Daniel Bryan’s rise to the main event of WrestleMania 30 was one of the greatest and most authentic moments in WWE history.
I am not going to try to make an argument that the way Bryan’s career ended was not tragic, because it was. There is no question we will all miss him. There’s no question that without the concussions, he had many more years left inside the ring. But looking at the big picture, his greatest career moment was not supposed to happen and will go down as one of the greatest performances in WWE history.
Like Bryan, be grateful.
Now, call me crazy but I didn’t get it. I was never a big Daniel Bryan fan and I know I’m in the extreme minority on this. For me, I always knew how good he was inside the ring as a performer but I didn’t see the overall greatness. I didn’t understand the connection. I did not feel it like everyone else did. I found him to be pretty annoying. I always felt the YES chant was more over than he was. Bryan wrestled his final match in April of 2015 and there’s no question, I get it now. You don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore. The impact he made is absolutely undeniable. Bryan represented everything that makes professional wrestling great. He’s genuine, real, hardworking and a true underdog. It’s easy now to see why everyone loved him so much. With all that I’m not sad, I’m grateful.
His greatest moments in WWE will go down as some of the most iconic moments in the history of the WWE. With a ring full of former World Champions, WWE wanted to have a nice ceremony leading to a John Cena vs Randy Orton match where they would unify the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships. Unfortunately for WWE, Daniel Bryan was in the ring and the Seattle crowd made sure everyone knew it. They completely hijacked the segment, making Bryan look like a massive star.
Another night on RAW after turning on the Wyatt Family, Bryan sat on top of the cage and led one of the greatest chants I have ever seen. No disrespect to The Rock’s ability to get a crowd to chant something fun or Stone Cold Steve Austin’s crazy pop when that glass shattered but nothing touches what Bryan was able to lead that night. Every single person in attendance was on their feet, throwing their hands in the air and chanting YES in unison. What a moment that was for Bryan.
During the build to WrestleMania 30 Bryan filled the ring full with fans, again hijacking the show. They did not clear the ring till Bryan was given a match against Triple H at WrestleMania with a chance to be in the main event. Bryan would get his wish and he would go on to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in what could go down as the greatest performance in WWE history.
His speech inducting Connor “The Crusher” Michalek into the WWE Hall of Fame was incredible. There was not a dry eye watching in person or on the WWE Network. His ability to speak from his heart showed how genuine he was. He showed that again in his retirement speech on RAW. That promo is being talked about as one of the greatest segments in Monday Night RAW history.
The crazy part is WWE did not plan for any of this to happen. If CM Punk did not walk out after the Royal Rumble in 2014, Daniel Bryan would not have been inserted into the main event at WrestleMania 30. Reports state and Bryan has confirmed this, he was booked to face Sheamus that night. Without knowing it, WWE was creating the biggest baby face in the company.
Months into his WWE career he was fired for strangling ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own neck tie. After winning the Money in the Bank contract and beating Big Show to win the World Heavyweight Championship he lost the title in 18 seconds to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28. He teamed him up with Kane to form Team Hell No. Then he was made a member of the Wyatt Family. All of those potentially awful booking ideas led to the phenomenon that became Daniel Bryan and the YES Movement. I will never believe for one second that any of that happened with plans to make Bryan a top star. It was what the fans wanted and they made sure WWE gave it to them. It was an authentic creation of a huge star and that’s what makes this such a special story.
So what’s Bryan’s impact? When we are 10 years removed from this retirement what will Daniel Bryan’s legacy be? He will go down as one of the great performers this business has ever seen. That’s easy. The bigger one? Bryan will go down as the guy who truly broke down the door and made it possible for independent super stars to have a career in WWE. CM Punk was pivotal to this but Bryan took things to another level. Would Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor or A.J. Styles be in the WWE today if it wasn’t for Bryan’s contributions? It’s hard to say but looking at it now, I say they wouldn’t.
So I will say it again, don’t be sad for Daniel Bryan… Be grateful. Be grateful that we all had the pleasure to watch this amazing feel good story play out. Be grateful that he was able to have a WrestleMania moment that many can only dream of having. Be grateful that he will go down as one of the most beloved performers this business has ever seen. Be grateful that he didn’t get back into that ring and permanently injure himself. Be grateful that all of these amazing performers are capable of following his lead. Good luck to the WWE finding his replacement because there will never be another Daniel Bryan.
Thank you Bryan Danielson you are without question an A+ player.