After watching Daniel Bryan’s emotional retirement speech on Monday night, I felt it was only fitting to dedicate this week’s edition of the Wednesday Wrap Around on his career. Also, a small blurb on my review of Raw would not have sufficed.
My first viewing experience of Daniel Bryan came back in 2010, when he was a contestant on the original version of NXT. I didn’t follow his career in ROH or the independent scene, so to me he was just the Miz’s geeky apprentice. Of course his bland look didn’t do him any favours, because he looked like a default template in create-a-wrestler mode for a WWE video game. Due to my early perception, I didn’t think much of him, and frankly couldn’t care less. It wasn’t until the company decided to give him the MITB briefcase that he caught my attention. After that moment, I took it upon myself to do some research on Seattle native.
I finally got around to watching some of his matches before he was signed to the WWE, and I was blown away by his great wrestling ability. However, I still wasn’t completely sold on him, because he had yet to prove himself as a well rounded entertainer. Not long after that, he finally cashed in his title shot and won the World Heavyweight Championship. I felt his swagger and confidence changed once he made it to the top of the card. He proved me wrong by becoming a convincing heel that I wanted to cheer against, yet whose presence I still enjoyed. Bryan did such an amazing job at playing this character, that he left Wrestlemania 28 without the title, and more over than the man that had beat him in 18 seconds. I can’t speak for every fan, but in that moment I realized the WWE had something special.
Once Daniel was taken out of the title picture, he showcased that he was more than just a singles performer. Not to my surprise, him and Kane ended up having one of the most successful tag team runs in the WWE’s modern era. The duo had amazing chemistry, and excelled at every level. At one point, I’d be more excited to see them on Raw than John Cena or CM Punk. They proved to everybody that you don’t need to be in a singles run to be relevant, which was an issue for the WWE at the time.
Keep in mind, all of this happened within the span of two years. In that short amount of time Daniel Bryan captured the hearts of most fans. When he finally pinned Cena clean for the title, I couldn’t have been more proud. Of course after that, he was tangled in a polarizing feud with the Authority. What made this program special was that it was a reflected real life. Despite knowing he was the most over wrestler on the planet, the company took their chances with who they felt were real stars. Once the fans began to rebel, that’s when the real magic started to appear on our television sets. Eventually, we weren’t just cheering for Daniel Bryan the character, we were cheering for Bryan Danielson the person. While we all wanted Stone Cold, The Rock, and John Cena to succeed, they were all playing characters that were crafted to fit stories. Bryan was still a character on television, but he felt more real than anything else we’ve seen on WWE. The top card draws of the past were put in that position because they fit a certain mold that the company wanted, but not Bryan. Apart from his beard, he came across as an average guy, and someone that everybody can relate to. He didn’t have the Hollywood good looks, or a larger than life physique, and that’s what made it easier to get behind him.
I find amazing that us fans were actually able to change the direction of a large corporation, and help give Bryan the spotlight he deserved. The roller coaster which was Daniel’s career didn’t end after that magical night in April 2014, he unfortunately had to take time of to nurse a neck injury. His return was heavily criticized by fans across the world, stating it wasn’t done properly. Yes, they probably should have let him win the Royal Rumble and wrestle Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. I believe Rollins cashing in on that match would have been more affective in terms of generating heat for his character. However, I did my best to not dwell on what could have happened, because that only drives fans crazy. I couldn’t complain after the way they booked his feud with Roman Reigns, I thought it was great. Along with that, his match with Reigns was just as good. To cap off his last run, we got to see Bryan win the Intercontinental Championship to open Wrestlemania 31. In my opinion, that was the next best option for him.
If you had the chance to watch Bryan’s wrestling career while it unfolded, consider yourself lucky. It’s not often that we get to witness a performer such as himself. I consider myself lucky to have seen him compete live, and that was just at a house show. Based on his previous injuries, I imagined he’d just keep non televised matches light, but instead he wrestled as if it was his last.
I’m sure many people saw this moment coming. Honestly, I was aware of likelihood, but I could never wrap my head around it actually happening. While it’s sad, at least Bryan can look back at his career and be satisfied with his contributions to pro wrestling.