The Curious Case of Daniel Bryan
Since his debut on NXT in a match with Chris Jericho (one of my dream matches, and one that I hope will be revisited at some point between Jericho’s turns as a rock God), Daniel Bryan has continued to defy my expectations in WWE. I’ll be the first to say it: When Bryan first started working for WWE, I didn’t for a second believe that Bryan would win the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship within the first three years of his career, let alone become a cornerstone of the main event scene. Given WWE’s track record with stars made by other companies, I don’t think this is an unfair position to have taken.
Not only was Bryan a truly legendary wrestler from the independent wrestling scene, he’s also not what we’d assume WWE would want from someone they’re going to make a top guy out of and that’s putting it kindly. Just to clarify here: I don’t care what size or how a wrestler looks. I’m talking about the company here.
For Bryan Danielson I assumed that WWE would just exploit his amazing wrestling ability to get other people over in the eyes of fans. At best I was hoping that he’d get the Chris Jericho treatment, that he would rise to a position where he can flit between the main event and mid card at a moments notice, and that he’d maybe get a sympathy World Heavyweight Championship reign.
Bryan has blown those expectations out of the water. Not only did he win the Money in the Bank match (to date my biggest mark out moment), he went on to successfully cash in, and go on to win the World Heavyweight Championship, before going on a tear of amazing matches and moments as part of Team Hell No (still should have been called Team Friendship). Bryan managed to not only get himself over as a character, but he became the biggest deal on the show. He became the fan’s choice, the People’s Champion. In my honest opinion, over the last three or four years Daniel Bryan has achieved enough in WWE to be called a sure fire WWE Hall of Famer.
But the last few months of WWE have confused me slightly and caused me to second guess myself. For months on he garnered the best and loudest reactions that I’ve heard since the 1990’s, John Cena included. We’ve seen Bryan win not one, but two WWE Championships. If ever there was a chance for WWE to truly create a new mega-star, the main event of SummerSlam 2013 was it. Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship at SummerSlam, but he didn’t walk out Champion. Bryan won the title again, but he’s not Champion right now. He’s not even in the main event anymore.
On this blog I’ve often alluded to my opinion that in the 21st Century WWE (and obviously I’m talking about one man here, Vinnie Mac) doesn’t know how to handle something when it’s hot. Look at the Summer of Punk, which quickly devolved from a simple but riveting tale of rebellion by one man, into a confusing mess of mysterious texts and Money in the Bank cash-ins. Look at The Rock’s return in 2011, which started as a major worldwide talking point into a two year popularity contest between two grown men. Look at Brock Lesnar’s return. In 2011, if you’d told me that Brock Lesnar would return to WWE, I would have laughed you out of the room. But he came back in 2012, only to lose to John Cena. Then he lost to Triple H. Twice.
What I’m trying to say here is that WWE can create amazing moments that look like they change everything, but then the booking doesn’t back it up, particularly when the angle in question is the main event. This is exactly what is happening with Daniel Bryan at the moment. For some unknown reason, WWE seems to have taken the ball from him. He’s not challenging for the WWE Championship anymore, he’s in an alliance with CM Punk against the Wyatt Family.
Who has benefited the most from Daniel Bryan’s monster push? Sadly the answer is Triple H and Randy Orton. Bryan’s popularity has allowed The Authority to get over as a legitimately hate-able entity. What has it done for Bryan? While I’m sure his bank account is groaning from the extra zeroes, right now Bryan is in the same place he was before his push: he’s one half of a tag team.
Maybe WWE are biding their time again and this article will look like the ramblings of a paranoid maniac in a couple of months. Maybe they’ve got big plans. I’m sure that when it comes to WrestleMania season that Bryan will go on a tear and I’ll be as happy as Larry again; as I was between SummerSlam and Hell In A Cell. But honestly I’m just confused by what’s going on with Bryan at the moment. This should be his glory time. He should be rubbing the fact that he’s Champion in The Authority’s face. Instead he and Punk are going to be used to give the Wyatt Family relevancy.
Thanks for reading.