Daniel Bryan is currently the hottest Superstar in WWE. He consistently gets the biggest pop of the night during his matches, and the aggressiveness he has shown in recent weeks has put him on a whole new level in the eyes of the fans. There is no doubt about it: Daniel Bryan is red hot.
But he does not need the WWE Championship.
This could perhaps be the point when Bryan’s supporters could call foul on my statement. After all, Bryan is a man who has paid his dues in the business and has truly come from the bottom up in Vince McMahon’s company.
And when you have a guy with credibility in that position that catches fire like Bryan has, then you reward that effort with a prime spot in the company. Why would that spot not include WWE’s top prize?
Because the WWE Championship belongs to John Cena. Pure and simple.
This could perhaps be the point when Cena’s supporters could call an even bigger foul on this particular statement. After all, Cena is considered by many to be the most controversial figure in pro wrestling, a lightning rod for debate and hate the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time.
And the notion that the title is Cena’s exclusively could be seen as a direct criticism of, indeed even a jab at, the current WWE champion. That would make me just another hater, right?
Not at all. But the fact remains that the WWE title belongs to Cena. That’s just the way it is.
There is no denying how far Bryan has come in WWE, and there is obviously no denying how red-hot he is right now. However, that does not necessarily mean that he should be crowned champion at this point.
Again, he just doesn’t need it.
At one time, the best worker who was most over with the crowd was the one who carried the championship. It was good for business in any pro wrestling promotion when your most popular star, your best worker, was the same one who was wearing the gold. Fans want to see their favorite, and that favorite traditionally was the one who could draw the most money.
That does seem to make the most sense, and it was the accepted way of doing things for many years in the industry. It worked nearly every time.
Though Ric Flair was the NWA’s biggest heel, the truth was he was also the biggest star in Jim Crockett Promotions. Fans loved him and loved to hate him—they just could not get enough of him. He had to be the World Heavyweight champion—it was the right thing to do for that company.
Hulk Hogan’s ring skill may have always been under the microscope, but he was the absolute top draw in the WWF. His charisma and his force of personality, combined with the work that the rest of the talent did to help put him over, made Hogan the No. 1 must-see Superstar in McMahon’s company.
Again, it only made sense for him to have the championship on a regular basis.
But everything changed with the Monday Night Wars and the birth of the Attitude Era. Suddenly, WWE was filled with very marketable, very legitimate talents from top to bottom. At any given time, any of these men could step up and reign as WWE champion.
Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Triple H, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, The Rock and, of course, Stone Cold Steve Austin each took a turn at carrying the gold as WWE was battling back the threat of WCW.
But when these men were not champion, they remained very successful Superstars who could have the match of the night with anyone in the locker room.
The old standard had not only been challenged by WWE but had definitely been changed. They did what was best for business during that time, and that meant that none of the aforementioned Superstars necessarily had to hold the belt for a very substantial amount of time. Each man stepped up, got his shot and took full advantage of it.
So considering all of that, why not give Daniel Bryan a WWE Championship run?
Here’s the thing. This is not the Attitude Era. Stone Cold, Triple H, Undertaker, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels are not all waiting in the wings, biding their time until they get a run with the WWE Title. The Rock had his time and now he’s gone again. Now, it’s all back to John Cena.
CM Punk’s 434-day title reign cannot be discounted, and there is no denying the impact that he had when he had the belt. He was arguably the best talent in WWE, and he has a very loyal fan following that continues to want to see him perform, regardless of what role he is given.
But right now it’s unclear what he will do when he comes back to the company. Will he target Cena again at some point? Or does Vince have something else in mind for him?
Ryback is the man up to bat next at the upcoming Payback pay-per-view. He has risen very fast in WWE and is in a great spot to make some serious waves on the main-event scene. But is he truly ready to become the champ?
Randy Orton is a proven talent, a guy who has been on the mountaintop before. But is his past preventing him from getting another shot at the WWE Championship? How long will he remain a very strong upper-card talent until he is given a new run?
For me, WWE has to go with the proven moneymaker and that man is John Cena. No matter who is on the card or what the rivalry may be, the fact is that Cena is still bringing in the crowds and he is still bringing in the dollars.
Putting the belt on Bryan right now, just as he is reaching the point of becoming perhaps a megastar in WWE, would be a mistake. I believe he should continue on the path that he is currently on, wowing crowds in one town after another with his skill and intensity.
Bryan needs to keep stealing the show every time he’s on Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown; no one is killing it like he is right now. He is over and does not need an ounce of gold to put him over.
And if WWE just allows him to keep doing what he’s doing on such a high level, eventually the moment will come when they may very well have to put the belt on him. The crowd will demand it, and the company will not be able to ignore it. Then perhaps we will see just what Bryan is capable of.
But for me, it’s too soon to be thinking about the WWE Championship for Daniel Bryan. He is just fine where he is, and that belt belongs to John Cena until the time when he can no longer get it done or until someone better comes along who can sell the tickets and pack a house.
Is Daniel Bryan that man? Only time will tell.