Daniel Bryan's control over the audience in attendance at last night's Raw was surreal. From my seat, it was almost as entertaining watching the crowd as it was to see the little goat that could in the ring.
When he cleanly defeated Sheamus to open the show, I was certain he would win the Money in the Bank briefcase on Sunday. As the show went off the air my position had completely reversed.
The WWE prides itself on red herring booking. When you start thinking someone is doing really well, they change course. When someone is being booked to lose, they suddenly win a big match.
When Daniel Bryan went off the air Monday night atop the ladder with briefcase in hand, it told me one thing: He will not win the match on Sunday at the pay-per-view.
Bryan has been booked as a main event challenger for more than a month now. He's gone toe-to-toe with the top babyfaces in the business. In recent weeks, he's made Randy Orton tap out clean and he rolled up Sheamus for a three-count victory. It doesn't get much stronger than that.
Unfortunately, WWE likes stop-start pushes. They test the water to see how they respond, and then pull back to gauge the reaction. It's been years since they actually followed through on a major push triggered by crowd reaction.
Even CM Punk's pipe bomb promo led to a stop-start push. He wins the WWE Championship, loses the belt, loses to Triple H on PPV, then after his metal has been tempered, he finally won the belt back for his historic run.
I think Bryan is about ready for a cooling off period. Honestly, it may be better that way.
If Bryan were to win the briefcase on Sunday, he'd be expected to face John Cena in the main event at SummerSlam. Not only would he be expected to cash in his title shot, but also walk away with the belt. I do not for a minute believe the WWE has plans for a post-SummerSlam Daniel Bryan title reign on the books that would affirm his place as the company's champion.
Most likely, he'd be a transitional champion to another guy who would ultimately drop the belt back to Cena within a few months.
For Bryan, much like it was with Rey Mysterio, the money is in the chase. There is a certain air to being the best that never won the big one. It draws along the diehard fans who crave that one cathartic moment that their guy raises the strap over his head. When that moment is timed perfectly, you have a star. If the moment isn't timed just right, though, it feels off. If it isn't followed up correctly, it flops entirely.
I can't say who I think will win the Money in the Bank All-Stars bout. It could be RVD. It could be Orton. But it won't be Daniel Bryan.
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