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February 2014: Is "Yesamania" Running Wild?

Over the years pro wrestling has seen a few larger than life stars. First there was Hulk Hogan and “Hulkamania” was running wild in the World Wrestling Federation from 1984 until about 1992. Vince McMahon, the owner of the WWE, took what was a regional wrestling territory and with Hulk Hogan at the forefront he changed the wrestling world from locally promoted sideshows in smoky bar rooms and VFW halls into a global sports-entertainment corporation. Soon the WWF was everywhere including MTV, national television, worldwide pay-per-view, video games, toys and ice cream bars.

With his company in decline due to a steroid scandal, and his biggest star gone, wrestling lost some of its luster for a few years in the early to mid nineties. That is, until the next big star emerged. In the mid nineties, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin ushered in the “Attitude Era” of wrestling by flipping the middle finger, drinking beer and letting fly more than a few four letter words. It was around this same time that another star emerged, perhaps the most charismatic wrestler of all time and now a hot shot in Hollywood, Dwayne Johnson a.k.a The Rock. These two superstars led the way to record breaking ratings on TV through the 90’s and into the first few years of the new millennium.

By 2001 the Monday Night Wars had ended due to WCW’s mismanagement and its subsequent purchase by the WWE. Vince McMahon had emerged triumphant and remained as the only top wrestling company in the world. But by 2003 both The Rock and Stone Cold had given their notice and McMahon was left without a major superstar. There were always a handful of good or even great wrestlers on board including Triple H, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and Ric Flair, but none that could create the kind of havoc that the afore mentioned wresters could.

In 2005, John Cena won his first WWE Championship and became the new face of the company. Nine years later, he’s now an eleven-time WWE Champion and a three-time World Heavyweight Champion, but no matter how many belts Cena won, he could never muster the kind of popularity as Hogan, Austin or The Rock.

For nearly 10 years wrestling has been in a state of limbo. They say that wrestling goes in cycles and that there are peaks and valleys as far as its popularity, but the current stagnant state of the business has been dragging on for quite some time. With no big star to stir some serious interest in the product and a lack of competition due to the monopoly WWE has, wrestling seems to have leveled off and become a very sterile environment for fans especially given the current PG nature of the programming.

But recently there has been another star on the horizon, someone who doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the typical WWE superstar and someone who has gained unprecedented popularity in the face of adversity. He’s not six feet five inches tall and he’s not 265 pounds. He’s not a body builder or a tough guy. But he does have … a beard. He’s Daniel Bryan and right now he’s the most popular wrestler to come down the line in quite some time. His infectious “YES” chants have reached beyond the realm of wrestling and into mainstream culture, infiltrating other professional sports, TV and yes, even politics.

In fact, last month a petition with 100,000 signatures was submitted to the White House demanding that Bryan be in the main event at WrestleMania.

The petition was of course thrown out, but it speaks volumes to his popularity. Also, not long after that, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks paid tribute to Bryan on their official Twitter page.

What’s hard for me to understand is why the WWE is not more active in promoting their top star. With Hogan, Vince McMahon had a plan for him and he was able to execute it. The fans bought what he was selling and his ideals of training, prayers, vitamins and patriotism were a perfect fit for his time period. With Austin, the WWE was smart enough to realize that the times were changing and that the clear cut good guys and bad guys of old weren’t what the fans wanted any more. They got behind the average beer drinking redneck who hates his boss and as a result the WWE got behind him and pushed him as hard as they possible could. They were also smart enough to do the same with The Rock.

But with Daniel Bryan, the WWE is seemingly not willing to put their resources behind him the same way they did with Austin and Rocky. The fans have chosen the wrestler that they like the best and they are demanding that WWE get behind this guy and it doesn’t seem to be happening yet. As Steve Austin himself said on a recent episode of his podcast:

“There’s a window of opportunity for anybody who gets in this business and I think that if they (the WWE) don’t move now or in the near future or pay this thing off fully at WrestleMania and give this kid the run, that this window will start to close.”

A lot of this controversy started at the Royal Rumble in January where fans were expecting Daniel Bryan to be in the 30-man match, but his name was never called. When Rey Mysterio came out as entrant number 30, he nearly got booed out of the building. Daniel Bryan fans were furious as it became clear that their hero was not going to be in the match and as a result wouldn’t be in the main event at WrestleMania. The eventual winner of the Rumble was Batista, a wrestler whose big triumphant in-ring return went up in smoke. Instead of coming back to a huge welcome of cheers, he was met with a resounding boo which was later drowned out by more Daniel Bryan chants.

The WWE is really between a rock (no pun intended) and a hard place now. They didn’t jump on the Daniel Bryan bandwagon in the beginning and now the fans have lost patients with them for not doing so. So what should they do? Should they do what the fans want (and fully expect) and put Daniel Bryan into the main event at WrestleMania and have him win the belt or should they NOT do it simply because it would be too predictable?

Is Daniel Bryan the next huge superstar on the level of Hogan, Austin and The Rock? We may never have the chance to find out unless the decision makers in the WWE give him a fare shake. With the current state of wrestling I definitely don’t see why the WWE wouldn’t want to invest in this guy as much as possible to try to help him reach those heights. And let’s face it, the WWE fans are sick and tired of John Cena and Randy Orton at the moment. I think it’s time for the younger guys to get a chance to prove themselves. Cena and Orton have been carrying the company for as long as they have and have done a great job, but the fans have spoken and it’s time for guys like Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Dolf Ziggler to finally get their big chance to be in that coveted number one position. And hell, if it doesn’t work, Cena isn’t going anywhere anyway.

- Daniel Austin


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