist kids would say, it'd just be good praxis.

Chatter supporting Danielson, or Daniel Bryan as he's called in WWE parlance, leaving WWE is buzzing around right now, but sadly, the reasoning isn't nearly as interesting as it would be if he was sick and tired of being sick and tired of McMahon's bullshit. Bryan lost a match clean as a sheet Tuesday night, and folks, spearheaded by rape apologist Dave Meltzer, think he's already a "geek" and should consider leaving the company. Smackdown's creative track record bears this out, even after only a month back on the roster as a full-time talent. Even though I'm a fan of clean finishes and don't necessarily think Bryan is "buried" by the clean loss, one cannot look at the last year of Brian James and Michael PS Hayes running the Blue Brand and think anyone but Shane McMahon has been presented as both important and not impotent. Even AJ Styles feels like a footnote, and in theory, he's received the most protection. It's a function of corporate malaise influencing writing to please shareholders rather than writing something compelling, even if it's not bold.

Leaving for creative misuse is certainly valid. Really, labor should have the right to leave capital for any reason a singular person deems fit, and this arena is another where WWE abuses the immense power it has over its "independent contractors." Just look at how long it took Rey Mysterio, Jr. to get from final WWE match to his release from the company or how Neville is currently at home in England instead of working the indies. It also bears noting that Meltzer, who has conflated the term "mark" with the n-word and has brushed off domestic violence allegations against wrestlers in his favorite company, has a reason to exhort Bryan to leave WWE over what he sees as creative malfeasance. He's all but financially tied to the All In show, and his coverage of New Japan Pro Wrestling is more advertising than journalistic in nature. To take his word for anything regarding someone who could potentially boost brands he's entangled with would be a mistake.

That being said, less financially biased sources agree with him that Bryan is now a "geek" which might be true. At this point, I'm not sure, because it's so early, and Bryan has overcome WWE's attempts at making him a flat, featureless geek in the past through sheer force of will. Other people who have far more faith in WWE booking want the complaints to cease because "the story is just beginning" or whatever. Honestly, I'm not sure how anyone can give WWE the benefit of the doubt in terms of any long-term booking. Even the best things the main roster creative team has ever done have come by total accident. Either way though, the war of takes is a tiring exercise and like with every other hot button wrestler in the last decade, from CM Punk to Roman Reigns, it can sap the joy out of watching this thing called wrestling, even if it's the company that by design tries to sap the joy out of its own product itself. It's amazing to see how well the roster can overcome bad booking and writing, but that's a whole other topic.

Anyway, the takes war comes down to whether you want the convenience of seeing Bryan work every week on cable television and The Award Winning™ WWE Network or if you don't mind doing some digging and seeing Bryan Danielson wrestle matches against a better slate of opponents with more creative freedom afforded to himself. Of course, other factors are in play here. Bryan leaving WWE to go work in the ecosystem would strip him of a few fringe benefits even as he gains creative freedom. Additionally, any good by him telling the (Mc) Man to shove it would be undone when he goes to work for other corporately owned promotions like Bushiroad or Sinclair or for any number of shady, small-time promoters who think they're McMahon because they have "the book." At the end of the day, the correct answer is "whatever Bryan Danielson chooses for himself going forward."

Wrestling is a goddamn shitty business, so shitty that only real way to navigate it in some moral sense is to trust labor do to what it feels is right and keep fighting for social change from whatever perch you're seated. If Bryan chooses the path that allows him to wrestle the people he's been tweeting about wrestling, like Rush or Minoru Suzuki, then that's great. If he stays with WWE and opts for the money, which Samoa Joe angrily reminded everyone is the best in the business (yet still woefully inadequate for what these performers put themselves through), then that's fine too. It's not like his matchups for the biggest corporate company on earth are actively bad either. He's not the best goddamn wrestler in history for no reason, you know.

So as with most debates in the Twittersphere, it's all just a lot of hot air over a wrestler who, like every wrestler to be honest, deserves to decide his career path with his own complete agency. Personally, I think every wrestler should quit every company on earth until they all agree to unionize and collectively bargain for better working conditions. Until that happens, whatever Bryan decides for himself should be good enough for anyone discussing his career as long as he's the one totally in control.