It was Wrestlemania, and wrestling fans around the world were eager to see Daniel Bryan take on Sheamus in a title match on the grandest stage of them all. While not the most heavily-hyped match on the card, this match had the potential to steal the show. Imagine those fans’ surprise when the match ended before they knew it, resulting in a victory for…
…The Great Khali?
Yes, I’m talking about Wrestlemania 27, when the advertised Daniel Bryan-Sheamus match for the United States title got bumped off the pay-per-view, occurring as a dark match, getting interrupted by other superstars, and transforming into a battle royal.
Fortunately, WWE would not pull the same trick two years in a row, as the following year’s Wrestlemania featured the same two superstars in a match too important to be relegated to a non-televised pre-show match. Daniel Bryan was getting hot, with his signature “Yes!” chant popping up in arenas even outside the wrestling world. Meanwhile, Sheamus was coming off an unexpected victory at the Royal Rumble, earning a main event spot on Wrestlemania and challenging Bryan for the World championship. While few expected Bryan to retain his title, this bout would at least have a winner, and it would have a real chance to steal the show.
Instead, all the match stole was the money of naïve fans who thought that, based on the previous 27 Wrestlemanias, advertised world title matches would last longer than 18 seconds and feature more than one move.
It turned out, pissing off half the fans in attendance was WWE’s idea for the perfect kickoff to Wrestlemania.
To resurrect an old saying, “Anything can happen in WWE!” Say what you will, but Sheamus’s 18-second victory was a Wrestlemania moment to be remembered forever…
…except by those who were out taking a leak or who got home late and flipped on the TV at 8:05 Eastern Time.
You know what else was a Wrestlemania moment? Bart Gunn getting knocked out by Butterbean in 35 seconds. Not that it cast the company in a good light or did anything for Gunn’s career…
And really, this squash didn’t do Sheamus any favors, either. Supposedly a babyface, Sheamus rubbed the 18-second win in Bryan’s face, making him look like a grade-A jerkass, a stigma he still carries with him this day.
Nor did it do any favors for the so-called World Title, which was now firmly established as the B-championship (and that’s only because Superstars didn’t have its own world title to leapfrog it in importance). I mean, could you see a WWE Title match getting the one-and-done treatment? Actually, I’ll stop talking, lest anyone from WWE Creative read this article and get any ideas for another “Wrestlemania moment” this year.
One advantage that pro wrestling will always have over MMA or boxing is that, due to its scripted nature, its big fights usually deliver, and always at least attempt to do so. There’s no way to know whether a UFC main event won’t end in mere seconds, but when you order wrestling, you know that the show has been engineered specifically to give you your money’s worth.
There’s no worrying about whether a match will be over before you even have a chance to get drunk, and there’s no need for promoters to throw in some untrained schlub with protective fluid around his brain just because he can sustain verticality for three rounds (fustigation aside).
Somehow, though, someone in WWE thought it would be prudent to throw out the one thing it could always lord over UFC, putting this deliberate stinker on not just any pay-per-view, but the supposed biggest and best pay-per-view of the year, the culmination of a year’s worth of storylines. Whoever responsible was clearly taking a page out of Charlie “I’ve already got your money, dude” Sheen’s playbook, except at least the unhinged actor didn’t beg his disgruntled audience to see his next one-man show that he promised would totally be worth it, honest!
WWE did essentially that by holding off the real Bryan-Sheamus match until the next month’s event, turning their Mania bout into a cheap (well, very expensive) plug for their rematch. At least the follow-up would be two-out-of-three falls, but I’m sure there were fans who figured that Sheamus would just hit the Brogue Kick and pin his unconscious challenger in two straight falls.
Plus, it wasn’t just Wrestlemania’s reputation that got tarnished by this fiasco, but the Royal Rumble’s as well. The pay-off of the big thirty-man, 60-minute match was for its winner to not only jerk the curtain at Wrestlemania, but to win the title in a glorified forfeit.
(Fun fact: Sheamus’s “main event at Wrestlemania” ended up lasting two seconds longer than his post-Rumble pyro)
At least Yokozuna got a ten-minute match on the Grandest Stage after his ’93 Rumble win, even if right afterward he lost it in the blink of an eye (a blink which still lasted 4 seconds longer than Sheamus-Bryan).
And just to add insult (to intelligence) to injury, we were then repeatedly told that the 18-second match had set a “new world record” for shortness. That is, if you ignore Wrestlemania 24’s 11-second squash between Chavo Guerrero and Kane, both of whose careers really took off as a result.
Hell, it wasn’t even Sheamus’s shortest match; two years earlier, he had squashed Zack Ryder in an 11-second WWE title defense.
So this Wrestlemania moment wasn’t even original; it had already been done numerous times at many events, including prior Wrestlemanias (Bundy-SD Jones, Hart Foundation-Bolsheviks, Earthquake-Bomb, Misterio-JBL). The “novelty” was that it happened in a match people wanted to see.Surprise! It’s sort of like a hack magician whose signature trick is making a coin disappear, except instead of his own coin, it’s yours, and you happen to live in a country that mints a $55 piece.
No, the true Wrestlemania moments can’t be manufactured; they have to occur organically. Moments like Maria Menounos’s spray-tan skid mark.
I guess in the end, it all came down to time constraints, as WWE decided beforehand that if any match was expendable, it was their World title match. Not the Divas tag team match, which could have been moved to the pre-show…
…or Big Show’s victory over Cody Rhodes, which was just begging to be an 18-second knockout, considering the entire build was Cody taunting the Big Show for always choking at Wrestlemania.
Plus, there was a certain other high-profile match that a lot of people (but not Bret Hart) are fans of, but could probably have stood to lose, say, its first two or three hours.
And if WWE really wanted to trim the fat off their supercard, they could have axed the Dancing Mamas segment with Brodus Clay, a sideshow it knew nobody paid to see because it was never advertised…
…or this dreadful Santino-Foley segment that not only wasn’t advertised, but was itself an advertisement for another TV program!
A TV program airing on a rival network!
On the most expensive show of the year!
Yet all of this Monday-morning booking ignores another, much more important point. Unlike other (minor) matches that had been shortened or cancelled at the last minute (Bulldog-Warlord, Bigelow-Kamala, etc.) because certain matches ended up running too long, Bryan-Sheamus got gutted by show-runners before Mania even went on the air. There were no unforeseen circumstances that forced a change of plans; somebody looked at the card as advertised and realized in advance that it would run too long. So why in the hell would WWE promote in the first place more matches than it knew it could deliver?!
Not now, Rock. Too pissed off.
Phew, I need to cool down. Maybe you do, too. Here are some gifs of Brian Pillman walking a dog to the ring.
Feel better now? Good, now I have a question for all the Crappers, even those like me who don’t love Daniel Bryan quite enough to Photoshop themselves into his engagement photos:
Is there any way this debacle wasn’t Wrestlecrap?
Well, the rip-off opening bout got the fans really angry to kick off the show, chanting “Yes!” and “Daniel Bryan” (and some bovine chants) for the next four matches. That’s got to be worth something, right? Hey, don’t think I’m being sarcastic here; this was an actual excuse given by a small group of wishful-thinkers online.
These true believers swore up and down that the WM28 bait-and-switch was just part of an intricate game of chess being played by Vince and company to get Daniel Bryan over.
If the fans jeering in disapproval for a whole show proved the 18-second match was a good thing, then everybody chanting, “We Want Flair!” all throughout Great American Bash ’91 proved that the Nature Boy’s firing from WCW was a genius move. It just made the fans even more excited than ever to see Flair return years later! Although at least his next title reign lasted longer than five minutes…
Another excuse for the 18-second match? It got people eager to see the rematch at Extreme Rules the next month! You know, I would think that if you had paid $55 to see a match, you’d be less than ecstatic to find out that if you wanted to see it happen for real, you’d have to shell out another 40-some dollars. In fact, when you factor in the Wrestlemania 27 match that never aired, that’s up to 150 bucks you’d have to pay just to see the Sheamus-Bryan match you’d already purchased twice before on pay-per-view. At least if these were TNA pay-per-views, you could deduct the cost from your taxes as a charitable donation.
Any other upsides? Well, the 18-second squash helped Bryan develop his character by having a meltdown and dumping AJ. I’m not sure why that would require an 18-second non-match at the biggest and most expensive event of the year, or why said squash couldn’t just take place in a rematch the next night on free TV, but then again, I haven’t played chess in years. Surely WWE knew exactly what they were doing right from the start with their convoluted strategy to make Daniel Bryan a star. Over the course of 24 months. Right?
Okay, Rock, it’s fine now.
When the rumor made its rounds earlier this year that Daniel Bryan would be facing Sheamus yet again at Wrestlemania, a lot of people on the web freaked out about Bryan once again being pushed out of the main event picture by a WWE that had lost touch with its fans. They shouldn’t have, though. Sheamus-Bryan 1 got turned into a battle royal, and the sequel got cut down to 18 seconds. What more poetic finale could there be to the Sheamus-Bryan Wrestlemania trilogy than to have the third match cancelled before it even got booked?
And for once, you didn’t have to pay fifty-five bucks to not see it.