This Sunday at Over the Limit, Daniel Bryan will contend for the WWE Championship against CM Punk in what should be a running candidate for the 2012 Match of the Year. From what we've seen from these two earlier this year, I'm extremely excited to see what these former Ring of Honor stars can do on a live pay-per-view with a prestigious title on the line.
However, before that highly anticipated contest can finally come to fruition, it's only appropriate we reminisce on Daniel Bryan's greatest performances so far in WWE. Despite arriving on the WWE scene a mere two years ago, the American Dragon has acquired numerous achievements while producing some of the most memorable performances in recent history.
Regardless of who his opponent might be, Bryan never ceases to deliver inside the squared circle on a consistent basis. His natural abilities and crafty submission style of wrestling always make for a match worth watching, whether he emerges victorious or looks strong in defeat.
That being said, which of Bryan's magnificent matchups were worthy enough to be named the best of his WWE tenure at this point in time?
The night after winning the United States Championship at Night of Champions, Daniel Bryan was challenged to a match by Edge on Raw. Before Bryan could secure the victory, the bout was abruptly interrupted by the former champ The Miz, who still had his title rematch clause to utilize.
On the following edition of the flagship show, it was made official by the anonymous Raw General Manager that Bryan would be forced to defend his newly-won star-spangled prize against Miz and John Morrison (who had since joined the rivalry) at the Hell in the Cell pay-per-view that Sunday.
At the event, these three rising stars provided a very fun Triple Threat match that not only kicked off the show, but set the bar for the remainder of it. With the unique stipulation of Submissions Count Anywhere in play, the American Dragon was able to use that to his advantage while the former Dirt Sheet duo had a very strong outing as well.
In the end, it was Daniel Bryan who walked away unscathed and still the United States Champion.
Although Daniel Bryan was red hot off of his Money in the Bank victory in July, he was on the losing end of many matches that followed. In late November, Bryan shockingly attempted to cash-in the briefcase on Mark Henry, but the loss was quickly expunged due to Henry being injured at the time.
Later that night, Bryan defeated three other top stars in the main event to become the new No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. He was granted his first opportunity at the strap that Tuesday on the live edition of SmackDown.
After what was a horrendous Christmas special, Henry vs. Bryan was quite honestly the saving grace of the entire show. The two told an excellent David vs. Goliath story that also incorporated the vile Steel Cage structure that enclosed the ring.
If nothing else, the unprecedented World's Strongest Slam from the top rope was one of the most unique finishes I've ever seen in a Steel Cage match. Sure, the American Dragon was slayed by the World's Strongest Man that cold night, but Bryan proved that he could without a doubt hang with the main event players of the WWE.
Following their first ever meeting on the second week of WWE NXT, I was highly anticipating a rematch between former rookies Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett. After all, it was Barrett who exiled Bryan from the Nexus that June, so it seemed only fair the former Ring of Honor Champion would be seeking redemption.
Since Bryan was the one who prevented Barrett from capturing the Money in the Bank briefcase last July, the Englishman targeted Bryan in hopes of proving why he was more deserving of the future World title opportunity. The two clashed at last year's SummerSlam event, nearly a year following Bryan's shocking return to WWE.
Given the fact that WWE did very little to make this match feel meaningful, the Los Angeles crowd wasn't hot for a majority of the contest. Nonetheless, their natural chemistry and solid mat-based skills made for a very well-wrested match that saw Barrett leave with the victory.
While watching the live inaugural edition of WWE NXT two years ago, that night's main event of the debuting Daniel Bryan vs. then-World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho seemed like any other match. However, looking back on it now, this bout had much more significance that I originally realized.
In his first-ever televised match in WWE, Bryan looked extremely impressive against the then-World Heavyweight Champion and nearly pulled out the upset victory. There's no better veteran to debut against than Jericho, who is known for putting over younger talent tremendously.
During the course of the match, Bryan executed a suicide dive to the outside of the ring, but Jericho reversed the maneuver at the last possible second and sent the American Dragon spiraling into the commentating table. Obviously, it was Jericho who emerged victorious, but not without setting the tone for rest of Bryan's WWE career.
Upon Daniel Bryan's debut in WWE two years ago, he was paired with The Miz on the inaugural season of WWE NXT. After weeks of tension between the two, Bryan was eventually eliminated from competition since Miz offered zero help in leading his rookie to victory.
At that year's SummerSlam event, Miz was replaced on Team WWE by the returning Daniel Bryan, who was eliminated from the seven-on-seven tag team matchup shortly thereafter following interference from his vengeful mentor.
Over the next few weeks, Miz would ambush Bryan on multiple occasions, but he accepted a challenge from the American Dragon for the United States Championship at Night of Champions. In what was one of most shocking moments of the year, Bryan was able to force the Awesome One to submit and claim the star-spangled prize as his own.
The Miz showed his true wrestling skills that night, while Bryan's career jump-started from that point forward. I'm anxiously awaiting a rematch between the two in the near future, only with the roles reversed this time around.
Shortly after dropping the United States Championship to Sheamus last March, Daniel Bryan was sent packing over to SmackDown via the 2011 WWE Supplemental Draft. Although it seemed like an insignificant brand switch at first, it would soon result in the smartest move ever made by Creative last year.
That July, Bryan was named one of the eight participants in the annual SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder Match at the pay-per-view of the same name. The bout lacked star power but proved many wrong in being one of the most exhilarating matches of 2011.
Newcomers such as Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater were nice additions, while valuable mid-carders such as Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett were the odds-on favorites to capture the briefcase. When the smoke cleared, it was none other than the sight of the American Dragon himself standing tall above the ring with the opportunistic briefcase in hand.
From July to November of last year, Daniel Bryan spent most of his time competing in irrelevant matches on SmackDown, NXT and WWE Superstars. One of those bouts was easily the most memorable, as Bryan was scheduled to face off with his longtime mentor William Regal on an edition of Superstars taped in England.
Aside from a few brief matches in 2010, Regal and Bryan had never really been given the chance to truly shine together in the ring. Superstars gave both storied wrestlers an opportunity to do just that in front of a hot English crowd, which was obviously in favor of its hometown hero.
After a near 15-minute technical wrestling classic, Bryan was able to outshine Regal by forcing him to submit with the LaBelle Lock. Bryan has gone on the record numerous times to say that this is his favorite WWE match that he's competed in to date, and I agree whole-heartedly.
Not only that, but the fact that Regal entered to his old school entrance music entitled "Real Man" makes this match worth watching all in itself.
With two successful title victories at both Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell in late 2010, Daniel Bryan was riding a wave of momentum that couldn't be stopped. On the Monday Night Raw prior to the Bragging Rights pay-per-view, it was announced that Bryan would clash with Dolph Ziggler in a non-title Champion vs. Champion match.
In the opening match of the show, Bryan and Ziggler absolutely tore the roof off of the Target Center that night with 16 minutes of non-stop action. The chemistry between these two is undeniable, as was the fact that this bout was later named the second best of 2010 by WWE.com.
Combining Ziggler's amazing selling skills with Bryan's outstanding wrestling ability made for a very suspenseful back-and-forth contest that could have easily gone either way. Despite help from Vickie Guerrero at ringside, the star-spangled champion emerged victorious and once again proved Raw as the dominant brand.
Ironically enough, it was the night after the Bragging Rights pay-per-view that a potential CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan matchup was first foreshadowed. However, due to an impromptu injury sustained by Punk immediately afterwards, the highly anticipated rivalry sadly never came to fruition.
That is, however, until just recently.
Following the WWE TLC event last December, Punk tweeted a picture of himself with new World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan backstage, since the two are very good friends in reality. Over the course of the next month, Bryan gradually turned heel, thus shattering the bond between the two former Ring of Honor stars.
Only 24 hours removed from the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Bryan and Punk were placed in a Champion vs. Champion matchup on Raw for the first time ever in WWE. I thought for sure the Internet would explode after the two in-ring combatants battled for nearly 15 minutes, but that didn't occur until after Chris Jericho interfered at the conclusion of the contest to grant Bryan the disqualification victory.
Although two rematches were contested a few weeks later, both bouts ended in draws due to controversy from Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis at ringside. More than likely, their pending title match at Over the Limit will surpass any previous WWE encounter between Punk and Bryan.
After winning the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time last December, Daniel Bryan slowly developed a cocky persona that saw him not care for anyone else but himself. At the same time, Bryan never took his title run or any of his opponents seriously due to not having a care in the world, but all that was about to change.
At WrestleMania 28, the American Dragon dropped his World title to Sheamus in a mere 18 seconds, sending Bryan into a vengeful rage that would stop at nothing until he reclaimed his golden prize. With this new layer added to his character, Bryan became more aggressive than ever during his matches before later renaming his signature submission maneuver the "YES!" Lock.
At the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, Bryan cashed in his rematch clause against Sheamus in a two-out-of-three count falls match. For a majority of the matchup, Bryan dominated the Celtic Warrior with his pure intensity, taking control of the contest by forcing Sheamus to pass out.
Of course, Sheamus was successful in retaining his title, but not without taking a major beating at the hands of Daniel Bryan. More so than the nine aforementioned matches, this specific battle exhibited the best from both Sheamus and Bryan while providing us with quite possibly the greatest match in both in-ring warriors' careers.
- Daniel Bryan vs. Alberto Del Rio: Only five days removed from SummerSlam, these two in-ring aristocrats had an excellent match that proved why a match between the two must be done in the near future.
Daniel Bryan vs. Ted DiBiase: This occurred over the United States Championship at Survivor Series 2010, in what was a very hot opener indeed.
Daniel Bryan vs. John Morrison: While providing nice build for the 2011 Royal Rumble, it was a cool clash of styles despite it being brief.
- Daniel Bryan vs. Drew McIntyre: During Bryan's brief tenure on WWE Superstars last summer, he gave McIntyre a heck of a fight that won't quickly be forgotten.
- Daniel Bryan vs. Cody Rhodes: Of their multiple matches last year, both Bryan and Rhodes had awesome chemistry that made for an entertaining series of matches.
- Daniel Bryan vs. Sin Cara: Upon their moves to SmackDown in May 2011, their brief match together was extremely enjoyable given their similar styles.
- Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton: In a match I thought we'd be seeing at WrestleMania 28, Orton and Bryan clashed for the first time ever and provided a solid main event on SmackDown earlier this year.
After being in WWE for only two years, having won the World Heavyweight Championship, United States Championship and Money in the Bank briefcase is certainly an impressive feat. Of course, this is only the beginning of the career of Daniel Bryan, as he looks to produce even greater matches in coming years.
With Over the Limit merely days away, one can only hope CM Punk taking on Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship will also secure a spot among the greatest D-Bry bouts at this point in time. That title encounter obviously has major potential, so expect that to be the show stealer come this Sunday.
Nonetheless, which of these 10 listed spectacles is the greatest of Bryan's career so far? Is there a certain bout I neglected to include that deserves a spot on the list?
Drop a comment below with your thoughts on Daniel Bryan's greatest matches so far in WWE and any matches you don't see on the list that should be listed. As always, your criticism and overall feedback on my latest piece are welcomed and greatly appreciated.