The Piledriver Report 03.13.14: Daniel Bryan’s Road to the Title
Posted by Ronny Sarnecky on 03.13.2014
This past Monday night, the WWE finally gave their fans what they have been begging for. A stipulation was added to the Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan match that inserts Daniel Bryan into the WWE World title main event at WrestleMania. While it seems like a forgone conclusion that Bryan will finally get a real run with the title, The Piledriver Report takes a look back at the rocky road that will lead to Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania moment.
I can't believe it. I really can't believe it. After all of the bitching and complaining, the WWE is finally getting it right. Rewind back to August 2013. Daniel Bryan is riding a wave of momentum as he was entering his WWE title match against John Cena at Summer Slam. The hope was that Bryan would leave the event as the WWE champion. Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena that night, but I knew we weren't going to leave Summer Slam with the former "American Dragon" holding the WWE title. No matter how many times I screamed "fade to black, fade to black" as Bryan was celebrating in the ring, I knew it was not meant to be. Soon enough, Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase following Triple H turning on Daniel Bryan. I was livid. Not because they weren't getting behind Daniel Bryan, but because I am a big believer that your first World title reign should be a magical moment that you remember for the rest of your life. Instead, it was just used to further an angle.
Shortly after the pay per view, one of my friends called me to discuss the booking of Daniel Bryan. He predicted that Daniel Bryan would win the Royal Rumble in January, and go on to face Randy Orton for the WWE championship at WrestleMania XXX. I thought he was crazy. I had no faith in the WWE to pull it off. First, WrestleMania was over seven months away. I couldn't see how the WWE would be able to pull it off. Seven months is a long time. I figured that if the WWE kept having Daniel Bryan come up short in his quest for the WWE title, Bryan's momentum would slowly fizzle away, and by the time WrestleMania came, the fans would lose faith in the WWE doing the right thing and Daniel Bryan's mega-popularity would be over.
Secondly, Daniel Bryan was 5 feet 10 inches tall. He lacked the height, and the killer physique that the WWE craves. Plus, his long hair and beard makes him resemble a lumberjack more than he did a main event caliber wrestler. CM Punk looked like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Bruno Sammartino, and the Undertaker all rolled into one compared to Daniel Bryan. I believed that no matter how popular Bryan became with the fans, the WWE would be too stubborn to give him the spotlight. Would they push him as one of their top guys? Sure, because he was too popular, and too great of a worker. However, would they make him the face of the company? I never thought that he had a chance in hell.
At the Night of Champions pay per view, Daniel Bryan defeated Randy Orton for his second WWE title. However, the next night he was stripped of the title. His two WWE champions reigns lasted less than twenty four hours in total time. This was worse than the way the WWE booked World Heavyweight Champion Rey Mysterio. Bryan took the term "transitional champion" to another level. His final attempt at winning the title, and getting a legitimate run with the belt, happened at the Hell in a Cell pay per view. This time, he lost following the special referee Shawn Michaels turning on his former protégé.
At this point, I still didn't think Bryan's journey would end with a WrestleMania WWE World title win. Instead, I was salivating at the thought of a Shawn Michaels-Daniel Bryan WrestleMania clash. That hope was quickly dashed when those rumors were killed almost immediately. It was at this point in time that the rumored WrestleMania WWE title match was going to pit Randy Orton against CM Punk. I didn't mind this match. After all, I always thought that CM Punk deserved to be in a WrestleMania main event. With no match featuring The Rock, I figured that this year's WrestleMania would be the perfect time for Punk to get his main event, even if Daniel Bryan deserved it more THIS year. I assumed that Daniel Bryan would face Triple H at WrestleMania XXX. After all, it was the natural progression of the angle. Bryan's misery all started the moment that Triple H turned on him at Summer Slam.
Heading into the Survivor Series, the WWE started to shift gears. Daniel Bryan moved on to a feud with the Wyatt Family, and Randy Orton started a program with the Big Show. I figured that if the WWE were to put Bryan into the WWE title match at WrestleMania, this was a good way to separate him for a couple of months from Randy Orton, so he isn't jobbing to the "Viper" until February. I still thought that the money match for Bryan was in facing Triple H at WrestleMania. My prediction was that the Big Show would beat Randy Orton at the Survivor Series for the WWE title. Triple H would get so ticked off since Randy Orton couldn't get the job done that Triple H would decide to take matters into his own hands and face the Big Show for the WWE title at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. At this point, Bryan would then win the Rumble, and go on to face Triple H for the title at WrestleMania.
This obviously did not happen. By the end of December, it was reported that Batista would make his WWE return at the Royal Rumble. The way the WWE started to hype up the return, it became painfully obvious that the "Animal" was going to be the winner of the Royal Rumble and then go on to headline WrestleMania. The latest rumor had CM Punk starting a program with Triple H, which would lead to the two of them squaring off at WrestleMania. John Cena's rumored WrestleMania match was a date with Bray Wyatt. This left Daniel Bryan on the outside, looking in. How could the WWE ignore the fact that Daniel Bryan was their most popular performer since July? At worst, Daniel Bryan should have been in the third match from the top at WrestleMania, and not an after-thought just thrown on the card.
Instead, Bryan was rumored to be in several different possible matches. There was a match against the Wyatt's with John Cena as his partner, which would be a high-profile match. There was also a rumored match where he would team with the Wyatts against John Cena and a partner, and turn back face after the match. That would be another top match. Then, came the ridiculous. A match against Sheamus! Really? A third WrestleMania match against Sheamus. UGH! My early prediction was becoming a harsh reality. The WWE was really going to drop the ball with Daniel Bryan.
Then, a funny thing happened on the way to WrestleMania. On January 7th, Michigan State's guard Travis Jackson led the home town fans in a "Yes!" chant at halftime. The chants were so loud, and provided such a great visual that the footage was all over ESPN's SportsCenter and even went viral. This embarrassed the WWE. Not because a wrestler that they didn't see as a superstar was getting all of this attention, but the fact that he was getting this attention as the WWE had recently turned him heel. The WWE changed their plans, and turned him back to a face pretty quickly after the Michigan State incident.
Next, came the Royal Rumble. The fans were primed for Daniel Bryan to win the Royal Rumble. They were extremely vocal during the John Cena/Randy Orton match. It was their way of telling the WWE that we are tired of the same old, same old. They wanted a new, fresh face of the WWE, and they wanted Daniel Bryan to be that face. By the time the Royal Rumble was in the final stages of the match, the fans were rabid. They were screaming for Bryan, and booing everybody not named Roman Reigns. Batista and Rey Mysterio took most of the brunt of the fans hatred. Batista for being the latest representative of the "same old shit," and Rey Mysterio for having the unfortunate luck of being the thirtieth entrant in the Rumble.
Despite the backlash, the WWE was still set on keeping Daniel Bryan away from the WWE title match at WrestleMania. This is when another unique situation occurred. The day after the Royal Rumble, CM Punk let Vince McMahon know that he was done with the company, and was going home. At this point, the WWE was backed into a corner. They were forced to do the right thing, and put Daniel Bryan in CM Punk's spot as Triple H's WrestleMania opponent. Finally, the WWE would pay off the angle that was started on that hot August night in Los Angeles. After all, Daniel Bryan's biggest antagonist over the last six months wasn't Randy Orton, but Triple H.
Even though Triple H was the right opponent for Daniel Bryan to be facing at WrestleMania, there was still something that wasn't right. Something was missing. A victory over Triple H at WrestleMania would be a nice feather in Bryan's cap. However, the ultimate WrestleMania moment for Daniel Bryan would be winning the WWE title as 75,000 fans scream "YES! YES! YES!" in celebration.
I wasn't the only one that felt this way, because each passing week, since the Royal Rumble, the fans continued to hijack segments, and crap on Batista. The WWE was fastly becoming aware of one fact. They couldn't go on with having a Batista vs. Randy Orton match at WrestleMania. It would be an embarrassment to have the crowd hijack their WWE title match at WrestleMania. Instead, it became clear what the WWE needed to do. They needed to add Daniel Bryan to the WWE World title match at WrestleMania.
This past Monday Night, the WWE set the wheels in motion. In an awesome segment, Daniel Bryan hijacked RAW until Triple H agreed to face him at WrestleMania with a stipulation added that Bryan will be added to the WWE title match with a victory over Triple H. Now that Daniel Bryan was added to the match if he beats Triple H, how should the WWE book the show?
I believe that the Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan match should go on next to last. Don't put the match on early in the card. By putting their match on right before the WWE title match, you are going to tell a better story. Both matches should go 25-30 minutes each. This will really make it seem like the odds are stacked against him. As Batista and Randy Orton enter the WWE title match, Daniel Bryan will be weakened after just fought Triple H in a 25 minute war. Now, he has to go another 25-30 minutes in order to win the title. Daniel Bryan would be forced to wrestle for nearly an hour straight.
Of course, Bryan would overcome the odds, and leave WrestleMania as the WWE World champion. Once he wins the title, the next question becomes "How will the WWE book WWE World Champion Daniel Bryan?" There are two routes that they could take. One is the Rey Mysterio route. When Rey won the World title, the WWE booked Mysterio horribly. He was never given a shot to succeed as champion. Rey was basically a midcard wrestler holding the World title. The WWE never even let him try to make a run as the face of the company. This would be a horrible move by the WWE. Unlike when Rey Mysterio was the champion, I don't think the fans would stand for this type of title reign by Daniel Bryan.
Instead, I think the WWE needs to take the approach that they did when they gave Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and John Cena the ball to run with. The WWE needs to book Daniel Bryan strong. He should be put in the main event position of EVERY pay per view that he defends the title on. Don't CM Punk him by putting him on next to last, and then John Cena closes the show. That is showing that you don't view him as the top guy if you don't trust him enough to close the shows that he is on as the champion.
Next, for years Daniel Bryan proclaimed himself as the best in the world, and his matches backed up his claims. Since coming to the WWE, Bryan has participated in a ton of "match of the night" bouts. However, he is yet to have that one classic match that you could easily pencil in as a Match of the Year candidate. The WWE needs to put Bryan in a position where every match he is in has the potential to bring home the Match of the Year trophy. If you are going to give him the prop of the WWE World title to say he is the best in the business, you might as well let him prove it every night in the ring.
Finally, don't take the belt off of him! The WWE needs to keep the belt on him without interruption. I'm not talking about a Hulk Hogan-like four year run. I'm not even talking about a CM Punk type run. I believe you should give him a Randy Savage type run with the belt where he won it at one WrestleMania, and defended it successfully throughout the year until he dropped it at the following year's WrestleMania. Of course, I would want his opponent at that WrestleMania to be CM Punk. Sure, it's been my WrestleMania dream match for the past three years. However, I think that would be an easy Match of the Year candidate, and a nice way to cap off Daniel Bryan's well deserved title run. Hopefully, the WWE can pull this off. Only time will tell.