The ratings for WWE’s SmackDown are reportedly down lately, so some of you may not realize this, but Daniel Bryan is confusing the heck out of most viewers. I know I have some questions- like, what does Vegan meatloaf taste like? What’s up with the creepy Spencer Pratt flesh-colored beard? Are you going to get back together with Gail Kim (who, in a booking and hype sense, is a female Bryan)? But most importantly, when are you going to put down that briefcase and win a match?
Seriously, ever since Money in the Bank, Daniel Bryan has been written as nothing more than a hapless underdog who snuck around and snatched a metal briefcase from a pole; a briefcase apparently stuffed to the brim with a title contract and lots of letdown. This worked for a guy like The Miz for several reasons: The Miz is good at being a jerk, he’s not a huge guy who would do weasel-y things like that, and he possesses truckloads of punch-drunk personality. I’m pretty sure combining The Miz with R-Truth is the same process by which devastating hurricanes form off the coast of Africa, but that’s another column entirely.
Not all of it is his fault, though. The poor guy gets absolutely buried week in and week out by announcer Michael Cole at such a rate that you hate Cole and subconsciously hate Bryan for sucking so hard and being “a nerd.” If this is creative’s plan to bury him so much that it makes him the underdog story come Wrestlemania, then they are going about it all the wrong way. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryan contracted Lupus to advance this painfully predictable storyline.
For me, most of the blame lies with the booking of Bryan. Let’s look at his career since starting in WWE, beginning with somehow being eliminated first overall on what turned out to be fruitful Season 1 of NXT. Some crackpots could venture that this was booking a couple of years in advance—hey, if one of the things we bash the fans over the head with is how he at one point failed worse than Michael Tarver, we can use that to further advance him as the next Rocky, right?
While I want this to be the case from the writer’s meticulous standpoint, that’ll go down as strictly coincidence in a world where the Divas have slowly morphed into the land of week-by-week vague threats and motives division. Along with the 8th place finish on the show, I’ll also chalk up the post-Nexus debut “firing” as simply a tool used to sell last year’s SummerSlam.
Fast forward a little bit and we get a deceptively lengthy US Title run by Bryan, lasting just shy of six months. Okay, okay, this is a good sign—all potential headliners start out by chasing and defending the auxiliary belt. But since losing to Sheamus (which, in turn, spawned American National Sheamus, in turn spawning fighter of all bullies Sheamus and resurrecting him as a threat again), Bryan has been booked as a guy who’s signature has become losing. Not just occasionally, either. I mean only a handful of wins against Nexus/Corre practice squad guys since becoming the bearer of a Wrestlemania title shot. Heck, Bryan even lost his go-home match with Cody Rhodes right before MITB, which despite being a typical tool for misdirection before a pay-per-view, just adds to the avalanche of why I can’t get excited about him and his nasally voice dominating a story come Spring.
I don’t want to give the impression that I hate Daniel Bryan, because the fact is I want to like the guy. I want to like every wrestler I watch on television in the major league of the sport. Unfortunately, the internet and Indy snobs have put this guy on such a high pedestal that when I see the watered down version of the kid I just feel cheated and frustrated. I wouldn’t dub him the second coming of our wrestling Lord like some do, but I do see the flashes of brilliance in him—the way he transitions from holds to submissions is usually flawless. His strikes and knees remind me more of an insane Ken Shamrock, and his attacks in general mostly look like they hurt, a breath of fresh air from so many animated and over the top signatures moves seen today.
But that’s about all I have to say that’s good about the guy. Bryan is virtually nonexistent on the microphone, and his personality, other than Michael Cole broad-stroking his lifestyle choices, is also missing in action. Hmm, a smaller guy who lucks out all the time AND is spoken for by a loudmouth? How is Bryan not a heel yet?
Perhaps he could turn sometime this year, a move that might be necessary because the only guys that can carry Bryan in a main event like that are John Cena and Randy Orton. Really, so much could happen between now and Wrestlemania that Bryan may not even have the briefcase come that time. Just look at The Rock-Cena feud—first it was on, then it was really, really on thanks to cheesy vignettes and name calling promos, then murmurs started about it being off when CM Punk blew up the internet, and now it’s going to be on again when Del Rio shoots back down the totem pole to fight Zack Ryder for the Internet title (that’s gonna be a thing, right, Vince?).
This may come as a surprise, but not every younger, lesser known guy in the WWE is a star in the making, including Bryan. If by some miracle Bryan gets to Wrestlemania and has to fight against someone other than Orton, the letdown could be so tremendous that he could be where Jack Swagger is now—I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but people have told me that Swagger was champion at some point. Remember when the Minnesota Timberwolves were the number one seed in the NBA playoffs?
If this was the Impact Wrestling Bound For Glory Series, where wins in a roundabout way matter, Daniel Bryan would be in 40th place with -170 points, Samoa Joe would have crippled him nine shows ago, and in some cosmic twist of fate, Desmond Wolfe wouldn’t have been the one with the debilitating, career ending disease.
Instead, we get a guy who puts on wrestling exhibitions, goes to the well with the modified Crippler Crossface too many times, barely hangs around with Lil’ DiBiase, and hasn’t had a strong opinion about anything, except maybe when those Nexus guys kicked him out for being soft.
What a nerd!
Joe Leininger lives in Jacksonville, FL via the greater Philadelphia area. He dabbles in all things sports, pro wrestling, and television, and more of his work can be found at The Playing Field Blog and DestiGeddon.