If you were paying attention to Jerry Lawler’s commentary Monday night, during Daniel Bryan’s match against Ryback, you might have heard a fleeting comment about whales sometimes winding up on beaches. Lawler quickly added, “size doesn’t matter.” He was referring, of course, to Daniel Bryan’s success in what once was a veritable land of giants.
When Bryan first debuted on WWE TV, he was belittled by some (namely, Michael Cole) as an Internet darling who didn’t deserve a national spotlight. Sure, he had been astonishing indy wrestling fans with his technical skill for over a decade, but he was deemed too vanilla, too puny for prime time television. He was a vegan who didn't own a TV, fans were constantly reminded.
Of course, Daniel Bryan far exceeded Cole’s initial expectations. He not only found success in the ring – while still putting on exciting, technical matches – he displayed a keen sense of humor and made connections with fans of all stripes. Whether they were chanting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” or “No! No! No!,” everyone was making noise for the former “darling” of the indy circuit. Bryan even won the World heavyweight championship in late-2011, defending it successfully until WrestleMania 28. He had arrived.
More recently, of course, Bryan has kept himself busy as a tag competitor. He and Kane’s run with the tag team title reestablished the division as a focal point of weekly Raw broadcasts. Live crowds began to rally increasingly behind Bryan, ostensibly turning him into a fan favorite. Slowly, Bryan has begun to appreciate the adulation, and his in-ring performances have continued to improve. It’s arguable that, even if he’s not yet the star of Raw, his segments steal the show on a weekly basis.
Consider the last few weeks a turning point for Bryan. When the public demands something, especially in the wrestling world, its demands must eventually be met. When Bryan singlehandedly dominated The Shield on a recent edition of Smackdown, it was the roar of the crowd that enabled him to do so, in more ways than one. And don’t think that folks backstage didn’t notice the way fans reacted when Bryan put Ryback in the “No Lock” on Raw. Ryback was so desperate, after that, he opted to get himself intentionally disqualified, rather than risk the pain of yet another submission hold. Keep in mind, the man who couldn’t beat Daniel Bryan is the current number-one contender to John Cena’s WWE title.
It’s only a matter of time, really. Bryan’s last run as World champion made him recognizable to a worldwide audience. He’s only gotten better since then, taking down giants and gaining ground with every week that passes. If he really wants to prove himself, as he alluded to on Raw, then there’s only one thing left to do…and it has nothing to do with the tag division. John Cena? Ryback? Watch out. Daniel Bryan is coming.
Contributing Writer / @OfficialPWI Contributor