There’s no denying that WWE Superstar (or “wrestler” as I like to call them) Daniel Bryan has been the golden child of internet wrestling community (or wrestling fans with computers as I call them) even before his debut in the WWE but there’s no denying that the company has dropped the ball with this talented performer time after time. Join me today as I count down the top ten cringe worthy times the WWE has dropped the ball with the incredible talent of Daniel Bryan!
After taking the indie world by storm, racking up various titles from promotions across the planet and becoming a sensation among the internet wrestling community one might assume that Bryan would make his WWE debut on the big stage of Monday Night Raw but NOPE! Instead, Bryan made his debut in the newly created WWE program NXT, a sort of half reality show, half pro wrestling hybrid where each member of the roster is voted off each week… or something like that. I’m not sure because like I said, it was a confusing blend of shoot interviews and real life happenings mixed with scripted content. Anyhow, the WWE creative team decided it would be a great way to build this up and coming talent by having him lose ten straight matches in a row on program. Whether you had been a fan of Daniel before NXT or this was your first experience with him there’s no way that giving him the loss record of Barry Horowitz was going to enhance his popularity with either fanbase.
It was around this same time that veteran announcer Michael Cole made a disastrous heel turn. His first and biggest target being Daniel Bryan of course! I could write up an entire article on just how rancid Michael Cole’s heel run was but the main problem with the angle was that his comments legitimately made the talent look like garbage. Instead of harmlessly poking fun at the faces with over the top jokes as Jerry Lawler and Bobby Heenan once did, Cole made a point to highlight each wrestler’s real life flaws. Let’s be honest, Daniel’s a little small, his character is a little one dimensional and he’s not the best on the microphone but that’s alright because his in ring work makes up for all of that tenfold (much like Rob Van Dam, Dean Malenko, Arn Anderson, etc.) Now, Cole could have made up some phony insults similar to the way Lawler once did like “Bret Hart’s a fake! He’s a coward! His mom’s old!” but no, WWE creative made Cole point out all of Daniel’s real life weaknesses. Could you imagine what it would have done to the fans’ perception of Bret Hard had Lawler been told to point out Hart’s size, bland character and nominal mic skills?
Just weeks after wrapping up the inaugural season of NXT WWE creative had the (for once) decent idea to turn the entire cast of the show into a heel faction called the Nexus and have them attack the company’s biggest good guy, John Cena, during the main event. The Nexus invasion debut was one of the most talked about events to happen on RAW in a long time because it was so unexpected and the faction destroyed the entire ring! Unfortunately things got a little too crazy that night because during the chaos Daniel ended up choking ring announcer Justin Roberts with his tie and he was legitimately fired the next day. You might say to yourself “but wrestlers have been doing that trick for years” well they DID do that for years until Chris Benoit got all murder suicidey and WWE had to go all PG-ey. WWE could have probably issued a statement and just brushed the whole thing off as a great big “whoopsadaisy” before any sponsors had a chance to complaint but it was much easier just to throw away a great talent like Daniel temporarily halting his progress with the company.
I like to think that fan outrage led to the eventual return of Daniel Bryan at the 2010 Summerslam (I mean, why else would WWE rehire him?) and I will admit that WWE did manage to give him a nice little run against guys like The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus even resulting in a US Championship win but at Wrestlemania 27 the WWE creative team dropped the ball yet again. For weeks the feud between Sheamus and Brian had been heating up and was set to climax at the upcoming Wrestlemania with a lumberjack match for the US Championship planned for the big show. The stage was set for an awesome showdown but at the last moment the whole deal was turned into a four minute dark match (not on television) to make room for Jerry Lawler vs Michael Cole and Snookie vs whatever/who cares? Had Daniel and Sheamus been able to compete at full capacity they very well could have brought the house down that night and Wrestlemania 27 might have been a little more memorable.
The following July Daniel won the Smackdown “money in the bank” contract match (that would grant him a championship match for the B-Grade belt) an impressive feat that would surely signify a push from the company right? Nah, he’d go onto a months long losing streak that finally culminated into a cheap win against an exhausted Big Show at the December TLC Pay Per View. Now, I don’t necessarily consider a losing streak followed by a cheap win to be a bad thing… if you happen to be a heel (which he was not at the time) because you come off looking like a wimp and a cheater thus creating that moneymaking heat that every heel thrives on. I don’t, however, remember a legitimate months long losing streak followed by a cheap championship win EVER helping a face get over with the crowd.
Bryan’s character had slowly turned into an arrogant heel after winning the World Heavyweight Championship (a few months too late) and he had a decent run in the B-Grade spotlight with multiple winning title defenses against other mid carders but this mild success came crashing to a brutal halt at Wrestlemania 28. Scheduled on the card was another Sheamus vs Bryan match that would actually be shown on television and this time for the World Heavyweight Championship so surely WWE couldn’t screw this up right? Wrong. Someone had the bright idea to take what could have been a great world title match between two of the best performers in the company and turn it into an eighteen second comedy bit. You see, Bryan kissed his valet AJ Lee then turned around and took a baroque kick to the head and it was one, two, three, over. There’s nothing quite like being deprived of the exact same match you’ve wanted to see two years in a row!
Somehow, Daniel’s microscopic Mania match didn’t have much of an effect on his momentum at the time as he quickly rose from mid card to main event status with feuds for the WWE Championship between CM Punk and Kane. Unfortunately this run only lasted a few months and he was abruptly sent back to WWE’s land of the dead also known as the Tag Team Division. Although WWE creative would grant Bryan the WWE Tag Team Championship they also cranked up the volume on his childish arrogant buffoon character all the way to unbearable levels. Now, sure this might have been an effective tool if say, Bryan was a full on heel at the time but he and Kane were in a sort of gray area feuding with the solidified heel team of Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes. Kane and Daniel could have been a great heel team themselves but instead WWE Creative chose to put the two in anger management classes where they talked about their feelings and regularly hugged it out. I’m all for comedy in wrestling, the very idea of pro wrestling is comical itself, but save that for the guys that aren’t 7 foot tall, 323 lbs. or the ones that have some of the greatest technical abilities of the era.
After nearly a year as the WWE Tag Team Champions management decided to split Team Hell no up for good and Bryan was plucked from the undercard for a WWE Championship match against John Cena at Summerlam. The entire angle worked in with a McMahon vs McMahon gimmick where Vince stated that Bryan wasn’t WWE Championship material and Triple H would stick up for the underdog. The match was amazing with both guys on their A game (even though Cena was visibly injured with a torn tricept) and Bryan actually managed to defeat Cena cleanly, an act that seldom happens in the WWE. His victory was cut short though once special referee Triple H immediately attacked Daniel allowing Randy Orton to cash his money in the bank contract in and win the Championship….so Triple H didn’t support the underdog after all? Then why did he bother pretending he did at all? Dumb storyline. A rematch would occur at the Night of Champions Pay Per View resulting in another victory for Bryan only to be reversed by Triple H the following night on RAW. Okay, “screwed” over by Triple H twice…. You would have to assume that at some point this ends in the good guy’s favor right? No. The feud with Orton would end at the Hell in the Cell Pay Per View when Bryan was screwed by the super-duper-ultra-mega face Shawn Michaels in a momentary lapse in reason that was never really explained at all.
You see, Triple H attacked Bryan during the match (because he’s a heel), Bryan defended himself (because he’s a face) and the supposedly neutral Shawn “WWJD” Michaels decided the best thing to do would be super kick the good guy for not allowing his face to be smashed in. It wasn’t that Shawn was making a heel turn though because the next night on RAW he apologized for the whole thing and Bryan attacked him anyway… what a great way to get a face over… then the entire storyline was abandoned and Bryan was thrown into a feud with an unrelated undercard faction called the Wyatt Family. Listen, I know the “sport” is predetermined and whether a character wins or loses doesn’t reflect on the quality of the matches but having your “hero” character get screwed over month after month and then to just abort the story is asinine. Imagine if the Star Wars trilogy just stopped at the end of Empire Strikes Back and George Lucas moved on to another project. Luke’s hand is gone, his best friend is frozen, his family is barbecue and he just found out that his dad is the intergalactic equivalent of Adolf Hitler…then we just never talk about the story again. We can assume Luke just moved on to another war in some other galaxy.
For a month Daniel feuded with the Wyatt’s all the way through the TLC Pay Per View culminating in an eventual heel turn as a member of the Wyatt family himself! The heel turn was a rare surprise for viewers but I had to question what the WWE had up their sleeves with the angle. Bryan was going to be essentially a henchman in the shadow of the charismatic Bray Wyatt character. Many felt this would be good for the Wyatt’s to have a top guy in their stable but personally I feel like Bryan hasn’t even been able to reach the “top guy” level yet. Anyhow, everyone’s opinion was rendered moot because a mere week after the newly repackaged heel Bryan debuted WWE creative decided to turn him back into a face. Why you might ask? Because the fans cheered too loudly for Bryan when he returned as a heel…. I wasn’t aware that cheering for a heel was necessarily a bad thing. I guess WWE creative have never heard of the NWO or Four Horsemen. Many people say that the excessively short heel run was planned all along but I call BS because the WWE wouldn’t have put the time and energy into repackaging the character just to abort the idea a week later. No, WWE had every intention to make what could have been an interesting heel run last much, much longer but dropped the ball yet again.
Now, remember. Just a few weeks earlier WWE creative had to abort Bryan’s brand new heel gimmick due to overwhelming fan support. So, it would come as a major shock to fans when we learned that WWE had no plans to include Daniel Bryan in the hour long Royal Rumble match. He was on the card though in a match against Bray Wyatt that opened the Pay Per View and in my opinion stole the entire show. To make matters worse WWE creative took valuable spots in the rumble and threw them away in favor of comedic moments like JBL’s less than a minute run and the little person dresses as a bull, El Torito. The Pittsburg fans at the event were so pissed off that they chanted Bryan’s name loudly during the entire Pay Per View so much so that WWE creative had to write the whole fiasco into their programing for the next night’s RAW as if Bryan was being “buried” by WWE management… even though in reality he WAS! Again, some people think this was all planned from the start but I call BS on this too because WWE’s initial idea was for Bryan to be a heel at the event so how could he be a heel and also fit into the “getting buried” storyline? It makes no sense. I’m not saying that Bryan should have even won the Rumble, again I know the outcomes don’t matter, but the Rumble match itself was one of the THE worst I’ve ever seen and I’ve darn near seen every one of them. It would have definitely played out much differently had the talents of Bryan been included in the match.