I wrote an article last week saying why Daniel Bryan shouldn’t win the WWE Championship at SummerSlam, and although he did, the reign was so short that my reasoning for him not winning the strap wasn’t really affected by his winning it. In fact the short reign will only help Bryan going forward.
Bryan’s career as a main eventer could arguably be said to have begun when he won the Money In The Bank briefcase a couple of years ago, and really became a reality when he cashed in against The Big Show at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay per view in 2011. The Big Show had just won the belt from Mark Henry and Bryan was able to end his reign after just forty-five seconds. This would prove to be Bryan’s first connection to short reigns and matches, although what would follow wouldn’t initially make Bryan seem like the winner.
When Bryan lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in the opening match at last year’s WrestleMania it appeared as if Bryan’s time in the main event was abruptly over. That WWE would have Bryan lose the belt in just eighteen seconds made him and his credibility as World Champion seem a joke. Any Money In The Bank World Champion has the stigma of not having won the belt under fair or always deserved circumstances, and despite Bryan having matches in his reign where he bested The Big Show and Mark Henry, and even came out on top of an Elimination Chamber match, this eighteen second loss was a massive blow to his stock. Only it wasn’t.
It’s hard to say whether this was luck or a master plan, because one thing you can never guarantee is how the audience will react to anything. Bryan, who was a heel going into his match with Sheamus got an overwhelming positive reaction from the WWE Universe, not only at WrestleMania following his loss, but especially the next night on Raw with chants of ‘Daniel Bryan’ and ‘Yes’ dominating segments of the show he wasn’t even involved with (which included a post Rock match John Cena promo). The power of the Yes chant showed the WWE office that the audience wanted Bryan in the main event and that they weren’t happy with his eighteen second match. This loss did turn out to be what catapulted Daniel Bryan further into the main event.
Sheamus won the match, but Bryan won the war, as whilst Sheamus had the belt, he was main eventing SmackDown and headlining the B-show whilst Bryan quickly found himself facing CM Punk and main eventing the A-show for the next few months. His ongoing story with AJ Lee can’t be overlooked either and she was also important in the rise of the Yes/No chants and along with Kane the mentally unstable element of Bryan’s character. The odd couple of Kane and Bryan shouldn’t have worked and wasn’t originally seen as long term, but it worked so well that it’s only a few weeks since they finally moved on from it. Team Hell No and the stuff with AJ over the last year gave the Daniel Bryan character ample air time and it was always a case of when, not if Bryan would return to the main event.
The ending of SummerSlam 2013 a couple of days back was brilliantly done by the WWE. The match between Cena and Bryan had the big time feel it deserved and after a gruelling back and forth contest Bryan had won the belt. Yes, the match was good, and yes winning at SummerSlam was more than enough for Bryan to be legitimately the top face of the WWE, but I couldn’t help but feel as I said in my previous article that Bryan could be even bigger if the WWE has deprived him of the belt just a few more months. Then Randy Orton’s music hit.
It was always a possibility that this could happen, but the events of Summerslam, if handled correctly going forwards could be what makes Daniel Bryan not just a main event wrestler in the WWE, but also a ‘bigger than the WWE’ star. For a wrestler’s fame to go beyond the usual WWE fan, said wrestler needs something that captures the mainstream public’s attention and imagination. Fortunately the Yes/No chants already have broken into the main stream, and this short reign will only fuel its relevance in the WWE for the next several months. The Yes/No chant will continue to be heard, and will be heard outside of the usual wrestling context. This will provoke the non wrestling fan’s interest in what the chant means. And from that question is where Bryan’s transcending of just being a wrestler will come from.
Hulk Hogan stood for the American way and became a symbol of America’s greatness. This along with saying prayers, eating vitamins etc allowed the Hulkster to be much more than just a wrestler. The Stone Cold Steve Austin character became so loved because he represented so many things that connected with a wider audience. He liked to drink and swear which really gave a wider audience a connection with him. More than anything else however, Steve Austin was the guy who got to beat up his boss. Everybody would have liked that opportunity, and it’s an idea that connected to the public that didn’t even involve the word wrestling. Daniel Bryan’s Yes/No chants show zero sign of slowing down a year and a half after they first hit their stride following the eighteen second loss at WrestleMania. And now Daniel Bryan has again lost a world title, but this time in a ten second match.
Daniel Bryan represents the ultimate underdog story, and the little guy who will rise up against those who tell him he can’t. As they’ve recently put over on TV, he’s an odd ball, he looks funny, he’s a vegan and he’s a bit unstable. All these qualities put him in the same category as anyone who ever felt like they didn’t fit in, as the underdog, and through Daniel Bryan people will be able to feel that it is possible to defy the odds and become a somebody. The Yes/No chant is already mainstream, and when the mainstream learns that it relates to a guy who wouldn’t look out of place on The Big Bang Theory it will help capture their interest in Bryan, and by extension the WWE.
It’s widely known that a heel World Champion is often times better for business, and that the fan base will support a face much more in the chase for a world title, rather than them as world champion. If Bryan had simply won the WWE Championship at SummerSlam the wrestling fans would chant Yes because he had won the belt, but this cause for chanting wouldn’t last forever as the audience’s contentment of Bryan being champion began to settle down. Bryan losing the title in ten seconds will spur on everyone who originally chanted for him after losing in eighteen seconds, and they will keep chanting until he wins it back. And if the WWE is smart they will keep this wave of chants going all the way up to WrestleMania when the largest number of people will become interested in the little guy the boss said shouldn’t win, but whom along with millions of fans said ‘Yes’ he should.
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This article was first posted on August 21, 2013