Daniel Bryan: A Lot Can Change in a Year

In the rather chaotic world of professional wrestling, things can certainly change rapidly but considering the circumstances, Daniel Bryan’s road to WrestleMania still appears staggering. After all, just one year ago, Bryan was the industry’s most irrefutable babyface. He’d famously fought for his dreams and now returned home, re-entering the wrestling ring to widespread adoration and respect. His comeback allowed the genre’s greatest fairy-tale to continue and with that excitement, multiple idealistic plans were plotted. However, an eventual title defense opposite Kofi Kingston was unlikely to have entered many fans’ minds. In some ways though, that makes its existence all the more gripping.

Either way, Bryan’s aforementioned in-ring return took place at the destination of his greatest height: the WrestleMania 30 triumph that beautifully encapsulated a whole career of excellence. That felt fitting and the crowd’s response did too, with Bryan standing alongside Shane McMahon in a tag match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Bryan would rightly receive his first comeback victory, swiftly re-joining ranks stacked with potential dream matches as a result. The first of those would take place just two nights later, taking on WWE Champion AJ Styles in an eventually interrupted SmackDown Live main event.

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That match felt directly out of those aforementioned fan ideals but Bryan’s next direction would then take an unexpected shift. Welcoming Big Cass back after his own injury struggles, Bryan entered a two match programme with the former tag team star, producing solid encounters that still felt counter-productive for some. The perception was that Bryan’s organically ignited momentum had been halted somewhat, perhaps dwindled on matches deemed unimportant. He then followed the Cass feud with a brief Team Hell No reunion, unsuccessfully challenging The Bludgeon Brothers for their SmackDown Tag Team Titles.

Bryan next transitioned to the long-awaited return of his famed conflict with The Miz, a rare rivalry entrenched in history and emotion. The results were immediately strong, resulting in some engaging promo segments as well as an incredibly captivating SummerSlam affair as well. Their programme continued too, with some suggesting a WrestleMania pay-off until in November, Bryan’s career took yet another defining re-direction. Facing AJ Styles just days before Survivor Series, Bryan altered PPV plans as well as his immediate future, turning heel and regaining the WWE Title.

That immediately allowed for another dream match also, with Bryan taking Styles’ spot in the upcoming champion vs. champion clash. His opponent? Brock Lesnar. A match that once seemed inevitable during Bryan’s prior peak, fans would now finally see the ultimate David vs. Goliath battle, incredibly just days after Daniel’s stunning heel turn nonetheless. The product would be spectacular, with Bryan making a stunning comeback as an enthralling main event suddenly emerged. In mere moments, the live crowd went from jeering in frustration to screaming in anticipation, desperate to see the crescendo they’d dreamed of.

Bryan wouldn’t leave that contest the victor but his status as one of the world’s greatest now seemed well and truly re-established, emphatically silencing any already dwindling doubts. In truth he was only just getting started too, creating absolute magic opposite AJ Styles and closing out 2018 with arguably his finest PPV match of the year. 2019 has continued that trend too, especially as of late. As champion, Bryan proved integral inside Elimination Chamber, taking part in one of the match type’s finest closing stretches and in the process, making his upcoming WrestleMania foe clear.

Thriving opposite late addition Kofi Kingston, Bryan proved their chemistry unparalleled and together, the pair convinced even the most cynical fan that Kofi was just moments away from shocking the world. At that point, Bryan’s WWE Title reign automatically reached new heights and the level refused to stop rising too, most recently taking part in a brilliant Fastlane triple threat and neatly capping off a wildly effective Road to WrestleMania. With his match opposite Kingston now fast approaching, this destination may have once seemed unlikely but in execution, the route taken has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Daniel Bryan is in the midst of an incredible villainous streak and this is the absolute peak of that stint thus far. Matched with a hero that in many ways, symbolizes his own rise all those years ago, Bryan’s comfort here only highlights his quite astonishing versatility. Twelve months ago, no one would’ve questioned the thought of Bryan entering the next WrestleMania as champion, but a suggestion of his eventual portrayal would’ve been rather stunning, and his opponent almost unfathomable. Yet somehow, this match’s whole existence feels seamless, arguably the event’s most engaging affair.

Probably his era’s most beloved conqueror, Bryan is now quite possibly the finest antagonist within WWE’s varied modern landscape. At this point, his brilliance is no longer up for debate and instead, Bryan has reiterated his place in history within just a single year. If there was any misplaced doubt before, that’s certainly been vanquished as of late. Daniel Bryan is a historically great performer and at WrestleMania, he stands opposite the journey that once defined his career. That’s a rare feat but a fitting one nonetheless, a perfect example of this pro wrestling genius’ seemingly limitless capabilities.

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