Daniel Bryan might be the poster boy for succeeding on his terms.
He was an underground hero to wrestling fans, who followed his career around the world, until he finally got signed by WWE in 2009.
Unlike most wrestlers, bands or performers who eventually leave the underground for the corporate mainstream route, it seems Bryan hasn't lost anything.
He hasn't lost his down to earth personality. He hasn't lost those loyal faithful, who love to cheer him on in Ring of Honor, Japan or at a small promotion in a high school gym. He hasn't lost a step of talent.
In fact, Daniel Bryan seems to only be gaining fans, experience and the respect of everyone who once thought he wasn't cut out for WWE.
I spoke to Bryan in an exclusive interview on TribLIVE Radio.
He recalls how he got hired the first time by WWE.
My contract with Ring of Honor expired in May of 2009. I thought here's a chance, I'm going to try and pursue WWE and see what comes of it. If nothing comes of it, then that's OK. So Brian Kendrick was looking for 'The' tag team partner at the time cause he was 'The' Brian Kendrick and he wanted it to be me. So he said fly yourself to, I wanna say Oakland or something like that. Everybody knows you can wrestle, they just wanna see if you can do promos and if you can actually talk. Cause that's been the knock on me for years.
Bryan felt the audition went well. It wasn't long after that, Kendrick was released by WWE.
Like three weeks after he got let go, John Laurinaitis called me up and offered me a contract. How it happened, why it happened, I have no idea.
Bryan would then sit at home for three months until he eventually ended up on WWE's debut season of NXT.
This led to the debut of Nexus with all the rookies of NXT invading Raw in a gang-like beatdown. Bryan was putting on his best performance and started choking ring announcer Justin Roberts with a neck tie. Because of WWE's content standards, he was fired.
The departure only lasted about two months.
Bryan recalls Pat Patterson being the one who he thinks spoke up to WWE management about bringing him back because fans kept chanting his name.
Fast forward two years later, Bryan's character has evolved to being one of the top entertainers each week.
In addition to the crowd reactions, Bryan is “pleased” with how 2012 has treated him and the amount of world title matches he received. He pointed out to me SummerSlam was the first pay-per-view in 2012 that he didn't have a world title match.
Just as Bryan kept working hard and repeating the work ethic every week for 10-plus years on the independent scene before getting signed by WWE, ironically, he thinks repetition is the simple key to success to his connection with the audience.
I think it's just repetition. For example, Ryback comes out and people chant, 'Feed me more.' Does anybody know what he's talking about? Other than he eats a vast amounts of food, and I do know that Ryback eats a lot of food. But other than that, people don't know what they're doing. They just hear it and it's so much its fun to do. It's fun to throw your arms in the air, swing them down and stuff like that. I think it's the same thing with all this kind of stuff, it's fun. It's fun to chant hug it out at two dudes, you know what I mean? It's just a fun atmosphere.
Now that Bryan is “the tag team champions” as he puts it. I pointed out to Bryan that the same hardcore fans who have stood behind him for years are typically the same ones who want the return of a quality tag team division in WWE.
I don't know why, cause tag team wrestling is so fun and different from everything else. There is so many things you can do. Throughout the last five years, they only put emphasis on it, on and off. It seems like it's only when they have a team when it's two guys they perceive as stars. Like Miz and Big Show or Chris Jericho and Big Show. DX as tag team champions. As soon as it went to Tyson Kidd and DH Smith, you didn't see the titles on TV anymore.”
Three years ago, WWE brought in the underground sensation, who everyone knew could wrestle, but had concerns with his charisma on the microphone. Now, Daniel Bryan can be viewed as one of the most entertaining performers/actors, who by the way, can wrestle with anyone.
No matter what you like to chant at Daniel Bryan, it seems he's earned a top spot and you'll be chanting at him for a long time to come at WWE events.