With Becky Lynch suddenly on the sidelines and the match with Ronda Rousey scrapped, WWE rolls the dice on a dream match many fans once hoped for but had forgotten about.
By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor
Show of hands – how many of you reading this have ever played Dungeons and Dragons?
Yes, the old paper-and-dice role-playing game where players create a character – warrior, wizard, thief, what have you – and seek out adventures, collect gold and battle monsters. Whether you’re fondly remembering playing with friends on a late Saturday morning (that would be me, by the way) or chuckling to yourself “lol nerds,” chances are you’re at least familiar with it.
There’s a rule in the game known as a saving throw. Wikipedia (vaguely and somewhat incorrectly) defines it as, “a roll of dice used to determine whether magic, poison, or various other types of attacks are effective against a character or monster.” Basically it works like this: when a character is hit with a particularly heinous attack, the player has a chance to roll the dice in an attempt to lessen the damage done.
I’m betting someone in WWE is very familiar with the concept of the saving throw because they rolled the dice on the November 13, 2018 edition of SmackDown. It was announced on that show that one of the most anticipated matchups in months – SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey – had to be scrapped due to Lynch suffering “a broken face and severe concussion” during the previous night’s SmackDown LIVE Women’s division invasion of Monday Night Raw.One of the biggest draws of the show was out the window, and the company had to pivot. Fast.
And pivot they did. The same episode featured an unannounced (like that means anything) WWE Championship Match between defending Champion AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan. The two have met before, but this time would be different. After a low blow with the referee down, Daniel Bryan ended the 371-day reign of Styles and picked up his fourth WWE Championship. Not bad for a guy who spent two years on the shelf during a time that many thought he would never wrestle again. That becomes important in a moment.
The win over Styles means that, as WWE Champion, Daniel Bryan will now face Brock Lesnar at this Sunday’s Survivor Series.
Let’s be honest for a moment – WWE’s reputation is…I’ll be genteel about this…tarnished at the moment. Between going through with Crown Jewel (a show many thought they should have backed out of) and an audience burned out on a minimum of six hours of television each week (nine if you want to include the three reality shows), many fans are tuning out. The one saving grace they had was Lynch, who is now on the shelf herself.
With Lynch out and a main attraction of the show in jeopardy, WWE broke out their d20 and rolled it on a surprise title change and an apparent heel turn. More importantly, they rolled the dice on a dream match many once hoped for but had forgotten about until it finally happened.
Daniel Bryan was the favorite underdog of the WWE Universe during his first run. His crowning achievement came at WrestleMania 30, capturing the WWE Championship after besting three members of the Evolution stable – Triple-H, Randy Orton and Batista – all in one evening.
It was then that the rumblings started. The Universe wanted to see the money-grubbing “Beast,” Brock Lesnar, toppled by the smaller Bryan. Bryan was widely considered the best wrestler in the world at the time and his passion for the game never waivered. Those two factors had fans salivating at the prospect of the ultimate “David vs. Goliath” showdown.
The dream match never came to pass, though, as Bryan announced his retirement due to double-digit concussions. Some still held on to that dream for a short time, but the dream died when they realized Bryan wasn’t coming back.
But then he did. Upon Bryan’s return, the focus was on a feud with his one-time NXT mentor, The Miz (before NXT became its own brand) that had been simmering for years and heated up even while Bryan wasn’t cleared to wrestle yet. Once he was cleared to return to the ring, The Miz took precedence.
Challenging Styles for the title seemed strangely enough like a plot device for Bryan and The Miz to carry on their never-ending battle. Until Bryan sneaked in a win (and a shot to AJ’s jewels after not wanting to be a part of Crown Jewel) and captured the dream match many had forgotten about.
With fate as the Dungeon Master and the fans’ disdain serving as a heinous attack, WWE made a saving throw to see if the dream match once thought impossible but now a reality will save their fortunes. It remains to be seen if the sudden turn of events on the blue brand can turn back the onslaught of malaise – or if the saving throw fails and the poison of a burned out, disenfranchised audience will continue to sap away their health.