Monday night on Raw, Daniel Bryan put on a match that made the World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus look like an all time great. Sure, Bryan lost in order to enhance the image of a bigger star, but this was the hands-down match of the night. After this loss, the show cut to commercial, coming back to more D-Bry. Surrounded by security and huddled in the fetal position like you would on the floor of the shower following a chocolate milk and nachos bender, Bryan fought off his escorts and loudly claimed to not be leaving the ring. Repeatedly, he exclaimed, "I am not leaving without a doctor!" playing up the camp like a Priscilla Queen of the Desert cast member. Eventually, he punted another wrestler’s invisible six year old fan (long explanation) and was escorted from the ring by a team of orderlies from a mental hospital. A few short vignettes aired throughout the night, continuing the story, in which Bryan lashed out at counselors, usually over what seemed like unintentional insults to him.
This doesn't sound like the funniest thing in the world, but if you'd been watching the show, you'd think it was. Combined with his ability to deliver great matches night in and night out, this gift for simply being entertaining even without dropkicking someone is really the beauty of what Bryan has done as a wrestler these last few months. He rarely wins, but his matches are always the highlight of the show. He's constantly ridiculed, and yet he still manages to be the funniest part of any segment he's in, even if it's just a result of his physical reaction to someone’s words. He's naturally as plain-looking as they come, and yet his Montana-based recluse beard and flamboyant burgundy jacket have made him one of the most distinct-looking members of a WWE universe that's increasingly comprised of 6'2 tanned white guys with tribal tattoos. And despite a reputation as a technical wrestler without much in the way of mic skills – he’s been frequently compared to Chris Benoit for most of his career, both in terms their shared strengths and weaknesses – he’s coined wrestling’s most notable catchphrase since Stone Cold started yelling WHAT!? by yelling YES! over and over. In short, a guy with every natural disadvantage in the world has become the most entertaining performer in the WWE, and by a fairly wide margin.
So what happened to allow Bryan to do all of this? He’s clearly not the type of guy the WWE would typically get behind, but it seems like they’ve always been aware of his talent. He’s never received much in the form of a push and frequently loses regardless of whether or not he’s a face or a heel. However, as soon as he made his official debut – in which he was fired from the company for choking an announcer with a tie, only to be brought back as a surprise partner for a Summerslam tag match between the then-credible Nexus and the WWE’s top stars – he’s been treated as special and given just a little bit more of a spotlight than a typical new wrestler. Be it a storyline in which multiple divas fight over him, an NXT partnership with Chris Jericho – a guy who’s every bit as talented as legends like Triple H and Shawn Michaels, and who’d probably be a bigger star if he hadn’t spent most of his career trying to make other guys look good since he’s a decent human being who lacks crippling insecurity about his place in the business or something - a shockingly competitive solo match with Batista, or even just highly entertaining feuds with a masked Cody Rhodes, Bryan has always received solid opportunities from WWE management, and he’s never failed to deliver. (*note to self – create a Living Room Championship Wrestling persona in which I ride a bike to the ring, carry Chinese food, and use the catchphrase “I ALWAYS DELIVER!” and/or “15 minutes or less, chompski honk!”)
Making a star out of a wrestler isn’t the hardest thing in the world. Find a guy with a cool look, make him really serious, have him demolish everyone in his way, and bam, Goldberg/ Taz/ Orton/ Undertaker/ heel Triple H/ 2011 Mark Henry/ Cena any time he’s about to win a title. Or find a decent looking guy, have him smile, love children, and overcome the odds to always win, and bam, Hogan/ Cena/ Sheamus/ uh, every face champion ever save for the Attitude Era. But to be different, to be a character who feels fresh and actually connects with people under 40 and over 12, is hard to do, and Daniel Bryan’s pulled it off. Wrestling in general is traditionally awful about spotlighting their most talented performers instead of the ones that they want the fans to love, but the WWE hit the nail on the head with Bryan. It’s impossible to tell what the immediate future holds for him at this point, but his storyline ex-girlfriend is the GM of Raw and Bryan’s rumored to be continuing a feud with Charlie Sheen, which could lead to a match at Summerslam. No matter what happens to Daniel Bryan or who he feuds with, though, he’s guaranteed to be entertaining, and that alone could be enough to make the next few months of WWE programming worth watching.