Daniel Bryan won his match at last year's Over the Limit PPV.
Too bad it was the dark match.
Fast-forward one year, and Bryan is fighting CM Punk for the WWE Championship at the PPV of the same name. Thanks to the progression of his character, especially since WrestleMania and the days after, he is a legitimate threat to win the title.
When Bryan won the Money in the Bank Ladder match last July, it was a huge surprise, especially considering the way he had been booked over the previous few months. He was rarely winning any matches, or even showing up on PPVs at all.
Even after Daniel won the briefcase, he was not making much of an impact on television at all. He said he would hold on to the contract until WrestleMania, but how could the fans take him seriously if he wasn't a threat to anybody?
Eventually, Bryan started to pick up some steam, and after a high-quality steel cage match on SmackDown against Mark Henry, he capitalized on the Big Show at the TLC PPV in December.
Still, his face personality just was not getting it done with the majority of the fans. It set the stage for a slow-burning heel turn and was the beginnings of one simple chant: "YES!"
His heel persona began to gain heat, and ironically, his 18-second loss at WrestleMania may very well have been a launching pad into the main event. The Miami crowd was extremely vocal about Bryan on Raw the following night, and now most arenas are cheering the bad guy more than they are booing him.
Does this path remind you of someone? If you said The Rock, you are absolutely correct. The fans made the Great One the top face in the company after booing him relentlessly a couple of years earlier. The audience dictated the character change of The Rock, and they may very well do the same thing for Bryan if this keeps up.
On Sunday, even with CM Punk being a huge fan favorite, the arena will most likely be split between the two superstars. Unlike a year ago, the majority of WWE fans now actually care about Daniel Bryan, whether it be through their booing or cheering.
It looks like Punk is the odds-on favorite to retain the title. But what's to say Bryan can't knock him off and obtain the belt for himself? He certainly has the backing from the fans to do so, and it would allow his character to evolve even more.
If this match happened only a few months ago, it would be almost a guarantee that CM Punk would retain. But now with Daniel Bryan's character gaining momentum with each passing day, he may very well be the next WWE Champion.