So here we are almost a week later and the fans ire over Roman Reigns Royal Rumble victory and seemingly inevitable WrestleMania victory over Brock Lesnar has not died down. I've already talked about this some but I feel the need to address one more part of this. The organic part. What am I talking about? Well, one of the main arguments people have had against Reigns push was that it's been forced on them as opposed to more organic ascensions like those of icons past. And I just have to call bs on that. Very little of what goes on in the entertainment world is organic, and last year's fan revolt that put Daniel Bryan over the top was an exception, not the rule. No matter how hard you cheer at a pay per view or house show, you're still rooting for someone who was put in front of you by.....wait for it........Vince McMahon. Must I run through the list of WWF/WWE top dogs to set you straight? Apparently so, so here it is.
Hulk Hogan was already over based on his look and natural charisma, and he had name recognition beyond the wrestling world thanks to his cameo in Rocky III as Thunderlips, then he came back to McMahon's company right when he was looking to expand nationally. That push was happening no matter what anybody said, and given that Verne Gagne had the chance to make the exact same move a year earlier and opted to stop short of putting AWA belt on him, it's pretty clear that Hogan embodied what promoters were looking for at the time and was not rising because some cool kid faction of fans pushed for it. The character of Stone Cold Steve Austin was pitched at a time when the WWF was getting pounded by WCW on Monday nights and Vince needed a Hail Mary pass to get back in the race. The persona fit perfectly with the direction Vince was going to take the company in with the Attitude Era so it was approved.....by Vince McMahon. When Rocky Maivia did not get over a decision was made to embrace the hatred being shown by the fans and go with it. That decision was made in a board room by Vince McMahon before any fans were clamoring for it.
What am I getting at here? Basically, that these decisions about who does and doesn't become a big star are rarely made in the stands, or blog posts or message boards. There was no golden age of star picking. The people in charge make decisions based on what they think will work, and that's based on history and sales figures. I remember how many people were happy when Hulk Hogan lost to the Ultimate Warrior because we finally had a face champion other than Hogan, and how half of those happy people didn't support their new champion like they did the man he beat. I remember how Bret Hart, and then Diesel and then Shawn Michaels did not draw well as champions even though it was supposed to be so great to have workers who could do more than punches, bodyslams, and a legdrop at the top. I bet Vince McMahon remembers that too, and that colors any decision made about one Daniel Bryan just like it did with Punk.
Look, I get it. You like Bryan more than Reigns, and you want Bryan to get a title run that explores every possible angle more than any coronation of the next Superman. But that just isn't how the business works. The men at the top want Superman. It's easier to book Superman vs a parade of bad guys than the little engine that could, and Superman will always have the potential to branch out into mainstream entertainment and raise the overall profile of the company. Daniel Bryan is never doing that, sorry. Vince McMahon has always seen himself as a competitor to Disney, not some other wrestling company. That was true whether the opposition was Jim Crockett, Verne Gagne, or Ted Turner, and it's true today. Same as it ever was.