The Daniel Bryan WWE title chase that began at last year’s SummerSlam was well done, to say the least. The payoff at WrestleMania 30 was the logical conclusion to a long campaign from Bryan to climb to the top of the wrestling world.
And then … Kane.
WWE creative had nothing good for Bryan after his wins over Triple-H, Batista and Randy Orton at ‘Mania, so they threw Kane at him as they tried to figure out what to do next. Kinda felt like when Ron Garvin won the NWA title from ric flair in 1987, and had to defend against the likes of Ivan Koloff and Barbarian before taking an extended break that allowed him to drop the title back to Flair at Starrcade.
So much energy gets put into the chase that it’s like letting the air out of a balloon when the chase is over. That’s what WWE was starting to feel like even before the news hit that Bryan had been diagnosed with a neck injury that required surgery, and now that Bryan is out at least into late June, everything is up in the air.
The feeling is that even with Bryan appearing to have made it through the surgery just fine in terms of his future career prospects, he’s still likely going to have to change his style, perhaps significantly, toning down or eliminating completely his work off the ropes, in particular the diving, off-the-top-rope headbutt that he may have retired from his repertoire at Extreme Rules.
A diminished Bryan still has value to WWE, but as the world champ? A big guy who doesn’t move around a lot anyway is still big even in diminished form, but Bryan, at 5’10, 205, is a small guy who isn’t that impressive being reduced to being 100 percent on the ground.
He’s certainly not a guy to build around anymore. But he may not have been the guy to build around even before the injury. He lacks the charisma of a Shawn Michaels or a CM Punk, two other smallish superstars who were able to carry the ball for long stretches at the top of WWE, and that much had been obvious in his mic work post-WM30. Once his shtick of having been denied his fair shot at the WWE title was gone, he had nothing left in the tank aside from his “Yes!” catchphrase, which, sure, ain’t going anywhere anytime soon, but is hardly something to build a company around.
He was already damaged goods before the neck surgery. The surgery maybe pushes Bryan to the background permanently before the end of the year.
– Column by Chris Graham