Monday night on Raw, we got a better idea of where everything is going with Daniel Bryan on the first show since his neck surgery.
Stephanie McMahon came out and announced that while she wasn't stripping Daniel Bryan of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, she was giving him the opportunity to surrender the title on next week's show.
The idea of dragging it out makes me think that, in the end, Stephanie won't actually be stripping Bryan of the title.
The fact that Bryan is even being given a sliver of agency in the decision means that some kind of angle is coming out of this which will all lead to him returning sooner than WWE is making us think he will.
He'll stand up to Stephanie and something will happen from there.
Obviously, this is all dependent on when he can return to the ring. Regardless of when that is, I think we're building to a "surprise" faster-than-expected recovery. This is all about building to the pop when he pulls his neck brace off and attacks Kane or whichever other heel he's programmed with.
So how do we get there?
For starters, I liked that Stephanie was back to full-on trolling Bryan and the fans. The character works when she's being awful, but thinks she's right and being a good person. She's awful, but she's sincere.
Since WrestleMania and especially Extreme Rules, she had been pretending to side with Bryan too much. It's a welcome change, and she was so awesomely hatable last night, from mocking Bryan's entrance to her awful Bad News Barrett impersonation.
This storyline makes me think back to almost 17 years ago in 1997. Steve Austin won the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Owen Hart in the match where he nearly broke his neck taking a reverse tombstone piledriver.
Immediately, he couldn't defend it and was stripped of both that title and the tag title, which he held with Mick Foley (in the guise of Dude Love).
While, both in terms of damage and due to differences in treatments available back then, Austin did have to vacate the titles, I could see that storyline being a template for Bryan.
No, Bryan wouldn't suddenly become Stone Cold, but the basic template can apply. Remember: Initially, it's not like Vince McMahon hated Austin. Austin resented Vince because Vince kept him out of the ring and then didn't think he'd be a good representative for the company.
By sort of doing that storyline in reverse, Bryan could get a bit of his edge back in the process, as the stuff with Kane and Brie over the last few weeks had made him a bit ineffectual.
If he is stripped of the title? He can't sit idly by. He has to be angry, he has to fight it and hopefully look strong in the process. The worst thing possible for Bryan is to strip him of his power, make him ineffectual and remove his agency as a character.
To me, the best way for this to end is for Bryan to just beat the hell out of Kane in his return from the injury. It wouldn't even be a match, it would be when he takes the neck brace off.
It's not a feud that needs to be prolonged, and it can just end there.
How long this takes...well, we don't know yet. I guess we'll start to get a better idea after the next Raw.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!