(Sorry about the lack of posts recently. A family bereavement, marriage preparation and other events have taken precedence).
So, it’s WrestleMania season…but all everyone is talking about is Daniel Bryan! Yes, the Yes Man has been medically cleared to wrestle! The dream matches are innumerable. He even took an (unnecessary) dangerous apron powerbomb from Kevin Owens on last night’s edition of Smackdown Live. Obviously, he’s heading towards a WrestleMania confrontation with Owens/Sami Zayn. But never mind that…I’ve not been this excited about someone’s return for…a bloody long time! Yes, Daniel Bryan stole my heart all those years ago. He stole our hearts by being an underdog…but also by being a bloody great wrestler! So here are my Top 10 Daniel Bryan matches…
- Vs Chris Jericho (NXT Season 1, Episode 1)
Daniel Bryan’s first ever match on WWE TV just HAD to be on this list. Yes, it took place on the abomination that was the first iteration of NXT, but Bryan wrestled his heart out every week (and was the clear fan favourite). On the first episode, Bryan challenged Chris Jericho in a dream match. Yes, it may have been short but extremely sweet. There’s not much story to this match, as it’s more of a sprint to the finish, but boy do they pack in a lot of action into it. Add a brutal looking bump that Bryan took into the side of the announce table and you have a minor classic. It put Bryan on the WWE Scene.
- Money in the Bank Ladder Match 2011
Yes, the main focus of this PPV was the monumental main event between John Cena and CM Punk. But we also saw the mini-rise of Daniel Bryan, winning the Money in the Bank contract. Who’d have thought he would win at that point? He was just a great wrestler that the people backstage had never seen superstar potential in. Here, he tried more than ever to prove that he was worthy of not only winning the contract, but also a World Championship. He never gave up, receiving an hellacious beating but clawing forward. If you hadn’t noticed Daniel Bryan before that point, he gave you no choice but to notice him during one of the best MITB matches ever held.
- vs Randy Orton vs Batista (WrestleMania XXX, Triple Threat Match for WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Let’s be honest, this is a damned fine main event…but it’s not great, is it? But I feel I have to include it on this list is that, succinctly put, it’s Bryan’s greatest moment in the WWE (or, possibly, his life. What’s getting married or having a baby comparing to winning the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania?). I always forget that during this bout, we are subjected to mostly a singles fight between Batista and Orton whilst Bryan is stretchered out of the ring due to being the victim of a powerbomb into an RKO through an announce table. But Batista allows himself to be thrown around, Orton is Orton, and Bryan plays the injured underdog with aplomb. He rouses the crowd out of their shock at the Streak being beaten, and his victory and celebration are incredibly heartwarming. It proves that hard work does indeed pay off!
- Vs Randy Orton (Raw 24/6/13, Street Fight)
This match was a sign that WWE were putting their pushing machine behind Daniel Bryan. A few weeks prior, a match between Bryan and Orton had to be stopped because Bryan suffered a stinger. However, he looked better than ever here, pulling out all the stops in this street fight. Yes, it may have featured the obligatory kendo stick (all street fights have to include it, don’t they), but it was used in especially innovative ways. It’s a particularly brutal main event that must be among the best WWE Raw main events.
- Vs Bray Wyatt (Royal Rumble 2014)
Who does their best to put both themselves and their opponent over? Daniel Bryan! I think I can possibly say that this is the best Royal Rumble opening match ever. But I can safely say that this is Wyatt’s finest singles match. Wyatt was portrayed as a vicious heel here, picking apart Bryan is wicked ways. Of course, what everyone remembers is Bryan not being part of the later Rumble match. But this match is one of Bryan’s finest moments. He elevated both himself and Wyatt in this slobberknocker.
- Vs Dolph Ziggler (Bragging Rights 2010)
I compare this to Bret Hart vs Mr. Perfect at Summerslam 1991. Both matches concerned mid-card titles, and both matches proved that the mid-card bouts could provide more drama, action and quality wrestling than the main event card. This is a bout that doesn’t slow down, even for rest holds. The bout starts off at a terrific pace, and seems to escalate from there. Yes, there’s ample time for great selling, but this is non-stop action. It puts these two wrestlers on a different level to anything else on the card. Simply brilliant.
- Vs Sheamus (Extreme Rules 2012, 2/3 Falls Match for the World Heavyweight Championship)
Who’s idea was it to have Bryan lose in seven seconds to Sheamus at Mania 28? That’s the moment that the YES movement exploded, so Bryan owes that person a hell of a lot! Sheamus and Bryan would have a chance to put on a great wrestling match at the following PPV, Extreme Rules 2012, in a 2/3 Falls match. They took that opportunity and put on a sublime back and forth match full of brutal looking spots and reversals. It must be Sheamus’ best singles match in the WWE. They more than made up for their Mania debacle. Instead of Bryan being a snivelling little heel, here he looked dangerous. And brilliant, of course!
- Team Hell No and Ryback vs The Shield (TLC 2012, TLC match)
This is the best TLC match of the modern era, without doubt. But just remember for a second: the SHIELD were an unknown quantity here (unless you’d watched NXT). Kane was washed-up, and Ryback was still green (did he ever change colour?!?!). Bryan was the only known, reliable wrestler in the bout to the WWE casual crowd. But the six wrestlers constructed a masterpiece of craziness and destruction. When you thought you’d seen it all, the six wrestlers put a spin on an old spot or created something unique. It’s one of the most insane WWE matches of the PG era. My words can’t do it justice: just watch it!
- Vs Triple H (WrestleMania XXX, Winner Goes On To Main Event)
The main event of WrestleMania XXX is a big deal. Bryan won the WWE Championship by beating Orton and Batista, two legends of the business. But that wasn’t Bryan’s best match on the card, was it? His road to the WrestleMania main event went through Triple H on Mania’s opening match. Next to Hart v Hart from Mania X, HHH and Bryan is the second best opening match in Mania history. And I’d put it at both man’s best Mania match. HHH wrestled his socks off, and Bryan played the effervescent underdog (as always). HHH is the ultimate heel here, trying everything in his power to stop Bryan from reaching the main event. An underrated classic.
- Vs CM Punk (Over The Limit 2012, WWE Championship Match)
It’s a tough choice…their match at Over The Limit 2012 or Extreme Rules 2012? The latter is more memorable in its brutality, but I guess AJ Lee’s interference reduces the quality. At Over The Limit 2012, it’s just Bryan vs Punk in a match of the indie wrestlers…and they put on a goddamned clinic. It’s among the best clashes from either individual (and that’s saying something, isn’t it?). For anyone interested in wrestling, this should be a necessary addition to their to-watch list. They wrestle, kick and stretch the stuffing out of each other for over twenty minutes to prove that this WWE Championship match should have main evented the PPV. You know what did main event it? John Cena vs John Laurinaitis. This match is worth a million matches between Cena and Croaky Voice.
- Vs John Cena (Summerslam 2013, WWE Championship Match)
Bryan may have put on one of the best opening matches with HHH at Mania XXX, but here he put on the second best main event in Summerslam history with John Cena (of course, the best Summerslam main event is Bret Hart vs The British Bulldog!). Indie wrestlers tend to bring the best out of John Cena, and Bryan certainly did here. Cena’s best match? Not sure, but it must be Bryan’s finest moment outside of the Mania XXX main event. In the storyline, Cena picked Bryan as his opponent as he believed Bryan to be the best wrestler on the roster. Here, Bryan proved it in an epic bout. They put on a meticulously story-driven bout, with Cena as the underdog (he’d suffered an elbow injury prior to the bout). It may have been tarnished by the ending, but for almost half an hour Cena and Bryan came close to succeeding the Summerslam 92 classic.
Agree or disagree? Any you’d take away or add? What is your Top 10?
Click here for my retrospective on Daniel Bryan’s WWE career, #ThankYouDanielBryan
I’m so happy he’s back! My wife likes him, too, and she’s not even a big wrestling fan. People can just relate to the guy!
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Same with my fiancee! Not a big wrestling fan, but huge Daniel Bryan fan!
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The Total Divas/Bellas shows help, too!
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Have never had the pleasure of watching them!
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This was just a great week for WWE fans. First the Ultimate Deletion on raw, then they announce the next day that Bryan’s cleared, the hype for Wrestlemania thus year is crazy.
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Waiting for Styles/Nakamura and Charlotte/Asuka especially!
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