Daniel Bryan's Most Memorable Matches, Moments in WrestleMania History

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2018

Daniel Bryan's Most Memorable Matches, Moments in WrestleMania History

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    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Daniel Bryan may never receive another opportunity to perform at WrestleMania because of concerns about the head injuries he suffered throughout his in-ring career, but the SmackDown Live general manager forever changed how Superstars are evaluated in WWE.

    The 36-year-old rose to stardom through a groundswell of support from the WWE Universe, which forced the company to recognize the fans' desires and led to one of the most memorable pay-per-view finishes in history at WrestleMania XXX in 2014.

    Bryan broke the archetypal mold of the promotion's top champions—physically imposing wrestlers who are either ridiculously tall or seemingly chiseled out of stone—as a more diminutive, technically strong performer who won over people with the "Yes!" movement.

    He parlayed that popularity, which remains in place to this day, into some of the greatest WrestleMania moments WWE's biggest show has produced.

    Let's check out the fan favorite's successes at The Showcase of the Immortals.

Team Hell No Defeats Big E and Dolph Ziggler in Tag Titles Defense (2013)

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    Valerie Macon/Getty Images

    Bryan's WrestleMania career didn't get off to an auspicious start.

    He took part in a pair of dark matches at the 2011 event: a United States championship match against Sheamus that ended in a no-contest when the lumberjacks got involved and then a Battle Royal stemming from that brawl, which The Great Khali won.

    One year later, he took on Sheamus again, this time for the World Heavyweight Championship. He lost in just 18 seconds after an ill-fated kiss from storyline girlfriend AJ Lee.

    The tide finally started to turn in 2013, though.

    Bryan became involved in a combustible friendship storyline with Kane. They became known as Team Hell No, and their funny backstage segments helped mainstream fans get behind the longtime indy wrestler, who was already popular with the diehards.

    While the tag team's victory over Big E and Dolph Ziggler at WrestleMania 29 to retain their championships wasn't monumental in itself, it helped set the stage for everything that would happen over the next 12 months.

Bryan Beats Triple H for WWE World Heavyweight Championship Shot (2014)

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    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    When the WWE finally gave in and pushed Bryan toward the top of the card, an opportunity he richly deserved, the company played it smart.

    The promotion created a "Bryan against the world" scenario, with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon playing the heel roles to near perfection. They employed the likes of Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton and Batista to make it feel, at least to an untrained eye, like he would never be allowed to reach the mountaintop.

    As the storyline moved toward its pinnacle, he was forced to work twice at WrestleMania XXX. First, he had to take on Triple H. If he somehow won that encounter with The King of Kings, Orton and Batista would be waiting in the main event.

    Bryan, bandaged from all the punishment he had absorbed in the weeks leading up to 'Mania at the hands of The Authority, defeated Triple H in a match that sold the monthslong story well.

    The win eliminated any remaining doubt about whether it was going to become a special night in New Orleans. The fans were going to notch a victory in the never-ending battle with the WWE creative team.

Bryan Overcomes Batista and Randy Orton in WrestleMania XXX Main Event (2014)

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    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Sure enough, Bryan outlasted Batista and Randy Orton in the Triple Threat title match to conclude a night that also saw The Undertaker's WrestleMania winning streak snapped by Brock Lesnar.

    The moment was less about the match itself and more focused on the aftermath. The celebration inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was one of the most enthusiastic you will witness within the confines of WWE.

    In an era when the smarks and casual observers rarely cheer for the same Superstars, it was amazing to see a universal "Yes!" chant break out among the over 75,000 people in attendance.

    There may never be another perfect storm quite like Bryan's run leading up to WrestleMania XXX, and it was capped off in spectacular fashion that night.

Bryan Wins Ladder Match for Intercontinental Championship (2015)

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    Don Feria/Associated Press

    Bryan wasn't able to build off the momentum coming out of WrestleMania in 2014 because of a neck injury that forced him to undergo surgery in May, a month after his triumph in New Orleans.

    Although he didn't get another opportunity to main-event 'Mania upon his return, losing to Roman Reigns in a match for the opportunity to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the 31st edition of The Show of Shows, he made the card in the six-man ladder match for the intercontinental title.

    Bryan defeated titleholder Bad News Barrett, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, R-Truth and Stardust to walk out of WrestleMania as a champion for the second straight year.

    While the reaction couldn't match the one at the Superdome a year earlier, it showed he was still beloved throughout the fanbase.

    Alas, Bryan was forced to step away from the ring shortly after capturing the IC title and hasn't returned as an active wrestler since. The WWE has teased a return in recent months, but there's no concrete evidence he will be back in action.

    One thing is for sure: Bryan will always hold a special place in WrestleMania history regardless of what the future holds.