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Dave Meltzer On Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, And "The Face Of The Company" *Must Read*

1CK1S Members Posts: 27,472 ✭✭✭✭✭
very long read, but worth it.

"With Roman Reigns cleanly pinning Daniel Bryan in what was a hell of a main event on Fast Lane, it’s very clear that Vince McMahon is still planning on the scenario he’s probably had for probably one year, with Reigns beating Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.

Fan reaction at the Royal Rumble, and since the Royal Rumble, largely indicated that scenario was backfiring. Forgetting about Bryan, and forgetting about skill level or being ready or even talking ability, Reigns is nowhere near as over and doesn’t feel like he has anywhere near the momentum of the babyface who is going to chase and win the title on the biggest show of the year.

What’s notable is that 21 years ago, a younger Vince McMahon was in the same position, choosing between his own hand-picked next star of the company, tall bodybuilder Lex Luger, or one of the best in-ring performers of that time, Bret Hart. Historically, Luger was far closer to what McMahon liked his champions to look like. But Hart was more popular among the fans. Faced with the crowd reaction in the laboratory setting of a big show, the fans liked Hart more than Luger when they squared off. The WrestleMania original plan, Luger beating Yokozuna to win the title, was changed to Hart. Luger’s momentum was lost, and a little over two years later, working as part of a mid-card tag team he walked out on the company. Hart became the company’s biggest star, before he was gone more than three years later.

This time, McMahon went with the original plan. It was acknowledged that Reigns wasn’t over like he should have been. So they went to work. They brought in his cousin, Dwayne Johnson, to make his Royal Rumble win even bigger. But the miscalculation of putting Bryan in the Rumble made the whole scenario backfire, and even the endorsement of Johnson didn’t matter.

The next idea was to change the original plan for Fast Lane and put Reigns vs. Bryan. There were a lot of ways to go, but the key is that they’d probably have a great match. In the final scripting, it was Reigns winning clean, and Bryan, the next day, out there with the idea he’s the representative of his fan base, telling them to cheer Reigns onto victory because he was the better man and we were all wrong and he deserves our respect. Not only that, they were put together in a tag team the next day and Reigns ever so graciously allowed Bryan to get the win, even though he did the work to set up the pin.

After the Rumble, there was a vocal protest. Did it mean anything business-wise? Well, WWE did change some plans, but in the end went right back to the original one. If a lot of people would have canceled the WWE Network, there would have been no choice but to react. Instead, far more people signed up in the two days after the show than canceled. It was a lot of noise and little action.

At Fast Lane, they were doing the same thing, just more directly. They actually put the two of them head-to-head, and the company clearly picked its favorite above the crowd favorite. This time, there was nowhere near the same reaction. People yelling about canceling and not doing so wasn’t going to work. And it was over. The audience couldn’t control the direction.

Really, I’d rather somebody wrote a book from start-to-finish rather than readers who have no real understanding of book writing trying to force changes so the little sidekick who is supposed to be a bit player gets the girl and not the handsome lead who the whole book was built around.

I learned long ago that a good promoter listens to the fans, and a great promoter completely manipulates the fans. But the idea is that both make the fans want not what they tell the promoter they want, but what the promoter wants in the first place, because he has a better grasp than they do about business.

This goes back to Paul Boesch in the 1980s. Boesch every week had his lab experiment, for most of his promoting career, 52 weeks, every Friday, he would have a show at the Sam Houston Coliseum. It takes a lot of ideas and creativity to run 52 times a year in the same building. You’re going to have some hits and some misses, and the idea is to either fool yourself with excuses on the misses, or learn from them. He told me that in the end, all the excuses are just that. If a show doesn’t draw, it’s his fault, for presenting a main event that fans didn’t want to buy tickets to see. Vince McMahon would tell the same stories, except he would use Bobo Brazil, as his conduit, with the story of the bad house, and the wrestlers, and promoters would talk about the weather or the economy or whatever competition was in town, and Bobo would calmly say that the problem is that not enough people wanted to see the main event.


  • 1CK1S
    1CK1S Members Posts: 27,472 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Wrestling is a totally different business today. Vince McMahon still tells the Bobo Brazil story. And he doesn’t buy fake excuses. When a show does bad, that means the creative missed. He doesn’t want to hear about county fairs, movie opens, welfare checks and the day of the month, warm weather or cold weather. History has shown that NFL football, NBA playoffs and maybe the World Series or a hot Yankees-Red Sox game can hurt ratings.

    But one of Boesch’s stories was about listening to the fans. In those days, a large percentage of the audience that attended the show, would buy the souvenir program. So in the 1960s, what better way is there to do direct marketing to your customer base but to put in the program a question, asking fans what match do you want to see. His job was selling tickets to those same customers. Instead of guessing what they want, just ask them directly. So he did it, and booked the match.

    He never told me the names, but did say the fans wanted a match between the two most popular wrestlers in Texas at the time. It was a match they’d never see because the promoters always did babyface vs. heel. So maybe they were wrong. He booked the match. The gate sucked. And the lesson was learned. If you deliver exactly what the fans ask for, you probably won’t do very well. It’s better to create a scenario, and convince them to buy what you think most of them will pay to see.

    Over the years, Vince McMahon has handpicked a number of champions with the idea they’d be the face of the company. Hulk Hogan was a big success. Ultimate Warrior seemed like he had all the momentum in the world, but as soon as he got the title, it didn’t work. With hindsight we can point to the excuses, Hogan’s manipulation after the match, no viable contenders set up, or simply bad timing with the idea that any face who followed Hogan would probably fail by comparison. He went back to Hogan, although it was clear McMahon had already made the choice that with Hogan approaching 40, he had to make a new Hogan

    I don’t think McMahon at that point saw Bret Hart as more than a bridge, a temporary thing until the next big thing came along. The next pick was Lex Luger. That was blown based on timing. They creating a scenario where he had to win at a certain time, they waited too long, and the momentum was lost. And given his history elsewhere, he probably wouldn’t have been a success if they pulled the trigger at the right time. He was too much like Hogan, and Hogan was still in people’s minds.

    The next pick was Kevin Nash. He was the biggest of all, talked well and was good looking. But business was terrible during that period and Nash was clearly not the answer as the focal point. Nash wasn’t at the level of Hart or Shawn Michaels, the other two top stars, inside the ring. That was a clear factor at the time, even though there were plenty of people better than most of McMahon’s other champions when they held the title. Warrior was outright terrible unless he had a great heel to carry him. Hogan had a patterned relatively short match that worked, more because Hogan had incredible charisma, which Nash didn’t have even though he was bigger than Hogan and had better hair.

    Then Shawn Michaels, also not a success. Then Bret Hart, but McMahon got buyers remorse on his contract. Then came Steve Austin, who carried the company during its most successful period in history. Dwayne Johnson came up during the Austin era and carried things when Austin was injured. The Golden Period ended due to two factors. They made the huge mistake of turning Austin heel, and Johnson showed so much charisma in wrestling that Hollywood called, and he had far more acting range than Hogan and he was wrestling less-and-less.

    That led to the modern era. The company fell greatly with HHH as its top star, but he became a family member. But the company remained profitable because this was the first period in history when they were truly the monopoly promotion. The first hand-picked successor was to be Brock Lesnar. Lesnar was the best athlete and toughest guy ever put into that position. But he wasn’t strong on promos. He was put together with Paul Heyman in a pairing that worked, but the two were broken up and Lesnar was turned face far too early, then turned back. The company also suffered from Johnson appearing less and less frequently and Austin retiring. Eventually the decision was made that Lesnar wasn’t the guy, and he quit the promotion shortly thereafter. Randy Orton came next. He had a long string as a main eventer, a very good wrestler with the right look. Orton had a five year run where he statistically did well above usual business when he was on top, but he did not have the charisma to be a real mover as the top guy. He still was always kept strong because he had the right look and skill set. Actually Dave Bautista surpassed Orton in the fans’ eyes, and as a business mover. Bautista was a huge success with his face turn in 2005. He was a big guy with a great physique and good look, and reasonably good in the ring, far from the best, but certainly when in with the best could be in a quality main event. While his feud with HHH was probably the most successful of the current era, he was quickly surpassed in popularity and momentum by John Cena.

    Here’s the thing. In every single case, even with Luger and Nash, they had momentum and the fan base treated them like they were a major star on the rise before the big moment came, or in the case with Luger, never came. There was never the totally lukewarm reaction to a full-year title build that lost momentum months before. Many failed when put in the spotlight, but none came in with no momentum.

    In almost every case historically, even the most stubborn promoter in this scenario would chalk it up to not always being right.

    Why is this different? One year ago, McMahon made a move that nobody expected. He had Lesnar beat The Undertaker. Nothing in the company, not the title, somebody’s trademark hair or someone’s position had the value of the decades long streak. It was the institution. It would lead to the most shocking moment in modern wrestling history and it could only be done once. There may never be another moment at that level.
  • 1CK1S
    1CK1S Members Posts: 27,472 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The idea from the start was that moment would be used to create the new top star of the company. Lesnar would beat Undertaker, demolish Bryan, and be the unstoppable heel force, and Reigns would succeed where even Cena couldn’t. It made all the sense in the world a year ago. Reigns was young, looked great, and The Shield were the hottest new act in years. Reigns had been presented as the killer and the tough one in the group. The idea was to use The Shield to get him over, and it worked better than expected. He was an instant headliner being put out on his own. But whether it was timing, the injury, Bryan, or people wanting more substance from the top guy, it didn’t work.

    Why McMahon was so married to the idea may have been that by beating Undertaker, and having a guy who brought the fan base into a different dimension of stronger reality like Lesnar, it created a unique time to make the new face, figuring it was time make Cena the babyface legend and not the guy in the championship picture, essentially what Bruno was to Bob Backlund and what he wanted Hogan to be to Warrior and later Bret Hart but it never worked out.

    Abandoning Reigns would have historically made the Undertaker loss almost for naught and there was no way to recreate that storyline. Even though Bryan was the hottest act at the time, at no point did he ever consider Bryan as the guy. He was too physically small and not good looking enough. And that was the problem. He got hung up on the factors and not the end result.

    Even though Bryan’s chant made it appear he was more over than he was, and he wasn’t a business mover on the level of Cena, he was significantly ahead of Reigns with far less help in presentation. But even with that, the argument is Reigns was younger, and with his look, had more long-term potential. Based on traditional qualities, he did. But the appreciation of wrestling ability as a quality may be higher than ever now, and perhaps the most important modern qualities are wrestling, talking and connecting, and Bryan was far superior in all of them.
    What could have been different? We’ll never know. He was the guy picked by the fans, but the company never saw it. Everyone knows the debate to death.
  • Peezy_Jenkins
    Peezy_Jenkins Sion Guests, Members, Writer, Content Producer Posts: 33,205 ✭✭✭✭✭
    good read, meltzer alluded to this on talk is jericho when they mentioned taker, it makes sense
  • jono
    jono Right fist = power, left fist = unity Members Posts: 30,280 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Uhhh alright. We know that the point of Brock beating undertaker and winning the title was to drop the title to the next guy. No surprise.

    I just hope Roman doesn't cave under the pressure and it will be a lot of pressure after all the building Brock has had.

    Truth is though, this is probably done more for Seth Rollins who will cash in more than likely.
  • silverfoxx
    silverfoxx Sion Guests, Members, Writer, Content Producer Posts: 11,704 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I was watching the Monday Night Wars of The Rock and i realize back then that even if the stars aligned for a potential new face of the company to be the top guy, they still focused on curve 🤬 and long term success with building the charcter connection emotionally with the crowd. The fact that they made the Rock the heel and cooperate champ when he was on the rise was genuis, becuase they generated shock value, kept things unpredictable, and made fans more invested (either good or bad) with the Rock. So when he went face again, he was undeniable over. Thats the issue with the current era, things are to easy to predict.

    My suggestion, knowing damn well Reigns is NOT ready and the crowd is not invested in him, do something unpredictable at WM. Heyman already foreshadowed really liking Reigns and saying he cant beat Brock, so why not have Heyman turn on Brock and align Reigns at WM and help Reigns win the belt? That way it will suprise folks, increase the "WTF will happen next???" effect, give Roman the greatest manager ever, and MOST IMPORTANLY make fans INVESTED in Roman. As Vince once said, SHAKE THINGS UP.
  • eternal soldier
    eternal soldier Members Posts: 2,784 ✭✭✭✭✭
    silverfoxx wrote: »

    My suggestion, knowing damn well Reigns is NOT ready and the crowd is not invested in him, do something unpredictable at WM. Heyman already foreshadowed really liking Reigns and saying he cant beat Brock, so why not have Heyman turn on Brock and align Reigns at WM and help Reigns win the belt? That way it will suprise folks, increase the "WTF will happen next???" effect, give Roman the greatest manager ever, and MOST IMPORTANLY make fans INVESTED in Roman. As Vince once said, SHAKE THINGS UP.

    I apologize for the long read don't "Bcotton" me lol

    If they don't do this, they might find them in a difficult spot come the Monday night after mania. I just don't see why Roman needs to be that guy right now. Honestly, I appreciate DB's character. He's almost relatable to anyone who feels like they're not given a fair shot even after busting their ass time and time again, but my interest to see him headline mania isn't there right now because that's too safe right now.

    Seth is much more prepped to be champion than reigns but I'm not in a rush for that either. Reigns isn't the type of chatacter to be smiling and kissing babies. He needs that mean streak and that 🤬 the world attitude.. And some promo training and maybe then I'll be okay with it.
  • BeleeDatPleighboy
    BeleeDatPleighboy Knockin em off they feet like a southerner supposed to do Members Posts: 8,461 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 2015
    IMO I dont think that there will be just one "GUY"

    as I stated in another thread

    The Shield guys are going to be the nucleus of this company going forward

    they are just taking different paths towards their elevation

    IMO Seth is already made and it took him the shortest time cause he was most ready for the spotlight immediately

    (I think Jono already alluded to this)

    Roman is getting his push to the ME now (at the expense or with the help of DB...really depends on your perspective)

    and I think Deans is about to start(winning the IC strap)...he will be top of the card by Summer Slam

    dean has always been the odd man out...even in the FCW/NXT days more focus was put on Seth and Roman.

    I think that has been the plan from the jump. IMO Roman should have been the one to get his push last....obviously because he was/is the rawest of the three...and needs more development

    but again the endgame is to have the Shield 3 be the centerpieces of WWE

  • DOPEdweebz
    DOPEdweebz What title? www.facebook.com/DOPEdweebzMembers, Moderators, Writer Posts: 29,364 Regulator
    Nothing mind blowing but a good read, nevertheless. I respect the fact he's been covering this 🤬 fir so long and has good insight, but he really doesn't say much more than we already know unless you're a novice fan.

    DB vs Reigns could be a future WM headliner now tho.
  • DOPEdweebz
    DOPEdweebz What title? www.facebook.com/DOPEdweebzMembers, Moderators, Writer Posts: 29,364 Regulator
    Btw Im so sick of the 🤬 🤬 excuses that Dave alluded too. Not good looking enough, better hair, bigger. ..are we raising wrestling fans or casual 🤬 that like to watch half naked men play fight in a ring with a touch of theater?