The fate of Daniel Bryan at the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) 2014 Royal Rumble last night has created outrage among professional wrestling fans. Did Daniel Bryan win his scheduled match with his rival Bray Wyatt? No! Did Daniel Bryan win the Royal Rumble match itself? No! Did Daniel Bryan even get to enter the Rumble match? No! All of these factors led to an overwhelmingly negative fan reaction, not only live in the arena, but all across the world.
The reaction of fans inside the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh was telling. They were upset by Bryan’s loss in the opening match of the night to Bray Wyatt and clung to that anger throughout the night. During a later match between current WWE Champion Randy Orton and longtime fan favorite John Cena, the fans chanted various things, from Bryan’s name to the names of other famous wrestlers, to “Boring!” This culminated at the end of the Rumble match itself.
Former WWE Champion Batista made his in-ring return to the company at the Rumble and ended up winning the event. WWE officials likely hoped that his win would be embraced by the fans as a triumphant return, setting up a match for him at Wrestlemania in April where he will challenge for the WWE title. The fans did not agree. The fans booed heavily when the 30th and final participant in the match emerged, and it was not Daniel Bryan. This only increased the outrage of the fans at the 2014 Royal Rumble.
After realizing that Bryan was not going to be involved in the Rumble match, the fans began cheering for Roman Reigns, a “heel,” or bad guy character. When Batista eliminated Reigns and won the Rumble match, the fans continued to boo. This quickly became an awkward scene as Batista attempted to celebrate his victory and fireworks went off in the arena. What was supposed to be a spotlight moment for Batista, ended up being a somber reminder that the fans prefer Daniel Bryan.
Wrestling fans should not have been surprised at Bryan’s treatment, however. His poor outing last night was a continuation of storyline decisions that WWE has been making for his character for many months. It began back in August 2013, with Bryan winning the WWE title at Summerslam only to lose it on the very same night. He was then cheated out of several other title opportunities over the subsequent months, and then forced into a rivalry with Bray Wyatt, a character below the “main event” level fans believed Bryan should be at.
There is one thing the WWE could do that would make all of Bryan’s frustrations and those of his fans worthwhile. There is one scene that would go down in wrestling history alongside Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant. That would be Daniel Bryan winning the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania XXX in the New Orleans Superdome. The sight of 80,000 fans chanting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” as Bryan holds the title high would be a vindication for all his character has suffered over these past months.
It remains to be seen whether WWE officials share this “vision” the fans have for Daniel Bryan. He is without question the most popular character in professional wrestling today. That is why what happened at the 2014 Royal Rumble generated such outrage.
Editorial by Christopher V. Spencer