Examining Daniel Bryan's Direction, Upside and Long-Term Potential
Having made it to WWE's mountaintop, Daniel Bryan has everything it takes to make it his permanent home.
Much has been written about his journey from the independent circuit to the main event scene of WWE, but what of his journey going forward? Being the best mat wrestler on the planet doesn't guarantee long-term success alone, but Bryan has other skills to keep him right next to Randy Orton, John Cena and CM Punk on the WWE pecking order.
His current storyline has WWE playing up his underdog status and puts him in chase mode for the WWE Championship.
He must defeat not only Orton to get that goal, but make it through The Shield's brutality and Triple H's tyranny. As a smaller, hard-working dynamo, he's easy to get behind and root for as he battles through these obstacles.
His legacy will be determined by how well he can maintain the audience's interest once the chase is over. Even if Bryan never brings in the kind of money that Cena and to a lesser extent Punk does for the company, there will still be a lofty spot for him with WWE.
Hall of Famers have praise by the handful to toss at Bryan.
Jim Ross wrote of "The Flying Goat" on his website, "No one in the biz is better at this time, bell to bell, than Daniel Bryan plus his promo work has greatly improved over his tenure in WWE."
There is no hesitation from Ross here. He doesn't describe Bryan as "one of the best" or that he has the potential to be the best, he crowns Bryan as today's top in-ring performer.
Mick Foley's comments about Bryan go beyond just his wrestling ability. He posted on his Facebook page, "Daniel Bryan has brought out a joy in WWE fans helps make the current show as enjoyable as anything I can remember in the last several years."
That sounds awfully similar to what Kane had to say about him.
Bryan's former tag team partner said the following in an interview on AL.com.
Daniel Bryan might be the most talented guy on the roster right now. I think he’s the best technical wrestler we have, and he’s also one of those guys who’s been able to forge a connection with our fans. And people who are able to do that are very successful.
There is a feeling that Bryan is not simply a fabulous technical wrestler, but a performer who can draw the crowd in. That's a rare combination that will be the wings to Bryan's flight to his full potential.
Bryan vs. Broom
Shawn Michaels was so great at putting on excellent matches that he made The Great Khali look far better than anyone ever had or has since.
That's what Bryan can do for WWE. The cliche of being good enough to put on a great match with a broom applies to him.
It doesn't matter if he's facing a powerhouse like Ryback or a striker like CM Punk, Bryan churns out classic bouts.
That ability made Michaels a legend even if there were critics claiming that he couldn't draw as a top guy.
Being able to make a masterwork regardless of opponent is going to put Bryan in marquee bouts again and again.
Sheamus,for example, has had some of the best matches of his career in the ring with Bryan including their 2-out of-3 Falls match at Extreme Rules 2012.
Bryan's brilliance as in-ring strategist is on display here, giving the match a realistic feel. He delivers kicks and submission holds like no one else, but Bryan is also great at maximizing drama through his facial expressions and body language.
Should he wrestle for WWE for another six to eight years or more, expect his greatest hits collection to begin to overflow.
Bryan combines the aggressiveness of William Regal, the tenacity and crisp execution of Chris Benoit and the showmanship that helped make Michaels famous. That kind of versatility and ring prowess would likely make him successful alone, but as Foley and Kane pointed out, the bearded one offers more for the crowd than that.
The Personable Goat
When Bryan debuted for WWE, he looked to be the kind of wrestler die-hard fans would salivate over and casual fans ignore. He had an impressive repertoire of wrestling moves and not nearly enough flash to stand out in the world of pyrotechnics, luchador masks, sequins and catchphrases.
He has since shown us that he has personality and a sense of humor that keeps fans' attention after the bell rings.
His run with Kane as Team Hell No delved into goofy territory, but was one of the more entertaining elements of WWE programming during that time.
Combining this kind of presence and comic timing shoots Bryan above the territory that Lance Storm and Shelton Benjamin occupied, excellent wrestlers who couldn't make it past flashier acts.
Anyone worried that he'd be typecast as comic relief going forward could rest easy once his feud with Cena got rolling. Some of his best promo work came against the man he defeated for his first WWE Championship.
Bryan isn't as commanding on the mic as the elite talkers in WWE history, but he's likeable, funny and at times, moving.
He infuses his real-life background into his performance here as he portrays a persona that is seemingly an amplified version of himself. That way he is most comfortable and most able to create a bridge from Superstar to fan.
He hangs with Cena here, but isn't as big of a presence as him.
That's part of the reason WWE is going to give Cena the top spot again and again. Bryan, though, is plenty compelling enough to stir up the fans, to tell great stories and have the company consider him for championship spots on a regular basis.
Bryan will win the WWE Championship and hold onto it for more than the 22 hours he did the last time around. He's just too popular and too talented not to get a substantial run at the top.
It appears that's the direction is taking him at the moment, delaying the payoff to maximize its effect.
Of his in-ring influences, he has the potential to have a career most like Michaels'. Bryan has more charisma than Benoit had and is a better high-flyer and showman than Regal.
Bryan gets compared a lot to Steve Austin as he's facing a similar threat from an authority figure that Stone Cold once did.
Austin, though, was the rare megastar who could impact the company's financial numbers like few others. Bryan is destined to be more like Michaels in that he's beloved and respected, but has to let bigger stars draw while he adds to WWE's collection of classics.
Expect a number of match of the year awards to sit on Bryan's mantle. A Royal Rumble win, a headlining spot at a WrestleMania and the Hall of Fame are all achievable goals for him as well.
He will be an all-time great, but how long he decides to wrestle and how he is able to maintain his current momentum will determine how high he climbs the list of WWE's legends.
He'll battle Punk for position on it, trying to nudge his way into the Top 25 Superstars in WWE history.
With all the ring skills one could ask for, improving presence on the microphone and the kind of heart and passion that has fans adore a star, Bryan is armed for a journey into the pantheon of icons.
Be sure to check out previous installments in this ongoing series:
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