Daniel Bryan had successful neck surgery on Thursday, May 15. The surprising announcement of the operation itself came on the May 12 edition of Monday Night Raw, and that was soon followed by a supposed attack by Kane that left Bryan unconscious on the ramp.
And now that the WWE World champion is on the shelf, the question is what will that injury do to his current career? More importantly, what impact will his WWE World title reign have because of that injury?
It was a moment that will likely be regarded as one of the most disappointing of all time for fans. The reason for that, of course, is due to Bryan's immense popularity. And that popularity absolutely exploded when Triple H decided that Bryan was not the top guy that WWE was looking for.
It was SummerSlam in 2013 when Daniel realized his dream of becoming the WWE champion by defeating John Cena in the main event. It was Bryan's finest moment, the night that so many likely believed would never happen.
Daniel was never the biggest or strongest dog in the fight, but he was always the most tenacious and the most fearless. The fans wanted to see him get the belt, and it was his fighting spirit that led them to support him from day one.
It was Daniel's ability that gave him the opportunity to win the WWE Championship, but it was his underdog role that put him over with fans. And that role caught fire mere moments after he pinned John Cena.
As fans know, Randy Orton decided to cash in his Money in the Bank title shot against the newly crowned champion. But while Daniel saw Randy coming, he never saw Triple H. Hunter was acting as the guest referee for the match but threw his professionalism out the window when he delivered the Pedigree to Daniel, allowing Orton to get the pin.
In that moment, Daniel became the biggest underdog that WWE has ever known—possibly even bigger than Rey Mysterio.
Fans witnessed as Daniel traveled the long road and fought the good fight against The Authority. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were in full control of the situation and did everything in their power to keep Daniel from the WWE Championship.
Bryan suffered the wrath of The Shield, Big Show, Batista, Randy Orton, Kane and even The Game himself. But every time he was pushed down, he got right back up.
In the modern era of pro wrestling, many fans don't care to invest in anyone for any extended period of time. For those fans, quick feuds and short matches are the name of the game and nothing else will do.
However, Daniel Bryan was an exception. The WWE faithful wanted him to win, they willed him to win. They could have turned their backs on him, declared that the nearly eight-month storyline was too much and just stopped caring about him.
But they never stopped caring.
The birth of the Yes Movement may have been a storyline, but it was definitely true to life. Fans showed their support of Daniel with a one-word catchphrase that took WWE by storm. Not since Stone Cold Steve Austin's "what" chant had a word gotten over so quickly and with such vigor.
And it was all for Daniel.
So when WWE's greatest underdog of all time finally achieved his goals at WrestleMania 30, fans were ecstatic. At long last, Daniel Bryan had overcome The Authority. He had reached the Promised Land of WWE immortality by becoming only the second WWE World champion. And he did it by beating not only Triple H but both Batista and Randy Orton, all at the company's biggest event of the year.
But a month later, it was all over. Or at least, it appears to be.
Bryan's time at the top is now in danger of ending, and while Triple H has not confirmed if he will strip him of the titles, the fact is that the company must continue on in his absence.
Assuming Bryan is forced to relinquish the WWE World Championship, how will it impact his very short title reign?
What will be said of the title reign that ended much too soon?
The main issue is not what happens now but what will happen when Bryan recovers and eventually returns to the company. Will he be given another shot at the championship? The truth is that Bryan's road to the top was a long time coming, a journey that fans went on with him. They supported him and stayed in his corner the entire time.
So would WWE ask fans to do all of that again?
Will Daniel have to start back at the bottom and be expected to start over? And if he does, would fans be willing to go through a similar scenario they witnessed when Triple H fought hard to keep Bryan down?
There are obviously many unanswered questions concerning Daniel Bryan right now. But what's for certain is that if Bryan is stripped of the WWE World Championship, then that title reign ended much too prematurely. One month is simply not enough for the man considered to be the biggest underdog in WWE.
His title reign included one pay-per-view defense against Kane and one on TV against Triple H. Two successful defenses in one month cannot be considered enough of a success at all. So the only real answer is to give Bryan a second championship reign when he finally does return to the company.
Bryan's WWE World title win at WrestleMania 30 will be remembered as the culmination of an eight-month uphill battle. It was one of the most exciting angles in recent WWE history and saw the rise of the man whom many fans believed deserved the top spot due to his hard work in the ring. The fans wanted Daniel Bryan in that spot, and they definitely had a hand in making it happen.
And now that his title run is likely over, the issue of how his injury impacted it is basically a non-issue. What matters most is what Daniel does when he does come back and if WWE will give him another shot as champion.
The underdog deserves a chance to overcome once again.
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