Friday, May 2, 2014

The 2013 TWB 100 Slow Release: #1

The best in his signature performance in 2013
Photo Credit:
What, you were expecting the Swamp Monster? Anyway, for the third time in five years…

1. Daniel Bryan
Points: 4683
Ballots: 47
Highest Vote Received: 1st Place (TH, David Kincannon, Alex Torres, Andrew Smith, Jesse Powell, Martin Bentley, Joe Roche, Chris Harrington, Brandon Rohwer, Ryan Kilma, Mike F., Bill Hanstock, Joey O., Rob Pandola, Cewsh, Frank McCormick, Tom Blackett, Mike Pankowski, Ian Greenleafs, Rich Thomas, Chris McDonald, Joey Splashwater, Robot Hammer, Steve Hummer, Willow Maclay, Scott T. Holland, Brock Lutefisk, Andrew Rosin, De O'Brien, Brandon Bosh, TJ Hawke, George Hazar, J K, Rich Kraetsch, Dan McQuade, Zach Brown, Brandon Stroud, Joe Kearns)
Last Year's Placement: 1st Place

TH: In 2013, Daniel Bryan became everything I wanted him to be and then some. He already was the best wrestler in the world coming into the last frame, and for his mastery of every other style, he hadn't gotten the opportunity to anchor a televised wrestling company with a full slate of pay-per-view events and scads of house shows in between. But something inside the heads of the people in WWE Creative finally clicked. WWE saw it had three hours to fill every Monday, a roster of diverse and talented wrestlers, and one true ace through against whom it could put anyone from Rey Mysterio to the Big Show. Even when he wasn't in the main event, he was the workhorse, the treadmill, the man through which WWE was cycled.

He made his mark in three different, completely separate arenas. In the beginning of the year, he was a stalwart in the tag team division. He and Kane continued their solid run from 2012 and parlayed it into perhaps the second best match at WrestleMania last year. From there, he was The Shield's most frequent opponent in singles, tags, and most importantly trios matches. The Shield may have rewritten the book on how six-man tags in WWE are conducted, but they had a lot of guest input from Bryan over the course of the summer. Finally, starting at SummerSlam, his transition into company co-ace (alongside John Cena, of course) began with a match against the aforementioned Franchise. All along the way, he was dropping gems on free TV as well.

That resume, free television and pay-per-view, included some of the finest matches not only of the year, but perhaps in the history of the company. The middle part of the gauntlet he was put through against Antonio Cesaro, if it had main evented a pay-per-view instead of being inserted as a sandwich for storytelling purposes, would be mentioned in the same breath as Punk/Cena from Money in the Bank '11 among others. His hardcore match with Randy Orton, my match of the year on the Voices of Wrestling ballot, did ECW better than anyone trying to do so since the original company closed, and then they followed that match up in December (on my birthday no less) with another that was almost as good. He had two matches with Seth Rollins that were better than every other singles match Rollins was in in his career by the time the second one was finished.

And to cap it all off, he was given the chance to headline SummerSlam against Cena in an impossible situation. They had to follow Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk, which at the time wasn't an enviable task. The two went out and proceeded to re-energize the crowd, put their own stamp on the event, and create one of the most indelible pay-per-view matches in the history of the medium. The expectation was that Bryan would be the one who needed Cena to keep up with him, but people either forget or they don't want to acknowledge that the WWE ring belongs to Cena. It's belonged to him for nearly a decade now, and Bryan had to show he could wrestle a WWE pay-per-view main event in a way that kept the crowd engaged.

With that performance, Bryan cemented himself as not only a jack of all trades, but a master of them as well. He's been around the world and wrestled nearly everywhere that matters, and he's conquered all styles. This year was his capstone, the final mountain that he had left to conquer. Now that he has arrived, he can hold court and work on creating his own legacy as the ace of WWE. He has proven time and time again that size doesn't matter as much as ability, and when you have as much ability as the American fucking Dragon, no place is off limits. In WWE's best year of in-ring action ever, Bryan was its best performer, and the best wrestler I saw in a wrestling ring in 2013.

David Kincannon: Simply put, Daniel Bryan was the in-ring MVP of the WWE in 2013. He started the year as part of Team Hell No and had some great tag team matches, including a six man match on Raw in April that saw him team with Kane and the Undertaker to take on the Shield. He and Chris Jericho were the first two entrants in the Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight title, which started out with a strong display of mat wrestling until Jack Swagger entered and the match devolved into its usual buffet of brawling and high spots.

Then, in the second half of the year, he made “the leap.” He and John Cena had a match of the year candidate at SummerSlam, in which he debuted his version of Kenta’s Busaiku Knee, which would eventually become known as the “Knee Plus.” His two matches with Randy Orton that would follow, at Night of Champions and Battleground, were not classics by any stretch of the imagination, but he performed solidly, as he did in the Hell in a Cell match against Orton.

Every time Daniel Bryan wrestled on my television screen in 2013, he was worth seeing. There aren’t very many guys who I can say that about.

Alex Torres: There's nothing more I can say. Was there anyone else worthy of this spot? Was there anyone else who made us believe?

Martin Bentley: Sure he was only champion for a combined 21 hours and five minutes or so, but that's still a 21 hours and five minutes that many in wrestling would kill for. Fact is, 2013's most dependable babyface was Daniel Bryan, and without him, RAW would have been totally insufferable throughout the year.

Although he started the year in Team Hell No with Kane, it was in that role that Bryan upped the match quality in the company, particularly when it was time to do battle with The Shield. You could literally fill an entire compilation DVD of matches involving Bryan and The Shield from 2013 alone, as Bryan and a multitude of partners, Kane normally being one of them, would try and crack Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins, before they finally managed it with Randy Orton as the partner.

SummerSlam 2013 proved to be the peak of Bryan's WWE career at that time... and then the start of an insufferable autumn, as following his major win over John Cena, he would immediately drop the title to Randy Orton, and be attacked on TV twice a week by various members of The Authority. We wouldn't get the satisfactory conclusion to that story in 2013, but for in-ring quality and getting over like no-one has since Steve Austin, Daniel Bryan deserves the #1 vote.

Joe Roche: Did you see a single Daniel Bryan match that wasn't good to great in 2013? Think about how many guys Bryan legitimately elevated over the course of the year. The year began with Team Hell No against Rhodes Scholars, so already you've got Kane, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow all being elevated because of Bryan's work. You can add Dolph Ziggler, Big E Langston and The Shield to the list of people who got a rub because of their work with Bryan. Think about that for a minute because it only includes the work being done during the Team Hell No banishment. Over the first half of the year Bryan elevated Cody Rhodes (future WWE World Tag Team Champion), Damien Sandow (MITB Winner), Kane (never before interesting hell demon), Big E (Intercontinental Champion), Dolph Ziggler (Poochie), and The Shield. You could argue that without Bryan's work in Team Hell no, the Shield would've broken up in July of 2013 and Seth Rollins would be wrestling in Dragon Gate USA next weekend.

After Summerslam people suddenly realized John Cena didn't suck in the ring, Randy Orton got hooked up to the juvenation machine and oh by the way Daniel Bryan basically created the Wyatt Family mystique. Daniel Bryan forced the WWE into the future in 2013, just by wrestling get matches with everyone that I've mentioned here, he set the table for what ultimately happened in 2014. Is any single performer on this list responsible for more guys having "breakout" success than Daniel Bryan? The breadth of his accomplishments in 2013 is incredible, his ability to have good to great wrestling matches regardless of the situation is second to none, and the fact that both The Shield and the Wyatt Family became things that everyone bought into because of their matches with Bryan is a testament to how amazing he truly is. So yeah I voted him #1 the most important in ring performer for the most important wrestling company in the world seems like a pretty compelling argument to be the best to me.

Ryan Kilma: Explaining Daniel Bryan's wrestling prowess without melting into sweet, gooey hyperbole becomes more difficult with each passing year. I will say this though, and I hope no one reading this is afraid of heights because this is going to be some high praise; there's not a single wrestler currently employed anywhere that I can think of that Daniel Bryan couldn't have a good match with. Heck, all of us voters + Daniel Bryan could be put in a Battle Royal and he would find a way to make it exciting. Every offensive move packs an audible wallop, and he size is so below the norm (Shawn Michaels is three inches taller) that even JTG could deal a believable chink in DB's armor. There's really nothing to say except to yell "Yes" repeatedly and extend the arms over the head.

Joey O. Last summer, My Main Man D-Bry was part of the Wizard World comic con in Philly, booked alongside Ricky Steamboat for a Q&A. I didn't get to ask my question, which would have been, "Can you just wrestle the Shield in different combinations for the rest of the summer, please?" Well the answer apparently would have been "Yes!," as Bryan pretty much ended up doing that anyway (along with an endless run of quality matches with Orton), and the results were constantly must-see TV. Pretty much every match Bryan was involved in last year was guaranteed to be the show-stoppa, including his first true WWE PPV main event title match against Cena at SummerSlam. Everyone loved the guy, and it wasn't just the "Yes!" chants or the was also proof that fans will rally behind someone constantly delivering the best matches on the show.

Tristan Wolfe: This is a no brainer. This has been the year of Daniel Bryan and it's been a roller coaster. It didn't matter if he was facing John Cena at Summerslam, battling The Authority, or chillin' behind Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan has had the fans eating out of his hand. His debut of the [screw all of you] Busaiku Knee was jaw dropping at the conclusion of his match with John Cena. His work in 2013 was so good that the WWE just kept booking him in matches. "Hey Bryan, we need to cut another Zack Ryder segment, can you just wrestle 5 times on the same show?" His technical in-ring work is always superb, he's a blast to watch, and damnit he's just a really nice guy too. My boy D-Bry right there takes the #2 spot...and my heart.

Rob Pandola: My #1 overall, and it was a no-brainier. Forget about the matches, because you've all seen them. The reason he's my #1 overall is because his wave lifted all ships. His fire made everything watchable. He made everyone he stepped in the ring with better. By doing that, he made the product better. His style is a textbook in high-tech working. And he was pulling ZERO punches. And because of that, everyone had to get better. One year ago, I never even imagined I would have Randy Orton on my list, but because of Bryan, he's there, because he made him step his game up. Hell, THE BELLAS GOT BETTER!!!! THINK ABOUT THAT!!!!!! It would be ridiculous to put him anywhere else.

Frank McCormick: With some wrestlers on the list, their inclusion is just so obvious that a blurb like this seems utterly unnecessary. What can be said about Daniel Bryan that has not been said by the Internet already? Not all that much, honestly. So rather than his wrestling, which speaks for itself, I just want to note another, I think underappreciated, part of his ring game that makes him the bee's knees (TO THE FACE). To wit, his ability to work a crowd.

People sometimes say that Bryan is just an amazing technical wrestler, and eventually, and with the help of a very simple catchphrase, his technical skills simply forced people to love him. While that is most certainly true, I think it sells Bryan a bit short to focus exclusively on his "technical" skills (by which wrestling nerds mean his incredible moveset and competence in employing said moveset). Because its not just that he knows all these moves and can execute them to perfection, it's that he knows what moves to use and when to use them. He doesn't start with the Knee That Beat John Cena, he builds up to it. He doesn't just slap on a Mexican Surfboard, he puts on each piece of the move deliberately, giving the crowd time to get just a little more impressed and excited. And when he's being beaten and hope seems like it might be lost, he "Hulks up," generating the energy of the crowd while appearing to be recharged by its spontaneous emission. Crowds end up frothing at the mouth for Bryan matches, and it's not just because he knows all 1000 variations of the armbar. In short, Bryan isn't just a moves machine, he's a professional wrestler in every sense of the word, and that is why he's the greatest.

Mike Pankowski: Just when you thought that Bryan had already reached his peak, 2013 showed that he had another level to get to. The way that he can switch gears in a match is amazing. When he’s kicking and diving on opponents, it looks like he’s going 100 MPH. When he slows it down for some mat wrestling, every hold looks locked in. And when Bryan is getting laid out in a match, he sells it so well. Everything about him clicked so well that it would be foolish for me not to give him my #1 spot this year.

Joey Splashwater: The guy has been the best wrestler on the planet for a long time, arguably 8 years or so. I'm left in awe at how special of a performer Daniel Bryan is. Obviously we all are aware how great he is but to see him become the top in ring performer in WWE in 2013 was something special. Between tag matches with Kane, many various matches with The Shield, his classic with John Cena, series with Randy Orton and feud with a Bray Wyatt, who at the time was viewed as a poor in ring performer, and succeeding in just about every match, 2013 was the year of Bryan. Daniel Bryan was/is the perfect in ring performer.

Brock Lutefisk: You’re an idiot if you don’t have Daniel Bryan in the top five of this list. You’re an even bigger idiot if he isn’t in your top 20. If you didn’t vote for him, you deserve to be sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. Bryan is by far the best wrestler in North America. The man goes out there and knows how to put on a show. Think about all the matches he had to wrestle in during the 2013 calendar year. Heck, just think about all of those gauntlet matches against the Shield. He had great matches with Orton, Cena and so many more.

Andrew Rosin: He was consistently the most watchable part of the #1 promotion in the world. He was the funny man of Team Hell No. He had amazing matches on the way to John Cena and through the end of the year. And the crowd looks at him like they did Austin and The Rock. He's popular with the kids and us internet jerks. If he's not #1 on this list I will be absolutely stunned.

De O'Brien: Daniel Bryan's 2013 had its ups and downs; while he was part of one of the most fan-favorite tag teams in the WWE, and winning matches against John Cena - who handpicked Bryan to be his opponent at SummerSlam -, Randy Orton, Cesaro and Jack Swagger, he was also superkicked by his mentor, Shawn Michaels, savaged by his former best friend and tag partner Kane, and knocked out by the Big Show.

Despite being presented to the fans as someone who could never make it because of his size, or the fact that he wasn't the stereotypical lantern-jawed clean-cut Superman that the WWE seems to dote on almost extensively to be the face of the product, Bryan prevailed, but at no point during the year was the depth of his character more prevalent than during his entanglement with both the Authority - who chose Orton to represent the WWE - and with the Wyatt Family, who stepped in to provide Bryan some backup against "The machine". Bryan chainsawed his way through Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, hanging on long enough for a chance to face Bray Wyatt on the last RAW of the year, but Bryan learned you can't fight the inevitable and suffered a beatdown from Harper and Rowan during his bout with Bray.

The one thing you can take out of Bryan's 2013 is this: No matter who you are, no matter if they tell you you're not good enough, if you stick to your principles and you do what you feel you must no matter what anyone else wants, chances are you'll come out victorious in your own way. Good things come to those who fight for them, and with one simple word - "YES!" - Daniel Bryan announced to the WWE Universe and 2013 that he was definitely going to be fighting for a long time to come.

Brandon Bosh: Of all the astonishing things about Daniel Bryan’s success – and there are plenty – perhaps the most astonishing is that he’s still the same wrestler who electrified the indies a decade ago. Aside from the subtraction of Cattle Mutilation and the addition of an unimaginably grueling schedule, Bryan hasn’t changed at all. All of his signature indie moves are now his signature WWE moves: the turnbuckle backflip, the top-rope dropkick, the skyscraping back superplex, the picture-perfect diving headbutt. Even more incredibly, Bryan continues to practice the torturous submission holds that made him an indie legend. His feature-length matches, on pay-per-views and “special events”, are virtually indistinguishable from his best bouts in Ring of Honor, right down to the same methodical pacing. Bryan’s marquee WWE matches unfold so patiently that it’s a wonder today’s attention-deficient WWE crowds don’t get restless along the way. Fortunately, Bryan is a) really fucking good at his job and b) really fucking popular, so he’s managed to control his own destiny (at least between the bells). The wrestler gets to determine the match type, rather than the other way around.

Curiously enough, Bryan’s best WWE foil to date has been Randy Orton, whose meticulous stomps and finger-wringers evoke no one so much as the American Dragon himself. It seems that, no longer content to revolutionize WWE wrestling through his own work, Bryan has taken to leaving his fingerprint on fellow main-eventers, possibly even altering the rote WWE main-event “style” at large. So, not only is Daniel Bryan the best wrestler in the world, he’s also one of the most influential. All of which is further proof that Bryan’s winkingly self-aware TV storylines are the least interesting thing about his WWE journey.

Brandon Stroud: This is the first place on the Internet to say something nice about Daniel Bryan, right?

Nobody does it better. He wears his heart on the outside of his body. He always has, even when he was an incorrigible jerk wearing the ROH title. Even when he was in a pseudo-gay therapy-themed tag team of word screamers. Even when he was losing in 18 seconds and emotionally abusing his girlfriend. True, unmitigated talent cannot be denied, and Bryan is the very best pro wrestler in the world. He had a hell of a year, and it'd only get better in the first quarter of 2014. I'm hoping it gets better still. Since ol' Lazy Bones has taken a sabbatical, can we finally get the BEST IN THE WORLD chant going for the right dude?

And now, the list in total, for your viewing pleasure:

1 Daniel Bryan
2 Antonio Cesaro
3 Seth Rollins
4 Sami Zayn/El Generico
5 Roman Reigns
6 Dean Ambrose
7 John Cena
8 CM Punk
9 Goldust
10 Cody Rhodes
11 Randy Orton
12 Bray Wyatt
13 Dolph Ziggler
14 AJ Lee
15 Luke Harper
16 Big E Langston
17 Kevin Steen
18 Nick Jackson
19 Matt Jackson
20 Adam Cole
21 Alberto del Rio
22 Paige
23 ACH
24 Jack Swagger
25 Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno
26 Brock Lesnar
27 Drew Gulak
28 Johnny Gargano
29 Sheamus
30 AR Fox
31 Mark Henry
32 Emma
33 Damien Sandow
34 Green Ant
35 Michael Elgin
36 Frank O'Rourke/Biff Busick
37 Jimmy Uso
38 Jey Uso
39 Bully Ray
40 Eddie Kingston
41 Ricochet
42 Chuck Taylor
43 Tim Donst
44 Kyle O'Reilly
45 Bo Dallas
46 AJ Styles
47 Adrian Neville
48 Trent?
49 Kane
50 Ryback
51 Christopher Daniels
52 Chris Jericho
53 William Regal
54 Eddie Edwards
55 Sami Callihan
56 Jessicka Havok
57 Christian
58 Rich Swann
59 Icarus
60 Robert Evans/RD Evans/Archibald Peck/Big Bad Quentin
61 Kofi Kingston
62 Bobby Roode
63 Drake Younger
64 Gail Kim
65 The Big Show
66 Austin Aries
67 Jay Briscoe
68 Candice LeRae
69 Mark Angelosetti
70 Joseph Park/Abyss
71 Athena
72 Davey Vega
73 UltraMantis Black
74 Davey Richards
75 Colt Cabana
76 Fandango
77 Michael Hutter/Derrick Bateman/Ethan Carter III
78 Chris Dickinson
79 Cheerleader Melissa
80 Hallowicked
81 Fire Ant
82 Kazarian
83 Mike Quackenbush
84 Natalya
85 Ophidian
86 Rey Mysterio
87 Samoa Joe
88 Veda Scott
89 "All Ego" Ethan Page
90 TJ Perkins/Manik
91 Estonian Thunder Frog
92 Curtis Axel
93 JT Dunn
94 Jigsaw
95 Summer Rae
96 Kimber Lee
97 Tyler Breeze
98 The Undertaker
99 Paul London
100 Roderick Strong