Further Thoughts On the Twitter Rumble Riots

The other weird thing for me about the Twitter Rumble riots is that all the complaints I’m reading, without many exceptions, seem to be based on the idea that the wrestler who won the Royal Rumble should have been based solely on how much he was over with the fans.

That is an important factor, yes. And we have been burned a lot lately. I am no fan of the company these days and I do not apologize for their carny-corporate idiocy. But wrestling does still exist in the blurry realm of kayfabe, and in the semi-reality of this realm there are more factors than simply who is the best athlete-showman and most popular with the audience. Even though we know it’s a performance and not a sport, it is still a performance of a sport. And in the performative sporting event that is the Royal Rumble there are other factors involved, like the luck of the draw. For me this has been an interesting factor in Rumbles past — the guy who has the most impressive performance often has too early a draw to beat the odds and win. For me this was Bray Wyatt this time. How long did he last, forty minutes? Also — a smaller, lighter guy has a harder time not being thrown out than bigger, heavier guys, which is why Daniel Bryan getting eliminated so easily and Kane and Big Show hanging in until the end made logical sense to me (even if this didn’t make me happy).

If it is all about the merit of the wrestling, I think it was Rusev who proved himself in the run-up to the Rumble and deserved the win, more so than Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan just got back from time off, whereas Rusev is undefeated for the better part of a year if I’m not mistaken. If it is about a compelling and surprising match for Wrestlemania, imagine what could have been with Brock vs. Rusev! I would be excited to see Rusev either win or lose at this point. For me he has been sold as a mini-Lesnar — a monster who is seemingly unstoppable — so pushing his ascent beyond the mid-card makes good sense to me. Better sense than Roman Reigns, anyway.

There are also the realities of sports injury that may very well have ruled out Daniel Bryan as a number one contender to Brock Lesnar. Bryan has had a wonderful run as an everyman underdog who can defeat wrestlers twice his size against all odds, but remember, his neck is tentative at this point. We haven’t heard much about it, but it may in fact be necessary for him to dial back the intense physicality from now on and wrestle more on character than ability. Even when they are healed, neck injuries MUST be taken seriously, which is an idea you may not fully grasp if you haven’t had one. I got whiplash in a car accident when I was five and the doctor told my mom that, because I was young, I would bounce back without any treatment. He was wrong. Nearly thirty-five years and tens of thousands of dollars in therapies later, I’m still working through the resulting chronic pain that at one point made it difficult for me to even walk. But that’s a story for another post. My point is that if you care about Daniel Bryan the man, you will understand the reality that his neck is not immortal and kindly accept his inevitable decline into the midcard. Even if it doesn’t happen right now, it will happen soon enough.

Even if I’m wrong about his neck and Daniel Bryan is 100% for a Lesnar match, I for one  struggle to believe Daniel Bryan wouldn’t simply become a rag doll in Lesnar’s arms. I realize this is an unpopular opinion. Look, I know he has somehow been a magical David vs. every Goliath they have ever thrown at him. But Brock Lesnar is a different story. Lesnar himself challenges the boundaries of kayfabe because he is a “real” wrestler and a UFC fighter, and the most formidable physical specimen in the company. I completely believe that in a street fight he would beat just about anybody in the wrestling world. How would Daniel Bryan stand a chance? Maybe there’s a way, but I can’t see one that isn’t somehow contrived and unsatisfying.

Maybe the audience’s rabid insistence that they should have gotten what they wanted here is the indicator that kayfabe is completely dead, and that professional wrestling is now pure fiction. If that’s the case, it is not good, my friends. How can wrestling be worth watching if we only ever get what we demand? I know things have been bad lately and Roman Reigns looks like a big mistake, but don’t forget that there is value in their denying us our wishes. Remember, also, that they are digging themselves out of a rather deep narrative hole right now, and may have found themselves painted into a corner for reasons that aren’t being shared with us. If we want to get through to this company about how badly they’re screwing up with the millenial wrestlers and viewers, we have to approach them with cool heads or they just think we’re a bunch of blowhards who don’t really understand the business.

Don’t forget: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens will be here before we know it.

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