Daniel Bryan Proved His Main Event Status with Epic Raw Performance
Set to face John Cena at SummerSlam for the WWE Championship, the same questions of lack of size and strength surround Bryan, but he has continued to make his supporters look smarter and smarter as he piles up impressive performances.
On Monday, Brad Maddox questioned whether or not Bryan deserved to face Cena.
Of course this was part of the script, but WWE's plots often have an air of truth to them. If anyone in charge was not sold on Bryan's ability to captivate in a main event capacity, he provided a trio of proof that closes the case.
In a gauntlet match against Ryback, Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro, Bryan delivered the kind of passionate and enthralling performance that has been a hallmark of his career.
It wasn't winning those matches that proved he belong atop the WWE, but his performance in each of them. He faced three different three types of wrestlers in three different types of matches and came away with three successes.
Jim Ross wrote on his blog that Bryan was the star of the night and that "Bryan's skill set, his visible, all important, '2nd gear' IE the ability to change pace and elevate the in ring process would have worked on the main event level in any era that I've worked in and that has been since 1974."
Former Diva Victoria echoed many people's thoughts.
What a great main event on @WWE Raw tonight. Daniel Bryan (American Dragon) stole the show.— Lisa Marie Varon (@REALLiSAMARiE) July 23, 2013
Lance Storm had high praise for Bryan as well.
It's not as if Bryan hasn't had great matches before, but seeing him do it three times in a row made it obvious and undeniable. He told three separate stories with the overall arc of looking to prove himself worthy of the title shot.
In a short match against Jack Swagger, he flew around the ring and, upon trying to dive out on his foe, caught an elbow to the head. Bryan played the victim for much of this, surviving forearms and Swagger bombs.
After a moment of hesitation to shout "We the people!" Swagger found himself caught in Bryan's most dangerous weapon, the Yes! Lock.
Bryan followed that portion of the gauntlet match with one of the best matches of the year.
His battle with Cesaro was a blend of grappling and brawling that had the Austin fans chanting "This is awesome!" The warriors traded uppercuts. Cesaro hit a clothesline that flipped Bryan over, but it wasn't enough for the three-count.
Both Cesaro and Bryan came off as two titans locked in an epic battle.
Bryan managed to counter Cesaro's trademark mid-air uppercut and wrapped him up the Swiss Superstar for the win.
His third opponent was a man he's already had entertaining battles against in Ryback.
This time around, the stakes were higher. Previously, Bryan was the plucky opponent who proved difficult to defeat. He now entered their bout teeming with momentum.
Bryan relied on his kicks to keep Ryback at bay. Drained and weakened, Bryan still looked like the favorite as he slipped out of Ryback's grasp and countered his moves.
He cranked back Ryback's neck in the Yes! Lock, Bryan evoking images of a pitbull clamping down his jaws on his prey.
The bell rang when Ryback powerbombed him through a table.
This was a smart move by WWE to keep Ryback looking strong while giving Bryan three consecutive wins. The journey to those victories, and the fun and energy he showed along the way, made it more than clear that Bryan will thrive in his match against Cena and should he win the title as WWE champ as well.
Bryan showed endurance, toughness and versatility on Monday. He added to his every-growing resume of great matches.
In being the brightest star on WWE's premier show, Bryan showed us once again why he belongs in the heart of the spotlight.
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