Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H: Analyzing Feud's Place Among Triple H's Greatest

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2014

Photo courtesy of WWE.com

As one of the greatest Superstars in WWE history, Triple H has engaged in countless incredible feuds and matches. With WrestleMania XXX approaching, it can already be argued that his rivalry with Daniel Bryan is among the best of his career.

Triple H's issues with Bryan date back to SummerSlam. The Game served as special guest referee for the WWE Championship match between Bryan and John Cena, but after raising Bryan's arm in victory he hit him with a thunderous Pedigree.

That allowed Randy Orton to successfully cash in his Money in the Bank contract, and Bryan has been at odds with Triple H ever since.

Triple H's current heel character is a major departure from anything that he has portrayed in the past. He is no longer a full-time competitor from an in-ring perspective, so he has had to alter his gimmick in order to remain significant.

It isn't a stretch to say that Triple H's recent heel work has been some of the best of his career. That is because Triple H has taken the public perception of him and used it to his advantage.

After forcing his way into a match with Triple H at WrestleMania, Bryan paid the price. The conniving Cerebral Assassin tricked Bryan on Raw by having him handcuffed, which resulted in Triple H administering a brutal beating.

The attack was so vicious that Bryan was taken away in an ambulance, as seen in this photo from WWE's Instagram account:

It also caused Bryan to miss the ensuing week of Raw, although he vowed to bounce back at WrestleMania:

Bryan was actually able to get his revenge sooner than that, though, as he jumped Triple H during the final Raw segment prior to WrestleMania. The reaction to Bryan coming out of the crowd and giving Triple H a taste of his own medicine was huge partly due to Bryan's popularity, but it also had plenty to do with that fact that Triple H had built himself up so well as a top heel.

It is well known that Triple H is viewed as a "burial machine" by a large contingent of fans. That mostly stems from Triple H's dominant run as leader of Evolution from 2003 through 2005.

Triple H beat many crowd favorites in big matches during that time frame, which was used as a vehicle to garner Triple H even more heat during the go-home episode of Raw prior to WrestleMania XXX.

As seen in this video courtesy of WWE, Triple H embraced the fact that he beat stars such as Booker T, Scott Steiner, Goldberg, Jeff Hardy and several others:

This led to a great deal of outrage since it was viewed as a sign of disrespect for Triple H to claim that he is better than all of those stars, but it also confirmed the fact that Triple H is the ultimate puppet master. That is the exact reaction that he wanted. It made him look even more diabolical leading up to WrestleMania, since many expect him to "bury" Bryan as well.

Despite that, Brie Bella was defiant in regard to Triple H's video on Twitter:

The next-level psychology involved with the video and other aspects of the feud makes Triple H's rivalry with Bryan one of his best in years. The one thing working against it terms of being considered his best-ever feud, however, is the fact that it was put on the back burner after Hell in a Cell in favor of a Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt angle.

It wasn't resurrected until after Royal Rumble, and while it has been absolutely fantastic since then, the on-again, off-again nature of the storyline does hurt it from a historical perspective.

With that said, this angle is far from over. Bryan and Triple H will face each other at WrestleMania, and there is a very real possibility that they will both end up in the main event against Orton and Batista for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, assuming some type of non-finish occurs.

As the feud currently stands, it is among Triple H's best but doesn't quite yet top his memorable programs with the likes of The Rock and Mick Foley.

Triple H's rivalry with The Rock was the one that truly launched him to superstardom. With Shawn Michaels out of the picture due to injury in 1998, Triple H became the leader of D-Generation X. At the same time, The Rock emerged as the leader of the Nation of Domination after ousting Faarooq.

In one of the last great feuds involving the Intercontinental Championship, Triple H and The Rock offered a glimpse into WWE's future. In what was perhaps the defining moment of the feud, Triple H defeated The Rock in a ladder match at SummerSlam 1998 to take the IC strap.

Triple H had firmly established himself as one of the top Superstars in WWE by 2000 before engaging in a feud with Mick Foley. The dichotomy between them was perfect since Triple H was a legitimate star with all the tools as well as corporate backing, while Foley was a guy who had to rely solely on effort.

The Game took on both the Mankind and Cactus Jack characters, but his street fight against Cactus Jack at Royal Rumble 2000 topped all other encounters between them. That match really helped establish the brutality that Triple H would become known for in the following years and which is clearly still present today.

As good as those feuds are, neither led to a singles match at WrestleMania. Triple H did go on to have feuds with former Evolution mates Batista and Orton later in his career, and while they didn't quite measure up to the programs with The Rock and Foley, the WrestleMania aspect helped both of them.

Triple H's current feud with Bryan has personal overtones, as did his storylines with Batista and Orton. Batista got tired of Triple H's tyrannical ways and decided to branch off on his own. The best Triple H vs. Orton program took place during the lead up to WrestleMania XXV, and although the culminating match was disappointing, the build was among the best in recent memory.

Many of Triple H's past feuds had some missing aspects, but all the pieces appear to be in place for Triple H vs. Bryan. The build has been great albeit somewhat disjointed, and their match at WrestleMania has all the makings of a classic.

The aftermath of WrestleMania will have a major impact on how Triple H vs. Bryan is viewed in the future. However, there is no question that this has the potential to be something special if it isn't already.

Bryan and Triple H are carrying a lot of pressure on their shoulders since they are tasked with making WrestleMania XXX a success. Based upon what the two of them have produced thus far, there is reason to believe that they'll come through.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter