In-Ring: You know, and I know, that Daniel Bryan is one of the best wrestlers in the world. If you’ve seen his ROH matches, and even his series of matches last year with Dolph Ziggler, you know that such a statement isn’t really up for debate. But looking at him strictly in the context of his recent matches with Big Show and Mark Henry, well, he hasn’t looked so impressive.
There’s just not much he can do to the two giants. Locking them into submissions is all but impossible given the size difference, and a man of his stature taking down the Big Show with stiff kicks looks ludicrous to the average audience. But I’m pleased to see that he’s been getting stronger and more versatile every match, recently.
His chokeslam-into-guillotine counter was beautiful, and the knee-wrench-drop [really, what do I call that?] he pulled out was like nothing I’ve seen before. He’s not up to his ROH days of versatility and arsenal, but it’s better than when the only moves he pulled out were the crossface and occasionally a guillotine choke. Hopefully Smackdown’s match with Randy and the coming Elimination Chamber will really let him cut loose. B+.
Charisma: Let’s be honest here, fellow smarks. Charisma has never been one of Daniel Bryan’s strong suits, on the indie circuit or in the WWE. He is a master wrestler, but like Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit behind him, it seems to work in inverse proportion to his ability to speak confidently and emote.
All the more reason I’m pleasantly surprised by the latest turn of his character. The crowd boos him vehemently, and I’m pretty sure I heard someone shouting “Jay Lethal is cooler than you” as he made his way to the ring, so it seems he’s turned even the ROH crowd against him. Impressive. He sells his character hard, with his annoyingly over the top mannerisms and viciousness in-ring work combined to make a compelling heel. B+
Mic Work: As said, Daniel Bryan is not a man born to talk in front of large crowds of people. It’s simply the truth. But, as also said, he has come into his own in this new heel role and people are responding to it. I didn’t feel this promo was one of his best, but he still got the point across and got some heat out of the deal. C.
Gimmick: To be honest, I was never thrilled with the idea of Daniel Bryan turning heel. When faced with monsters like Big Show and Mark Henry, making him an underdog babyface seemed like the most obvious idea in the world, and for weeks I was utterly bewildered at what WWE were possibly thinking.
But, frankly, as the conniving, ruthless schemer he’s become, he’s really playing it to the hilt, and I’m impressed. He’s different than the usual smug coward who plays to the crowd with easy heat from arrogance and running from the top face. He’s willing to get in there and hurt people, shouts at giants to get their hands off of him, and his use of AJ as a tactic is slimy as all hell and unique, too. He’s definitely growing on me in the roll. B.
Overall: My fears about the train wreck that Daniel Bryan: World Heavyweight Champion would become have been largely allayed in past weeks. I’m becoming increasingly optimistic that we won’t have another Jack Swagger situation on our hands, and that he can keep his place somewhere around the top of the card for months to come after this. I’m not crazy about him trying to twist his veganism into CM Punk 2.0, but the raw power of his wrestling ability and the unique storyline he, Big Show, and AJ are playing out makes up for it. I just look forward to someone new stepping into the picture, ideally Sheamus gearing up for Wrestlemania season. B+