Orton and Bryan had a series of detestation-driven bouts in the latter half of 2014, including one match where Bryan’s former trainer, Shawn Michaels, screwed him out of reclaiming the WWE Championship. At every turn, The Authority belittled Bryan’s size and appearance, saying that he had a lot of fight in him for a “B+ player.” As fans, particularly those in the online bubble, we often tend to overexaggerate circumstances; however, Bryan’s case was much different. In this alternate form of reality, Bryan was treated as an everyday person who was lucky to be working for the WWE. Fans viewed this as their reality. In fact, the lines of reality and kayfabe were often distorted tremendously during Bryan’s battle with The Authority. In December of 2013, at the annual WWE Slammy Awards, Bryan was voted Superstar of the Year. Later that night, Bryan was involved in a ceremony used to highlight former world champions prior to Randy Orton and John Cena’s WWE and World Heavyweight Championship unification match at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. Much to the chagrin of upper-management, the ceremony was hijacked by fans in Bryan’s home state of Washington chanting his name.
In the 2014 Royal Rumble match, number after number went by until we reached the thirtieth entrant and fans realized that the lovable underdog, Daniel Bryan, wasn’t even in the match. This resulted in copious amounts of backlash from fans that were displeased with Batista winning the contest and moving on to the main event of WrestleMania 30 to face Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The 2014 Royal Rumble pay-per-view also marks the last WWE appearance of CM Punk, who was unhappy with the company’s medical staff. Punk was rumored for a WrestleMania match with several top stars, and WWE immediately felt his loss. They only had one person to turn to, and, for once, that man was Daniel Bryan. WWE often fancies revisionist history. They want to make you believe that Bryan’s ascension was the plan for WrestleMania 30 all along, when, in actuality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Months of torture came to a screeching halt on the March 10th episode of Raw, when Bryan and several fans occupied the ring, claiming that they would not leave until Triple H agreed to a WrestleMania match. The Authority obliged, and Bryan steamrolled through Triple H in the opening contest of WrestleMania 30. Later that night, he went on to defeat Batista and Randy Orton to capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Confetti, tears, sweat, emotion. These are all things that filled the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the closing moments of a now historic pay-per-view, as Bryan hoisted the titles high above his head whilst celebrating alongside his niece and Connor “The Crusher” Michalek. Not even the infamous Jag Thindh (who held up a sign directly in front of the hard-cam as Bryan celebrated in the ring) could dampen so beautiful a moment.
In recent years, Bryan’s career highs have been followed by unfortunate circumstances. Less than two months after winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30, Bryan underwent neck surgery. In June of 2014, it was announced that he would be stripped of the belt, as he would be unable to defend it at Money in the Bank. Bryan made his in-ring return on January 15, 2015, episode of SmackDown, where he defeated Kane. Much to the fans’ dismay, Bryan’s display in the 2015 Royal Rumble match later that month was insubstantial, to no fault of his own. Many fans were unhappy with Bryan’s direction, booing the eventual Royal Rumble winner, Roman Reigns, out of the building. Bryan would later be added to a multi-man Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31. On March 31 in San Jose, California, Bryan ascended the ladder to capture his first Intercontinental Championship. The following night on Raw, Bryan successfully defended his title against Dolph Ziggler in a match that received a standing ovation from fans in attendance. Unfortunately for Bryan, he was pulled from all future WWE events after suffering concussion-related injuries in May, and was forced to vacate his championship at Elimination Chamber. On the February 8, 2016, edition of Monday Night Raw, Bryan Danielson officially announced his retirement from professional wrestling in front of nearly 10,000 fans, approximately two hours away from his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington. Tonight at WWE Fast Lane, Bryan’s spouse, Brie Bella, looks to compete in what could potentially be the final match of her nine-year career.
The kicks these two delivered must be seen to be believed.
By far one of the most brutal battles I’ve ever seen, as well my favorite match in Ring of Honor history. Even fighting through a broken orbital bone, Danielson gave it his all.
This match was the pay-off to a near-eighteen-month feud between Bryan and The Authority. Although Triple H pulled out all the stops, Bryan was able to overcome him with technical expertise, and “The Game” was forced to submit.
As a triple threat match, this was relatively standard with some incredible spots. However, as the payoff to an angle, it was nothing short of extraordinary.
Bryan Danielson does not concern himself with the virtues of fame and fortune. He’s always come across as a charitable, genuine human being. Although Bryan may not be a prototypical wrestling superstar, I firmly believe that he is the epitome of a personal connection with fans. As humble a man as Danielson is, there is no doubt in my mind that he had a lasting impact on the business we know and love, becoming arguably one of the top babyfaces in WWE history. We laughed, we cried, but ultimately, we had fun. Danielson has done what he believes is best for his health, and I wish him the best. Others have put the “American Dragon’s” story much more eloquently than I, and that’s fine, but if I was able to capture this man’s incredible journey slightly as much as he captured the hearts of fans around the world I know I will have achieved something worthwhile. In closing, I have but one thing left to say about this remarkable, bearded human being; Thanks for everything, Daniel Bryan.