There is much displeasure across the Internet Wrestling Community this morning upon yet another Monday arriving without Daniel Bryan as the WWE champion. Last night at Hell in a Cell, Bryan was defeated by new champion Randy Orton after receiving sweet chin music from the special guest referee Shawn Michaels.
Yet again, the WWE Universe and the Internet Wrestling Community's favorite underdog didn't win the big one. He was once again screwed out of the top prize in the wrestling industry. Triple H was once again standing tall at the end of the show, despite also gripping his jaw after receiving a running knee from the fighting goat himself.
The fact that John Cena returned last night to defeat Alberto Del Rio and win the World Heavyweight Championship in his first match back from injury only served to rub salt in the wound that was Bryan's defeat. Fear and paranoia spreads quickly across the IWC that the Bryan Era has vanished before ever truly beginning as we return to the bright, shiny, toothy grinning days of a Cena-centric WWE.
I'm here to reassure you, fellow IWCers: This is all part of the plan.
The WWE calendar, nay, the professional wrestling calendar runs on a WrestleMania to WrestleMania schedule. In the eyes of the WWE, what happens at WrestleMania (and to a lesser extent SummerSlam) is what really matters in the history of the company. The results of matches that take place on second tier shows matter to an extent, but in the WWE's eyes, it's all about creating WrestleMania moments.
Next year, Daniel Bryan is going to have a career-defining WrestleMania moment, and all of the bellyaching and Monday morning booking the day after controversial decisions will be forgotten.
There are a few paths WWE could take in creating this career-defining moment that turns Bryan into a "made man" in the eyes of the WWE Universe and a bona fide draw among casual fans.
First is the classic path to a WrestleMania main event. After months of fighting The Authority embodied by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, Bryan is told he will never receive another WWE championship shot. With his back against the wall, the ultimate underdog fights back, overcomes all of the odds and wins the Royal Rumble.
At this point, Bryan battles the WWE champion at WrestleMania. This could be one of numerous opponents. I don't believe Orton vs. Bryan is a viable title match at Mania. Assuming Brock Lesnar is facing The Undertaker and The Rock will not be part of the show, I could see Bryan facing Cena, Punk or even a megalomaniac, power hungry champion Triple H in this match. It could be a combination of opponents forcing a triple threat bout. In the end, though, Bryan wins the belt and confetti rains from the sky.
Second is an Austin-McMahon style throw down in a non-title match against Triple H. In this arrangement, we may put off the Bryan title victory until the summer or even SummerSlam one year after he originally won the strap. Instead, we get the classic in-ring encounter that Austin and McMahon couldn't have due to Vince's age and lack of experience as a wrestler.
In this scenario, Bryan may finally win the belt, perhaps at the Rumble and have it once again snatched from his grasp by Triple H. A Bryan-Triple H match was floated during the contract signing on Raw last week when Bryan challenged his boss to a match and The Authority scoffed at the notion. The seed has definitely been planted.
Without the title in play, we could see a brutal, personal and even bloody brawl that elevates Bryan beyond his technical grappler reputation. Few active members of the roster can claim an in-ring victory over Triple H, and no, Curtis Axel's count-out decision doesn't qualify.
By pinning Triple H or even making the future Hall of Famer tap out at WrestleMania would put Bryan on par with Cena and maybe even above Punk. It would clearly delineate an upper echelon of the active WWE roster that could at any time be considered a valid contender for the top belt.
Most importantly, if Triple H were to personally put over Bryan, you know that he wouldn't allow Bryan to ever fall too far from the main event.
Rather than fretting over Bryan's loss at Hell in a Cell, recognize that he remains the central protagonist in the company's most important storyline. He's involved with all-time greats like Triple H and Shawn Michaels and battling one of the company's most recognizable, marketable and bankable stars in Randy Orton.
The last five months have been incredibly successful for Bryan as he rises up the WWE's ranks and it will culminate in a classic WrestleMania moment that will make Bryan one of the top stars of his generation.