There’s no doubt the WWE Universe is excited to see Bryan challenge Cena for the title at SummerSlam. But it wasn’t until this past Monday on RAW that we finally got a framework for their confrontation. If Punk vs. Lesnar is “The Best vs The Beast,” then Bryan against Cena has become “The Wrestler vs. The Entertainer.”
Before we go any further, though, let’s make one thing clear: Cena CAN wrestle.
The “you can’t wrestle” chants thrown at Cena on a weekly basis are fun. They give the fans in attendance a unified front against John Cena (I’d prefer a “You can’t cut a good enough promo to actually make me give a crap about your title run” chant, but whatever), and it makes the ‘real wrestling’ fans on the internet happy. Unfortunately, they’re just not true. Look back at his lengthy feud with CM Punk – Cena showed us that he understands the basics of the grapple-hold-bump chain, and that he’s not afraid to pull out some veteran mat skills when the need arises.
Cena’s character isn’t defined by the catch-as-catch-can wrestling style, though. He’s a powerhouse. His “five moves of doom” make the youngins cheer, and gives everybody else a chance to see the veins on his biceps/shoulders/forehead bulge. You know who else was defined by a wrestling style that was beneath them? Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of the all-time greats. Austin was trained by the best, and he understood ring psychology better than anybody in WWE today. But he made his millions from being a brawler.
This all goes to say that Cena and Bryan should put together one heck of an entertaining match on August 18th. John Cena WILL rise to the occasion, and Daniel Bryan always delivers.
Take a look at the bigger picture here. Since WWE officially branded itself as sports entertainment a few years back, guys come out and use the term “wrestling” as their way of sticking it to the boss. But those moments are obviously planned. If Vince McMahon actually wanted wrestling erased from the dictionary, it would be. The term simply carries a lot more weight if people think it’s not allowed.
And that’s the whole essence of this build. Daniel Bryan is ‘not allowed’ to be champion. He’s too small. He doesn’t fit the mold of a superstar. He’s not an “entertainer.” He’s the antithesis of John Cena, and he doesn’t represent WWE sports entertainment as a product. The again, Vince said that Stone Cold Steve Austin was bad for business. He tried to give Austin a corporate makeover, and make him a champion befitting the WWF. It was all part of the story.
And that’s why we love Daniel Bryan. Yes, he’s entertaining, and charming, and an excellent in-ring tactician. But, most importantly, he’s the modern-day equivalent of Steve Austin. Bryan is the anti-hero for the internet age.
Vince McMahon knows that professional wrestling is changing, evolving, and building into something entirely different than before. The ‘internet-era’ has giving us a more personal connection with the product, while at the same time created a blurred definition of where the story ends, and where real-life begins. Superstars are still wrestlers. However, superstars are also something more.
And so “The Wrestler vs. The Entertainer” is just a gimmick. Yes, John Cena does the press junkets, stars in movies, headlines Pay-Per-Views, partners with Make-A-Wish, and he reaches the masses while doing so. But Daniel Bryan also does promotion. He stars in ‘Total Divas,’ advertises his indie background, jokes about being fired, and captures that audience who still desperately wants to believe that “professional wrestling” and “entertainment” are two entirely different things.
Both Cena and Bryan are playing their roles, but by selling them so effectively, they’ve captured the imagination of the WWE Universe, the internet fans, the indie fans, and the jaded fans. And that’s what this SummerSlam match is all about: giving the fans, all of them, a reason to care again.
What are your thoughts on Daniel Bryan and John Cena? Will their match at SummerSlam ultimately deliver? Give me your opinion in the comments below, or sound off on Twitter @therealwiseman. Also, be sure to follow @BetweenTheRopes while you’re there!