Daniel Bryan is headed to the biggest match of his WWE career when he faces John Cena at SummerSlam on August 18. Bryan's pursuit of credibility has led him to this match, and when he laces up the boots at WWE's biggest event of the summer, the WWE title will not be the only prize hanging in the balance.
Daniel Bryan is also working to earn legitimacy in Vince McMahon's company. And I believe he must defeat John Cena in order to attain it.
It's at this point in the piece when Bryan's supporters begin hurling expletive laden insults my way, mostly due to their belief that I am attacking their favorite Superstar. It's understandable, I would imagine that Daniel's fans have felt the need to defend him quite a bit recently.
After all, he will be working John Cena soon; it comes with the territory.
This is not because John is hard to deal with. I happen to believe that he's probably what many WWE Superstars claim he is: a good guy who is all business and wants the company to do well. In fact, I think that Cena is likely pretty happy with his SummerSlam opponent. Daniel Bryan is the hottest star in WWE right now. Why wouldn't John want to face him and be in that energy filled environment?
The reason that Daniel's supporters are possibly feeling the heat right now stems from the notion that Bryan must defeat John in order be considered a "made man" in WWE. They believe that Bryan's ability in the ring and everything he has accomplished in the company should be more than enough to earn him that distinction.
But sadly, it's not. I know, I'm not happy about it either.
I like Daniel Bryan; I always have. I believe that he has done more with less than any other WWE Superstar we have seen in a very long time. He has risen higher than anyone likely thought he could have, and this is mostly due to the fact that when he came in, he was not exactly given a golden ticket to the top.
He was not introduced as part of a three-man army that dressed in riot gear and fought for "justice." He did not begin squashing opponents left and right, mauling everyone in his path until taking on the WWE champion himself. And he was not paired with a future Hall of Fame manager who acted as his mouthpiece and helped propel him to the next level.
Bryan Danielson was basically told "Hey, you're now Daniel Bryan; good luck."
Everything that Daniel has, he fought to get. He managed to get over when his circumstances said it was impossible. He turned one word into a catchphrase that fans just can't get enough of. He brought a new focus to pro wrestling in WWE. He is quite simply, one of the best that WWE has to offer.
But until he beats John Cena? He's just another Superstar.
Does Daniel Bryan need to beat John Cena at SummerSlam to legitimize himself as a top star in WWE?
It's at this point in the piece when John's haters attack me and wish very bad things on my house. I honestly can't say I blame them, however. The truth is that there are far too many columns hailing Cena for his top dog status and thus reminding everyone of the love affair that WWE has with its current main champion. And the truth is that we just don't need to hear it anymore. So, I won't bother making that point right now.
Actually, I sort of just did. Oh well.
The fact is that unless Daniel Bryan defeats John Cena at SummerSlam, we will not know just how good he can be. He has proven he can captivate the crowd and hold it in the palm of his hand. He has proven he can more than get it done in the ring.
But until Daniel Bryan can sell some tickets, until he can bring ratings, then his place in WWE's main event scene is not guaranteed. It's just that simple.
Of course, his booking has everything to do with that. For the majority of WWE fans to believe in him and support him as a top-level Superstar, he needs to not only continue his winning ways and overcome every challenge placed before him, but he also must beat the best they have to offer.
He must defeat John Cena. Perception is everything in the world of WWE. Despite how good Daniel is in the ring and how all around entertaining he is, if he does not pin Cena's shoulders for the three count, then he will not be seen in the same light as John.
Don't misunderstand me here—the truth is that Daniel doesn't have to replace John. He doesn't need to become Vince McMahon's favorite Superstar. It's not necessary for him to be the face of the company and lead it into the future. This is not about casting Cena aside as if his time is over; we all know that is just not reality.
However, Bryan needs to beat Cena if he's to be thought of as a top-tier Superstar. One loss will not destroy John's career, and one victory will not make Daniel the new poster boy for WWE.
But I believe that Daniel Bryan has come too far and worked too hard to not win this match. He has done everything asked of him, and he is hotter than he ever has been before.
And I believe this is his time to shine.