WWE Royal Rumble 2014: How the Company Can Change Course on Daniel Bryan

David BixenspanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2014

From left, WWE Superstars Brianna Garcia-Colace (AKA Brie Bella) and Bryan Danielson (AKA Daniel Bryan) arrives at the Superstars of Hope honors Make A Wish Foundation event at The Beverly Hills Hotel on Thursday, August 15, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)
Paul A. Hebert/Associated Press

Last week, Mike Johnson reported at PWInsider.com that the main matches on the WrestleMania 30 card are as follows:

  • Randy Orton vs. Batista
  • The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
  • John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
  • CM Punk vs. Triple H
  • Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus

So far, based on the results of the Royal Rumble, that all seems accurate.  Orton retained the WWE World Heavyweight Championship over Cena when the Wyatt Family interfered.  Lesnar destroyed Big Show so he can be built up as a threat to The Undertaker's streak.  Kane yanked Punk out of the Royal Rumble to eliminate him and heat up his feud with The Authority.  As for Daniel Bryan and the returning Sheamus, they're the odd men out. 

If this is the real card, it will be the third time in four WrestleManias that Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus was scheduled.  The first was a lumberjack match at WrestleMania 27 in Atlanta for Sheamus' United States Championship, which was moved to the dark match spot and then turned into an impromptu battle royal after four minutes.  The following year at WrestleMania 28 in Miami, they reversed roles with Bryan as a heel and champion, losing the World Heavyweight Championship in 18 seconds in the match that really kicked off the masses supporting Bryan.

Neither match really got going, which was disappointing because they had great chemistry.  Still, at Extreme Rules 2012, the pay-per-view following WrestleMania 28, they had an excellent 2/3 falls rematch that was one of the best WWE matches of that year, and all was good in the world.  Even though it became a bit comical that Bryan vs Sheamus was promoted for two WrestleManias in a row without really taking place as expected, the feud was blown off over a year-and-a-half ago, and there's been no movement asking for them to finally get a "real" WrestleMania match.

So in light of last night, where the live crowd at the Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh completely rejected the idea of Daniel Bryan not being a main eventer, what exactly do you do with him right now if you're WWE and you decide to change course?

The easiest, quickest, and least disruptive way would probably be to have Bryan find some way into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.  After how badly he gassed last night (in a battle royal, no less) Batista needs all of the help he can get to have a good WrestleMania main event match, and Orton is not the guy to get it out of him.  You could give Bryan his moment, a few months with the title, and then, from there, go with whatever works organically.  Plus, it's not like Sheamus can't be reconfigured easily.

I'd suggest some kind of deal where Bryan wins the WrestleMania title shot from Batista, but c'mon, let's be realistic.  That's just not the right way to go right now since Batista just came back.  Bryan vs Orton would, in some ways, be a nice idea storyline-wise (Bryan finally wins the title for real over the guy who kept screwing him), but it's a match that headlined three awful PPV events in a row recently.

If you don't put Bryan in the title match, then the only other "feel good" path is for him to face Triple H instead of CM Punk.  Bryan could win that, you could even do the "Kane was his spy" angle, etc.  I'm not sure what you'd do with Punk at that point, though, unless it was a tag team match, but that doesn't feel as satisfying as a singles triumph would be.

What do you all think?  Has WWE plotted out WrestleMania in a way where changing the lineup isn't feasible?  Let us know in the comments.

David Bixenspan has been Bleacher Report's WWE Team Leader and a contracted columnist since 2011.  His article about WWE's 1984 expansion from regional powerhouse to national juggernaut is featured in the newly released issue #102 of Fighting Spirit Magazine, available worldwide onlineand in print in the UK.  You can follow him on Twitter @davidbix and check out his wrestling podcasts at LLTPod.com.