After being ridiculously over, immensely popular, and universally loved, Daniel Bryan went to Summerslam and put on a Match of the Year candidate with everyone’s favorite wrestler to hate, John Cena. After a hard-fought match, Bryan prevailed with a sharp running knee that still may have Cena dizzy, only to have his victory ruined by a traitorous Triple H and an opportunistic Randy Orton. Whereas, there are a variety of responses to the outcome of the WWE Title match, Raw showed that the correct one may be patience. Bryan is currently in a space where he’s constantly suppressed by authority figures, suffering heartbreaking, gut-wrenching defeats, until he finally overcomes them. They are creating a narrative for Bryan borrowing from the way that the Rock and Stone Cold became huge stars. With that in mind, from what we saw on Raw, when Bryan finally has his golden moment in the sun, it may be far bigger than what he could have had at Summerslam.
There are clearly huge plans for Bryan, who took a cue from CM Punk, using the stage to express his emotion after his Summerslam loss. As we saw from his promo on Raw, Bryan is primed to be the top face for a little while, and in this role, they’re going to make him bigger than we expected. His mic work should have convinced anyone who may have had questions that he has the charisma and promo-making ability to be a top face and/or “the guy.” The banter between Daniel and Stephanie was an example of the nice maturation that the WWE has crafted in Bryan. (I say crafted because some say that the WWE deliberately made Bryan weak on the mic when he debuted to make it seem as if he “progressed.”) A year ago, no one would expect Bryan to be as good of a talker as he was during that opening segment, now it’s yet another tool that’s showing the world that Daniel Bryan is a legitimate main eventer in every sense of the phrase.
Bryan’s exchange with Stephanie was a throwback to Stone Cold’s exchanges with Vince and the Rock’s exchanges with Stephanie. It followed a formula. Open insults to the authority figure in charge, rallying the crowd behind your mistreatment, witty language that drew crowd responses and impassioned behavior all contribute to generally being the anti-authority figure that crowds can easily get behind. Having Bryan escorted out of the building by security is a move that has been used with the Rock and Stone Cold countless times. While all three men are incredibly different, there are glaring similarities- they became huge stars organically, they coined great catchphrases, they were loved by the crowd, and they all were tormented by WWE authority figures. They tried to run the Vince vs Stone Cold angle between Punk/Cena and John Laurinaitis in the summer of 2012, but it never took off. However, this version of the Stone Cold vs Mr McMahon story with Daniel Bryan facing off against the McMahons has all the trappings of being a successful, modern version of that classic story. Having Bryan suffer torment and string-pulling by the McMahons only deepens the sympathy that the WWE Universe has for him and makes him a bigger star. Beset by foolish perceptions of his shortcomings and narrow-minded thinking from WWE authority figures who can’t fathom him being on top, Bryan will have to conquer them all on the strength of his support from the WWE Universe.
With his newly-revealed promo work and his connection to the crowd, we can be sure that Bryan will reach that moment, and when he does, the decibel level from the crowd’s approval may be physically intense. Fighting the Corporation and the McMahon-Helmsley faction, respectively, Stone Cold and the Rock created the narrative that now guides what the WWE is doing with Daniel Bryan. Some say let Daniel Bryan should have won and had his “moment,” but what people are failing to realize is that Bryan being screwed out of the title IS his moment. It’s the moment that will start his permanence in the Main Event scene. It’s the moment that will kick off his huge face run. It’s the moment that signifies that he’s arrived. This swerve would not have happened if they didn’t believe in Bryan and have a great future plan for him. Much like Randy Orton became as big of a face as he could to further deepen the hate when he turned heel, the WWE is making Bryan suffer so that the WWE Universe collectively exults in his eventual success as WWE Champion. Summerslam was just the start; watch Bryan surge into greatness and the Main Event.