Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – Exit/Enter the Dragon…
by Vinny Truncellito on August 31, 2009

By now, anyone who’d be interested in the news already knows; independent wrestling legend “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson has taken the plunge and signed with World Wrestling Entertainment. What will this major change mean for his career?

TODAY’S ISSUE: American Dragon signs with WWE.

I know I can always be counted on for a sarcastic, jaded comment about anything that emanates from WWE, but I’ve got to be fair about this. CM Punk has fared well in his “big league” tenure so far, at least as well as a smaller, non Hogan-ish performer can be expected to fare in WWE, so Danielson might have a chance. Maybe he won’t be buried or forgotten after a few weeks on the air. My worst fear is actually that Vince and company could treat Danielson like a joke, but again, using Punk’s surprising success (not surprising to indy fans, but surprising that a guy like him would be pushed by McMahon) as a model, maybe Dragon won’t be given some stupid gimmick and dumped into crappy storylines from the get-go. Perhaps he’ll be allowed to be who and what he is, and given a chance to shine between the ropes and entertain the fans with his outstanding wrestling ability. Imagine that…

If the American Dragon could somehow wind up in the same brand as Punk and Matt “Evan Bourne” Sydal along with a couple of Vince’s good young talents like Jack Swagger, Paul Burchill, or them Hart boys, that might be a show worth watching. And isn’t James “Jamie Noble” Gibson still on the roster, too? And Shane Helms, and Jimmy Yang? Hmm… these are all performers who could put on good matches against Danielson. I’d also like to see what Shelton Benjamin would do against the American Dragon, and it’d be something special to watch him go strike-for-strike against a respected veteran like Fit Finlay, or hold-for-hold against a legend like Chris Jericho.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m certainly not about to get optimistic about Danielson’s WWE run, especially considering that while incredible performers like Paul London and Brian Kendrick “couldn’t cut it” in WWE, their current roster is littered with no-talent hacks who happen to posses impressive size, like the Great Khali, and television time is routinely wasted on ridiculous nonsense like Hornswoggle, Shaq, and outdated characters like Goldust. But who knows? Maybe Vince will be willing to let just one brand stand out for its wrestling style and longer matches. I’ve always thought ECW was the perfect place for that sort of atmosphere, and since William Regal, current #1 contender to the ECW Championship, just happens to have been one of Danielson’s trainers, it would make Tuesday nights the ideal place for the “real wrestling” hour among WWE’s many weekly television shows.

The concept of ECW becoming the “wrestling” show in their lineup would be especially effective if WWE would learn to take a less hands-on approach to the in-ring product and just let great performers go out there and tear it up in 20-minute matches. I know, you doubters and WWEirdo apologists will say that mainstream wrestling fans don’t have the patience to sit through a match that actually tells a story, but I say any crowd can appreciate quality when it’s presented to them as a superior product, and WWE fans could learn to love longer, slow-developing matches under the right conditions. They need to be reminded that a painful hold is just as devastating as a punch in the mouth and that, within the context of a match with well-executed psychology, the same hold can have a much longer lasting and devastating effect.

For instance, if a true technician takes apart his opponent’s arm for 10 straight minutes before applying a crowbar or something like Nigel McGuinness’ London Dungeon, and if the man absorbing the beating sells properly throughout the match while the commentators actually discuss the focused attack and the devastating damage being done (instead of nattering on about everything but the contest, as WWE announcers tend to do), once that submission hold is locked on and the victim starts screaming in agony the crowd will realize they’re witnessing a great story, and start to care. And fans who care spend their money to watch that guy, once recovered from his arm injury, going after the man who wrenched his shoulder out of the socket and trying to score a victory to settle the score and regain some degree of pride after the loss. That’s really all it needs to be about. No child custody suits, supernatural beings, marital affairs, or hackneyed evil authority figures are required to sell pro wrestling to us wrestling fans. Set up a simple story and let the in-ring action tell it. And nobody’s better at delivering the wrestling side of an angle than Bryan Danielson.

If you are among those who think “sportz entertainment” can’t endure such a shift in philosophy, just think about the built-in psychology at SummerSlam 2002 when Shawn Michaels returned from his career-ending back injury and battled Triple H in a non-sanctioned lights-out match. Every time HHHis HHHighness even touched HBK’s back the crowd cringed in agony; the mere thought of Michaels’ damaged back being attacked like that cranked up the emotion of the contest and drew the fans in, and that doesn’t have to be a one-time thing. In the past, real wrestlers like Kurt Angle, the late, great Eddie Guerrero, Brock Lesnar, and Chris Benoit were able to get wrestling over when given the opportunity. And there are enough other competent performers on the WWE roster that they could do it again.

Bryan Danielson’s wrestling acumen could set the stage for a revival of in-ring performance in WWE that would actually allow the so-called creative team to do a lot less work. Imagine the run-sheet for a one-hour ECW broadcast that called for a short interview, then a 20-minute match. With intros and commercials, that’s half the program already. See how easy that is? And the less writing they do, the less silly stuff they’ll be forced to throw in and the product might actually become appealing to old-school fans again. And the beauty of it is, they’d never have to compromise their new slant toward PG programming. There’s nothing inappropriate about great wrestling matches; it’s all the talking and bikini contests and such that change the type of show they produce.

For storyline purposes, I’d like to see Regal bring in Danielson as a former student with the intention of having him join his band of merry men, but Dragon quickly tiring of being used as canon fodder and working solely for the good of Regal at the expense of his own potential advancement. If he were being abused and treated unfairly by Regal and company on television, it wouldn’t take long for the fans to get behind Dragon, and if he had to go through Ezekiel Jackson and Vladimir Koslov to get his hands on Regal that arc practically writes itself. It’d be a great way to introduce Danielson to WWE crowds, and put him over as a serious upper midcard threat right out of the chute.

I don’t know how likely it is that Bryan Danielson will be the recipient of such a warm welcome in McMahonland, but I guarantee that if given a chance to truly demonstrate his wares to the WWE audience, he’ll connect with them on a level like Punk has. They’ll see him as the real deal, not a performer portraying a character. They will learn to understand the role in-ring psychology plays in a storyline, and appreciate what an amazing athlete Danielson is. It might just be enough to earn him a following, sell tickets, merchandise, and ppv buys, and create a new star for Vince to exploit showcase, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Yes, we indy fans will miss having one of our legendary performers around, but perhaps if the stars align right and if Vince and company take Danielson seriously, some small element of WWE programming might just become watchable again. I’d love to see that happen. I wish you good luck in the bizarre land of sportz entertainment, Mr. Danielson, and I hope you don’t need it.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…

Brian Eison recaps SmackDown! and SuperStars.

Paul Marshall brings you Total Nonstop Weekly.

Jon Bandit provides his 10 Thoughts on iMPACT! for your reading pleasure.

Brad Curran has an Unsolicited Review of WWE’s SummerSlam 2009 event.

Puro wizard David Ditch has another brilliant Puroresu Pulse, focusing on Mitsuharu Misawa.

Hack Johnson covers This Week in Indies.

Finally this week, Chris Morgado returns with episode 2 of The Column With No Name, discussing CM Punk.



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  • Norine

    When I think of Vince McMahon, I think of “exploit”. Nice editing job, Vinny! Having been a fan of the American Dragon for some time, I can only hope he gets the chance to show WWE fans what he’s got. I won’t hold my breath.

  • Carlos

    Vinny I think you’re being a little too hard on the WWE product. Have you been watching Smackdown lately? They have been the wrestling show for the WWE ever since the draft took place. Guys LIke Ziggler, Morrison, Punk, Mysterio, Jericho, and even Hardy put on 15-20 minute matches that demonstrate the in ring psychology and work rate you were talking about.

    ECW does it too, although being 1 hour there might only be one great match, but that’s still better than RAW.

    Kendrick had some kind of smoking problem with the E, and when they asked him to stop doing it so much, he refused and kept paying his fines instead of stopping and it cost him his push.

    Khali is simply there because he is a huge draw in India. I don’t like him in ring wise either, but he’s important so you have to keep him.

    Seriously watch Smackdown for a few weeks and then say that WWE does not do good wrestling matches.

  • erik

    Its not that the WWE doesn’t have good to great matches. Its that the WWE has a clear and disheartening history of taking great wrestlers and wasting them. From Terry “Red Rooster” Taylor to Chris “Skip” Candido, and even now with Chavo being reduced to jobbing to hornswaggle on a weekly basis with no conceivable pay off, the WWE has historically overlooked talented individuals for the “next hogan” or “next austin”. Looking back over the last 25 years, McMahon got lucky twice. Hogan and Austin became the biggest names of the modern era and McMahon has spent years recycling the two ideas behind them.

    But thats another rant altogether. Great article vinny, I def agree with you. I’m hoping for the best for AmDrag, but lord only knows.

  • http://pulsewrestling.com/author/vinnytruncellito/ Vinny Truncellito

    Thank you, Norine!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Carlos,

    I haven’t watched the WWE product consistently for years. I get my “fix” exclusively from indies. I watched ROH’s “Death Before Dishonor VI” last night; great show! You say SmackDown is where it’s at, huh? Even if there is some good in-ring content there, I can’t stand sifting through all the ga-ga and nonsense to get to it. “Sportz entertainment” just isn’t my cup of tea.

    Thanks for the input.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Erik,

    I couldn’t agree more, Sir. That’s precisely what I don’t want to see happen to a great worker like Danielson. Glad you enjoyed the column – thanks for reading and writing.

    – Vinny

  • http://diehardgamefan.com MLKennedy

    Maybe Dean Malenko could come out of retirement and wrestle him in a hour long 2/3 falls match.

    A boy can dream, right?

  • Aaron Glazer

    Smackdown is legitimately good Vin. Superstars and ECW have their moments too. I have an article going up on examiner very similar to this that you’ll like.

  • http://pulsewrestling.com/author/vinnytruncellito/ Vinny Truncellito

    MLK – as long as we’re dreaming, let’s just add Lance Storm to the mix, making it a three-way!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Ace,

    Will have to check that out…

    – Vinny

  • Mark Allen

    Vinny I too think you are being too hard to WWE in this instance. WWE is never going to be ROH or a plethora of other indys. People like Great Khali have their place in WWE, and always have. WWE could blow any indy out of the water each and every night if they so chose, but it’s really not in their best interest or business plan. I do agree with you that Danielson does only have about a 50% chance of making “it.” Punk has turned out great and others like London, Kendrick, Chavo and Helms have been on the roster for years while guys like Cabana and Ace Steel never even got off the ground. Regardless good article Vinny and I too anxiously await what happens to The Dragon when he arrives on WWE TV.

  • http://pulsewrestling.com/author/vinnytruncellito/ Vinny Truncellito

    Mark,

    Thanks. I’m glad to have gotten feedback from you.

    We agree that in-ring talent can be all a wrestler needs to become popular on the indies, although a personality obviously helps a great deal. Conversely, “look” plays a much bigger part in WWE. Obviously Khali looks impressive, but I really don’t think anyone’s tuning in to see him perform.

    I have to respectfully disagree with you on this statement: “WWE could blow any indy out of the water each and every night…”

    I know they have some solid performers, but there are just loads of talented guys tearing it up in the indies, with no “restrictor plates” keeping them from stealing the show. That’d be a tall order for a promotion with so few “real wrestlers” on the roster.

    And no, MVP isn’t one of them…

  • http://marshalllaw2.wordpress.com/ Martin Marshall

    I think the other thing ot bear in mind is that patience will definitely be required. The internet was full of complaining about how WWE weren’t pushing CM Punk well enough until recently – it’s only in the last few months that he’s really been able to shine (on Smackdown, of course, which I would like to add my support to as the best mainstream wrestling show on TV today).
    I totally agree with you on ring psychology and re-educating a new generation of fans. One can easily make anything in wrestling important to fans, whether it be a hold, a match or a title, simply by ensuring that everyone in the business – wrestlers, announcers and “authority figures” – treat it as important.
    Finally, what’s wrong with MVP?

  • http://pulsewrestling.com/author/vinnytruncellito/ Vinny Truncellito

    MM,

    Thanks for stopping by! I realize it takes time for a wrestler to find his niche in a new company before a new audience, and I certainly wouldn’t expect (or call for) a meteoric rise to the top for Dragon. Those rarely work in the long run, whereas a slow-brewing, more-organic climb through the ranks will cause more fans to join a wrestler on his way up the card as they truly believe in his “right to be there” having witnessed his step-by-step ascent.

    My concern is that Danielson never gets that chance, or gets treated like a joke. But you’re right – we’ll just have to be patient. Clearly the evidence from WWE over the years makes Punk’s success the exception not the rule, but who knows?

    Regarding MVP: he simply isn’t as good in the ring as his initial ‘Net-love would have made you think. He’s slow, boring, and dull. Once he started demonstrating a bit of personality as a heel a while back, the IWC was on his bandwagon, but between the ropes, he is sub-par.

    – Vinny

  • http://marshalllaw2.wordpress.com/ Martin Marshall

    Oh yeah, forgot to say, on the subject of old-school, hold based wrestling, have you checked out British indy LDN Wrestling? They operate a really old-school British style, with a roster of young talent alongside a couple of guys from the glory days of British wrestling. They post a 10 minute program on Youtube each week and if you like what you see, there are DVDs available! I’ll be posting a blog about British wrestling soon.

  • http://pulsewrestling.com/author/vinnytruncellito/ Vinny Truncellito

    I love British indies, but I don’t know LDN – thanks for the hot tip. Gonna check them out!

  • Aaron Glazer

    You’re 100% right about MVP, Vin.

  • http://pulsewrestling.com/author/vinnytruncellito/ Vinny Truncellito

    Why thank you, Ace. It’s always good to get confirmation from a recognized expert. Any time you are I strongly disagree on something, I find myself wondering if I got it wrong…

    Normally in those cases I’m convinced YOU were off the mark (kidding)!

  • Mark Allen

    Vinny,

    I think you are severely underestimating WWE’s roster. My point was that if WWE talent also didn’t have “restrictor plates” they would compete with any American indy. Just off the top of my head there’s Jericho, Edge, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Christian, Evan Bourne, Jaime Noble, Gregory Helms, Chavo Guerrero, CM Punk, The Hart kids, John Morrison, William Regal, HHH, Finlay and Low Ki that could put together an amazing top-to-bottom card.

    That is definitely not discounting all the amazing talent out there on the indys by any means, but I think we forget how many top talents are on the WWE roster. We just don’t get to see them at their best all the time due to their schedules and company business plan, unfortunately.

    I sure as heck don’t tune in for The Great Khali either but big lumbering lugs like him have always had their place in WWE, no matter how atrocious their in ring work.

  • http://pulsewrestling.com/author/vinnytruncellito/ Vinny Truncellito

    “UNDERTAKER”? “HHH”? You can’t be serious. You really believe those guys could hang with the fast, innovative, explosive, hard-hitting bump-machines on the indies? No way, my friend.

  • Mark Allen

    I’m not saying that Undertaker and Triple H could hang with the indy guys in a DragonGate-like sprint. What I’m saying is that every night WWE could put together a top to bottom card that would rival any indy card. I love matches with innovative, explosive, hard hitting bump machines more than the next guy but those two guys in particular can tell in an-ring story second to none. Plus I forgot to mention Rey Mysterio, Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas to my first list that could stack a card.

  • http://pulsewrestling.com/author/vinnytruncellito/ Vinny Truncellito

    Well, as long as HHH and ‘Taker always face each other (so I know when to go buy nachos)…

    Seriously, of the folks you named above in both your posts (excluding HHH and ‘Taker) there is some great wrestling talent capable of producing excellent matches night after night in McMahonland. But as you correctly indicated, Vince’s business model doesn’t call for World WRESTLING Entertainment to give a rat’s ass about WRESTLING.

    It’s too bad… I’d LOVE for them to dedicate just one crummy hour of their immense weekly schedule to the in-ring action.

    What are they doing, SIX hours a week now? Hell, if they did a weekly WEB show that focused on the in-ring side, I’d buy monthly ppvs for that show only, as long as it maintained it’s own continuity and never got all sportz-entertainmentized.

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