On the heels of his historic performance at WrestleMania XXX, Daniel Bryan passed his first test as WWE World Heavyweight Champion by defeating Kane at Extreme Rules.
WrestleZone.com had the news:
Kane goes through a table of fire. Bryan hits the flying knee. Daniel Bryan retains. #Wrestlezone— WrestleZone.com (@WRESTLEZONEcom) May 5, 2014
It was a wild, back-and-forth match that at one point took a turn outside of the ring backstage. WrestleZone and the WWE Twitter account broke down some of the biggest highlights of the match:
Bryan and Kane are putting on a good show outside of the ring. #Wrestlezone— WrestleZone.com (@WRESTLEZONEcom) May 5, 2014
Bryan hits Kane in the face with a crowbar, then loads him on a forklift, and drives him back to the ring. #Wrestlezone— WrestleZone.com (@WRESTLEZONEcom) May 5, 2014
WrestleZone's Mike Killam provided his initial reaction to the match:
That match did nothing to suspend my already reeling disbelief. The end really sucked. Don't do the fire spots if you can't do them well.— Mike Killam (@MikeKillam) May 5, 2014
Bryan faced perhaps the toughest test of his career at WrestleMania when he beat Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista all in the same night, so WWE was faced with the difficult task of finding a credible threat to face him.
Kane is a well-respected veteran who has done it all within the business, but there is no doubt that he lost a lot of momentum with the corporate persona. In an effort to re-establish Kane as a legitimate star, though, he donned his famous red mask and set out to destroy Bryan.
That started two weeks prior to Extreme Rules when Kane hit Bryan with tombstones on the floor, steel steps and announcer table. The brutal beating was effective in making it known that the real Kane was back in business.
Although Bryan beat the corporate version of Kane on several occasions leading up to WrestleMania, the Big Red Monster proved to be a different animal as his heinous attack forced Bryan into a neck brace, as seen in this photo courtesy of WWE's Instagram account:
The injury didn't stop Bryan from appearing on the final Raw before Extreme Rules. As a faux apology to Bryan and his wife, Brie Bella, for the actions of Kane, Stephanie McMahon placed Brie in a Divas Championship match against Paige.
That bout was short-lived, however, because the Devil's Favorite Demon emerged from under the ring and attempted to pull Brie into the abyss. Bryan stopped him by hitting him with a wrench, but Kane was only temporarily incapacitated.
The segment was an effective final build for Extreme Rules since Bryan looked valiant in fighting off Kane despite his injury, while Kane came off looking like a nearly unstoppable monster.
McMahon's involvement added an interesting wrinkle to the build as well, particularly when Brie called her out for expressing false concern over Bryan's well being, per WWE's official Twitter account:
Even with all the distractions and the chips seemingly stacked against him, though, Bryan was able to rise to the occasion and come through with a big victory at Extreme Rules.
Some might try to discount Bryan's win since Kane isn't exactly a full-time main eventer at this point in his career, but WWE did enough to build Kane back up prior to Extreme Rules. Few pegged Kane as a true threat to win the title, but the size difference between the two competitors was paramount in making Bryan's victory look impressive.
Who should Daniel Bryan's next title defense come against?
The thing that has made Bryan such a huge fan favorite in WWE is his status as an underdog. The WWE Universe has rallied behind Bryan because he is an average-looking guy with incredible skill and determination. From a physical standpoint, there is no question that Bryan looked like an underdog against Kane.
There was also some concern regarding the Evolution vs. Shield feud overshadowing Bryan at Extreme Rules. The fans were still extremely vocal in favor of Bryan, though, and they were very much behind him picking up the win.
Bryan simply needed a pay-per-view win in his back pocket as champion, and that is precisely what he got Sunday night. His feud with Kane has all the makings of a holdover until more challengers step forward, but it was nice to see WWE establish the fact that Bryan is here to stay as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
There are bigger and better things on the horizon for the leader of the Yes Movement, and his ability to thrive against a monster heel in a hardcore environment most definitely sets him up for future success.
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