Not sure if you guys heard, but Daniel Bryan’s been cleared to wrestle. Pretty dang cool, right? Nice feelgood story there. I found out via WWE’s Facebook page, about three hours prior to that evening’s episode of SmackDown Live. Granted, I was suddenly given ten times more of a reason to catch the broadcast, just to see what sort of reaction his comeback speech would garner from the live audience, but there was a part of me feeling a little empty. Like I was robbed of a moment which could have brought out so much emotion from me and thousands of other wrestling fans.
WWE have worked up a habit of announcing such massive moments via social media in an attempt to generate some hype and bring in a few more points on the weekly television ratings. On the surface, this is a fantastic business decision by those in charge of social media, it does indeed drum up a ton of interest and statistically works out well for them in the ratings. However when you look at this from a fan’s perspective, doesn’t it take away from the experience?
What makes professional wrestling so fun to watch is its erratic nature, not knowing what they’ve got planned for their biggest shows and seeing it all unfold as we draw closer to the event. It is true that in recent years, fans have become so much more tuned in to the insider gossip thanks to reliable dirt sheets, but every now and then something slips through and genuinely shocks the world, leaving them in awe of the pure emotion that the product can invoke.
Think back to the build for WrestleMania 32, the incredible return of Shane McMahon and the absolute hype of his surprise entrance. People in attendance lost their minds and the internet blew up in response. Shane McMahon was everywhere after being AWOL from WWE since 2006. What made this such a perfect moment which even brought Shane O’Mac to visible tears, was the total anonymity of the moment. Nobody knew it was coming (apart from a few conspirators over on Reddit). There was no announcement or tease from WWE’s Twitter or Facebook, they truly did live in the moment and allow it to be as astounding as it was.
If we had a hint a few hours before Raw, then yeah it would have still been amazing to see Shane’s music hit and the crowd go nuts to see him, but it definitely wouldn’t have been as momentous. The pop he received when everyone clocked that it was him was probably the biggest response anyone has had in the past few years, at least since Daniel Bryan turned on the Wyatts prior to Royal Rumble ’14. Which brings us nicely back to the case at hand.
Daniel Bryan’s comeback speech could have been a total shock to us all. Despite a few rumours floating about that suggested WWE were considering clearing him for WrestleMania this year, nobody would have really believed it could happen until they heard it from the horse’s mouth. All we knew going into that episode of SmackDown was that the GM would be appearing to substitute for Shane, following the brutal attack from Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens the week before. So there’s nothing there to really go on that would suggest he’d be delivering Yes! Kicks by the end of the show.
Imagine being a part of that moment, listening to Bryan as he slowly broached the idea of coming back, only to reveal that he had finally been cleared and his dreams fought for him and yadda yadda. Even though it was perfect to see Daniel and his fans overjoyed, it could have been so much more if WWE just kept their mouths shut.
Like I said earlier, this isn’t exactly uncommon. Kurt Angle’s return to the ring was telegraphed days before he had the chance to announce his intentions to compete alongside two thirds of The Shield at TLC last year. Instead, the moment was subdued by the need to invest the internet.
I’m truly surprised they didn’t do the same for Ronda Rousey’s appearance at the Royal Rumble, it seemed like the perfect moment for them to cash in on the global media appeal she has to drop a few hints about her being at the arena that day. Or even back when The Hardys were riding their wave of momentum, deliberating about whether they’d be remain on the indies or be showing up for Mania 33.
Not that this has been a massive mistake on WWE’s part. From a business perspective, announcing such news via social media platforms has done nothing but favours for the TV episodes, which tend to drop in the ratings from time to time. But as a fan that wants to be truly invested in the moment, it does kill the vibe.
What are your thoughts on how WWE use social media? Give us some comments down below.