One year ago, Daniel Bryan proved so many people wrong when he won his first World Heavyweight Championship in WWE.
Today, he’s a WWE Tag Team Champion and one of the most popular stars in all of professional wrestling.
Who woulda thunk it?
Although Bryan always had a reputation as a phenomenal wrestler, no one seemed to be sure that he would reach the top of WWE, even if his talent level indicated that he should.
But almost one year ago to the day, Bryan cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WWE TLC 2011, defeated The Big Show and became the World Heavyweight Champion.
It’s been nothing short of a magical ride since then.
Over the last year, Bryan has evolved into one of the WWE’s best performers, thriving as both a top heel and a top babyface. He excelled as the jerk of a boyfriend earlier in the year and has had arguably even more success as a comedic babyface.
Bryan has shown some tremendous range as a performer and has been absolutely in the zone during his run with Kane as Team Hell No.
If nothing else, Bryan’s partnership with Kane has allowed him to show everyone that he’s more than just a great wrestler. He can truly do it all.
His future is bright—very bright.
Bryan and Kane won the WWE Tag Team Championship at Night of Champions back in September and have had a very memorable run as champions. Their partnership has allowed Bryan to shine and made Kane more entertaining than he’s been in years.
But the next step for the duo is to part ways once and for all.
While Team Hell No’s run has been pretty incredible, the duo can’t stay together forever, and in fact, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see it end at some point within the next few months.
Yes, Kane and Bryan have been great with each other. But Bryan has become such a big star during their partnership that it seems inevitable that he will take the step to the next level sooner rather than later.
In order to do that, though, he and Kane will unfortunately have to part ways.
This doesn’t mean that Kane and Bryan need to feud, however. They’ve gotten so over as babyfaces that there’s no need to turn either guy heel—they can just go their separate ways in the near future.
It seems likely that Team Hell No will drop the WWE Tag Team Championship (probably to Team Rhodes Scholars) sometime soon and that WWE will then find a way to make Kane and Bryan a big part of the build to WrestleMania 29 but as singles competitors.
While keeping the tag team titles on Kane and Bryan would also keep the tag team division more relevant, Bryan has evolved into such a star that he figures to play a huge role in the WWE’s biggest pay-per-view of the year.
That huge role might very well be some sort of major singles match, as there’s certainly no shortage of suitors for Bryan to face at the PPV.
Guys like Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler seem like prime candidates to go one-on-one with the WWE’s resident goatface at the spectacle known as WrestleMania.
How does Bryan get there? Perhaps by winning The Royal Rumble.
As usual, there seems to be a rather short list of potential 2013 Royal Rumble winners, and Bryan is one of only a handful of WWE superstars who are on it.
He’s gotten so over this year that it’s certainly not out of the question to see his magical run reach its climax with a Royal Rumble win that would undoubtedly get a great reaction from the fans.
While this is far from a guarantee, Bryan looks poised to potentially win the Royal Rumble, but even if he doesn’t, he’s going to be involved in the World title picture again sooner rather than later.
Once Team Hell No drops the WWE Tag Team Championship, Bryan is going to move back into the main event picture as a singles star.
There are no ifs here. It’s only a matter of when.
After Team Hell No splits up, Bryan will move up, and there’s no telling just how far he can go.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!