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How WWE has hooked us all

Yeah – it’s safe to say we’ve established the 2015 Royal Rumble as one of the WWE’s all-time biggest disasters.

Daniel Bryan was the 10th entrant into the fray, and was the 11th man eliminated. The crowd never forgave WWE for this over the course of the entire night. While Dean Ambrose & Dolph Ziggler received decent pops initially, every participant that had to follow Bryan’s elimination did so to a chorus of boos that was allegedly so loud that the production team had to tone the audio down just to hear the broadcasters.

Philadelphia even booed The Rock upon his return to save Roman Reigns from The Authority. Think about that for a second – arguably the most popular figure in the entertainment industry today was booed aside from his entrance and his performance of the People’s Elbow.

He wasn’t happy about that either, by the way, with reports suggesting he immediately expressed his displeasure for the decision to eliminate Bryan in such a manner. Fans blocked the exit of the arena after the show, and managed to get ‘#CancelWWENetwork’ to lead Twitter’s worldwide trending topics.

They had to know the backlash would be vehemently fierce.

They had to know that no one would buy Kane or Big Show as legitimate threats to Roman Reigns. They had to know that eliminating Bryan, Ziggler, and Ambrose as if they were mid-card rookies wouldn’t satiate Philadelphia’s hunger.

They did know – and that’s exactly how they’ve hooked the ‘smart’ fans. Our emotional investment differs exponentially from the young child in the John Cena shirt’s emotional investment.

One crowd had their hearts ripped out when Brock Lesnar retained the WWE Championship, the other when Daniel Bryan was unceremoniously dumped over the top rope.

It’s WWE ‘Inception.’

Different demographics, different heroes – all kept dangling on a string through a new form of double booking. In other words, it’s a show within a show.

‘Good guy versus bad guy’ in the WWE hasn’t cut it for a long time to the fanboys. The days of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant are long gone, and the creative team has been forced to think of a way to counter the decline in ratings that was the PG era.

They have taken the decades old ‘authority vs. subordinates’ archetype and applied it in an unseen setting: the company itself has become the heel.

It’s no longer as simple as John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar. It’s Bryan Danielson vs. Vince McMahon. It’s Nick Nemeth vs. Paul Levesque. It’s Jonathan Good vs. WWE creative.

And what’s most agonizing about this? It works. The current WWE landscape is vibrant because of this. Whether it’s good or bad feedback, WWE related topics continue to trend on Twitter, and the WWE Network has reached 1 million subscribers.

Perhaps more interesting is the question of why this works. On one level, WWE needs its’ poster boy to bring in casual fans – Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Roman Reigns. These are the guys forced down our throats. These are also the guys that the diehards see as transparent, less talented, and less deserving of the limelight.

On another level, WWE needs to keep its’ loyal fan base at bay. So, they hire the internet darlings and renowned wrestlers from the indies. They sacrifice these performers for the sake of the poster boys.

It drives us (yes, “us.” I’m one of you fanboys, too.) up a wall. The guys we cheer are frustratingly held down, while the more commercially appealing superstars get all the glory.

The kicker? We’ll never turn away from the product. The WWE knows this, and that’s why guys like Bryan and Ziggler continue to be booked inefficiently per our standards.

Sure, you can boo and chant ‘we want refunds,’ but you still paid the $80 for a ticket to the show. You still went online and paid $30 for your Dean Ambrose shirt. You certainly pay your $9.99 each month so you can watch Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens.

Was this ever truly the plan for the higher ups in WWE? I don’t know. It seems incredibly sly for a staff that comes across as incompetent, outdated, and out of touch on occasion. Still, intent or no intent, this is how all wrestling fans are held captive by a product they love.

The truth is there’s only one true way to promote change: turn off the TV. If you can’t sever your relationship with the WWE, don’t expect much to change.

Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for, and is also a Tennessee Titans Staff Writer for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley and the SPOT’s Tennessee Titans Twitter feed at @spot_titans.


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