WWE backed into one of the greatest storylines in recent memory just five years ago, when Daniel Bryan overcame the odds to defeat 3/4 of Evolution — Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista — in just one night.
Yes, WrestleMania 30 certainly was memorable due to Bryan’s ascension to the top, and many thought we wouldn’t see quite a push like that ever again, much less in the near future.
Fast forward to now, with Bryan yelling at Kofi Kingston, “B+ player!” as SmackDown Live went off the air Tuesday night, and we’ve almost come full circle. Now, Bryan’s on the other side of the fence. He’s the one trying to hold Kingston down. Vince McMahon will seize any opportunity to screw Kingston into not getting a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania at MetLife Stadium.
It’s a storyline that began less than a week before the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in February — Kingston had to replace Mustafa Ali in the match, as Ali was battling some nagging injuries, thus not allowing him to compete in that match. He also was unable to compete in a Gauntlet Match the previous week on SmackDown. That’s where all this begins. That’s where the crowd certainly opened the eyes of many behind the scenes thanks to Kingston’s one-hour performance in that match.
Kingston had another great performance during the Elimination Chamber match, and they’ve clearly strapped the rocket to him heading into WrestleMania. Once Kevin Owens was announced as Bryan’s opponent for Fastlane, you just knew Kingston was going to get his WrestleMania moment.
After a few weeks of toying with the audience, Kingston won a chance to compete against Bryan for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania by winning a Gauntlet Match on this week’s SmackDown Live. That was until McMahon came out to screw him again, inserting Bryan into the mix, who would eventually pin Kingston after a running knee to the skull.
There were plenty of people annoyed that the Kingston-Bryan match wasn’t made official Tuesday night. But we know it’s going to happen. It’s been building for a month. WrestleMania is two-and-a-half weeks away. There’s a story being told here that people just want to fast forward to the end… for whatever reason. Call it being jaded by WWE booking from the past — that’s what I always call it — or call it just being impatient because they want to know so far in advance Kingston’s getting that title match.
But here’s the thing — yes, it’s a World Championship — but WWE’s playing around creatively with this story and I think they should actually be commended for it. Of course, if Kingston never actually gets the match, it’s all for naught. And that’s where many people seem to be headed already simply because WWE seems to be dragging out the story another week. But the story’s been building for over a month. Whatever happened to fans enjoying a story play out?
I’ve said it before on my podcast and in my writing — wrestling fans simply think they know too much for their own good. They’re always looking for backstage news. They’re not just sitting back and watching the television shows to see what plays out. If something happens they don’t like, it’s the end of the world. But then something happens that they do like the next week, and they’re back on board. It’s maddening as a wrestling fan to see it, but I also kind of see where they’re coming from. I’m not in that mode myself, but I was once before. Through the years, I’ve realized just how much knowing some of the backstage shenanigans that go on ruin my viewing experience as a fan. It’s no longer, “I hate this guy because he’s a heel,” it’s, “I love this guy because he’s a heel and if he doesn’t win, they’re burying him so fuck WWE.”
If a heel trashes someone and might cross a line or two, it’s taboo and he/she shouldn’t have said that.
In 2019, maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. Wrestling certainly has changed and so have the fans. Watching the old WWF and WCW shows growing up, I hated the bad guys. I loved the good guys. It’s the formula that works and has worked forever. Yes, I was a kid. That’s why the product was geared towards me. That’s why the product is geared towards kids in 2019. Yes, the advent of social media has made lifelong wrestling fans have a bigger voice in the last decade-plus, but I think we should take a step back and realize what we’re watching on television isn’t always for us.
Now, WWE could absolutely change that if they wanted to. They’ll have to in order to retain fans and create new ones in the process. I think it’s safe to say NXT is appointment viewing for the adults, but that talent being sent to the main roster doesn’t always mean good things. We’ve seen many hits on the main roster, but we’ve also seen many misses. Maybe even more misses than not.
It’s an instant gratification society now in virtually everything. Professional wrestling is no different. What many may think as a promoter not knowing what the hell to do for the audience may really just be a storyline intentionally trying to get you to rally behind the talent for more than just one match. Hell, for more than two or three matches. It’s all about the build. If the eventual build doesn’t pay off, then criticize away. But to wish away the story just because you want to see Kofi Kingston as champion now, or even have an official match for the championship now, isn’t really giving the creative team credit at all. They’ve got to build a story. They can’t just give you what you want on a random Tuesday episode of SmackDown.
Sure, we all thought Kingston would win this week, but he didn’t. All that should do is create more interest in what happens next week since we all know he’s getting that title match. But, nah, crap all over it. Who care about the story, right? Other than the same people who are hating on storylines not making sense/not being good enough. You’re being given a massive story right now for Kingston… embrace it.