JC’s Note: I wrote this article after Bryan forefeited the Intercontinental Championship. I’ve updated with thoughts from RAW on Monday, but nothing has changed regarding everything that Daniel Bryan has done throughout his career.
Daniel Bryan has officially retired from professional wrestling. When news broke on Monday that he was, the entire wrestling world was shocked. Many thought this day would come. But in the back of our heads, we all held on to the slimmest of hopes that Bryan could one day return to professional wrestling. But that isn’t happening anymore. But Bryan is retiring with his own health and well being in mind, and that is the number one thing that matters here.
It was tough to watch Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech on RAW. You could tell that he just lost the ability to do something that he loved. Bryan’s passion was always wrestling, and he can’t do that anymore. But you can’t take away from the career that Bryan had in the ring. When we look back at it all, Bryan may go down as one of the best in ring workers of all time. He was that good inside the squared circle. It was great to watch Daniel Bryan’s career go as it did. It almost seemed like it was the perfect ending on RAW: Being able to go out and say goodbye close to his hometown, with his wife and family by his side, and everyone cheering for him and giving him a standing ovation as he left.
I didn’t follow Daniel Bryan’s entire independent career. I’ve seen a lot of his work, but I can’t say that I have been with him since the beginning. But that doesn’t mean I am any less of a fan of the guy than someone who has. There’s no denying Bryan made a name for himself on the independent circuit as one of the best in ring technicians to ever step foot in the ring. He’s had so many great matches that you lose count eventually.
Like a lot of wrestling fans, the WWE was my main exposure to Daniel Bryan. And it was career that almost never happened. While I understand why Bryan was released at the time, he was also given very little direction on what to do and not do. I’m sure he wasn’t told that choking someone with a tie was off limits. But thankfully for all of us, the WWE gave Daniel Bryan a second chance and brought him back into the fold.
What we got with Daniel Bryan’s WWE run was a chance to see the evolution of a character right before our eyes. I’m sure the WWE higher-ups never saw Daniel Bryan as being a main event player at any point in his career. But Bryan showed that hard work and dedication to your craft eventually paid off. We saw Daniel Bryan go from United States Champion, to Money in the Bank winner, to World Heavyweight Champion, and finally the main event of Wrestlemania and WWE Champion.
It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows for Daniel Bryan. He dealt with his fair share of adversity along the way. He was bumped from the Wrestlemania 27 main show, and his match with Sheamus turned into a battle royal. Then when Daniel Bryan was finally the World Heavyweight Champion and ready to fight Sheamus at Wrestlemania 28, he lost in 18 seconds in the opening match. And while that may be seen as a huge negative to some, and their opinion is valid, it was also the start of something special for Daniel Bryan. To me, this is where you can trace back the start of the Yes Movement for Daniel Bryan. It may not have been the official start, but it is what started getting the fans to gravitate more toward Daniel Bryan than ever before.
Daniel Bryan entertained in more ways than one in 2012. After losing the World Heavyweight Title, he went on to have a great wrestling program with CM Punk. Sure Kane and AJ Lee got involved at points, but the two matches Punk and Bryan had were outstanding. After that, Bryan went into a program with Kane and eventually formed Team Hell No. For some people, they might have looked at this as a downgrade and let it effect their performance. But Bryan was the complete opposite. Bryan took Team Hell No and made it the best act in the WWE. The comedy segments that the two did with Dr. Shelby were top notch. Daniel Bryan’s character continued to evolve and the audience recognized it. Many people criticized Daniel Bryan early in his career for not having a character or personality that the fans could gravitate too. But in 2012, Bryan proved all of the doubters wrong. Bryan showed more of a personality through his work with Team Hell No then anyone could have imagined. The fans wanted to see Daniel Bryan get pushed to the top, and they were about to get just that.
At SummerSlam 2013, Daniel Bryan was finally given his chance. He was fighting John Cena in the main event for the WWE Championship. And he did something that not a lot of people can say they have done in the past ten years: Beat John Cena clean in the ring. I was stunned watching it happen. But then Randy Orton came out and cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. And I was okay with it. Sure Orton was the Champ, but Daniel Bryan was eventually going to over come the Authority and take back what was rightfully his. Whether that was going to be at Hell in a Cell, Survivor Series, or winning the Royal Rumble and getting the Title back at Wrestlemania, it was Daniel Bryan’s time. But none of that happened.
Daniel Bryan didn’t get the WWE Title back and was taken out of the Title picture. You began to think that maybe the constant B+ Player talk was really how Daniel Bryan was seen backstage. But how could the WWE hear the crowd reactions and even think that? Bryan was taken out of the WWE Title scene, but his name was constantly chanted during Title matches at Survivor Series, TLC and the Royal Rumble. Despite the WWE’s best efforts, Daniel Bryan wasn’t going away. They thought bringing Batista back would solve the problem, but it just made things even worse. Yes Batista was a former Champion and main eventer for the WWE, but he was never big enough to warrant an immediate return and slot in the Wrestlemania main event. Not only that, he left playing a great heel character and was brought back as a face.
So when it became quite obvious that Batista vs Randy Orton was going to main event Wrestlemania 30, the fans had seen enough. The Yes Movement went into overdrive, and Daniel Bryan found his way into the main event of Wrestlemania. It truly was historic when you think about it. Daniel Bryan’s popularity became so great that the WWE was forced to change the plans to their biggest show of the year. Bryan’s time had finally come and he wasn’t going to let anything stop him from getting to the top. Daniel Bryan’s win at Wrestlemania was a great moment. Sure his Title reign didn’t last long, and it may not have happened the way a lot of us envisioned it, but Daniel Bryan ended Wrestlemania 30 as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. And that is something than can never be taken away from him.
The WWE almost ran into the same situation again at Wrestlemania 31. Instead of giving Daniel Bryan an official rematch for the Title he never lost in the ring, he was eliminated after about 10 minutes of being in the Royal Rumble. And it caused an unfair revolt against Roman Reigns. Had the WWE even given Bryan a Title shot against Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble, they could have avoided the Rumble match being a disaster for the second year in a row. Not even The Rock could save it. Daniel Bryan didn’t have to main event Wrestlemania again. The fans just wanted to see him get a shot for the WWE Title again, but clearly the WWE had moved on. Now we will never see him as WWE Champion again.
Daniel Bryan’s appeal reached across the WWE Universe for a multitude of reasons. First off, he came across as a normal guy. He wasn’t an overly muscular guy. Outside of a long beard he looked like an every day human being. And while the WWE may not see that as a look of a main eventer, it often is what appeals to a lot of the WWE audience. A guy that looks like one of them, not someone that looks like they’ve been pulled from a superhero movie.
Bryan also became one of the best all around performers in the company. He brought everything you would want from someone representing your company. He was a great in ring worker, he grew as a character throughout his entire WWE run, and he was a great PR man that represented the WWE well in public. Oh, and lets not forget that the Yes Movement became a huge success outside of the WWE. You would constantly see YES chants at sporting events. For the WWE to say that Bryan couldn’t be the face of the WWE after watching all of that happen was a complete joke. The guy clearly had the audience behind him and could have been even bigger if injuries didn’t derail his run as Champion.
To Daniel Bryan I just want to say this: Watching your career evolve into what it did was truly a treat for me and other wrestling fans. Your heart and charisma drew the fans to you, and those fans wouldn’t let the corporate decision makers keep you down. We saw the hard work that you put into your craft and we made sure it paid off for you in the end. We want to see you get healthy and live a happy life with Brie, and if that means never stepping foot in a wrestling ring again, we have no problem with that. Thank You for the magical ride that you took us on. We will never forget it. Your place in wrestling history can never be taken away.
Thank You for everything that you did Daniel Bryan. It may have been for a brief period of time, but you made wrestling fun again.
Until Next Time,
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka