Daniel Bryan and taking good back

6/24/13, Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton – Match of the Year

Obviously this is subjective, since I’m kind of more of a casual viewer than I once was, but it’s also worth noting that this is probably the longest stretch that I’ve been paying attention to wrestling in quite some time. Typically over the last few years, the pattern is that I start tuning again in around November when the baseball season is completely done with, all the way to around Wrestlemania which oftentimes coincides with the start of the next baseball season, and despite my intent to keep tuned in through the baseball season, I typically wane until the pattern repeats itself. That hasn’t really happened this year; whether it’s baseball’s importance to me drifting off, or the quality of WWE programming to keep me tuned in, I’ve still been capable of paying attention and staying somewhat on top of current storylines and happenings. I like to think it’s the latter.

Regardless, I still rarely watch any episodes of RAW or Smackdown live. I DVR both programs, and watch them at my own convenience; I’ve gotten pretty good at utilizing the +30 seconds button on the remote to fly through commercials, John Cena promos, and matches that don’t seem worth the time, and am capable of condensing a three-hour RAW down to about a little over an hour.

But anyway, as I was catching up this past Monday’s RAW, I found myself eagerly awaiting the main event between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. They’ve been running a program over the last month or so, where Orton has often been getting the better of through a series of lame-duck endings, while Daniel Bryan has been portraying an inferiority complex gimmick, which is getting massively, wildly over with the WWE fans, to a point where even management realizes that they have to do something about it.

I’ll admit, when Daniel Bryan was the U.S. Champion a few years back, he bored me to death. I didn’t like his matches, I thought he had no personality, and I frankly didn’t care how good he was capable of being in the ring. But when they aligned him with AJ, gave him the WCW belt, and used the power of the word YES! to get him over, I was turned. Pretty much from then on, nothing he did was ever bad, and he was one of the guys on the roster I looked forward to seeing every single week.

It’s debatable, with the always popular CM Punk, but considering his recent absence, I’d have to say that Daniel Bryan is the best thing going in the WWE right now.

Which is pretty interesting considering the obvious parallels with the guy he obviously models his in-ring style, and a lot of his repertoire from. But in a way, I think it’s kind of genius on the WWE’s part to let him do such, because all of the successes of Daniel Bryan helps erase the failures that Chris Benoit’s name represents.

Now I say “WWE lets” Bryan replicate a lot of Benoit’s style, because it’s no secret these days that WWE can get micromanaging to the point where they try and regulate a guy’s in-ring style. I have to think it was a risk on their part, because there are always smarky nerds like me that quickly recognize the style and make the statements that it’s Chris Benoit II going on, and that much is always going to be unavoidable. But sticking with it just might pay off, because the longer that Daniel Bryan continues to get over, time will eventually take the Yes/No-Lock away from being the Crippler Crossface, and the German suplex and diving headbutts won’t necessarily be “Benoit moves” as much as they’ll eventually permanently become “Daniel Bryan moves.”

You’ll know it was a success when the WWE won’t have to actively try and hide and pretend like Chris Benoit never existed any longer, and the next generation of wrestling fans only see Daniel Bryan for being Daniel Bryan, and not a repeat of Chris Benoit.

But going back to Monday night, I have to say again that I think that Bryan vs. Orton was easily the best match of the year. I think it was better than any match on the Wrestlemania card, including Punk vs. Undertaker, and over halfway through the year, I’d say that it’s going to be a challenge for anyone to top it in the remaining six months.

For reasons unclear, Randy Orton is popular with the fans and always manages to stay somewhere on the upper-tier of the roster pecking order. He’s undoubtedly a good enough worker who clearly works hard, but he has no personality. His character is always boring, his matches are predictable to a template, and for whatever reason he almost always wins his matches. I don’t know if it’s lineage as Cowboy Bob Orton’s kid, if he has illicit sex pictures of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon or some other asinine reason, but Randy Orton rarely loses these days, let alone in a clean decision.

That being said, it was a fascinating episode of RAW, because the storyline had hit the point if this was going to be another unrequited feud where Daniel Bryan would ultimately fail to defeat Orton, or was Bryan’s popularity with the fans finally going to push the booking team to where he had to beat Orton? Usually, I’m pretty good at predicting match results based on a lifetime of being a nerdy smark, but I honestly didn’t really know who to pick going into this match. Which meant that I could go into like any other non-smark who has their innocence and guesses to what might happen.

And I know I spent a few words just a few paragraphs ago talking about what a failure Chris Benoit was, but that was all in regards to him as a human being, who was nuts from too many concussions and steroids. But there’s no denying that he was a true mat wizard, and one of the better wrestlers in the history of the industry. Regardless of what he ended up doing, I still consider Benoit making Triple H tap for the World Championship at Wrestlemania 20 one of my favorite moments ever.

That being said, when Daniel Bryan slapped on the Yes-Lock for the second time, it actually surprised me how the match ended up finishing. It was crystal clear that Orton was going to get the Singapore cane and try and hit his way out of it like he had done earlier in the match, but I was pretty astounded when Bryan snatched the cane from his hands, and used it to further increase the leverage and pull on the Yes-Lock.

The difference between the Crippler Crossface and the Yes-Lock is the twisting of the arm prior to locking it in, that Bryan does that Benoit never did. And doing such honestly makes it looks like it hurts way more than a Crossface would.

So when Bryan began rearing back with the cane, dragging Orton’s head further off the mat, I actually got out of my chair and started screaming at the television (in the privacy of my own home, naturally) YES YES TAP TAP YES TAP!

And when Orton tapped out, I actually began thrusting my pointed fingers out in victory, chanting YES! with the fans on television.

Yes, I’m a huge nerd, but it’s times like this where it shows that the WWE still has it from time to time, no matter how smart nerdy smarks like me think we are.

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