Daniel Bryan clutches his injured shoulder.
The ending to the last-ever traditional WWE pay-per-view event was like a few we saw last year: Daniel Bryan getting cheated out of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and Randy Orton pinning him. In a vacuum, that sounds terrible.
Thankfully, the main event didn't happen in a vacuum, much less the entire Elimination Chamber PPV event.
Even with Royal Rumble having been a very good show in the ring, it was easily the best WWE PPV show since SummerSlam, with two early Match of the Year candidates in The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family and the Elimination Chamber match itself, and a surprisingly strong opener in Big E Langston vs. Jack Swagger.
Then Daniel Bryan lost again. Sounds awful, right? How dare they do that again! Shock and awe! Loud noises!
Except the way he lost made me feel a lot better about Daniel Bryan and WrestleMania.
To recap, after The Wyatt Family materialized in the cage to help eliminate John Cena, Kane came out to yell at them. Bryan then flew at him with a diving knee off the top rope.
Bryan and Orton went through a bunch of near-falls, leading to Bryan hitting the flying knee...for two, because Kane pulled the referee away.
They continued to do their thing, and Orton hit the RKO off Kane interfering...for two—great near-fall, by the way. That led to more exchanges before Kane interfered again, leading to another RKO for the pin.
However, as the show went off the air, Michael Cole was incensed, specifically mentioning that Bryan had been the victim of injustice "since SummerSlam" and it had to stop now.
That came after noticeable changes in how Bryan was positioned: The "goat" references have been gone for a week or two now. He's a serious wrestler who, with a major injury, was clearly better than Randy Orton, even kicking out of the RKO after corporate monster Kane interfered.
At this point, it's obvious Daniel Bryan is on his way to winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. The question is how the company plays it.
An idea I first floated a couple of weeks ago seems to be picking up steam Sunday night; as I write this, Dan Lovranski just suggested it on Live Audio Wrestling and guest Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter agreed it's the best scenario.
That storyline is that Bryan is matched up with Triple H (or Kane) at WrestleMania with the special stipulation that if he wins, he's added to the main event Orton vs. Batista title match that closes the show. He then wins the title to close the show as 70,000 people in New Orleans point and chant "Yes!"
It works perfectly.
Bryan has been in multiple matches on single episodes of Raw with surprising regularity since his main event push started last summer: lots of gauntlet matches, the impromptu Kane match after he beat Christian last Monday on Raw, matches with both Jack Swagger and Cesaro on this past Friday's SmackDown and so on.
It's already established that he excels in that environment. One of the biggest pops of last year was the crowd exploding in "Yes!" chants when he beat Cesaro in the middle of a gauntlet match last summer, making an incredible Match of the Year candidate even better.
Regardless of where it is on the show (and there's a strong argument for it being the opener), the first match would go a long way in getting the crowd pumped at WrestleMania.
Will Daniel Bryan win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30?
Bryan would be set as an incredibly legitimate champion, and it would make for an incredibly memorable WrestleMania 30.
From there, the promotion could really run with Bryan as top babyface (Cena would probably still be positioned first in the media, and I get that) and get a legitimate gauge of how his popularity translates into business.
The WWE could also have him win the title shot on Raw in the next six weeks, but it would mean a lot less.
What do you all think? Did the string of matches where Bryan got cheated out of the title make you too cynical, or do you feel there's been a clear change in direction in the last week or two? At this point, I can't see how he doesn't leave WrestleMania as champion, and that makes me a lot more optimistic about the future.
In the meantime, check back Monday morning for my guide to the WWE Network. If you tweet about the network this week, use the hashtag #BRWWENetwork to join our discussion.
David Bixenspan has been Bleacher Report's WWE Team Leader since 2011 and also writes for Figure Four Weekly, available to F4WOnline.com subscribers along with other content, including the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and a variety of audio shows.
His brand-new article about the 20th anniversary ECW's Night the Line Was Crossed show is featured in issue No. 103 of Fighting Spirit Magazine, available online internationally and at newsagents in the U.K.