A year ago, if you offered Daniel Bryan a 64-day reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, he would have absolutely snapped your hand off. There's no question about it, given how he was marooned in the flailing tag division at that point.
But fast-forward 12 months, and 64 days just hasn't been enough to satisfy the needs of Bryan and his army of fans. Stripped of the title in the cruelest of circumstances (a real-life injury rather than a work-related one), Bryan and the WWE face a real battle to regain the momentum he had before he left for neck surgery.
The Yes! Movement was a roaring success, and it was a 10-month project that had ultimately rewarded everyone involved. The fans had a genuine anti-Authority hero to purr over (the first since "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, in truth), while the WWE had an absolute diamond on their hands in Bryan.
But this is a fast-moving company we are talking about, with a raft of stars all looking to take Bryan's place at the head of the company without a second thought. And at Money in the Bank, the WWE will crown a new champion to finally take his place and get the company moving forward once again.
With the emergence of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns as genuine solo stars following the breakup of The Shield, as well as Bray Wyatt looking more and more like a champion in the making, how does Bryan gain relevance when he returns?
Naturally, that all depends on the timing of his return, you would assume. If the WWE can get him fit and ready in time for SummerSlam, being thrown straight into battle with one of the company's huge stars seems an ideal fit. In fact, there is one man in particular who could get Bryan back in at the top end of the WWE without a worry.
Step forward, Brock Lesnar.
The man who was last seen ending the most infamous streak in wrestling history is still a huge heat magnet and is certain to draw plenty of reaction when he finally returns from his latest sabbatical. If that is in time for SummerSlam then a feud with Bryan is perfect for both men. Clearly, Lesnar still has desires to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, as does Bryan.
So a match to determine who advances to face the next champion would be a great feud and would have plenty of interest attached to it from WWE fans. It's important that when selecting a pathway for Bryan back onto TV after his injury, it goes off with a real bang.
Similarly, you almost feel like Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt was never fully explored. With Bryan lacking real credible challengers during his short reign as champion, it would be fantastic to see Wyatt and Bryan go at it for the biggest prize in the WWE.
Bryan's popularity is sure to be on a pretty decent level when he returns. Getting it back to the level it once was will be a huge test for the WWE, though. When trying to find Bryan's relevance in the WWE, the company need to go all-out and ensure that he isn't treated the same way he was during his time as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
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