Posted by Joe Giachetti
At WrestleMania 29 from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, John Cena defeated The Rock to win his 11th WWE Championship. There were many, including The Rock himself, who saw this as a “passing of the torch” moment, one where The Rock put over John Cena to truly establish Cena as one of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen. One could argue that Cena had already attained that position, but beating The Rock on the biggest stage the WWE has will inevitably only add to the legacy that John Cena has built over the last 10 years. In the end though, what did this “passing of the torch” really accomplish? While it adds to the legendary career of John Cena and provided a boost to buyrates of WrestleMania this year, did it really help the WWE long term? John Cena has long been an established star. He’s mowed through giants, technical wrestlers, good guys and bad guys. What we are seeing in the summer of 2013 is largely a rehash of what we have already seen from John Cena, only with a few new opponents here and there. This is by no means an attack on John Cena. He is a hard working wrestler and has carried the company for many years, providing many quality matches and helping to keep WWE in the mainstream media. But where does WWE go after John Cena? For a few years now fans and members of the wrestling media have been trying to find the person who can take over for John Cena when his time is up, or if he goes down with an unexpected injury. Names like Sheamus and CM Punk have been suggested, and while they have received main event pushes the last few years, due to their age and other factors, they are likely not the long term answer to the question. At this time, there seems to be one wrestler who is in a position to break out, and one who I believe the WWE should strongly consider as a candidate to push to the top and be a potential successor to John Cena. That man is Daniel Bryan.
Can Daniel Bryan be the man to take over the main event scene in WWE? There are never any guarantees in the wrestling business. Sometimes the wrestlers who vault to the top of the card and take over with their popularity aren’t planned. Steve Austin was a perfect example of that. He was on his way to slowly becoming an upper card wrestler in WWE, and then he provided the famous “Austin 3:16” promo and off he went to become one of the most successful superstars of all time. Daniel Bryan has already had success in WWE. He got over to an extent on his wrestling ability, winning secondary titles and hanging in the mid-card. After winning Money in the Bank in 2011, he won the World Heavyweight Championship and turned heel, getting that character over and being in a title match at WrestleMania 28. During the summer of 2012, he started to gain more popularity with the WWE fanbase and his team with Kane became one of the most entertaining parts of WWE television every week. We have reached a point now in 2013 where Daniel Bryan is the best thing on WWE programming. He is the most popular wrestler at house shows, on tv and pay per views. His matches are the best on every card he appears on and the fans go nuts for him. To me, that is the most important part of the success of Daniel Bryan today. He has the support of both kids and adults. When you see Daniel Bryan on television, you see an entire live crowd in unison chanting “YES!” along with him. People buy his merchandise and there are tons of signs for him at every event. For Daniel Bryan to truly take over the main event scene, the WWE needs to take one more step to make it happen. They need to have Daniel Bryan beat John Cena.
TNA had a similar situation in the summer of 2012. Austin Aries was their X Division Champion, and got himself so over with the audience that they had no choice but to turn him babyface. And then at the Destination X pay per view, they pulled the trigger and had Austin Aries win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. We could have a long discussion about how he was booked after that, but the fact of the matter is that at the moment he won the World Title, he was one of the most popular and over wrestlers in the business, and TNA struck while the iron was hot. From that point on Aries has been an established main eventer and hasn’t looked back. The time is now for WWE to do that with Daniel Bryan. The rumor going around is that WWE has plans to program Bryan against John Cena for the WWE title in the next couple of months. It is my belief that John Cena should lose the WWE title to Daniel Bryan and in effect, pass the torch to Bryan and give him an opportunity to carry the company for the rest of the summer and beyond. We all know John Cena isn’t going anywhere and his career isn’t quite over yet. But if WWE doesn’t start to establish fresh main event stars soon they are going to find themselves in a huge hole really quickly. TV ratings are already down and there doesn’t seem to be much the WWE can do to create a spike and sustain that level of popularity with the audience. Bryan is their best wrestler in the ring, and is quickly becoming the most popular with the fans. He’s done work for charities and other promotional organizations for WWE. It’s his time to shine.
So to answer the question, is it time for John Cena to pass the torch to Daniel Bryan? The answer is “YES!”.
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