Taking a great loss is almost universally a good thing for one’s career. Runners-up to prizes in the arts are well known to end up more successful than the winners. Sports teams who take losses like champions become beloved. Boxers who lose in classic fights become as immortal as the winner. And wrestlers who lose great wrestling matches become heroes.
Wrestling, of course, has the added benefit of design. But so does art. So does politics.
Daniel Bryan lost to Mark Henry on the 29 November live episode of Smackdown. It was a great match, a veritable MOTYC1. It continued WWE’s Year of the Villain2 with an impressive display of power and destruction by Mark Henry, my contender for most improved wrestler in history. It added evidence to the argument that Daniel Bryan can perform well with almost any dance partner, and that these two can play the parts of Sting and Vader (two great roles, after all). Most importantly, this match made us want to see more matches between the two.
The point to be made with this match was that Daniel Bryan lost well, and that by losing well looks more in line for a Wrestlemania title match than ever. Based on the gimmick-laden nature of TLC, the Royal Rumble, and Elimination Chamber, WWE could write3 interactions for these two without another one-on-one match until Wrestlemania. Both men have legitimate stances: Bryan has his briefcase, and his ability to adapt and learn from previous encounters; Henry has beaten Bryan in the most crushing way he could manage at the time.
It’s a very, very old-style wrestling story, which is likely why the adults are enjoying it so much. There really isn’t any drama involving these two. It’s about a belt, one-upsmanship, determination, and beards. Give Cena vs Rock to the kids. The men in the audience are going to be glued to this one, because we all know what it’s like to lose well.