Daniel Bryan turned his back on Bray Wyatt on the January 13 edition of Monday Night Raw. The moment came during the main event, in which WWE's goat-faced underdog and Bray Wyatt lost a steel cage match to The Usos.
The response from the Rhode Island crowd was absolutely deafening. The support for Daniel Bryan instantly returned the moment he slid out of Bray's Sister Abigail finisher. And it continued as Daniel hit a flurry of moves, then led a "yes" chant as the program went off the air. While the spot did not last that long, the truth is that its impact on the live crowd was undeniable.
Daniel had them in the palm of his hand and for me, the man that sat on top of that cage was not the underdog anymore. He was the future WWE World Champion.
But the fact is that we have been down this road before.
Bryan's run against Randy Orton and The Authority which began the night after SummerSlam 2013 and lasted for several months is well documented. Fans saw the rise of the man that had been so extremely entertaining next to Kane in Team Hell No, the man that many of the WWE faithful believed deserved a shot at the top.
And he was finally getting it.
Suddenly, Kane's neurotic sidekick was being viewed as something much more. He was still funny and he was still entertaining, but now he was rising above his level and for the first time WWE fans saw a man that could potentially win it all. Daniel Bryan was on his way.
Bryan has that appeal, that every-man quality that generates fan interest all across the board. He is so likable and so relatable as a character; when fans see him, they see just an ordinary guy doing what he loves. Daniel Bryan could be a truck driver, an English teacher or a mechanic. To the fans, he looks like one of them, and when he speaks, it's not in the voice of a larger-than-life character.
Daniel was just a hardworking old-school pro wrestler playing the part of a WWE Superstar. He was just going along with the program.
And that hard work showed as he and Randy had some very good matches for the WWE championship. Bryan's smaller stature had no bearing on his bouts with Orton as he more than measured up in terms of intensity and overall skill.
The fact is that when Daniel Bryan gets going in the ring and hits that next gear, it's best to just get out of his way.
Bryan brings one of the most explosive move sets that the company has ever seen. His hard-hitting, high-octane style is controlled chaos, and when he hits the zone, he is fearless. He's one part Jeff Hardy and one part Sabu, and when he starts running, it's hard to keep up with him.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon's involvement in the Bryan/Orton angle seemed to be another good sign that this was going to end well for Daniel. Why would the WWE go to the length of sending so much opposition Bryan's way if the plan was not for him to go over in the end?
But of course, that's not what happened. Bryan was left with the short end of the stick.
Betrayed by Shawn Michaels and emotionally wrecked by The Authority, Daniel Bryan appeared to be heading back down the ladder in WWE. His time as WWE title contender was over, and now he would return to being just the same midcard performer that he had been before.
However, many fans were not too happy about that. The truth is that they had grown very accustomed to seeing Daniel in the main event and had welcomed him with open arms. In a company that had featured John Cena, CM Punk and Randy Orton for so long, it was good to see someone else get the nod.
And I have to say that I for one was left very puzzled as to what exactly Daniel's run had really accomplished.
He had looked very strong during the rivalry with Orton, yet did not win in the end. In contrast, Randy Orton did not look like the dominant apex predator that fans had seen in the past. He was basically owned by Daniel every time they touched. Orton did not have an answer for Daniel, yet The Viper still emerged victorious.
Was the angle all done to perhaps just get The Authority over? Was it all to show the power that Hunter and Stephanie have in WWE and how far they will go to get what they want? And if so, why do that at the expense of a man who had no main event reputation to destroy in the first place?
But all of those questions are perhaps just now being answered. I believe that what we saw on the January 13 Raw was just the first step to reintroducing Daniel Bryan into WWE's main event scene. I think that all of the work that was done to lift him up against Orton only to then bring him back down was done for this very moment.
WWE used that initial program to test the waters with Bryan, to see just how well the fans would react to him. They wanted to see if the crowd would accept Daniel as WWE champion and then what would happen when it was stolen from him.
And when Bryan was placed with Bray Wyatt, WWE waited to gauge fan reaction. What they got was not very surprising at all.
Fans did not want Bryan with The Wyatt Family. The notion of Daniel returning to his heel roots and joining the charismatic Bray sounded perfect on paper, and many fans believed it would help revitalize Daniel's career. And when he finally did break free from Bray's control, he would be in a better position to ascend the championship ladder once again.
But that did not happen. It was not meant to happen. The fans let their voices be heard and the majority of those voices demanded that Daniel Bryan get back on the right path.
Should Daniel Bryan be WWE world champion?
This is what we saw as Daniel stood in the ring on Raw and slowly began lifting his arms to lead the loudest, most spine-chilling yes chants that have likely ever occurred at a WWE event. For Daniel, this was arguably the most important night of his WWE career, perhaps even his entire pro wrestling career.
And for the fans that stood with him and cheered him on, there is no denying what the end result of all this should be. Daniel Bryan should be the WWE World Heavyweight champion.
Some will point to the ratings and say that Bryan cannot draw the numbers that John Cena does. Some will say that WWE is better served keeping the belt on Orton, putting it back on Cena or perhaps giving it to Batista at WrestleMania 30. For those that doubt Daniel is the right man for the championship, there is more than one option.
But I believe that the time is right. I think that the best talent deserves to be rewarded. And what that means for Daniel is that if he is physically able, he should win the Royal Rumble and go on to defeat Randy Orton at WrestleMania. Will he replace John Cena as the face of WWE? No. Will he lead the next generation of rising stars in the company? No, maybe not.
But Daniel Bryan is the hottest star in WWE. The unified title belts belong on his shoulders. It's time for WWE to deliver Daniel Bryan as the top titleholder.
And this time they should not take it away.