With WWE TLC emanating from Brooklyn, it was bound to be a unique crowd. New York wrestling audiences are not known for going with the flow, and and last night's pay-per-view did nothing to change that trend. All night long, the 16,000 in attendance defied WWE's production and consistently cheered for the bad guys, which added weight to Damien Sandow's lashing of hipsters in the opening minutes of the show.
The notable exception was Daniel Bryan, who received what was easily the biggest and, quite frankly, the only real babyface reaction of any "good" guy on the entire roster last night.
While a sizable chunk of the crowd was behind The Shield, especially Dean Ambrose, the weight of the crowd's support immediately swung toward the opposite team whenever Daniel Bryan got on the offensive. He had a promo with Kane before the match which allowed him to lead the crowd in "Yes!" chants for the first time in forever, and the reaction he received when his music hit was notable not just for how loud it was, but how quickly the noise level plummeted when Ryback followed him. His valiant efforts against a three-on-one attack toward the end of the match continued the chanting, and screams of approval followed every attempt by Bryan to put the No Lock on Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.
Why exactly was Bryan immune to what the WWE broadcast team usually terms "bizarro" crowds, usually mentioned when in the home country of a foreign heel like Canada or England? There were undoubtedly a number of people in the audience who have been following Bryan for his entire career, all the way from Ring of Honor to his first stint with WWE, his release and debut with EVOLVE and return to WWE. There are also people who simply love great wrestlers, and it is nearly unarguable that Bryan is one of the best in the world. There are also the ironic fans who populate Brooklyn who would cheer heels no matter what.
This all added up perfectly for Bryan, but what does it say about the rest of the roster of faces currently in WWE? Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara and Sheamus all received tepid reactions at best. John Cena's usual "split" crowd was, this time, not so much anti-Cena as it was pro-Dolph Ziggler. R-Truth was not hated, but Antonio Cesaro got the loudest cheer since he won the United States Championship when he made quick work of his opponent.
There is, of course, fun in irony. It will always be fun to root for the bad guy, but is WWE at the point where the heels make themselves out to be so much better than the faces that WWE has put itself into a corner every time it goes to certain cities? The crowd in Brooklyn was obviously on fire, and I expect no difference in Raw tonight from Philadelphia, one of the most consistently hard-to-please cities in the country. The crowd will get the chance to digest the fact that Alberto Del Rio is now a babyface, AJ has turned her back on John Cena and CM Punk will be setting his sights on The Rock for The Royal Rumble.
Speaking of AJ and Cena, the loudest pop of the night came when AJ abruptly stopped skipping around the ladder and mercilessly shoved Cena off his perch, ensuring a victory for Dolph Ziggler. This moment was obviously meant to shock and infuriate the fans; instead, they acted as if the Dodgers had returned to Brooklyn. This will no doubt get the theorists rambling again about the inevitable Cena heel turn, which will be as amusing as ever to read.
What TLC did in the end was speak to the ability of Daniel Bryan. The 5'10" technician who became the biggest star in the world of wrestling the night after WrestleMania XXVIII was the only face on the entire roster to receive the supportive reaction his character was meant to get at TLC. We won't know how it would have compared to Randy Orton, who was not on the show after suffering an injury at the taping of the Tribute to the Troops show. What is clear is that no matter his alignment, Bryan is going to end up getting cheered one way or another around the world.