Wrestler of the Day – April 6: Daniel Bryan

It’s Wrestlemania Sunday so who else could it be? Today is Daniel Bryan.

 

Before we get started, Bryan is another of those guys who has had so many matches that I can’t possibly fit all of them in and I have to skip some stuff. There’s really no way around it.

Bryan was originally known as American Dragon and would be trained by Shawn Michaels at the Texas Wrestling Academy. The school also had a wrestling promotion, where Dragon fought Spanky (Brian Kendrick) for the TV Title from January 2000.

TWA TV Title: American Dragon vs. Spanky

Both guys are very young with Bryan (in a mask) being 19 and Spanky at about 20. Shawn Michaels is on commentary here. Stereo dropkicks don’t get anyone anywhere before they trade chops in the corner. Dragon nails a hard shot to the back and they shake hands. Spanky spins out of a wristlock but gets hiptossed down for his efforts. The champion walks the corner and comes down with a headscissors off the top for two.

Spanky tries his backflip out of the corner but gets his head taken off with a running clothesline. Dragon puts on a standing guillotine choke before just dropping him down. A rolling cradle out of the corner gets two for Dragon and he elbows Spanky in the jaw to keep control. Dragon is sent to the floor with Spanky following him out with a HUGE dive.

Back in and a missile dropkick drops the Dragon again and they head outside again. Using the steps as a springboard, Spanky takes the challenger down with a clothesline before they head back inside. A series of hard clotheslines get two for Dragon and he hooks a dragon suplex, drawing in someone named Shooter for a DQ.

Rating: C-. The match was pretty sloppy at times but you have to give them breaks as they’re both brand new out there. Of course they would get a lot better over time and figure out their styles. This was very indy flippy style but to be fair, that was still cutting edge stuff at the time.

After a few years in Japan and in the indies, Bryan was good enough for a jobber spot in the WWE. Here’s a well known match from Velocity, the C show of its day on February 8, 2003.

John Cena vs. Bryan Danielson

Cena has long yellow pants on here and commentator Ernest Miller is annoyed that he didn’t rap to the ring. We also hear about Cena challenging Brock Lesnar for a match on Smackdown. Bryan takes him down with a wristlock into an armbar before Cena takes him down with a test of strength. Danielson bridges up and Cena can’t break him down, allowing Bryan to monkey flip him down. That’s fine with Cena as he runs Daniel over with a clothesline to take over. We hit the bearhug for a bit until Danielson fights out with a nice enziguri. Bryan charges into a boot though and the ProtoBomb is enough for the pin.

Rating: C-. Not terrible here as Bryan got to show off a bit despite being destroyed in the end. I love seeing stuff like this as it’s so odd to see this as a nothing match on a nothing show instead of the main event of Summerslam. Cena was still new as well, having only debuted about eight months earlier. It’s strange to see either guy as a rookie like this.

One of Bryan’s mainstays was ROH, where he would dominate for several years. This would include a year plus long reign as World Champion, including this defense against Homicide at Final Battle 2006.

ROH World Title: Homicide vs. Bryan Danielson

We have 54 minutes left in this tape. Let’s see if these two are as good as they’re said to be. We’re in Homicide’s hometown so he’s WAY over. It’s a good thing his first name isn’t commonly known. It might be hard to take a guy named Nelson seriously as s street thug. Danielson’s Final Countdown intro is cool too so I’ll give him that. He certainly has his fans too.

I’ve heard great things about both guys in this company so show me what you’ve got. We get the big match intros which are always fun. Danielson is heel here because he more or less has to be. We stall forever as the fans chant ring the bell. Danielson flips him off instead of shaking his hand like the Code of Honor stipulates. Here we go. About forty six and a half minutes to go in the tape at the bell so we’ve got a LOT of time here.

Some guy shows up to do commentary but his name is incomprehensible. We get a long feeling out sequence and Homicide takes off his bandana. Homicide has apparently had some shady decisions in title matches and if he doesn’t win here he’s gone, more or less saying he wins. At least I think so as he came to TNA around this time.

Smokes, the guy that got hurt earlier, isn’t here due to Pearce and Hagadorn. Homicide has a bad shoulder apparently thanks to Danielson last night. Danielson has tights like Regal used to wear. We have a lot of quick holds as they try to gain control. Apparently Danielson has a bad shoulder too.

No one really has an advantage for more than a few seconds here so we’re really still feeling each other out here. Apparently in a previous title match Homicide was getting hit in the head a lot and the referee stopped it which he disagreed with. The surfboard continues to look completely insane every time I see it.

This is wrestler vs. brawler here which is always an interesting dynamic. We get a slingshot suplex as Danielson is in control at this point. Scratch that as Homicide takes over. We hit the floor and Danielson is in trouble. We get the I HAVE TIL FIVE thing which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Three Amigos takes over for Homicide as Eddie had been dead just over a year at this point.

And at about 11 minutes in, Pearce and Hagadorn run in for the DQ. Are you kidding me? Danielson leaves with the belt as Homicide’s Crew makes the save. The crowd LOSES IT over this as even the commentators are saying YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME. Apparently they are as the referee says no way it ends that way and let’s keep going!

Here we go again as we’re back at it. Oh and the running in heels hit a spike shoulderbreaker on Homicide’s bad shoulder so it’s hurt now. I don’t get the point of the run in at all here. At least it happened I guess you would say early on in the match rather than later so that’s good. It’s his right arm if you’re curious.

Smokes is at ringside now. Oh joy. Danielson is in control now as you would expect him to be. Danielson goes for a flying headbutt and gets caught in a Diamond Cutter (Yes I know it’s properly called an Ace Crusher. If you want to argue which name is more famous I’d love to hear it) Also, assuming the headbutt was launched when Homicide was on the mat, dang he got up fast.

Homicide speeds things up and dives into the second row through the ropes in a cool looking spot. Now Danielson’s shoulder is hurt. This has been a very back and forth match. Danielson gets caught in an armbar but gets to the ropes for the escape. I love that jumping European Uppercut off the top. A crossface chickenwing goes on but more ropes are grabbed.

They trade strikes and hit the floor. Homicide slides back in and hits the ropes so he can….slide back out. Sure why not. Danielson hits a dive into the first few rows that looked great. Can we get rid of that Smokes idiot? He’s getting on my nerves. Danielson starts the series of elbows to the head like he did in the previous match but it doesn’t work.

There’s the crossface chickenwing and the body scissors in the middle of the ring. In a cool spot, the arm comes down a third time but as the referee goes for the bell, Homicide grabs his leg. And Smokes of course has to pour water on Homicide. Seriously, can someone shoot this guy?

Danielson doesn’t let go on the five count so Homicide just gets up. Uh, why didn’t he DO THAT EARLIER? Danielson gets Cattle Mutilation. One thing I want to know: where in the world did he come up with that name? Did he throw that on one day and was thinking about what would happen if he did it to a cow?

He hooks it three times but Homicide won’t tap. He throws in more elbows to the head but he stays in it. Homicide gets the Cop Killer (Vertebreaker for you WCW fans) for a LONG two but Danielson grabs the ropes. Homicide pulls a Randy Savage and goes for the ring bell which leads nowhere.

And then Danielson gets a low blow and small package for two and then Homicide hits a lariat for the pin. Seriously, that might have been the most out of nowhere ending ever. The ring mostly fills up for a celebration. Now can we please kill Julius Smokes?

Rating: A. This was indeed a great match and well worth seeing. There were some moments I didn’t like, but they were few and far between. Homicide winning was pretty clear but it came off well. They built up to a great match and I liked what I saw. Danielson is still overrated, but this was very good stuff. Homicide just doesn’t feel like a world champion to me, but I was impressed. Solid match and worth seeing.

Danielson would be back and get a shot at World Champion Nigel McGuinness at the 8th Anniversary Show.

ROH World Title: Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness

The fans are split here and it’s a feeling out process to start with Nigel grabbing a wristlock, only to have Danielson dropkick the knee out to put him down. Back up and they fight over a test of strength until Bryan takes him down by the legs. There’s a bow and arrow hold to the champion before pinning Nigel’s arms down to the mat for two. Back up and Danielson avoids Nigel’s big lariat before calling on the crowd’s xenophobia by starting a USA chant.

Nigel takes him down with a headlock takeover but Bryan easily counters into a headscissors. McGuinness fights to the ropes but is very frustrated at not being able to slow down the challenger. Danielson is taken into the corner for some chops but does a headstand in the corner and catches Nigel with a dropkick. Nigel is sent to the floor and taken out with the FLYING GOAT as things speed up.

Back in and Bryan hits a missile dropkick before suplexing Nigel down with ease. McGuinness rolls to the apron for a breather before shoving the referee down for the lame DQ. He grabs the mic and says that the wankers in the crowd got the title match that they wanted and goes to leave, only to run into Austin Aries, Delirious, and I believe Kevin Steen and Roderick Strong. Aries says get back in the ring or go through all of them. McGuinness gets back inside and we’re at it again.

Danielson chops away in the corner but Nigel gets in a shot to the shoulder and sends it into the buckle and post. The fans shout SCREW YOU NIGEL and he tells them to chant louder. Off to an armscissors before Nigel slaps Bryan in the face, making the fans beg Bryan to mess him up. The champion wraps Bryan’s arm around the rope and then the post while mocking the USA chant. Back in and Nigel traps the arm down and cranks on the neck but Bryan comes back with a big kick to the head and a knee to the ribs.

Bryan is starting to feel it and sends Nigel to the apron where a running kick to the back sends the Brit to the floor. Nigel isn’t done yet though and backdrops Danielson over the top to the floor and the fans quiet down again. Bryan reverses a whip into the barricade before dumping Nigel into the crowd, setting up a HUGE springboard dive over the steel and into the crowd. Back in and McGuinness blocks another missile dropkick but gets caught in a triangle choke.

Nigel’s big lariat puts Danielson down and the fans complain that it’s the same move McGuinness always uses. Note that they’re complaining about this in a BRYAN DANIELSON match. Danielson sits on the top rope and catapults Nigel out to the floor again. McGuinness blocks another FLYING GOAT with an uppercut (thankfully Bryan was clearly stopping before he reached the ropes), setting up the Tower of London on the floor. The champion is busted open a bit as well.

Back in again and Nigel puts Danielson in Cattle Mutilation (Bryan’s hold) but Bryan rolls around into a cover for two. Danielson ducks a big lariat but crotches himself on the ropes, setting up a middle rope clothesline and another Tower of London for two. There’s a seated armbar as Nigel remembers the arm work from earlier. Danielson raises his arm and waves to the crowd as he makes it into the ropes for the break. Back up and Danielson hits a Rolling Chaos Theory out of the corner to put both guys down.

They strike it out until McGuinness is sat on top for a belly to back superplex for two. There’s the real Cattle Mutilation but Nigel rolls over, only to be caught in a tiger suplex for two. Danielson fires off a bunch of elbows to the ribs and puts on an armbar followed by a triangle choke. McGuinness gets his arm up at two drops and finally gets his feet in the ropes. Bryan pounds on him in the corner and asks for a ten count but Nigel headbutts him down, injuring Danielson’s bad eye from a recent injury. The big running lariat sets up a bunch of seated elbows to the head. Bryan is out as Nigel puts on the seated armbar to win.

Rating: B-. It’s a good match but I wasn’t feeling it all that well. The biggest problem here was there was some deal with Danielson not attacking the head and having a bad eye but the announcers expected us to know what those stories were about. That’s one thing WWE commentary is great at: you’re always going to hear the story of a match very quickly and leave very little confusion. The action here was solid but it felt like they were trying to have a long match rather than a good one. Also if you’re going to do the false DQ finish, do it after six minutes into the match.

Danielson’s work would be good enough to get him a job in the WWE, though he asked to go to FCW for some rust removal first. Here’s his debut on February 7, 2010.

Kaval vs. Bryan Danielson

Kaval is more famous as Low Ki. They shake hands to start as an ROH chant begins. Feeling out process gets us going with Danielson being taken to the mat and bridging up, only to have Kaval knee him in the ribs. Back up and Bryan cranks on the arm before backing Kaval into the ropes and smacking him in the face. Kaval comes right back with a spinning kick to the face for two of his own and we hit the cravate. More kicks to the face get two on Danielson but he comes back with kicks to the face of his own.

Bryan cranks on the arm but gets backdropped when trying a butterfly suplex. Back up and Kaval fires off even more kicks followed by a double stomp to the ribs for two. A tiger bomb into a cross armbreaker has Kaval in trouble but he gets a foot on the ropes. Danielson’s Swan Dive misses and another kick to the face gets two for Kaval. After kicking Bryan off the top, it’s the Warrior’s Way (top rope double stomp) for the pin.

Rating: C+. This match comes down to the question of do you like Low Ki’s style or not and I’ve never been a fan. He’s FAR too one dimensional for my taste and it drives me insane. Danielson would get the recognition over Kaval and I can’t say I disagree as he’s far more balanced in the ring than Kaval.

It wouldn’t be long before Bryan was brought up to participate in the first season of NXT. Here’s his first match on WWE TV, from February 23, 2010.

Daniel Bryan vs. Chris Jericho

Jericho is World Heavyweight Champion here. In a weird error, Bryan’s graphic lists him as being from Vegas but the announcer says he’s from Washington. Odd indeed. Bryan can’t get a handshake to start. Jericho slaps him and it’s on. They trade dropkicks and we go back and forth a bit. Keep in mind the idea here is that this is Bryan’s debut so you have to factor out that he’s US Champion as this is being written.

Barrett cuts a quick promo here where he kisses up to Jericho a bit more but doesn’t say what he’s actually learning. Bryan throws some kicks and goes for the knee. Daniel controls here as Cole begins his indy bashing stuff and his war against the internet. Bryan speeds it up and knocks Jericho to the floor.

And there’s the highlight reel moment of the first season as Bryan DIVES through the ropes but Jericho catches him in a belly to belly to slam his back into the edge of the announce table which must hurt beyond belief. Back in the ring Bryan gets a leg lock and Jericho is in trouble. Codebreaker out of nowhere though and Bryan is down. Walls end it soon after.

Rating: B. All things considered, this was mind blowing. Factoring in that this was his mainstream debut, this can only be classified as a success. Solid match here either way and that counter spot was great. Seeing a guy like Bryan giving Jericho a legit scare here with a nice leg lock thrown in was something no one expected. This was great all things considered.

After debuting as part of the Nexus, Daniel would be fired for choking Justin Roberts with a necktie. DUring this time he went to the indies, including a stop in California at PWG Seven.

Roderick Strong vs. Bryan Danielson

I’ll be calling him Bryan in this for the sake of my own sanity. This is during his fired time from WWE. I’ve always liked Strong so this should be decent at least. People throw in ties in a nice joke to Bryan. This is his big return so a lot of people are happy here. The other commentator is named Rick Knox here apparently. Strong grabs the arm to start so the fans chant “You’re going to get your f’ing head kicked in”. It’s a Danielson thing and it’s very annoying. Standoff after some mat work.

Danielson misses a big kick and Strong hits the floor to break up the momentum. Bryan goes off with kicks in the corner as I guess you can forget about me just calling him Bryan. Strong hammers away and we hit the mat due to reason of lack of air. Strong pulls out a tie to choke Danielson in a semi-funny bit. The announcers talk about how Danielson did nothing before appearing on WWE TV. I guess FCW is considered nothing now?

Bryan gets a running boot/knee to get us back to even. He grabs the tie now and chokes away at Strong. Well at least he’s got a sense of humor about it. Danielson teases a big dive but instead settles for a running knee off the apron. Top rope dropkick puts Strong down as does a running knee for two. Cattle Mutilation is blocked into a powerslam by Strong for two. Apparently the vegan thing has only been in place since the beginning of 2010. Interesting I guess.

Strong Hold by Strong which is one of his signature moves. It’s a Boston Crab/Liontamer if that makes no sense to you. Danielson slips out into a pinfall reversal sequence including an old school Tumbleweed. Off to a kneebar by Danielson getting us some Derrick Bateman inspired SUBMISSION WRESTLING! Strong gets to the ropes but Danielson has until five.

They strike away a bit and Bryan gets all ticked off. After a semi-botched crucifix Bryan hammers in 19 elbow strikes to the head. Little overkill there much? Cattle Mutilation (double chickenwing with a bridge. Look it up) but Strong makes the ropes. Gutbuster by Strong sets up a backbreaker which he does like 10 variations of but the LeBell Lock (not called that) goes on seconds later and it’s over. Bryan won if that wasn’t clear.

Rating: B. See, this was a far more competitive match with some thinking in it. The tie stuff was a nice touch and they made this feel like a big match. It helps that both guys are talented but I think that’s implied. Pretty good stuff here and definitely the best match of the show so far.

Bryan returned to the WWE at Summerslam 2010 as a mystery partner in John Cena’s match against the NExus. He would then feud with his NXT pro Miz, including this match from Night of Champions 2010.

US Title: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan

Miz in blue here which works for him in a weird way. Riley is here with Miz of course. We’re told that Shawn trained by HBK which I don’t remember hearing before. Very well may have been though. Somehow we talk about Lou Thesz and Cole says he Googled all of his info. Can we get some talk about breakfast again? It’s far more interesting than this bickering.

Miz with a nice bow and arrow hold as the announcers keep up their complaining. We get an explanation for the name LaBelle Lock, which is named after an old wrestler from the 30s. Well that’s better than nothing. Miz works the arm as Striker says he thinks Bryan is attractive. We get a shoulderbreaker and Striker gives a shout out to Double A (Arn Anderson) and says he should be in the Hall of Fame. Say it with me: AMEN!

The champ throws out a big boot as we’ve literally seen it three times tonight. Bryan with a suicide dive through the ropes to take out Miz. He SELLS THE ARM and hits a dropkick off the top for two. They slug it out and the selling continues. Let the boo/yay chanting begin! Running dropkick in the corner which always amazes me when someone hits it for some reason.

Miz kicks out again and Bryan gets a bit frustrated. We head up top and Bryan gets crotched. SWEET clothesline takes down Bryan who lands on his arm for two. All Miz here as he CRANKS on the arm and makes Bryan scream. Ropes are grabbed but Miz has til five. If he yelled that the IWC would have rioted. The Finale (not typing that name out) is countered into a rollup for two.

Riley gets on the apron but Miz punches him by mistake. Rollup by Bryan gets two and I would have bet on that being the ending. Bryan to the floor and Riley rams the post by mistake. Bryan STILL holds the arm. Miz just goes off on Bryan with punches but gets pulled into the LaBelle Lock AND IT’S OVER! Miz cries at ringside in a funny moment.

Rating: B+. This WORKED. I was way into the ending here as Bryan came off as awesome, just like Miz. I can’t wait for the IWC to whine about how Bryan carried Miz here and I can’t wait for it. Miz more than held up his half out there and looked great (just to be clear, Bryan was great here too). This was a very solid match but was held back by Riley interfering. Miz losing this way is perfect and it definitely put Bryan over. Very solid match and I was most impressed.

After not much of a 2011, Bryan would rebound by winning the Money in the Bank briefcase for the World Heavyweight Championship briefcase. He would rise up the card on his own though and get a shot at the belt on November 29, 2011’s Smackdown.

Smackdown World Title: Mark Henry vs. Daniel Bryan

We even get big match intros. The winner gets Big Show at TLC. Bryan runs for the corner almost immediately. You can win by pin, submission or escape. Bryan keeps trying to run and avoid corners. He wisely goes for the bad leg so Henry throws him into the cage. He splashes Bryan against the wall and we take a break. Back with Henry still dominating. We get a clip from during the break with Henry pulling Bryan back and in essence sling shotting him into the cage.

Time for a nerve hold to waste some time. Bryan fires off a dropkick but Henry kills him with a clothesline. The leg is wearing out though as he kind of falls into the cover for two. Bryan wakes up and goes crazy on the ankle, getting Henry down on the mat and screaming in pain. Bryan climbs but Henry makes the catch, crotching Bryan on the ropes. Henry goes for the door but Bryan grabs the ankle again. Bryan fires off a dropkick to the knee and hooks the LeBell Lock but Henry powers out of it.

Off to an ankle lock and the place is really getting into this. Henry kicks Bryan off but he can’t get up to follow up on it. The challenger goes up but gets his tights partially pulled down. Now Henry goes up but Bryan follows him. He gets over the top but Henry grabs the arm and pulls him back in. There’s some good drama in this. Henry tries a powerbomb out of the corner but Bryan climbs over the top. Henry pulls him back in again and headbutts him into the World’s Strongest Slam from the top. And that takes care of Bryan at 11:15.

Rating: B. Good main event here and the drama towards the end was solid. I don’t think anyone had any realistic reason to believe that Bryan was going to win and they shouldn’t have. He’s a midcard guy getting his first chance in there with the big boys and he’s not ready for the title yet. Still though, very solid main event and Henry gets a win that he’s been lacking recently.

At TLC, Mark Henry and Big Show had quite the war. It was such a battle that Bryan had an opening and won the title. The monsters weren’t pleased and had a rematch in a cage at the 2012 Royal Rumble.

Smackdown World Title: Big Show vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Mark Henry

Bryan is champion and beat Show at TLC by cashing in his MITB case in 45 seconds. Show beat Henry at the same show and ran over Bryan’s girlfriend AJ on Raw to set all this up. This is one fall to a finish and it’s pin/submission/escape. Bryan immediately goes for the corner but Henry pulls him down and Show runs Bryan over for two. Show crushes Henry against the cage wall but has to stop to pull Bryan back inside. Rey tries to run up again but Show catches him by the ankle and slams him back in.

Show loads up the WMD but hits the cage wall instead. The champion fires off some kicks but gets headbutted right back down. Bryan kicks the knee out even harder and fires off some kicks to Henry to keep the other monster down. He goes for the door but you know this isn’t ending that quickly. Henry makes the stop and demands that the referee CLOSE THAT DOOR. Show superkicks Henry down and it’s his turn to take over for awhile.

Bryan gets slammed down but Henry is back up again. A few punches put Show down because a dozen chair shots usually can’t, but a few punches can. Actually that’s a great way to keep Henry looking strong. The fans are cheering for Bryan as Henry and Show collide to put all three guys down. Show gets back up and clotheslines Bryan down a few times before superkicking him in the face. The chokeslam is countered and Bryan hits a tornado DDT on Show for two.

The LeBell (NO!) Lock is put on Show but Henry breaks it up in about a second. The WMD gets two on Henry but Bryan makes the save, which ticks Show off. Bryan SPRINTS up the cage but Show chases after him and grabs Bryan before he can get out. Bryan sits on the top of the cage and pounds away, only to be caught again. The champion is literally hanging from Show’s wrist before finally letting go and falling to the floor to retain the title.

Rating: D+. This really wasn’t all that great. At the end of the day, it was a lot of the same sequence over and over again with Show and Henry not having a ton of interaction at all. The ending didn’t look great either and I’m not sure why Show would just hold him out over the floor like that. This falls under the category of “…..really?” as it’s hard to buy Bryan keeping the belt here.

Bryan would lose the title at Wrestlemania in 18 seconds but he would stay in the title scene. It would be a different title however as he would feud with CM Punk over the Raw title, including this match at Money in the Bank 2012.

Raw World Title: Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk

This is now No DQ, Punk is defending and AJ is guest referee. Punk takes him to the mat and fires off some quick kicks. They head outside and Bryan gets rammed into the apron, only for Punk to get rammed into the barricade and kicked in the chest. Back in and Bryan fires off the YES kicks but gets rolled up for two. Bryan pounds away in the corner and they chop it out. That evolves into a strike off and the champion takes over.

A backbreaker looks to set up a middle rope legdrop but Bryan moves, followed by more YES kicks. They head to the floor again and Punk takes over, sending Bryan into the barricade again. Punk accidentally elbows AJ in the face, sending her out to the floor. The champ goes to check on her and Bryan uses the distraction to hit the running knee off the apron to take Punk down.

Punk gets draped over the steps on the floor and Bryan fires off more kicks. Punk comes back and sends Bryan into the timekeeper’s table. This is a back and forth match the entire time so far. The fans want tables because they’re greedy people. Punk pulls one out from under the ring but Bryan slams him down on the outside. Bryan finds a kendo stick and pounds away on the ribs of the champion. Punk rolls away and gets back inside while Bryan is still on the floor.

Back in and Punk gets the stick for a second, only for Bryan to go back to the ribs. Punk loads up a springboard but Bryan hits Punk in the ribs with the stick to take him down. Bryan fires away with stick shots to the ribs, complete with YES shouts. Those shots get two with the regular referee having taken over inside. Daniel goes up but the swan dive misses, putting both guys down.

They trade kicks and then forearms but it’s a leg lariat from Punk that takes Bryan down. Punk comes back with a running knee to the head and the snap powerslam for two. GTS and YES Lock are both countered and another GTS attempt is countered into a rana for two. Bryan kicks the champ’s head off and both guys are down. Bryan pops him in the back with a kendo stick and puts on a surfboard.

Punk manages to get to the kendo stick and beats the fire out of Bryan with it but can only get two. Punk goes up top but Bryan drills him with forearms to the head. Bryan pops up top and hits a superplex to put both guys down again. AJ is back and she sends the regular referee out to the floor. It’s time to skip! AJ pulls out a chair and Bryan crawls to her for it. Instead AJ throws the chair in the middle of the ring and it’s a scramble for it. Isn’t that how the XFL started its games?

Bryan gets in a kick to the ribs and pounds away on Punk with the chair for a close two. Bryan tries to talk to AJ calmly but it gets him rolled up for two by the champ. Daniel fires off more kicks to the chest of Punk and Punk can barely sit up in the corner. Bryan gets a running start but Punk comes out with a clothesline. Now Punk has the chair and blasts Bryan with it before wedging it between the top and middle ropes.

Punk goes to get Bryan to ram him into the chair, but AJ is standing in front of the chair. As Punk yells at her, Bryan comes up from behind and dropkicks Punk into the corner but not necessarily into the chair. Bryan goes to get the kendo stick but AJ is standing on it. She gives him a psycho stare and Bryan gives up. He walks into the high kick though and Punk slams Bryan onto the chair. The top rope elbow misses and the elbow hits the chair. Bryan throws on the YES Lock and grabs the stick at the same time to choke away.

Punk somehow bends back and blasts Bryan in the knee with the stick, followed by a GTS, but the champion can’t follow up. The GTS eventually gets two so Punk brings in a table. Punk loads up the elbow through the table but Bryan crotches Punk and hammers away. Punk slips down off the ropes and crotches Bryan at the same time. He pounds away with elbows and a belly to back superplex through the table FINALLY pins Bryan to retain the title.

Rating: A. This was GREAT at the end as I was hanging on every count of every near fall. That was a great match all the way through, but were you expecting anything else with these two having nearly half an hour? The major problem here though is the lack of AJ involvement. She basically did nothing other than blocking a weapon shot either way, and the ending was about the wrestling instead of her. That’s fine on paper, but we’ve spent two months building her up as the key to this whole thing. Still though, the match was more than enough to make up for that.

Bryan would start having anger issues around this time and join forces with another angry man in the form of Kane. The two would win the Tag Team Titles and become known as HELL NO. The new team would have issues with the trio known as the Shield who also had problems with Ryback. These two trios would face off at TLC in a TLC match, due to CM Punk being injured and not being able to face Ryback as scheduled.

Ryback/HELL NO vs. The Shield

It’s a TLC match but you can win by pin/submission because there’s nothing to hang above the ring. Shield comes through the crowd of course. The brawl starts on the floor of course with Bryan vs. Rollins, Kane vs. Reigns and Ambrose vs. Ryback. Ryback and Ambrose get in the ring and the smart aleck fans just have to chant Goldberg. Shield gets Ryback 3-1 but he shrugs them off. Kane tries to bring in a ladder but Rollins dropkicks it into the monster’s ribs.

Bryan takes a ladder to the face as well but here’s Ryback to beat them all up. Reigns takes Kane down with a chair but Kane makes the save. I think Ryback is busted a bit. Bryan kicks Reigns in the corner and the fans are WAY into Danny boy. Reigns is thrown into a ladder which gets two for Kane. Bryan saves Ryback and the fans want tables. Rollins jumps into a Kane uppercut for two before getting put inside a ladder. Kane beats on the ladder with a chair for a bit but Ambrose takes Kane out with a DDT onto the chair.

Ryback rams Rollins and Ambrose into the corner and there’s another Goldberg chant. The fans still want tables. Ryback blocks a beal into the ladder in the corner and pounds Ambrose and Rollins down again. A splash crushes both of them against the ladder, followed by a suplex from Ryback to put both of them on the ladder. Reigns breaks up the double Shell Shock and it’s another three on one beating. Where did HELL NO go?

Shield loads up the triple powerbomb….and it actually works. Seriously, no save from the champions until a few seconds later. Bryan goes off on everyone but gets caught in the numbers game. Kane finally comes back but gets beaten down as well. Back into the ring and it’s time for the chairs portion of the match. Bryan gets beaten down before being double superplexed off a table on the top. Kane barely makes a save but he gets beaten down by the chair as well.

Ambrose and Rollins try the double superplex on Kane as well but he shoves Rollins to the floor and clotheslines Ambrose down. The side slam puts Reigns down but Dean makes the save. Instead of I think a DDT on Kane though, it’s a chokeslam for Dean through the chair for two. Back to the floor and Reigns spears Kane through the barricade to a BIG reaction. Kane gets buried under a bunch of stuff, but in the chaos, Bryan grabs the NO Lock on Ambrose. He eventually gets it on all three guys but the numbers catch up to him.

Bryan fights back AGAIN with a bunch of kicks but eventually he falls prey to the Blackout (running curb stomp) onto the EDGE OF THE CHAIR from Rollins. FREAKING OW MAN!!! Ryback is up though and house is cleaned. Rollins is thrown onto Ambrose and it’s chair time for Reigns. Ambrose comes back AGAIN but gets speared down. There’s a Meat Hook for Dean followed by Shell Shock for two as Rollins saves. Ryback goes to the floor but gets caught by some chair shots. Ryback charges at Reigns to tackle into whatever is in his path in a cool visual.

The Shield and Ryback are all up by the entrance and Ambrose chairs him in the back to take him down again. They shove a ladder onto Ryback and destroy him with some chair shots and put him on a table. There’s a HUGE, as in bigger than the usual HUGE ladders, and Rollins climbs up. Ryback fights up though and Rollins is in trouble. Ryback throws Seth through a big stack of tables, but Ambrose and Reigns are double teaming Bryan in the ring. Reigns superbombs Bryan through the table for the pin at 22:55.

Rating: A. AWESOME brawl here with a great story being told throughout. Ryback gets two do the big spot to look strong and the Shield’s pack mentality worked very well too. Great match here and definitely better than I was expecting. Shield looked like they could more than hang in there, and that was the main thing they had to worry about. Great stuff.

HELL NO and Shield would feud for the rest of the spring, culminating with Shield taking the Tag Team Titles at Extreme Rules. After breaking up, Daniel went on a rampage to prove that he wasn’t the weak link in the team. This run went so well that Bryan was named #1 contender to the WWE Championship for a match at Summerslam. He ran a gauntlet on Raw on July 22, 2013 to prove his worth.

Daniel Bryan vs. Jack Swagger

This is the first of an undetermined amount of matches for Bryan. Colter says that Stephen F. Austin isn’t the father of this country as he didn’t fight for the right to allow people to chant YES. Bryan isn’t a Real American because he took a handout last week from John Cena and tonight he gets to face a Real American in Swagger. Bryan gets a quick rollup for one but Swagger takes out his leg to put him down.

Swagger pounds on him in the corner but walks into a dropkick to send him to the floor. The FLYING GOAT is countered with a forearm to the face and Swagger drops the Vader Bomb for two. He loads up the Patriot Lock but gets caught in the YES Lock for the first submission at 2:57.

Antonio Cesaro vs. Daniel Bryan

This is joined in progress after a break with Cesaro holding Bryan in an armbar. Lawler tells us we need to download the App so we can see action like he’s showing us right now. Cesaro whips Bryan into the corner for two and puts on the standing chinlock. Bryan takes him down and hits the double leg stomp out of the surfboard. Cesaro comes back with a pure power suplex and another hard chinlock but Bryan easily fights up and hits the running clothesline followed by the kicks to the chest. A running dropkick in the corner gets two on Cesaro but Swagger shoves Bryan off the top into the uppercut for two.

Back from a break with Cesaro getting two off the gutwrench suplex. A kind of Death Valley Driver gets two but Bryan comes back with a hard kick to the head for two of his own. Cesaro takes him to the corner for a superplex but gets forearmed and kneed down, only to have Cesaro come back with a top rope superplex attempt. Bryan slips through his legs and gets Cesaro in the Tree of Woe for a bunch of kicks, capped off by the delayed running dropkick to the face.

A belly to back superplex is countered into a crossbody to give Antonio two as this is getting really good. Back up and Cesaro DESTROYS Bryan with about 25 uppercuts in a row followed by a huge clothesline for two. Bryan backdrops out of the Neutralizer and starts firing off forearms before putting on a leg lock and pounding away with driving forearms to the face. Cesaro is sent to the floor and the FLYING GOAT takes out the Real Americans. Back in and Cesaro tries to throw Bryan in the air for the uppercut but Bryan comes down into a small package for the pin at approximately 15:00 shown.

Rating: A-. Someone explain to me why Cesaro isn’t one of the three top heels in this company right now. He could EASILY being in Del Rio’s spot and blowing away everything he does. Both guys looked great here and this is probably a match of the year candidate. Great stuff and I want more Cesaro right now.

Maddox is in the back with Alex Riley next to him of all people. Bryan has a third opponent after the break.

Daniel Bryan vs. Ryback

Bryan goes right for Ryback’s bad leg but Ryback easily knocks him down. Ryback shouts that Bryan is a little man in a big man’s world and chokes him him with a boot. The stupid fans chant that Ryback can’t wrestle so Ryback suplexes Bryan down for two. We hit a quick chinlock with Ryback shouting that this is too easy. Ryback’s Thesz press is countered into a wicked looking half crab but he’s right in front of the ropes. A splash gets two for Ryback but the Meathook is blocked by a knee to the chest.

Bryan hits some corner dropkicks but Ryback clotheslines him down for two. Ryback heads to the floor to set up a table but Bryan comes flying through the ropes to send Ryback into the announce table with a thud. Ryback sends him into the steps and gets back in, only to have Bryan fire off the kicks. The YES Lock is countered by a throw but Bryan drop toeholds him into the buckle. A missile dropkick gets two and there’s the YES Lock but Ryback finally makes the ropes. Ryback heads to the floor but catches Bryan coming off the apron in a powerbomb. Another powerbomb through the table is good for a DQ at 9:10.

Rating: B-. This was a great David vs. Goliath match and I like that they didn’t make Ryback lose clan here. Bryan beating the Real Americans is fine but having him win against a fresh monster after nearly half an hour in the ring is too much of a stretch. This worked very well though as Ryback can still be a monster when he isn’t a whiny jerk.

And of course, Bryan’s title shot at Summerslam less than a month later.

Raw World Title: Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena

The fans are almost unanimously behind Bryan here. Cena has a very bad elbow injury coming in and has been out of action for a few weeks. Feeling out process to start with Cena taking him to the mat via a headlock. Bryan easily gets back to his feet and tries a test of strength of all things with Cena taking him down to the mat. He can’t break Bryan’s bridge though and Bryan monkey flips him down. The YES Lock doesn’t work as Cena bails to the floor.

Back in and Cena tries a left arm (the bad arm) headlock but Bryan takes him down again. The double knee stomp surfboard doesn’t work as Cena kicks Bryan away. Daniel goes to the apron and is knocked HARD into the announce table. Cena follows him to the floor but gets whipped into the steps. Bryan tries a suplex off the steps in a spot I’ve never seen before but Cena counters into one of his own to put both guys down. Fans: “YOU STILL SUCK!”

Cena wisely turns it into a brawl and punches Bryan down before hitting a Batista Bomb of all things. We hit the chinlock and HHH hasn’t been a factor yet. Bryan comes back with forearms to the head and kicks to the chest in the corner but HHH yells at him. Lawler: “Don’t gloat goat!” Bryan hits the running clothesline but misses the hard kick to the head. Cena tries his finishing sequence but Bryan kicks him in the head to block the Shuffle. Bryan can’t hook a submission hold and gets caught in the ProtoBomb followed by the Shuffle for no cover.

Bryan flips out of the AA and catches a charging Cena in the chin with a boot. The missile dropkick connects for two and Bryan fires off the kicks to the chest. Now Bryan goes after the bad arm before slapping on the STF of all things. Cena is about to get to the ropes so Bryan pulls him back and hits two German suplexes for two each. Bryan counters the AA into the YES Lock and Cena is in big trouble. Cena counters by getting his head free (wrestling you say?) but gets pulled down into a guillotine choke.

John FINALLY powers out of it but can barely follow up. Bryan charges right at Cena but gets caught in the AA for a close two. That came out of nowhere and had the fans inhaling in unison. Cena goes up but has to knock Bryan down twice before getting caught by a running dropkick. Now Bryan gets up top and superplexes Cena down but stays on top in a cool power move. He sits up onto the top for the Swan Dive but Cena is up at two. John rolls to the floor and blocks the FLYING GOAT with a forearm to the head.

This time the top rope Fameasser connects for two and Cena is getting frustrated. Cena tries the middle rope AA but Bryan fires off about 25 elbows to the head to break it up. Bryan can’t hit a top rope rana so Cena loads up what looks like a Styles Clash but jumps down and drops Bryan o his head in a SCARY looking botch. Bryan looks ok though and Cena rolls into the STF. Bryan rolls over to his side but the hold is still on, basically making it a chinlock with a body scissors.

Daniel rolls out and hooks the YES Lock in the middle of the ring. Cena crawls over (with his arm slapping the mat in what could have been a tap if you stretched a bit) and FINALLY makes a rope. Bryan hits the running dropkick in the corner and makes it a pair for good measure. Cena comes back with a MASSIVE clothesline but he can’t follow up. They slug it out and both hit shoulders at the same time for another double layout.

Now they slap each other out in the middle of the ring and it’s Bryan taking over and moonsaulting out of the corner, but Cena nearly catches him in mid air. He tries a spinebuster but Bryan counters into a DDT and a lot of checking on each other. Bryan tries a high cross (popular move tonight) but Cena catches him in mid air. Bryan counters into the small package they’ve been building up for weeks but it’s only good for two in a GREAT false finish. The big kick to Cena’s head puts the champion down again and a Shining Freaking Wizard GETS THE PIN AND THE TITLE AT 26:58!

Rating: A+. WHAT A BRILLIANT FINISH! They totally fooled us all by having the standard WWE formula playing out but Bryan wins it out of nowhere with a knee to the head. Brilliant move there after a great match to boot. What more can you ask for in the main event of the second biggest show of the year? Excellent stuff and HHH did absolutely nothing at all.

As soon as the match was over, HHH gave Daniel Bryan a Pedigree, allowing Randy Orton to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase for the WWE Championship. This started a six month war between HHH and Bryan with HHH saying Bryan wasn’t good enough to be the WWE Champion and the face of the company. The fans rallied behind Bryan, leading to an Occupy Raw movement. HHH was angry enough that he agreed to a match with Bryan at Wrestlemania XXX, where the winner would be entered into the triple threat title match to end the show.

HHH vs. Daniel Bryan

The winner goes into the triple threat later tonight. Cole says this should be a mismatch, even though Bryan is a Triple Crown winner and a three time World Champion. The YES chant was awesome in person and the place went absolutely nuts when Bryan’s music hit. Oddly enough he wasn’t announced at all and just came to the ring with his music. No Big Match Intros either. Bryan’s left shoulder is taped up after the attack a few weeks ago on Raw.

They stare each other down for a good while to start as a bunch of fans have YES written on pieces of paper. HHH offers a handshake and is quickly kicked down for two. Daniel fires off more kicks in the corner but HHH bails to the floor to avoid a big kick. Back in and HHH goes for the bad arm like a smart wrestler would but Bryan takes him down with a headlock takeover. A hard shoulder block drops Daniel but it’s right back to the headlock.

HHH drives shoulders in the corner but Daniel comes back with his kicks, only to have HHH take him down by the leg in a nice counter. Bryan gets away before HHH can wrap the arm around the post and hits a running tornado DDT off the apron. The running knee off the apron puts both guys down as Stephanie is freaking out. Back in and Bryan goes up but gets crotched. Stephanie: “B+ AT BEST!”

A big right hand knocks Bryan out to the floor and it’s table time. Bryan fights out of a Pedigree attempt through the table but gets his arm slammed into the table. Stephanie: “YES! YES! YES!” Bryan is back in the ring at seven and HHH drives knees into the shoulder. We hit the armbar for a bit but Bryan is able to backdrop HHH to the floor. HHH is able to get up and block the FLYING GOAT with a big right hand, which looked like a slegehammer shot on the big screen.

HHH gets him back to the apron and drops him arm first onto the apron. Stephanie is still yelling at Bryan as she’s just perfect in this role. Back in and we go old school with a crossface chickenwing on the bad arm. HHH shifts into a regular Crossface and the fans aren’t sure what to think of it. Daniel makes the rope and they slug it out until Bryan drops him with a running forearm. Bryan loads up the moonsault but HHH wisely stops and tries a German, only to be reversed into three straight German suplexes for three straight near falls.

The Game counters another into a chickenwing attempt but HHH reverses into a tiger suplex of all things, putting Bryan down on his shoulder again. HHH’s superplex attempt is countered into a sunset bomb but Bryan can’t cover. The running dropkick in the corner has HHH in trouble but he comes out of the corner with a wicked clothesline. Stephanie: “YES! WOO!”

The Pedigree is countered into a rollup for two and a big kick to the head drops HHH again. Bryan loads up the flying headbutt, only to dive head first into a knee. Back to the Crossface and HHH rolls Bryan away from the ropes ala Benoit in 2004. Daniel is able to counter into the YES Lock out of nowhere but HHH gets a rope. HHH rolls outside and it’s the FLYING GOAT to send him into the barricade.

Bryan hits it again before firing off the YES Kicks to the chest. Back in and there’s the missile dropkick into the nipup followed by more YES Kicks. JBL: “Something isn’t right about this!” The big kick to the head gets two as the fans think this is awesome. Daniel loads up the running knee but is caught in a spinebuster. The Pedigree gets two and Stephanie is shocked.

A small package gets two on HHH so he hammers away in the corner with some heavy right hands. Another Pedigree is countered with a backdrop for two but HHH holds on to the grip. Bryan won’t get up though so HHH drives knees into the shoulder. HHH still can’t hit the Pedigree so Bryan kicks him in the face. With both guys spent, Daniel backflips out of a suplex and nails the running knee dead on to send himself to the main event at 25:58.

Rating: A. Oh yeah this was awesome. They played the underdog card perfectly and the fans ate it up with a spoon. I’m surprised they went with the clean pin instead of the fourway but that’s the better move at the end of the day. It’s definitive and clean with Bryan beating HHH in a fair match despite being injured coming in. Outstanding opener, even if most people knew Bryan was going to the title match anyway.

Post match Stephanie slaps Bryan until HHH gets back up and lays him out. HHH crushes the shoulder against the post with a chair again to leave Bryan’s future in doubt.

And now the triple threat.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan

Rev Theory plays the champion Orton to the ring. The song goes on too long though as they play the full thing. Batista is LOUDLY booed whereas Bryan gets the hero pop, even though he can only YES with one arm. An interesting note: Cole hypes up Extreme Rules as a “WWE Special” rather than a pay per view, which is a good way to advertise it on the Network. Any time you can get the word “pay” out of something it sounds more enticing. After the Big Match Intros we’re ready to go.

Batista runs Orton over to start but can’t hit the Bomb on Bryan. Orton and Bryan are both thrown outside with Bryan being sent into the barricade arm first. Batista loads up a powerbomb onto the steps but Orton counters into a backdrop to get a breather. Bryan starts to get up but Orton drops him back first onto the barricade to stop him again. It’s Dave vs. Randy in the ring again with Randy hitting the circle stomp followed by the knee drop for two.

Daniel comes back in with a double missile dropkick but Batista slams both guys down for two each. Bryan is able to send Batista into the buckle and hits a string of running dropkicks in the corner to both guys. A top rope hurricanrana takes the champion down again but Batista suplexes Daniel over the top and out to the floor. Now Batista goes up top but Orton pulls him down with a superplex. Bryan is back in again and nails the swan dive to set up the YES Lock, but HHH and Stephanie come in from the crowd to pull out the referee.

Batista hits the spinebuster as Scott Armstrong comes in to be referee. Cole calls him crooked, but wasn’t he crooked before in Bryan’s favor? So the story is HHH had Armstrong do a fast count on Bryan at Night of Champions so the pin wouldn’t count? Was that ever established on WWE TV? Anyway he counts two after a Batista Bomb to Bryan and Batista charges into the post. Bryan kicks Armstrong in the head and nails the FLYING GOAT to take out the Authority and Armstrong.

HHH is livid and pulls out the sledgehammer but Bryan steals it and lays out the Game. The original referee counts two as Bryan rolls up Batista but Orton is back in for the save. Bryan’s arm is exposed as the opponents start double teaming. HHH and Stephanie are helped out (cue Goodbye Song) as Orton bounces the steps off Bryan’s head. Batista and Randy pick up Bryan and load up the announce table. The fans chant for CM Punk out of desparation (this happened throughout the night but never became a big thing).

In the spot of the night, Batista lifts up Bryan for a Batista Bomb and Orton hits the RKO (neckbreaker but whatever) to lay Bryan out cold. The scary part though was Orton who landed square on a monitor. I was genuinely scared he wasn’t going to get up at all. A stretcher is brought out for Bryan as Lawler asks a very good question: why is Batista not throwing someone in the ring and trying to pin them? That’s a problem in wrestling today. So many people just stop using logic because it’s not the planned finish. As soon as Orton could indicate that he was ok, Batista should have tried to pin him.

Instead he just whips Orton into the barricade about five times in a row to lose what they had of the crowd. Orton comes back with the Elevated DDT onto the floor but Bryan is off the stretcher and literally crawling back to the ring. An RKO is countered into a YES Lock but Batista makes the save.

The spear misses Orton and sends Bryan to the floor, setting up an RKO on Batista for a VERY close two. Orton loads up the Punt but Bryan takes his head off with the knee. Batista steals the cover for two and nails the Batista Bomb on Orton, but Bryan takes him down with the running knee, setting up the YES Lock on Batista for the submission and the title to blow the roof off the place at 23:01.

Rating: A-. It’s long and there are some parts that dragged but this was all about making the impossible happen and they nailed that to perfection. Everything else is a bonus and they actually had me thinking Orton would retain with that RKO. It was all about Daniel Bryan though and that’s exactly what it needed to be. Excellent match and it gave us the moment we were looking for.

A HUGE celebration follows with fireworks, confetti (I snagged a piece for a souvenir) and Bryan’s sister and niece coming in to celebrate with him. The celebration went on for awhile after the show went off the air with nothing you wouldn’t expect.

Daniel Bryan is living proof that wrestling ability and charisma can get someone to the top of the wrestling world. He’s been around far longer than most people realize and has risen to the top of whatever company he’s been in. I was skeptical when he signed with WWE but he’s done incredibly well and become one of the most entertaining guys on the roster. When you get a Wrestlemania centered around you, you’re clearly doing something right.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @kbreviews and pick up my new book of on the History of Clash of the Champions at Amazon for just $3.99 at:

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