Since winning Money in the Bank and going on a long losing streak, Daniel Bryan's career has garnered much more spotlight.
He made a lofty claim that he'd save his briefcase for a WrestleMania title shot, but after being advised to do otherwise by his "Giant" buddy, Big Show, Bryan cashed in the briefcase on said buddy at the TLC PPV this past month.
Since TLC, and even slightly before then, we have been seeing a fascinating shift in attitude among the top three contenders for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Obviously, Mark Henry's tearing through SmackDown, including cleanly defeating Randy Orton at two separate PPVs, shows the drastic change he's made from being a smiling baby face into a vicious, focused, monster heel. Even if you haven't been wildly entertained by Henry's new style, you have to admit it's had beneficial effects for SmackDown and WWE in general.
Big Show is an established star who has been on TV and in a few movies, but before TLC he hadn't won a world title in nine years. TLC was his chance to have that gold once again but unfortunately for him, his advice came back to bite him in the ass, as Bryan chose to cash in on Big Show once Mark Henry had gotten revenge for winning the match.
While many may consider TLC a throwaway PPV, the surprising events that occurred there have led Big Show to modify his direction.
Before, his sights were set on stopping, once and for all, the monster run of an invigorated Mark Henry and taking his title. Now that Show's buddy wears the gold, he wasn't about to squash Bryan indiscriminately. Then again, he did want the title back pretty bad.
Thus, this Friday on SmackDown, Big Show takes on Bryan for the World Heavyweight Championship, and while I won't spoil anything for you, this situation has even more twists and develops into an even more complex triangle situation.
Bryan's rise to fame has been considerably slower since returning at SummerSlam; the road has been bumpy to say the least. We thought winning the blue briefcase would change things, but sure enough, it only made them harder.
Bryan cashed in at TLC, and many of Bryan's faithful supporters jumped for joy that finally WWE had put one of their top belts around a guy whose wrestling skills genuinely deserved to be wrapped in gold.
However, despite his heart-warming celebration with Punk and Ryder on the following Raw, Bryan's attitude has seen slight changes.
This past week on Raw, Bryan ran to the ring and distracted Mark Henry so Big Show could fight through his one-armed stipulation. On SmackDown, Big Show told Bryan that "Giants don't need saving."
In an impressive display, Bryan held his ground in the verbal exchange and didn't back down. Later on, Big Show and Bryan were having words with Teddy Long, and the GM made the title match for this week.
Big Show made an extraordinarily rude, arrogant remark that made Bryan look like a joke. In response, Bryan called Show out on the fact that he had the shortest World Heavyweight Title reign in history.
Some are seeing this as a mark of Daniel Bryan's heel turn. Believe me, I won't say that's impossible, as WWE's done that very thing to plenty of stars with immense potential, only to watch them flounder as a cowardly heel and completely destroy their credibility as a champion.
However, what are the odds that one of the other members of this triangle turns instead?
Back in late November, F4Wonline.com (via SESscoops.com) reported that WWE officials were discussing the prospect of turning Mark Henry into a baby face, and that it would happen "sooner than later." Well, we're now at least a month later, and Henry's injured, so it's highly likely this plan has either changed, been scrapped or simply delayed.
But let's look at the differences between Henry's relationship to Bryan and Big Show's.
Henry's monster heel run has been terrific (at least as far as monster heel runs go). He's been great on the microphone (for the most part), he's shown arrogance, power, dominance—everything a good monster heel should show. And although he's definitely acknowledged the idea that Bryan doesn't stand a chance, he's at least shown Bryan a shred of respect here and there when Bryan's stood up to him.
Even those minute shreds are more than Big Show has shared. He convinced Bryan to go back on his promise to save his briefcase for WrestleMania. He's helped turn Bryan into an opportunist. And when Teddy made the heavyweight title match for the following week on SmackDown, Big Show's first response was to laugh and tell Bryan, Hey kid, ya' had a good run."
We can look at Bryan's rebuttal of mentioning Show's brief title win as rude, but he's merely stating a fact. Big Show laughing at Bryan was uncalled for. If Show really respected his friend, he would've shaken Bryan's hand and wished him luck. Instead, Show continued to act petty, jealous, rude and bitter over a situation he incited.
As far as I'm concerned, that's far more heelish a way to act than Bryan throwing Big Show's own decisions in Show's face.
Honestly, if we really look at this, Big Show has taken the most action in guiding this situation where it's gone. Big Show was a casualty of Mark Henry's monster rise to the top, and Big Show feeling disrespected and saddened by his own weakness being put on display, vowed to destroy Henry out of greedy vengeance.
People criticized the fact that Henry and Big Show fought for the title at three straight PPVs, but adding in their match months before the Money in the Bank that put Show on the shelf, we see a series of matches where Show couldn't get the job done. He was defeated and injured at MITB, the ring collapsed at Vengeance, and Henry drew a DQ at Survivor Series.
Show finally claimed his vengeance at TLC in a short chairs match, but Show was the one who made the arrogant mistake in thinking Mark Henry was done.
Henry slammed Big Show numerous times and inadvertently gave Bryan the opening to cash in his briefcase.
Big Show has effectively brought every bit of his sadness down upon himself.
Mark Henry became focused and driven enough to cause destruction wherever he went. And even though being a bully is somewhat unethical, he had a good run as a largely clean-winning champion.
Daniel Bryan won the Money in the Bank briefcase and decided to cash in early on the champion. He's done nothing that hasn't been done in years past.
But Big Show? If Big Show had been smart, he wouldn't have gone after the title and convinced Bryan it was a good idea to cash in both at the same time. He should've convinced Bryan to cash in first.
Thing is, Big Show has become greedy, arrogant and desperate lately. No disrespect to Bryan, because I think once he's over more with fans, and he could be a fantastic heel. I look forward to the day WWE puts Bryan at the head of some vegan-nazi cult like they did with CM Punk leading the Straight Edge Society. Maybe they'll book that stable better than the SES.
However, regardless of how crummy Bryan's heel run would be in the short term, we shouldn't ignore both the potential and effect Big Show turning heel could have on Smackdown and/or WWE.
Maybe turning Cena or Orton would be huge moves to make. Turning Big Show? Not quite as big. In order to put their newer, younger stars into better positions for fans to root for them, they need to turn their bigger stars into heels.
It's just the cycle of things. Bryan's acting more like a cocky jerk lately, but how many cocky jerk faces have we rooted for in the past? CM Punk is a cocky jerk and he's a baby-face WWE Champion. Bryan's winning more matches lately, and it's my estimation that his ownership of the title is what's given him that spark, focus and urgency to win.
Ask yourself, would it be so ridiculous to watch Bryan take some lessons from CM Punk and be cockier in his attempt to show his confidence?