After months of pursuing professional wrestling's biggest prize, Daniel Bryan finally got the moment he so richly deserves, capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on Sunday night at WrestleMania XXX.
The WWE's official Twitter feed has the news:
Multiple stars from the company offered up their praise for the new champ:
YES! Finally! What a night for Daniel Bryan! Congratulations! #WRESTLEMANIA— Kofi Kingston (@TrueKofi) April 7, 2014
The WrestleMania Twitter account provided an image of the new champ with his belt:
Bryan had a simple message for the fans:
I only have two words: THANK YOU— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) April 7, 2014
When Bryan triumphed within the confines of the jam-packed Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, the crowd became unglued and broke out into a raucous "Yes!" chant in support of their hero.
Bryan's title win in the main event will likely go down as one of the biggest feel-good moments in WrestleMania history, and the road that he took in order to get to this point made the victory even sweeter.
In order to win the strap at WrestleMania, Bryan had to go through three of the most successful competitors in WWE history in the form of Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista. He was also forced to work double duty by competing in a singles match against Triple H earlier in the night before being inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.
There was a palpable feeling at WrestleMania that the fans desperately wanted Bryan to come out on top. It was pretty well established that would be the case during the build toward 'Mania, but Bryan didn't put any extra pressure on himself, according to Bryan Fritz of the Orlando Sentinel:
At some point you just have to succumb to the idea that you don't have control over a lot of things. All you can do it go out there and do your best and enjoy it and that's what I try to do. That's what I'm going to do at WrestleMania, just go out there, do my best and try to enjoy it, try to enjoy being out there in front of 70,000 people because that's not an experience that most people get to feel very often.
Bryan first ascended to one of the top spots in the company leading up to SummerSlam as he entered a respect-laden feud with John Cena. Unfortunately for Bryan, though, it didn't lead to a long title reign.
He twice won the WWE Championship during the summer, albeit briefly. Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Bryan at SummerSlam with a helping hand from Triple H, and Bryan was forced to vacate the title after beating Orton at Night of Champions.
Bryan's large contingent of fans has been very vocal ever since, and while it can be argued that the creative team hasn't booked him particularly well, essentially all of that is forgotten now that Bryan has become WWE World Heavyweight Champion for the very first time.
WWE fans have basically been begging for Bryan to be given the ball, and now that he has it, there is little doubt that he'll run with it and find paydirt.
If there was any doubt regarding Bryan's popularity leading up to WrestleMania season, it was erased at the Royal Rumble. Bryan was not an entrant in the Rumble match, which caused the fans to react in an extremely negative manner. That reaction got even worse when Batista ultimately won the match.
Not only did that necessitate a much-needed Batista heel turn, but it also helped reboot Bryan's feud with Triple H and The Authority.
While that storyline struggled a bit to regain the heat it had during the summer, that changed a few weeks ago on Raw. Triple H feigned respect for Bryan before having him handcuffed. That resulted in a brutal beating that led to Bryan being taken away in an ambulance, as seen in this photo, courtesy of WWE's Instagram account:
Despite the attack, Bryan assured his fans that he would be ready to thrive at WrestleMania:
That is precisely what he did, and it could potentially lead to one of the most interesting and exciting title runs in recent memory.
There are also plenty of options for him in terms of feuds moving forward now that he is champion. Singles angles with Triple H or Batista seem like definite possibilities, although a number of different challengers could possibly emerge in the coming months.
Was giving Bryan the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania the right move?
Whatever the case, the fans are sure to love it since Bryan will be involved.
Bryan's current popularity is historically significant, and it can be argued that no wrestler has consistently garnered such great crowd reactions since "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. With that in mind, it's incredible to think about how loud the fan reaction for Bryan will be on Monday's edition of Raw and beyond.
WWE has finally made the obvious decision to let Bryan sink or swim rather than hold him back. It's possible that Bryan won't be as successful in this role as everyone anticipates since he is the ultimate underdog, but everything that we have seen to this point suggests that Bryan is ready to be "the guy."
He is already among the top stars in wrestling, and he now has a chance to perhaps usurp Cena as WWE's No. 1 draw. Cena will always have a sizable fanbase, but his popularity is far from unanimous. Bryan, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have a single detractor.
This is an exciting time in WWE, and Bryan appears poised to lead the company into a new era.
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