When Daniel Bryan first graced our screens as an entrant on the first season of WWE NXT in 2010, he already came with a reputation of being a solid wrestler. He trained under both Dean Malenko and Shawn Michaels, both well respected figures within the industry, and really fine tuned himself on the independent scene for the best part of 10 years. He gained a reputation as one of the darlings of internet wrestling fans, so you would expect WWE had a wrestler they could mould into a star.
Things didn’t get off to a great start for Bryan – He lost all his matches on NXT despite having the best matches on the show, and was subsequently eliminated. He continued to hang around the show, feuding with his mentor The Miz and Michael Cole, who on a weekly basis bashed Bryan in his commentary for being famous only on the internet and independent scenes. Although Cole was only in character, it did feel to me like it was a slap in the face to Bryan by seemingly saying he was a nobody because he hadn’t gotten over in WWE.
Bryan was soon the subject of controversy when he ended up being released from his contract when he famously choked Justin Roberts with his tie at ringside during one of WWE’s greatest moments, the forming of The Nexus. This was seen to be too violent for a TV-PG audience, especially after the actions of Chris Benoit. Fortunately Bryan returned 2 months later as part of Team WWE in a 7 on 7 Tag Team match at Summerslam 2010, showing everyone what they had been missing when he wrestled another fantastic match.
Night of Champions 2010 saw Bryan pick up his first title in WWE when he defeated The Miz to win the United States Championship. He held the title, successfully defending this until he lost to Sheamus in March 2011. Bryan was due this rematch at Wrestlemania 27, however the match was bumped to a pre show dark match, which was a lumberjack match that was ruled a no contest as the lumberjack’s began brawling before the match even began and turned into a battle royal. I can’t even begin to think what WWE were thinking here but they took one of their best wrestlers off the biggest show of the year, which made no sense.
Thankfully WWE saw some sense and rewarded Bryan for his hard work by having him win the Smackdown Money In The Bank in July 2011. Bryan had vowed not to cash in until Wrestlemania 28 but ended up cashing in on Big Show at TLC 2011 after Big Show defeated Mark Henry to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Bryan successfully held the title until Wrestlemania 28 where he saw his second snub by WWE when he lost the title to Sheamus in 18 seconds. To this day I cannot understand what the thinking was behind this but it certainly angered a lot of WWE fans, leaving many wondering why the company would do this to one of it’s most gifted stars.
Fortunately Bryan had already gotten over with the fans when he had won the World Heavyweight championship, where he would exaggerate his celebrations before and after his matches by shouting ‘Yes!’, or after his title run he began to shout ‘No!’ when he turned against the fans. These two simple words engaged WWE fans everywhere and showed that Bryan had formed a connection with the WWE Universe, no matter if he was a heel or a face.
Following his championship loss, Bryan went on to face the WWE Champion CM Punk at the Over The Limit 2012 pay per view, having one of the best matches of the year. Bryan again faced Punk at the Money In The Bank 2012 pay per view in another match of the year contender, but came up short again. Bryan thought he would get a third chance at the title at Summerslam but he was denied by AJ Lee, who had since been appointed the Raw General Manager leaving Bryan at the alter during their wedding on Raw 1000, instead putting Bryan in a match against Kane.
The match with Kane began a strange storyline involving both Kane and Bryan going to anger management classes. At first glance I wrote this off and thought this was going to be dreadful. However, both men showed a totally different side to their characters than we had ever seen before. They produced one of the most entertaining teams in WWE history in Team Hell No and went on to capture the WWE Tag Team Championships, which they held for an impressive 245 days, before losing to The Shield at Extreme Rules 2013.
This led Bryan to become obsessed with being known as ‘The Weak Link’ and seemed to bring a more aggressive style to the ring in his matches. Bryan recently has had matches that can all easily be described as Match of the Year candidates, and I feel it is this change in style that has contributed to this. The crowd is literally eating up his in ring work and you can feel the passion and how behind Bryan they are whenever they begin chanting ‘Yes!’ during and after his matches.
Right now in WWE no one can touch Bryan when it comes to his work in the ring. He is literally turning everything he touches into gold right now, and the future looks incredibly bright for Bryan. There are suggestions he will finally get another chance to run at one of the two top championships in WWE, and will hopefully get a good run as a champion. My preference would be for him to win the WWE Championship, around Survivor Series, and hold this until Wrestlemania where he faces CM Punk in what would no doubt be another match of the year candidate.
Bryan has show WWE that he isn’t just an internet sensation who comes with loads of hype, he has shown he can back this up all the way. Whilst his journey with WWE has been up and down, it has finally reached the point where it looks like they are finally going to run with it and see what he can do. I for one am looking forward to seeing Bryan build on his already huge success. Lets hope that Bryan will remain at the top for many years to come.