Century Link Center (Omaha, Nebraska)
In a lot of Daniel Bryan baby face matches – both on the Indies and now in the WWE – he’ll control more of the match than a typical baby face might. I won’t speculate as to why, but the end is largely justifiable. Bryan often has significantly better offense than his opponent so the match is usually better off with him on offense for a significant amount of time rather than letting his heel opponent control things like you would normally expect.
Taking on Randy Orton on RAW, Bryan had a relatively long control segment in which he took apart Orton’s leg. The problem was that it failed to come across as Bryan getting well-deserved revenge on the heel. Instead, it just felt like a strange role reversal where the face was on offense and the heel was doing sympathetic selling. I am not sure if the already-poor reacting Omaha crowd would have reacted better had they gone a different route (like Bryan using his come back offense here in lieu of the leg work) but it certainly would have worked better for the TV audience.
When the match reverts to more traditional roles – the heel champion Orton tearing apart the underdog babyface’s arm – it is immediately better off for it. Bryan’s selling of the arm was fantastic in this. He is an underrated limb-seller and at his best he can get you to question whether he really did tweak something. Leading the crowd in post-match “YES!” chants with one arm was a nice touch, but it was really the start of the arm work here where I thought for a brief second “I hope he is not really hurt.”
Bryan picked up the win here which may or may not mean something. Orton is going to face all the Elimination Chamber participants in singles matches prior to the pay-per-view. If Bryan gets the only win, then maybe they are keeping him strong for a post-WrestleMania run although that we go against conventional WWE-booking. This was a good match and better than the Orton/Bryan pay-per-view bouts from last year but not top tier or anything.
TV Match | Worthwhile | Quality