The Anti-Antagonist: Credit Daniel Bryan, and Bryan Alone

Adam Gorzelsky

bryanWWE had it right all along!! All of that complaining about Daniel Bryan “turning heel” was for naught. I mean, really, look at that payoff…Goosebumps!

Have patience…show faith…WWE knows exactly what it’s doing!

Can we stop with the nonsense?!

The ending of this Monday’s Raw was exhilarating. CM Punk has had moments in recent memory that have left me in awe, but Bryan’s connection with the crowd reached a level that has been untouched since the days when the routine sound of glass shattering prompted a rumbling that shook the arena to its core.

Why such an incredible connection with the crowd?

While the accessibility of the simple “YES!” chant and his immense in-ring talents certainly factor into the equation, Bryan’s underdog, overcoming the odds persona makes him a lightning rod for support.

A superbly told story continues to unfold before our eyes. For what it’s worth though, this story is not a testament to WWE or its team of writers. All of the credit goes to Bryan Danielson. This isn’t brilliantly scripted sports entertainment. Hell, it’s not even a case of art imitating life…This is simply Bryan’s life, played out for all to see.

Steve Austin’s battle with Vince McMahon had a realistic current flowing beneath the surface, at least initially. Black tights and black boots never could get over. Vulgar language and alcohol abuse had no place in the WWF. In other words, Austin being Austin wasn’t what was best for business…Until it was.

The on-screen Mr. McMahon hated Steve Austin, while his off-screen counterpart counted the dollars. Steve Austin fought the machine on a week to week basis, bringing countless hours of entertainment. Nevertheless, we never doubted his position in the company. He was fighting a kayfabe “machine.”

There absolutely is no doubt in my mind that Bryan Danielson is fighting the true WWE machine, not one of kayfabe. I had my reservations initially. I bought the hype after Summerslam that Bryan had to climb the mountain…that the money was in the chase. I watched him suffer losses, beatings, and humiliations with the expectation that WWE simply was gearing up for his ultimate triumph.

I can’t buy the explanations any longer. In fact, as much as I enjoyed Monday from an entertainment standpoint, it made the writing on the wall appear more clearly to me.

Bryan’s WWE career has been nothing short of an unimaginable triumph in the face of direct and purposeful sabotage. Essentially, Bryan inexplicably has managed to increase momentum following instances where he literally has been set-up for abject failure.

Think about it…He returned with vigorous fan support following a termination that was nothing short of a sham. The “Yes!” chant became iconic as a result of fan anger from him being booked to lose the World Title in record-breaking fashion. Make no mistake, the decision to end the match in that fashion was meant to benefit Sheamus, not Bryan…Bryan was meant to be the footnote in history, not the headline.

Fast forward to the Wyatt situation…All reports point to the fact that creative had no direction for the abduction angle and that Monday’s turn of events was an audible of sorts. Given these reports and given his history, is it far from the realm of possibility to conclude that he was placed with the Wyatt’s to kill his momentum? That an audible was called when WWE realized that not even this inexplicable “heel” turn could stop the freight train of emotion and support?

Daniel Bryan is reaching unchartered levels of support because the fans see this struggle. We see a struggle similar to the one portrayed during the Austin-McMahon era. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that the struggle is real. As a result, we may never see Daniel Bryan reach the top of the mountain.

I’ll say with confidence that WWE has wanted to see him fade on numerous occasions. His refusal to do so has added to his legend and has fueled the ferocity of the crowds. It makes for great TV and WWE certainly reaps the rewards. Make no mistake though, his success is not WWE’s intention…it is a grassroots by-product of the best efforts to the contrary.

There certainly is money in the chase, but there’s also plenty of money in allowing the most popular wrestler in the company to carry the torch. Unfortunately, while I’m sure WWE appreciates everyone’s sentiments in this regard, Daniel Bryan is not and will not be considered the company’s most popular wrestler now or in the future from their perspective.

This certainly doesn’t mean that we should enjoy Daniel Bryan any less…Hell, he’s a concentrated bundle of everything that is, was, and ever will be amazing about professional wrestling (with all due respect to Bret Hart).

I just wouldn’t hold out hope for a reboot of Monday night at the end of Wrestlemania’s Main Event. He deserves it, he’s earned it, and logic dictates its occurrence.

Regrettably, WWE’s track record begs to differ. 

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