Daniel Bryan is one of the greatest stories in wrestling history. From years of wrestling in the indie scene to the midcard of WWE, he eventually became the WWE Champion at WrestleMania XXX. Unfortunately, he then suffered a severe injury that sidelined him for about 8 months. And when he returned, he was shockingly a non-factor at the 2015 Royal Rumble and won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31. Sadly, another injury forced him into retirement and appearances on Total Divas and Total Bellas. He eventually became SmackDown Live’s general manager in 2016, where he did a serviceable job. Then, in the spring of 2018, the unthinkable happened.
After three years, he was finally cleared by WWE to start wrestling again.
Many dream matches could now occur, SmackDown had another centerpiece in the ring, and Bryan would be able to continue living his dream. So why has his new run been lackluster so far?
His first match back was a tag team match at WrestleMania 34, where he teamed up with SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon to fight the evil duo of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. This was the culmination of a plotline that took its sweet time. Bryan’s clearing allowed this to be the rightful conclusion to the story that it needed to be. On paper, it should’ve been a great moment.
Then the match happened.
Owens and Zayn attacked Bryan before the match began, knocking him out temporarily. Shane McMahon, who actually had a great match with AJ Styles the year before, was coming off of surgery to fix a hernia. As a result, he was slow in the ring. The lack of Bryan in the beginning of the match in addition to this resulted in a lackluster match. It’s not Shane’s fault, though. Just bad timing and bad booking. As Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter put it, if they were going to do the plot of Daniel Bryan being “injured” in the match, they should’ve done it later, after fans see how Bryan hasn’t missed a beat. That way, there was a greater fear from the audience that he may actually be hurt. But, they pulled the trigger in the beginning, ruining the match and the moment.
But whatever, that was a tag team match. Fans were really excited to see who his first singles feud would be with. Samoa Joe? Shinsuke Nakamura? The Miz, finally? Nope. It turned out to be the returning Big Cass.
I have nothing against him, but he just isn’t very engaging. Their feud stemmed from the fact that they were both cleared around the same time, and Bryan was the one who got more attention (gee I wonder why). Not a bad idea, but Cass then shits on Bryan just because he’s too short to be a massive star. Didn’t we do this during his feud with The Authority? Did the writing staff forget? That wouldn’t surprise me.
The writers then thought that it would be a great idea to have a little person come out dressed as Bryan (one of Vince McMahon’s favorite gags apparently). Cass kicked the little person, which was in the script, but he then threw punches, which were not in the script. This horrible segment and Cass going against WWE’s wishes are now thought to have contributed to his recent release.
That was uploaded by WWE. Notice how they didn’t include the off-script part.
After Cass was defeated twice and got fired, Bryan was then placed in a gauntlet match to determine the #1 contender for AJ Styles’ WWE Championship. Before he entered the ring, he got into a staredown with SmackDown Tag Team Champions the Bludgeon Brothers, who just won their match. After Bryan eliminated two superstars, they would come down and attack him, clearing the way for The Miz to eliminate him.
A feud with Miz makes sense. But the Bludgeon Brothers??? Does Daniel Bryan really need to be in the tag team division again? We already got our fix with Team Hell No.
It remains unclear at this time if this if finally setting up a Miz feud or if Bryan will find a partner and challenge for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. If it’s the first, then that would be fine, but I personally believe that that feud has potential to main event WrestleMania for the WWE Championship. If the Bludgeon Brothers are his next feud, then that’s a disservice to him and to SmackDown’s deep tag team division. I get that The New Day have been challengers for a while now, but I have a solution. Turn The Bar face. I’m sure most people wouldn’t have a problem with it.
I’m not saying that Daniel Bryan has to be in championship contention already. I’m saying that he shouldn’t become an afterthought to SmackDown’s writing team. There are many possible feuds for him, ranging from The Miz, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, or even the recently debuting Andrade “Cien” Almas. He could even eventually feud with AJ Styles for the belt after some feuds. Any one of those options would be better than feuding with Big Cass or The Bludgeon Brothers. Whether any of this is due to Bryan’s reportedly shaky contract situation has yet to be seen. Here’s hoping that WWE recaptures the magic that made Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania moment so special.
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