Daniel Bryan is the most mysterious man in WWE. Word on the street is that he’s been medically cleared to wrestle for awhile now, but his history of concussions and whatever his neck issues are is forcing WWE’s hand to keep him away from the ring for the time being. It’s understandable, but it sucks not having Daniel Bryan on Raw every week.
He’s been on Tough Enough and around a little, but the last time we really saw character development for Bryan, he was relinquishing the Intercontinental Championship. The second championship he’s had to forfeit due to injury in the last two years. The case of Daniel Bryan is a sad story because although it had an epic climb to the top of the mountain at Wrestlemania 30, everything for this guy’s wrestling career has fallen apart ever since.
The “Yes Movement” is still amazingly beloved and Daniel Bryan is still one of the best wrestlers in the world — on the shelf, or not. The issue now is WWE’s brass seem to think Bryan is a liability to his own health by getting in the ring again. His body is certainly not trustworthy at this point to put any kind of championship on him. He’s stuck in limbo. He’s apparently cleared, but he’s waiting for the call that may never come. So, what is his future in wrestling?
If Daniel Bryan is to return, what happens to him in terms of booking? His in-ring style must change. The risk taking-high flying style isn’t going to work anymore, which is unfortunate because that’s what got him over in the first place. However, as the greatest technical wrestler of the last decade, he could easily transition his game to the mat. It would be a testament to his opponent that they can survive with the submission specialist of WWE.
But doesn’t that make Bryan the gatekeeper of WWE? The stepping stone performer that is over with the crowd, but is the guy who puts others over when they need a legitimate win. We all know Daniel Bryan is capable of a lot more. But, the “Yes Movement” was over two years ago. WWE has moved on. How long can Daniel Bryan milk “Yes”? The American Dragon is too talented to live in the past to collect his retirement checks until he can hang it up for good.
How does Daniel Bryan return, change his in-ring style, stay over and evolve to develop his character with WWE fans and become an elite performer again on WWE television? The answer is simple: a heel turn.
The “Yes Movement” was one of the greatest stories I’ve ever seen in wrestling. It was epic, but it’s over. The moment WWE fans see the return of Daniel Bryan in a ring, they’re going to chant “Yes.” It’s a reflex at this point. It doesn’t matter that Daniel Bryan hasn’t had significant momentum in two years. People flippin’ love Daniel Bryan.
That is all the more reason why a heel turn is potentially the best thing for him. The creation of “Yes” and the start of his major run in 2012 and 2013 began during his original heel run. It was that momentum which he used to turn into a Tag Team Champion and catapult himself into the best wrestler in the world. Returning with “Yes” is a choice he’s earned, but turning heel gives him fresh and new life into the future. It brings Daniel Bryan back into the fold.
Even if Daniel Bryan came back and was literally indestructible, he has to change his in-ring style. At his peak, he was a daredevil mixed with a fearsome submission machine. His body won’t allow him to remain the former, but he is still more than capable of being the latter with just about anyone. Bryan’s in-ring psychology has always been his biggest strength. His storytelling will just be more specific to the mat and less about high energy. That’s just fine.
In wrestling, there are two ways to tell a story: in the ring, or on the microphone. The best in the business do both, or one extremely well. Bryan Danielson is one of the best in-ring storytelling the industry has ever seen. He’s also a decent voice on the mic. It’s the weakest part of his abilities, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad at it. When you wrestle as well as he does, the mic ability isn’t a deal breaker.
His mic ability would really need to develop, but his change in style, character and motivation gives us a completely new Daniel Bryan. His heel turn and story is actually really easy to tell. It’s the story of Daniel Bryan taking back the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It’s Bryan who should be the Undisputed title holder of WWE, not Seth Rollins. Bryan vacated two championships that he never lost. Those are huge bragging rights for a heel.
Daniel Bryan returns and is a face for awhile. But soon, he betrays the fans and officially kills the “Yes” chant. He shaves the beard, gets a new look and attitude. His motivation is simple: “I broke my neck for you people and it got me to the top of the mountain, but I’m the one who fell all the way down while you watched and turned your backs on me.”
I’ve always thought Daniel Bryan would be best served as the guy in WWE that would break you. Fans should be afraid of their guy wrestling Bryan because there is a strong chance they won’t come back in one piece.
The change in wrestling style could easily fit that kind of character for him. Keep the focus on hurting people and telling his rivals and the fans why he deserves to be champion because he never lost. He wouldn’t be wrong. The fans would agree with him, but what if they don’t boo him?
That’s why you make Bryan brutal and heartless. It’s the opposite philosophy of why fans loved him in the first place. The heel turn would just require the right sacrifice to start off. It could always be John Cena, Roman Reigns, or even someone like Dean Ambrose. Anyone to take someone away from the people. Bryan turns heel and puts someone else on the shelf to take his place. That immediately makes Daniel Bryan dangerous and he could challenge anyone.
Daniel Bryan’s career is not over. If you ask me, he’s got a lot of depth to unload upon once he actually is healthy enough to really wrestle and get into a storyline. There’s no rule that says he has to come back full-time either. Let Bryan get the ring rust off him, change the character and make him use the last two years of injuries and missed opportunities to build him back up for the future. Instead of cashing in on his past accomplishments.
There is still a lot more left in Daniel Bryan even without the heel turn. As a heel, Daniel Bryan’s struggle wouldn’t be in vain. It would be something that would catapult him back to the main event of WrestleMania again. Either way, he’s not doing any good on the shelf. Retire and cement your legacy, or get back in the game to create a new one.