The last few months have been quite interesting for Daniel Bryan.
From being squashed by Sheamus at WrestleMania in 18 seconds, to becoming a wrestling and Internet sensation overnight, to taking part in a bizarre love-triangle for the heart of his psychotic girlfriend, to possibly feuding with Charlie Sheen. The path that Daniel Bryan's WWE character has taken is surely the path less traveled.
Now, it appears as if this roller coaster ride has taken its toll on Bryan's psyche, as the star's grip on reality slowly begins to erode.
Being left at the altar by AJ on Raw 1000, as well as being mocked by an over-the-hill sitcom star have Bryan fit for a straitjacket. Nothing seems to be going right for the former World Heavyweight Champ.
But could this be a good thing?
Bryan's mental breakdown could provide him with a padded cell, but also with multiple options as to how his character can be utilized for now, and for the future.
While "Charlie Sheen" and "good decision" are two concepts that mix like oil and water, there is still plenty to be excited about in terms of where "D-Bry's" crazy train is headed.
Here are three reasons why Daniel Bryan's character is headed in the right direction.
Daniel Bryan has a lot going for him.
For one, he is an incredible in-ring talent. Whether he's Daniel Bryan, or "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson, the man's technical wrestling prowess is undeniable.
Having already put on several great matches with CM Punk and Sheamus in the past few months, Bryan's mastery of the squared circle is a fit for the main-event scene.
What's missing is a good, strong character. For the most part, Bryan has gone his entire WWE tenure without a persona of his own. As a face, he was bland. As a heel, he was mostly reliant on AJ, abusing her to get heat from the fans.
If not that, then as a run-of-the-mill arrogant, cowardly heel, that while done well, was nothing new. Let's face it, a guy can only go so far using his vegan lifestyle to piss people off.
Now, for the first time, Bryan is being given a chance to show depth to his character. After suffering several setbacks in a short period of time, culminating in the humiliation of being left at the altar in front of the world, Daniel Bryan is beginning to lose his mind. This might be just what the doctor ordered (pun possibly intended).
In an appearance on Colt Cabana's popular "Art of Wrestling" podcast in November of last year, Bryan mentioned an idea that was proposed to him that peaked his interest. The suggestion was made to Bryan that he should become "The Bobby Fischer of wrestling."
Fischer, the eccentric chess-master who is widely regarded as one of the greatest chess geniuses of all time, is known for his ability, but also for his bizarre, possibly psychotic behavior. Bryan described the idea as "right up my alley."
For weeks, we have seen Bryan demonstrate his knack for playing the headcase. His growing sense of paranoia and victimization could lead to an all-out break with reality, where the lines between right and wrong, YES! and NO! become blurred.
A proud vegan, wrestling prodigy, and a bit of a "nerd" as Michael Cole would put it...it just seems to make too much sense.
While this is only one possible option that could be explored, the idea that Daniel Bryan is going insane will undoubtedly provide him with a stronger, more independent persona to match his stellar wrestling ability.
Bryan could still demonstrate his mastery of technical wrestling, while becoming more of a mental case outside the ring.
Daniel Bryan is in a tough position.
Nobody wants to see him as a face, but as a heel, he gets a more positive crowd reaction. For the sake of this article, I will refer to this as "The YES! Dilemma."
On April 2, 2012, the now-infamous Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania 28, Daniel Bryan exploded into a wrestling, Internet, and pop culture sensation with one word: YES! Since that raucous night in Miami, fans have flooded arenas with YES! signs, Daniel Bryan YES! shirts, and chant his catchphrase throughout the entire show.
While this strong reaction to any star on the roster would seem to be welcomed, it has created a bit of an awkward situation for Mr. Bryan.
While "D-Bry" is supposed to be a heel, his signature catchphrase is so over with the fans that he gets bigger crowd reactions than most faces on the roster.
In an attempt to solve "The YES! Dilemma" and salvage Bryan's heel credibility, the "YES!" chants were edited out of Smackdown broadcasts, and Bryan has repeatedly demanded the chants stop, turning them more into a form of mockery than support.
But no matter how hard they try, Bryan's popularity, in-ring talent, and underdog stature will make a successful heel run difficult.
Solution? Forget about "heels" and "faces". Focus on Daniel Bryan.
Now that his feud with CM Punk has come to an end, and his long-time girlfriend AJ has taken on a bigger role in the show, Bryan is free to head in a new direction.
Free from the constructs of a main-event feud, where heels and faces must be clearly established, Bryan's character can be explored and experimented with.
Instead of trying to force him into a role that might not fit him, why not try to develop a persona that fits him and his unusual relationship with the fans?
If Daniel Bryan is losing his mind, roles like "heel" or "face" no longer apply to him. Becoming a nutjob will give Bryan the chance to be funny, menacing, driven, entertaining, and impressive in the ring, without forcing him to tailor his act to fit a certain mold.
In one instance, Bryan could lead a YES! chant to the ring. In another, he could savagely attack the fans for joining in.
A role like this would not only give Bryan the freedom to showcase his strengths without pulling them back, but would give Creative the freedom to use him however they see fit on any given night.
There is a giant, fundamental difference between wrestling ability, and being perceived as a credible threat. This is the reason why not once did I truly believe that Daniel Bryan ever had a chance to defeat CM Punk in their recent feud.
In a vacuum, Bryan has the in-ring tools to beat any guy in the business in a wrestling match. I can believe that, because he is a talented guy.
What I cannot believe, is that a guy who has failed to win a clean match against a worthy opponent in quite some time, could ever possibly defeat a guy who has been WWE Champion for nine months and counting.
Daniel Bryan needs to take a break from the title hunt and focus on rebuilding his credibility as a threatening challenger.
With CM Punk, John Cena, The Big Show, and possibly The Rock in the WWE title hunt, and Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, and a returning Randy Orton vying for the Heavyweight Belt, space is limited for Bryan at the moment. And to be fair, Bryan was just given a premiere feud with the reigning champ.
Instead of trying to recapture gold, Bryan's current direction could give him some much needed time away from the title picture to re-establish himself as a dominant in-ring performer. In doing so, he could also go a long way to re-legitimizing the paltry, almost nonexistent mid-card.
One of the problems with the WWE at the moment, is that most major feuds are centered around the championship belts, with those feuds being based solely on those belts, as opposed to well-crafted rivalries or heated personal feuds.
While Daniel Bryan is chasing Punk's belt, all we are learning about his character is that he wants to be champion. Not exactly enthralling character development.
Were Bryan to be inserted into the mid-card while his "mental episode" occurs, he could simultaneously develop his character, while adding some punch to the lower ranks of the roster. A guy with a paranoid, bizarre pattern of behavior would need no logical reason to enter into a feud with anyone who needs something to do.
It remains to be seen if this is the plan that the WWE has in store for Bryan, but the basic fact that he will not be in the title hunt for at least a while is a good thing. There is plenty of time for that in the future.