Don’t let the title fool you, I was and always will be a huge Daniel Bryan fan. The first time I saw him wrestle against Chris Jericho on the debut episode of NXT, I didn’t see any of his independent work, but heard about it and knew he was good, I was amazed at how great he was. He didn’t win, but from that one performance, I knew Bryan was destined for success.
That success didn’t come easy. On NXT, Bryan was treated as a joke, losing all of his matches and other competitions he and the rest of the rookies on the show were made to do. He has admitted that he hated his time in NXT and I can’t say that I blame him for feeling that way. After NXT ended, the rookies made their main roster debut, attacking John Cena, CM Punk, the announcers, crew and ringside, and anyone else in their path. Bryan was overally aggressive during this attack, doing acts such as spiting in John Cena’s face and choking out ring announcer Justin Roberts. The later act led to his firing because it was too violent for the PG-rated WWE. It seemed like Bryan’s run in WWE was over, however, sometimes in life, people are lucky to get a second chance. That’s what happened to Daniel Bryan.
Bryan returned at Summerslam 2010 to a huge ovation where he competed in the main event with team WWE against team Nexus. He put on a great performance and the success would only continue after that. At Night of Champions 2010, Bryan defeated The Miz to win the United States Championship, a title which he would hold for six months before dropping it to Sheamus. They were scheduled for a rematch at WrestleMania 27, but it was moved to the pre-show and turned into a battle royal, meaning Bryan wasn’t a part of the pay-per-view. A setback of which it took him months to recover from. He would go on to win money in the bank that year for the Smackdown brand, but he wasn’t featured in any major storylines afterwards, he was just a guy with a future title shot and nobody had any idea what to do with him.
In December 2011 at TLC, Bryan cashed in his briefcase and won the World Heavyweight Championship. It was a last minute decision and ended up being the right one. His win was a huge moment and fans loved it. It was around this time that he started chanting “YES” a chant that won’t be going away anytime soon. This lead to his first official match at WrestleMania, a title defense against Sheamus. This infamous match lasted only 18 seconds with Bryan not doing a single move of offense. It was intended to be a burial, but ended up being the opposite. Bryan got more over every week and WWE had no choice but to keep him in the upper card. He would feud with CM Punk that summer over the WWE Championship, but didn’t win the title. He did prove that he belonged and it would be only a matter of time before he won another championship. That championship ended up being the tag team championship with Kane as part of team Hell No. Team Hell No was the highlight of Raw and Smackdown during their entire run as champions and was one of the most hilarious teams in history. They had a successful title defense at WrestleMania 29 and would eventually drop the title to the Shield not long afterwards and go their separate ways. At this point, it was only natural for Bryan to go to reach even bigger heights.
At SummerSlam 2013, Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena cleanly (something not many superstars get to do) to become the WWE Champion. His hard work paid off and the crowd and fans all over the world loved it. Unfortunately, Bryan immediately lost the title to Randy Orton. He would spend the next couple of months feuding with Orton over the title in the “face chasing the championship role” he would fail to win that feud after getting screwed over on multiple occasions, not getting the payoff that he, and the fans wanted. He would then be in a mid-card feud with the Wyatt family which lead to him joining the group and turning heel.
This made it seem that Bryan wasn’t going to have a major part of WrestleMania XXX. It has been confirmed by multiple sources, including Bryan himself, that he was going to face Sheamus in a mid-card match. Now, sometimes things don’t work out as planned, and that’s what happened here. The “YES” chant became so popular that random people were doing it all over the world all the time, CM Punk left, leaving Triple H without an opponent, and for some reason nobody will ever understand, WWE thought Batista vs. Randy Orton would be a good main event for WrestleMania XXX when fans didn’t like either of them. Crowds were ready to riot at this point which left WWE with no choice but to have Bryan defeat Triple H and then go on to defeat Batista and Orton to finally win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. All of his hard work had paid off and he had moment that he and the WWE Universe will never forget.
Tragedy struck soon after when Bryan needed neck surgery. He was forced to vacate the championship and it was uncertain if he would ever wrestle again. He ended up returning, but didn’t win the 2015 royal rumble. He would win the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31, a good moment, but a step backwards from the year before. That would end up being the final big win of Bryan’s career as he was injured again soon afterwards. He was forced to retire due to the amount of injuries he sustained over a long career. An unfortunate ending for sure because he wanted to continue on and retire on his own terms, not be forced into it. The unfortunate part of all of his success.
I’m going to miss watching Daniel Bryan, he was one of my all time favorites. The reason being that he wrestled because he loved it, not because he wanted to be famous, and he was someone who got over naturally and the fans were never forced to deal with him. He did so much more than even he probably felt he would do. In the long run, retirement will be the best thing for him because living a long and healthy life is way more important the entertaining the millions of fans within the WWE Universe. Bryan was a great wrestler, is a great human being and I hope for nothing but the best for him in his life after the WWE.
Until next time, “YES” chant while reflecting on Bryan’s great career,