Despite the fact that Daniel Byan's in ring career has come to an end, his legacy and career will live on due to the phenomenal impact he had during not only his WWE career, but his entire wrestling career spanning over 16 years. His story is one of a true underdog, who won over the hearts and minds of wrestling fans across the globe.
He has always been seen as one of the greatest in ring technicians, but it was the Yes Movement that transcend him to the main event of WrestleMania, a connection few superstars will ever have with the fans. This is his story (and in all honesty, this authors tribute) which is full of highs and just a few lows. But most importantly, one of a man who simply loved wrestling and left everything he had, every night, inside the ring.
Bryan's career began being trained by a man who would later in life enter the WWE Hall of Fame, Shawn Michaels. A perfect tutor for a man of Bryan's size and build, and it's clear from his in ring work that he took plenty away from his lessons with the 'Heart Break Kid.'
But his first major break would be with Ring of Honor Wrestling, and even though he competed all around the world on the independent scenes, the American Dragon's run with ROH was what made him a well known name to hardcore wrestling fans, not just in America, but around the world.
Alongside CM Punk, he was seen as one of the people who put ROH on the map, opening the door for wrestlers such as Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn to follow, as he proved that smaller wrestlers can be just as, if not more exciting than bigger more muscular wrestlers. He left the independent circuits to finally join the WWE (who he had a trial with during his early years) and he went straight to the developmental system, FCW (now known as NXT).
Bryan was hailed as one of the best wrestlers in the world already at this point by colleagues and fans, and now it was time for him to prove himself on the main stage, with his times having 80 minute matches with Samoa Joe firmly behind him.
His moment to appear in front of the WWE Universe for the first time came through NXT, which was at the time in its questionable game show phase, in stark contrast to the fantastic show we see currently. Bryan was a 'contestant' in the first series of NXT, which featured the likes of Wade Barrett and Ryback (at the time Skip Sheffield).
The show consisted of ridiculous challenges coupled with matches between the 'rookies' and the 'pros', including one of Bryans best ever WWE matches with Chris Jericho on the very first episode. But it was his relationship with his designated pro, The Miz that would prove to be his downfall, as the two clashed the former WWE Champion wouldn't help his rookie, and Bryan went on a 0-5 losing streak, ultimately being eliminated from the show.
However, it turned out that Vince McMahon had decided he wanted all of the NXT series one contestants to be on the main roster, not just the eventual winner, who turned out to be Barrett. All of the 'rookies' would debut together (including Bryan) as they created one of the most memorable moments in RAW history, as they ambushed the shows main event, creating the faction, Nexus.
Their debut angle saw them trash the ring and everything at ringside, from the commentary table to ripping up the ring mat. Nexus also beat down everyone who was present, from John Cena to the commentary team, as well as ring announcer Justin Roberts, and this is where Bryan's first major low took place.
Bryan was the wrestler that took out Roberts (a non wrestler) and used the announcers tie to choke him out (as pictured) which was deemed to not be PG, and the WWE ended up firing Bryan straight away, after just one appearance on the main roster. It was a difficult decision for WWE to make, as they clearly had plans for the experienced wrestler, but an equally tough experience for Bryan who had waited all his life to see his opportunity be ripped away from him.
But widespread response from the WWE Universe saw them demand he be re-hired (and here the connection was born) and he returned to the surprise of fans, and once again was involved with the Miz.
Bryan made his return to the company at Summerslam in 2010, where he was the surprise member of team WWE, in a 7 v 7 match against Nexus, replacing the Miz, who in the end return to screw Bryan through jealousy, which would lead to them starting their first feud on the main roster.
The Miz made a perfect first rival for Bryan as they were polar opposites, Bryan was much stronger in the ring and was able to work Miz through to some good matches, whilst Miz's strength was (and still is) on the microphone, and he helped to build Bryan's character by playing the perfect heel role.
It would be through Miz that he would get his first title in the company, as their feud boiled down to a match for the United States Championship, which Bryan ended up winning! He would hold onto the title for an impressive 176 days, a fantastic feat considering the fact WWE enjoyed passing the title's around for fun during that time.
It would be Sheamus who eventually took the belt away from him, and it was the rematch between the two men that would provide another low moment of Bryan's career, as they were cut from the WrestleMania card, going from a single's match to a lumberjack dark match, which only the live crowd saw, but Bryan would eventually get his WrestleMania moment.
World Heavyweight Champion and loves true kiss
Daniel Bryan's next major career step came through the Money in the Bank, a briefcase which has propelled the likes of Edge and CM Punk to great heights, and it did exactly the same for Bryan, who successfully cashed in on the Big Show to become the World Heavyweight Champion. During a time when WWE had two World titles, allowing Smackdown to produce young, upcoming talent such as Bryan, a luxury they took away from themselves by unifying the titles.
But it wasn't only the title that he gained during this period, he also began dating (on-screen) WWE diva, AJ Lee, who would play a significant role in Bryan's character and storylines at the time, as the popular wrestler slowly began to make his heel turn, with over confident and cocky celebrations, the fans began to turn against him, as he started to gain heat, and he proved he could work as a heel as well as a baby face.
The relationship would come to an end after WrestleMania 28 when Bryan's World title rein would be brought to an end, also by Sheamus in just 18 seconds, which saw Bryan yet again not get to compete fully on the grandest stage of them all. A kiss from AJ Lee would take Bryan's focus away, as he turned around to a Brogue Kick for the match to end just as it begun, with Bryan blaming her for his loss, the relationship came to an end.
However, this loss may have been the best thing that ever happened to Bryan's career, as he first debuted the 'No!' chant following the defeat, and it caught on like rapid fire, especially on the post 'Mania RAW, where the chant was the most popular among fans, and Bryan was one of the most popular stars on the show, of course no one knew the impact that chant would go on to have.
Lee would then be officially made the new RAW general manager, and she purposefully made life hard for her former boyfriend, costing him opportunities at the WWE Championship, and forcing him to instead feud with Kane, and forced them to attend anger management, in what created some of the funniest segments in recent times. Eventually the segments would lead to a new chapter of his career...
Team Hell No
From the anger management classes, both Kane and Bryan were forced to team together, and they proved to be successfully in the ring, despite the fact they spent most of the matches arguing, they managed to become the Tag Team Champions, beating R Truth and Kofi Kingston for the belts,with both men declaring that they were the Tag Team Champions, rather than both of them.
Their partnership would prove to be one of the most popular in years, and freshened Kane's character, whilst showcasing a comedic side to Bryan that fans hadn't been exposed to before, they had natural chemistry and team Hell No (as they would be named by the fans) went on to have a very successful run as champions.
The team came to an end after they were beaten for the titles by the Shield, who they had been embroiled in a rivalry with, helping to put the stable on the map and cement them as major stars in the company, and after a lengthy run as champions the team parted ways. With Bryan being the man pinned for the loss, he then went on a path to prove himself, alone, in the singles division.
Bryan's quest began for the WWE Championship following his split with Kane, and the Money in the Bank would be his first chance at the gold, in the ladder match for the title, however Bryan would be screwed out of the match by none other than, Curtis Axel....exactly, remember when WWE was actually pushing him?
But Bryan would get his shot at the belts, fairly, when John Cena hand picked Bryan to be his opponent for Summerslam, a match which the underdog would win! Against all the odds, with Triple H as referee, and the face of the company as champion, Bryan won the big one.... for a few minutes.
The Game would hit him with a Pedigree and quickly bring him and the WWE Universe back down to earth as Randy Orton cashed in to become the champion (excitement), but his popularity prevailed again and he remained in the main event scene. His rematches all ended in him being screwed in some fashion whether it was a fast count by Scott Armstrong, an interference from Big Show, or even his own mentor, HBK stabbing him in the back.
It seemed for a while like the WWE creative and management didn't have the faith to push him as 'the guy' despite the fact he was the most popular superstar on the roster, his merchandise was selling brilliantly and he was one of the best wrestlers in the company.
However instead of giving him a real run with the belt, he began a feud with Bray Wyatt, which proved to be very entertaining, concluding in a match of the year contender at the Royal Rumble. The Royal Rumble which Batista ended up winning, the Rumble which will go down as one of the worst in history, as the fans turned on the match and everyone in it once they realized Bryan wasn't even a participant in the 30 man over the top rope match.
As the Animal returned to win (as was heavily speculated) fans dreams were seemingly over, as the 'Mania main event was set, Batista - Randy Orton for the WWE Championship (oh the excitement). Fortunately for the WWE, the fans had other ideas about that.
The WWE Universe rejected the proposed match, and instead made their feelings clear that they wanted Bryan to be in the main event, and after several fantastic hijackings, including a scripted hijack of the ring, WWE gave way to the fan pressure and gave the fans what they wanted.
Bryan went on to face Triple H at WrestleMania 30, defeating his boss to earn a shot at the title and make it a triple threat, the rest of course is history, as Bryan would go on to win the main event, creating one of the most feel good moments in WWE history, capturing the WWE Championship, proving to the world he had finally made it where he belonged.
Unfortunately for Bryan, injuries would force him to vacate the title shortly afterwards, something that would repeat itself the following year when his return saw him win the Intercontinental Championship (making him a Grand Slam Champion) only for injuries force him to drop the belt, thus bringing an end to his time at the top, but ensuring he bowed out as a champion.
Thank You Bryan...
So the journey has come to an end, the final chapter of Bryan's in-ring career has been written as he has retired, thankfully. The fact he has called it a day is something all Daniel Bryan fans should rejoice in, nobody wanted to see him put his health and life on the line, which another run would have done, and he has called it a day at the right time, on his terms.
His farewell speech was one of the most emotional, and heart breaking moments since Edge's retirement, not because he would never be champion again, but because his connection with the WWE Universe was just so strong, so unique, something that few wrestlers have ever had.
Grateful was the word of the day for Bryan during his goodbye to the fans, he thanked them or everything they did for him, but in the end it's the WWE Universe that are grateful, to have so many memories and moments to rejoice upon, and as this future Hall of Fame superstar hangs up his boots, the fans are grateful.
Thank you Daniel Bryan.