5 Biggest Keys to Becoming a Great WWE World Champion
The path to becoming a successful WWE world champ is lined with more obstacles than just chair-wielding enemies.
Ring work, connecting with fans and drawing crowds are among the requirements to flourishing with the gold draped across one's shoulder. To both earn the opportunity and thrive after receiving it, a wrestler faces the tough task of being an athlete, a spokesman, a warrior and a star.
Of the 44 men who have held the WWE title, only a few are in the discussion of placement on WWE's Mount Rushmore. For Daniel Bryan to join them, he has much work ahead of him.
Examining the traits that men like Hulk Hogan, John Cena and Steve Austin have in common reveals the formula for becoming a great world champ and what tests lie ahead for Bryan to enter that same tier.
Deliver Great Matches
After all the hype and trash-talking that comes before a major WWE event, a great world champion has to deliver in the ring.
It's their match that is often the last to go on, the one the company has focused the most on, the one meant to sell tickets. Character and story can only take one so far. Composing classics on center stage is a huge part of what separates a great Superstar from a good one.
Shawn Michaels did that at an impressive rate. So many of his championship battles were the kind of dramas that fans cling to forever.
Great matches, though, look different depending on the wrestler.
Neither Hulk Hogan nor John Cena are as technically sound as many of their peers, but the stories they tell in the ring resonate with fans. Hogan's battles with Randy Savage, Andre the Giant and Ultimate Warrior weren't wrestling clinics, but they have remained a part of WWE lore.
Cena has a still-growing collection of elite matches, which has led to him being world champ 14 times.
Daniel Bryan will have no issue with this part of the equation. Just his work in 2014 alone has produced stellar bouts against Bray Wyatt and Triple H. Beyond that, he's been one of WWE's most dependable performers over the last few years.
WWE can throw any opponent at him and expect greatness, much the way it could with Michaels.
Face a Rival Who Elevates
WWE holds a world champion's fate in its hands. Whom the company pits the champ against plays a huge role in whether he thrives or flounders.
Steve Austin's WWE title runs wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining had The Rock and Vince McMahon not been colliding with him. Take Andre the Giant and Roddy Piper from Hulk Hogan or Killer Kowalski from Bruno Sammartino, and their reigns would've suffered from the loss.
A world champ needs a worthy threat, someone who can bring the best out of them during interviews and between the ropes. Having some real-life animosity, a la Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, certainly helps.
This is where Daniel Bryan has to hope WWE makes good choices.
He's done well so far in his latest feud with Kane, but the company has to eventually find someone better for him. Kane is beyond his prime at this point; he's a good transitional rival, but not a true equal.
Whom WWE pegs as The Joker to Bryan's Batman will either hold him back and propel him forward.
Connect with the Crowd
All the physical ability and technical wizardry in the world doesn't mean much if a wrestler can't get the audience to invest.
There has to be something magnetic about a Superstar to attract and hold onto fans' attention. Triumphs and defeats must create real emotion over a scripted sport.
The Rock's charisma and catchphrases had him achieve that. Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Randy Savage and Steve Austin all rode their "it" factors to success. It's the trait that separates those men from a gifted wrestler like Curtis Axel who just can't create the same kind of spark.
This is one of Daniel Bryan's biggest strengths.
During his journey to WrestleMania, he inspired echoing reactions in every arena, whether he was breaking away from Bray Wyatt or attacking Triple H. Fans have taken to him, thanks to a combination of his passion, understated charm and elite wrestling ability.
Roman Reigns and Cesaro are beginning to build a great rapport with fans. Should they start getting the types of pops Bryan has, world titles will be in their future as well.
Be a Workhorse
The crown that is the WWE world title is a heavy burden.
The champion often has the longest matches, appears more than the rest of the roster and has to go on a more extensive media tour before big events. It's a toil on both body and mind.
It's nothing new, either. Back in the days of the territories, the NWA champion would have to tour the country and work with all of the top stars from the various promotions. The grind is different today but taxing nonetheless.
That part of the championship equation makes John Cena's and CM Punk's long runs with the title even more impressive.
The champ has to avoid injury and work hurt. If a pay-per-view doesn't bring in a great buyrate, blame is aimed at him. If a story stutters or fans begin to find something else to watch on Monday nights other than Raw, fingers point at the man with the belt.
WWE and Cena both have to be hoping that Daniel Bryan can succeed as champ so that someone new is wearing the weight of the crown.
Make Money for the Company
Fans tend to undervalue one of the most important elements of being a top WWE star—bringing in the dough.
WWE, after all, is a for-profit company, looking to sell tickets, push merchandise and sign huge TV contracts. A marketable world champ helps the company do that.
Bruno Sammartino, Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan sold out arenas. Austin's T-shirts were ever-present at one point.
Cries to push John Cena away from the world title picture ignore his massive marketability. A big part of why Cena has been the top dog for so long and so often is that he sells more T-shirts than anyone else, that he draws in the casual fan and is one of the recognizable members of today's roster.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via Wrestling Inc, recently reported that Cena is still tops when it comes to selling merch at live events. Daniel Bryan, though, is second, above both Randy Orton and Sheamus.
Whether he can impact WWE's financials enough to justify his spot as champ is the biggest question about Bryan.
Should his connection with the crowd and fantastic work in the ring begin to consistently translate to increased dollars heading WWE's way, he will begin to climb the ranks of the list of greatest champions the company has ever had.