Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Daniel Bryan Outside of the Main Event

Bryan doesn't have to headline every Mania to do what he does best
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Daniel Bryan is not headlining WrestleMania this year. I can't speak for anyone else, but even though he is right now my favorite wrestler in the world by a comfortable margin (although Shinsuke Nakamura is creeping up on him), my world is not shattered by this burgeoning fact. Sure, I would love to see Bryan in the catbird seat in any given year. Last year's WrestleMania was magical because it was the culmination of a labor of love that began the moment he debuted on NXT, and if I could, I would relive it over and over and over again. But time doesn't allow for a rewind button yet, and the new year has presented a new story.

My best wishes for Roman Reigns to grow into the mantel he's being presented aside, it's not the story I would have told. I don't have the book, and I don't know if I would have told another Bryan tale or if I would have had someone else attempt to best The Beast, Brock Lesnar. But whether or not the right match is being contested for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, as the saying goes, que sera sera.

And I'm okay with all of it, mostly, I'm okay with Bryan existing below the highest plane of existence. Mainly, Bryan is a much more versatile wrestler than always closing out the big shows, and his value isn't tied to his card position. It's tied to the variety of matches he can wrestle against a plenitude of opponents, which doesn't necessarily mean he needs to be in main events, especially at the granddaddy of them all.

Shawn Michaels built a career out of being Mr. WrestleMania despite many of his memorable matches happening outside of the main event. Sure, he'll always have the Iron Man match against Bret Hart, the career finale against The Undertaker, and his epic against John Cena, but he's always been given studio space to explore outside of the main event. The WrestleMania XXV Streak match, the career-threatening match against Ric Flair, and the midcard affairs vs. Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle all got time, and Michaels was never worse for wear for it because of his reputation as a steady hand in the ring.

It's that space that I want Bryan to explore going forward. Unless Sheamus undergoes severe career rehab, he'll never get to the point where he'll be able to be in a Mania main event, but he's also one of the best workers on the roster. He and Bryan deserve a long chunk of time to have their Mania epic that was denied them two years running, and that will never happen unless they dip down the card. Matches against Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, or even Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens going forward could go either way whether they could main event Mania or not, but all of them could be stellar, big-time matches somewhere away from the super-serious final epic showdown.

Even away from the biggest event of the year, Bryan is a wrestler who doesn't necessarily need to repeat the glory over and over again. Something about getting that one chance to shine validated him as a WWE superstar in my eyes, and the fans seem to agree with me. The truth is that he's a terrible babyface as written by Creative/Vince McMahon, and he'll never regain the benefit of the doubt again since he's already risen from the ranks as an underdog and proven everyone wrong.

Seriously, between SummerSlam '13 and WrestleMania XXX, he pinned John Cena clean, rope-a-doped Randy Orton something fierce before getting every screw put to him, made the Wyatt Family look like a bunch of foolish hillbillies, and then beat the entirety of Evolution with the exception of Ric Flair in one night. Anything else would be overkill unless the story is him vs. Brock Lesnar, and if the rumblings backstage indicating that he's out like trout after Mania, then that ship has forever sailed.

I'm not saying I'd never enjoy Bryan getting another run if the story's right, but his best shot was already fired, and it was sublime. He's WWE royalty now, and he's ostensibly earned the right to do what he does best at and how he's most entertaining. He can wrestle long, outstanding matches against the bulk of the roster, enhancing the good shows and elevating the poor ones into some standard of watchability.

Daniel Bryan is not going to main event WrestleMania, and that's okay. As long as he's not shunted into the Andre the Giant Battle Royale, then his Mania will be satisfying without a doubt, especially if the Sheamus or Rollins rumblings are true. I don't care if it's the last match on the card or not. All I wanna do is watch Bryan be the best in the world.