Daniel Bryan’s WWE Title Reign: Great Expectations, Greater Disappointment

Just over a month ago, we watched as Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania XXX, and we delighted in seeing our beloved underdog reach the mountaintop.

Did we see the peak? Was the thrill of the chase better than the tension of defending the spoils?

I started a piece last week with those words, however, it never got posted, because my complaints about how Daniel Bryan was being booked like CM Punk (destined to face a ton of second-tier opponents instead of bursting the John Cena bubble of omnipotence) went out the window last night in the face of much worse news.

Daniel Bryan needs neck surgery. Just writing that sentence is enough to make me feel a little queasy. And honestly, hasn’t he had a bad enough month? He won the title, married a gorgeous woman, and honeymooned in Hawaii. Then he came back, his father died, and then Connor the Crusher, the young terminally ill kid that was his inspiration, died too. How could it get worse? Well, it did.

Apparently this surgery is supposed to be a light fix, but I remember how Kurt Angle got a light fix that turned into successively bigger fixes, and I’m concerned. The same went for Edge, who ended up having to retire prematurely. Chris Benoit, whose style Bryan has emulated, also suffered neck injuries requiring surgery. Just a couple of months ago, on his podcast, Steve Austin told Bryan that he needed to throttle back some of his big moves, like the forward missile dropkick and the diving headbutt, and use them at big events, not as an every night moveset. The wisdom of that advice, from a man who had a couple of major neck surgeries himself, is becoming readily apparent.

Wrestlers live a hard lifestyle. Any decently serious fan is quite aware of this and of the dangers of being a wrestler. That lifestyle is accentuated by the wear and tear of the constant travel they do. While they work five days a week like anyone else, they are traveling every night after work. Constantly driving, flying, sleeping in different beds, all of that adds extra wear on a body that’s in a gym every day, that’s hitting mats and floors and railings, going through tables…it’s not good for a human being. Bryan may seriously have to consider the route that Cena, Orton, and CM Punk took, getting a touring bus to drive him around just to reduce the wear on his body, especially now.

There is now a major hole in WWE’s programming for the next few weeks that needs to be filled, and it’s going to be interesting to see who fills it. Does Dolph Ziggler get resurrected from the hole he’s been in since he got concussed as World Champion? Will CM Punk be convinced to return (long shot of long shots)? And, most worrisome for fans, will Bryan be stripped of his championships, his reign a mere footnote after all the work he did to become the king of the mountain?

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

  • UrbanHermit

    It’s CM Punk all over again, he’s the champion of the mid-card. Daniel Bryan is a pansy / comic act. Bryan Danielson is a badass. The fact that WWE think it’s the “YES!” chant that’s over and not him, is proof that they’ve booked him terribly. I don’t see Ziggler getting out that hole he’s in, hopefully he’ll go to TNA, though they’re in shit creek as well. Honestly Pro-wrestling these days is terrible. 1990-2005 wrestling was amazing, now…..now it’s just childish. I mean look at Fandago + Santino.Santino is a judo blackbelt, yet he’s doing ‘the cobra’.

  • arlowoodenhead

    So, blame it on Bryan, not on WWE management that had Kane pile drive him three times just the week before, once on the floor and once on the ring steps. My suspension of disbelief is about to get suspended.

    • theripperdannyb

      Kane has been Kane since 1996, if they believed that the Tombstone Piledriver was that dangerous, would Taker and Kane have dropped the move a long time ago? That may have exacerbated the condition, but it was already there.

    • https://twitter.com/notpeanutbutter Jam

      If you look closely, the tombstone Piledriver doesn’t hit the opponent’s head. However, if done incorrectly, injury can occur. And I doubt Kane is the one who injured Daniel Bryan. Remember, The Shield used to be on Daniel Bryan’s ass.

      • arlowoodenhead

        You think Bryan already had neck issues and agreed to take three pile drivers? Every knowledgeable fan can see when it is done correctly and it’s mostly for show, I agree, but those looked pretty stiff. Steve Austin said towards the end of his career that he would never allow anyone to pile drive him again. It’s a dangerous move and many promotions ban it.

  • arlowoodenhead

    As far as the championship, Bryan should ‘disappear’ the belts. Let them reappear as a unified belt, two belts for one title is pretty silly.

    • David Garcia

      Take that up with Mattel who likely has a deal with WWE to make and sell the two belts as toys. Once the existing deal is up, that’s when we will see one title…unless the big gold belt still sells as a toy or WWE wants the option to split the titles at some point in the future, which would make scrapping the 2nd belt a dumb move.

  • David Garcia

    I think if we try to be fair to WWE, then we have to at least acknowledge that the ramp up to both Punk and Bryan winning the title ultimately became unsustainable precisely because of the role becoming champ played in requiring their characters to change as an acknowledgment of their ultimate victory.

    So Punk does the pipebomb and goes into his title match with Cena with the threat that if he wins, he goes home with the title…and he wins. But then Punk became a victim of his own success, where he’s the hottest act in the company AND he has the belt, so of course he needs to be back on TV…but what hurt his momentum is that he ultimately needed to evolve after he had beat Cena at Summerslam because he won the story, yet instead he continued to talk like a rebel…except Punk couldn’t be the rebel anymore so it never showed in his actions, which is bad storytelling: Show…don’t tell.

    Bryan has suffered a similar fate (injury aside). The rise of his character was built on being an underdog overcoming the odds of The Authority and at Mania he overcame such huge odds (3 superstars…2 of whom teamed against him in the 2nd match, while the 3rd tried to interfere) that he needed to evolve since he was the champ and he won the story , but instead he continues to talk like an underdog…except he can’t be an underdog anymore so he can’t show us in his actions, which is bad storytelling.

    In other words WWE has 2 acts whose success indicated putting each guy on top with the belt…but in doing so inexorably changed the the previously successful characters and rather than evolve, WWE used half (and bad) measures to try and have their cake (the old character) and eat it too (WWE champ).

    • theripperdannyb

      A lot of guys go in as an underdog, thats how they build em, hell, Cena, Batista and Orton were underdogs at one point, its how they work with it when they are no longer in that position, and this time round, they may not get a chance.

      • David Garcia

        But that’s what I’m saying: Bryan blew up playing the underdog, but after Mania, the underdog is dead (unless WWE had given him 4 top guys, all working in unison against him at Extreme Rules) and he needed to start evolving on the following night into something like the courageous, fighting champion who was determined to restore meaning and prestige to the title by facing all deserving challengers and not just those who pass the Authority’s litmus test.

        But instead they make Kane a “monster” again and made DB’s wife a target, in other words his new odds to overcome are a monster who wants to “hurt” his wife (that’s why he “runs” from Kane when Brie is with him. He can’t risk the fight and the potential of losing…because then she would lose too). WWE (like with Punk) wants the rise and big transitional moment without the transition of the character in response to the rise.

        It would be like if in Godfather 2, Michael had not become the hardened, ruthless, godfather rather he remained the fish out of water, figuring out the “family” business and being the reluctant heir to his father. The audience would say “wait…he already figured this out at the end of the first movie, taking out his enemies and making his sister a widow.”

  • theripperdannyb

    Good idea on the tour bus, christ knows how many interviews I’ve seen where the stars said a bus has added years to their careers (Big Show, Henry, Kane and Chris Jericho to name a few), but that is a long term plan.

    As far as the championship, it depends how long he’s out for, I don’t want to see him stripped, but if he’s out for 8 weeks or more, you cannot realistically have the championship missing that long, besides it plays into his story if he comes back ans climbs to the top again.

  • Martin Koehler

    I felt bad because I thought it was just a Story thing. I hope he heals up quickly.

  • bengalsmarvel

    I think they need to have both titles seperated personally guys like Ziggler, Sandow, Rhodes, Del Rio, etc. Don’t have a realistic shot at being WWE world champ anytime soon and i liked that they used the world championship as a stepping stone and as a second PPV main event. Its just my opinion but i would like to see two titles again personally even though i know we all have differing opinions on the subject.