Daniel Bryan surprised the WWE Universe on Sunday night when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to win the WWE world heavyweight championship. As much as we have all been waiting for this moment, is it a run doomed to fail?
Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge Daniel Bryan fan and have been for a long time. The first time I saw Bryan was sitting with former Ring of Honor owner Rob Feinstein and our late close friend Doug Gentry as they showed me the talent they were planning to bring in to start Ring of Honor. From that moment I was blown away.
I had the opportunity to call some Bryan’s matches on the independents, including in Ring of Honor. I was a big fan. Not only was a real pro and super nice guy, he was just fantastic in the ring. He was exciting, intense, fun, and was arguably the best all around talent on the independents. That is why most of us were all blown away that the WWE released this great talent a year or so earlier.
He finally got it! On NXT you knew they had the confidence in him when they put him in the ring with then WWE world heavyweight champion Chris Jericho in his first big match. The match was great, Bryan was a hit, and the feud with Michael Cole even gave him something of a dynamic. This was more than could have been expected for a highly touted independent prospect like Bryan in the WWE.
Bryan didn’t win NXT , but looked like he was ready for big things. It was apparent quickly that Bryan was going to be counted on as the workhorse of Nexus the night the group attacked John Cena and CM Punk. Why else would the WWE brass trust such a young group in such a pivotal spot? The reason being was that the company knew they could count on Bryan to hold the young group together. Unfortunately that all came crashing down thanks to one of the most controversial angles in recent years.
Bryan was fired in what still remains one of the biggest mysteries of the last several years of WWE decisions. Bryan was fired for choking Justin Roberts with a tie during the angle or spitting at Cena depending upon which story you believe. Bryan followed in the steps of Eddie Guerrero (fired for much different reasons) and went back to the independents, stayed sharp, and worked his way back to the WWE.
For some reason or another the WWE appeared afraid to pull the trigger on Bryan when he came back. Instead of coming back with a monster push and reaching his potential, he was stuck in low card feuds, and was an afterthought on most weeks of television. That all changed following WrestleMania 27.
I wrote up a WrestleMania 28 predictions blog in April for fun. One of the things I predicted was that Bryan would be in the WWE championship picture at WrestleMania 28. My basis for this was the disappointing main-event between John Cena and The Miz and Vince McMahon knowing that he needs a workhorse he can count on in that spot. It was a big wakeup call. Whether he winds up in WrestleMania 28 in that spot or not is still up in the air, but I had a feeling that the company was going to pencil him in that spot.
Money in the Bank 2011 was the coming out party for Bryan. He tore through the match, had a match that would have stolen the show on any other night. He came out on SmackDown and proclaimed that he was going to cash it in at WrestleMania and appeared primed for a big run through then…or so I thought. The WWE started getting him ready alright…by jobbing him for months on SmackDown. Yep, the WWE booked Bryan on a lengthy losing streak following the proclamation.
I just cannot even fathom the rationale of taking a guy at his hottest peak nine months before WrestleMania 28 and turning him into the “lovable loser.” Any momentum that Bryan had coming off the win and proclamation was lost in a matter of a weeks. While fans familiar with Bryan’s work pre-WWE were still behind him, the majority of the WWE Universe wasn’t buying it. Especially when the announcers reminded them weekly how boring and one-dimensional Bryan was in the ring.
So now here we are a few months later and Bryan is now the champion. On top of being jobbed for the last few months, he not only defeated an injured babyface, but broke his promise to the fans. To me and you, who cares right? Right, but to the kids and families who outnumber us and dress from head to toe in Cena swag, they see Bryan as a loser, a liar, and a cheat. Heck, John Cena spent all of September telling those same fans what a scumbag and cheater Alberto Del Rio was for doing the same thing. How do you think those same fans will feel about Bryan?
I think Bryan has all of the talent to be a headliner in the WWE for years. Unfortunately the WWE Creative Team has done a bang up job over the last year in setting up all of its new WWE champions for failure. The Miz, Del Rio, and even CM Punk to an extent didn’t and aren’t delivering the numbers and business that they otherwise should be bringing in with their championship pushes. Why? Because these guys never had the strong momentum coming into the WWE championship that just about every past champion had in WWE history. So what happens when they get there? The fans don’t buy it and why should they? In the eyes of the majority of the WWE Universe guys like John Cena, Triple H, and Randy Orton are worlds better than the champion, hurting interest in the champ and the title.
As excited as I am to see Bryan with the title, he has a very rough road ahead of him. It is going to be difficult to get fans behind a guy that has been losing matches weekly over the last several months. It will be even harder when you have the commentator reminding you what a lucky, cheating, boring, loser that Bryan is. Yes Michael Cole is a heel, but when he actually has a point in telling fans what a cheater and liar Bryan is, that will hurt.
Rejoice yes, but proceed with caution. Daniel Bryan could be best in the business if given the same opportunities champions of the past were given in his position. Unfortunately I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening. The immediate reaction of former WWE superstar Batista is likely the same as most of the WWE Universe.
“excuse me! did i hear that right? Daniel Bryan World Heavyweight Champ. ummmmmmm…..ok.”