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Daniel Bryan Continues to Dazzle in Many Ways
Author: John Canton
April 14th 2013 - |
I have always thought that one of the biggest keys to being a successful professional wrestler is the ability to be multi-dimensional. Over the years we have seen far too many performers that may be only great in one area or they may be lacking that special something to reach the very top. Sometimes a performer may be considered average in the ring or they may not be as gifted on the microphone as others. Perhaps that person lacks the charisma needed to captivate the audience. I don't have to name names. You can see it when you watch a wrestling show.
The truly special performers are the ones that have everything. They're the ones that usually end up in the Hall of Fame when their careers are over because they have those special qualities. I don't have to sit here to tell you who the best guys in WWE are because you can see it every week. However, there is somebody that may be the best of them all.
His name? Daniel Bryan.
When Daniel Bryan showed up on the first season of NXT in 2010 he was portrayed as somebody that had traveled the world wrestling at a high level for a decade before landing in WWE. It wasn't much of a character. That's who he was. He was trained by the great Shawn Michaels and later he trained with William Regal to hone his craft. Most internet fans knew of him because of his worldwide success in companies like Ring of Honor as well as working independent shows all over the world. When he wrestled Chris Jericho in the main event of the first NXT episode it was confirmation that an "internet darling" had made it.
If you look back to three years ago when Bryan first arrived in WWE he did not look anything like he does now. There was no beard. The personality wasn't there. He was just a regular guy that was trying to win the respect the fans. It was okay, but he needed something more.
In the summer of 2011, Bryan won one of the Money in the Bank briefcases much to the delight of a lot of fans, like myself, that knew just how good this guy was. The question was, would he continue to portray this "average man" character or would he develop into something else? We would soon find out.
After he won the World Heavyweight Title in late 2011 he developed a personality that made him stand out. He became a jerk due to his newfound success. The gold went to his head, so to speak. He wasn't just a jerk to his fans, but he was even mean to his girlfriend AJ Lee, who would say that she loved him only for Bryan to not repeat the phrase back to her. All of a sudden he was opening episodes of Smackdown with ten minute promos bragging about how great he was. A year earlier he never would have had that same opportunity. It was a sign of his growth as a performer.
I thought 2012 was an excellent year for Bryan. He was as good as anybody on WWE TV all year long. I realize that the most memorable moment for him was the 18 second loss to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28, but he did much more than that. The night after WrestleMania last year was remembered as one of the better episodes of Raw because of all the enthusiastic "yes" chants from the crowd all night long. In a lot of ways it began the tradition of the post-WrestleMania Raw being a special show similar to what we saw last week. For what it's worth, his match with Sheamus at Extreme Rules last year was one of the underrated great matches on WWE TV last year too.
The "yes" chants were a big deal for Bryan and you could depend on him to have great matches on a regular basis too. I think his match at Over The Limit with CM Punk was one of the best matches of 2012. He had a lot of very good television matches too. It wouldn't shock me to see Bryan have more match of the year contenders this year. If he is given the opportunity he will deliver. I don't think anybody doubts his in-ring ability, nor should they.
I thought the biggest growth in Bryan last year was with his character. He went from being a jerk to his girlfriend to a guy that was obsessed with yelling "no" at the fans that chanted "yes" at him. That transformation added more personality to his character. His crowd reactions, which were already among the loudest of anybody in WWE, grew even more. I remember being at a few live events where I saw him do a phenomenal job of interacting with the fans. It was totally different from the guy that I saw working an indy show five years ago.
In the summer we got those "anger management" skits with Kane following Summerslam. They were gold. Let's not pretend like all WWE comedy is always great. It's not. There are some hits. There are some misses. Just like with any television show. However, when Bryan & Kane were sitting in that circle to express why they were angry all the time they really found something special. They clicked. You can't force chemistry. Performers have to find it. For Bryan & Kane it happened naturally.
I'm not sure if WWE expected "Team Hell No" to take off like it did. They've had a lot of fun matches as a team with their six man TLC match with Ryback against The Shield standing out as a memorable matchup. They won the tag titles in September. Their reign has lasted over 200 days, which is the longest tag title reign in WWE since 2008. It has helped revitalize a tag team division that has a lot of momentum once again. A potential rivalry with The Shield will likely lead to more exciting matches in the near future.
The most noticeable change in Bryan these days is his confidence. He's still arguably the greatest in-ring performer in the company and since he's in the prime of his career I don't see that changing over the next decade. Look at him when he's given a chance talk. He doesn't look uncomfortable in front of a camera anymore. He looks like he belongs. That "E" in WWE means Entertainment and Bryan is as entertaining as anyone on WWE TV these days.
If you watched this week's JBL & Cole show(and if you haven't what's wrong with you?) where Bryan, along with Kane, gave us one of the funniest things I've seen anybody do in WWE in a long time. Bryan did this ridiculous rap about how "Kane is super smelly" and that his partner hasn't washed a thing in 15 years. It's silly, but it works! It's relatable to adults and kids alike. It shows how adaptable he is. Trying to give a memorable performance during a 30 second segment isn't easy. He finds a way to pull it off.
I also think calling himself The Dazzler (or "B-Dazzle") is hilarious too. It's silly, but so what? That's what pro wrestling is sometimes. There are times when he can be a serious ass kicker that delivers vicious kicks to the head and there are times when he can loosen up to transform into The Dazzler. The fact that one of the most gifted submission specialists ever can also do something completely different with an over the top comedy characters shows how gifted he really is.
I really like a lot of people on the current WWE roster, but my favorite performer is Daniel Bryan. I'm excited about his future. While I have enjoyed the tag team run with Kane, I want to see what he does as a singles performer that the fans get behind. Instead of saying "no" to the fans, hopefully Bryan chants "yes" with them as a way to get him some momentum when he makes his big comeback in a match. I think his already loud reactions from the crowd will grow when he's given that opportunity.
My expectations for Bryan as a heroic character are very high. We've only seen the beginning of what he can do. It will be awesome to see if he can get back to that World/WWE Title level he was at last year. Talent-wise there's no question he belongs. Now that Bryan is just as comfortable talking in front of the camera as he is performing in the ring his potential for greatness is off the charts.
A lot of fans may wonder who has the potential to be the next huge star in WWE. If I had to pick one person it would be Daniel Bryan. In terms of an all around talent that can do everything there is nobody better.
Who are you to doubt The Dazzler?