On Feb. 22, a rare Austin-like crowd pop was achieved when Shane McMahon’s theme music hit the speakers during Raw. Fans had been wondering where Shane had been for years, and they ignited in jubilation when he returned.
His return became even more meaningful when he made it his duty to overturn the soul-crushing status quo that The Authority had maintained during their reign of terror over WWE. Another post-Punk symbol of change had arrived, and he brought the powerful McMahon family name with him.
Fans ignited again a couple weeks ago when Vince McMahon declared that Shane was going to run the brand new SmackDown Live and again two Raws ago when Daniel Bryan was named Shane’s GM.
Shane’s character is polarizing in the annals of the Attitude Era and his wish for change is sincere and respected. However, much like what happened with Roman Reigns’ encounter with Bryan at the 2014 Royal Rumble, naming Bryan as SmackDown Live’s GM gave Shane a pair of cement shoes to replace his retro Jordans.
In 2014, what was left of Reigns’ chances to be a fan favorite was slaughtered when Bryan was unceremoniously dismissed from the 2014 Royal Rumble. This did not happen because Roman was missing something to get him over as a fan favorite.
Through incendiary in-ring talent alone, Bryan became the wrestler that fans wanted to see. Wrestling rarely became any better than the most recent Daniel Bryan match, leaving fans feeling that he should have been the face of the company. This face was taken away from fans early due to injury, but the memory of his impact clearly did not dissipate.
Shane received a huge pop in February, and continues to receive very positive reactions from crowds. However, Daniel Bryan represented a movement that promoted in-ring excellence over spectacle. His movement is bigger than the McMahon name, which is something that WWE creative may not have factored into the choice of making him SmackDown Live’s general manager.
At the moment, Shane and Bryan are cooperative bedfellows. However, Shane is a McMahon. Nobody not named Shawn Michaels craves the spotlight more than a McMahon. Shane is going to want to take credit for the focus on the future that SmackDown Live promotes.
Ever the McMahon, he has spent the majority of his career as an evil boss heel. Bryan is forever the symbol of this focus. Sooner or later, Shane is going to attempt to throw around his weight, something his character cannot survive as long as Bryan is GM of the show.
Make no mistake about it. The New Era is the result of fan response to Bryan’s movement, and to CM Punk before him. After having both catalysts of change snatched away from them, the once bitter fan base is finally being gratified with the quality of wrestling they have had proposed to them.
Michael Corleone would not have been a successful head of the family if it were not for the guidance of his father Vito. Bryan is the “Godfather” of the New Era. Nothing should remove him from this mantle, not even Shane. His presence gives fans the ultimate hope that the WWE has seen the error of their ways.
Bryan’s movement is bigger than anyone they could possibly pair him with. WWE must keep this in mind.