Ever since WrestleMania XXX, the WWE has suffered one setback after another. First, the WWE announced it had far fewer subscribers to its network than it needed to turn a profit. Then its new television deal did not meet expectations. These harbingers of bad news induced a massive sell-off of WWE stock that saw Vince McMahon lose $350 million of net worth in one day. Even the WWE’s wrestling product suffered a major setback.
Just one month after beating the odds to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania XXX, Daniel Bryan underwent neck surgery. The prognosis for Bryan’s recovery is good, but he could miss two to three months of in-ring action. As the face of the WWE, Bryan’s absence in the summer months will be devastating. It also begs the following question. Should the WWE strip Daniel Bryan of his championship?
As a fan of pro wrestling for nearly 40 years, I remember how promoters handled these situations in the past. In most promotions, the World Heavyweight Champion was always required to defend the title at least once every 30 days. Even injuries were no excuse for the champion not to defend his title. If the champion was injured, he would either be stripped of the title or lose it in a carefully booked match to avoid further injury.
Like most other traditions in pro wrestling, Vince McMahon has discarded the old 30-day rule for the WWE. In some ways, this makes sense. If the champion is over with wrestling fans, then it is best for business if he is not stripped. Also, pro wrestling is much more health conscious today than in the past. So no one would ever suggest that Daniel Bryan should continue to wrestle while recovering from neck surgery.
The simple answer to the question I posed is that the WWE should not strip Daniel Bryan of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. However, there is a larger problem at play here. If Daniel Bryan stays at home for the next two or three months as champion, who will fill his role as the top draw on Raw, Smackdown, and the pay-per-views? Sadly, wrestlers at Daniel Bryan’s level of popularity and expertise are few and far between in the WWE.
The angle of whether or not the WWE strips Daniel Bryan of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will likely play out throughout the summer. Thankfully, pro wrestling has progressed to the point that no one should suggest that Bryan returns too early to in-ring competition. Hopefully, the current dilemma will serve as a wake-up call for the WWE creative team to develop more stars as a contingency plan for the absences of wrestlers such as Daniel Bryan.
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