30 Day Wrestling Challenge: Day Thirteen = Favourite Gimmick

So I’m presuming many people will presume they know my choice for today’s… but you see I’ve already done a blog on The Fiend… and I’ve also already blogged in this series about The Undertaker… So instead I’m going to look back at one of my favourite runs of any superstar in WWE in recent years…

Daniel Bryan is without question one of the best wrestlers of the modern era. His in-ring abilities seem to know no bounds, and it was beyond heartbreaking when he was forced into early retirement in 2016 due to numerous concussions. But by some miracle he was cleared to compete once again just prior to WrestleMania 34 almost 2 years later. After making his triumphant return he quickly turned his attention to long term rival The Miz… but with all the babyface momentum behind him, he lost… then with wife Brie by his side they lost to Miz and Maryse in a mixed tag… then he joined back up with Kane briefly to re-form Team Hell No… but that ended quickly when Kane was hurt… so suddenly after the biggest return in wrestling Daniel Bryan’s momentum as a top babyface was declining fast… on the eve of Survivor Series 2018 with a rematch against Brock Lesnar on the cards, the then WWE Champion AJ Styles found himself defending his title against Bryan… and then towards the end of the match a ref bump was Bryan’s moment to shock the world, hitting Styles with a low blow and then a running knee to win the WWE Championship in an amazing fashion. A heroic yet losing effort to Lesnar followed in a champion vs champion match… before Bryan would return to SmackDown as WWE Champion to explain himself…

In case you hadn’t guessed yet, my topic today will be Daniel Bryan’s ‘Echo-Warrior’ heel run in late 2018-mid 2019. A run which I believe was the best in what had been a pretty distinguished career. ‘The New’ Daniel Bryan!

So after first turning heel last week in winning the WWE Championship from AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan came back to SmackDown after a beyond brutal and stiff battle with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. Here he would begin to explain why he changed his ways to win the ultimate prize…

A couple of weeks later, in the company of all people The Miz, Daniel Bryan gave further justification of his actions… until a vengeful AJ Styles looked for redemption…

You’ll not another EXCELLENT promo, and you’ll note now he’s going towards the environment stuff… an amazing heel in the sense that he isn’t wrong in anything he’s saying, but gets people to hate him because of it. Absolute GENIUS.

The next week he cut another excellent promo, before later beating Mustafa Ali in a fun match ahead of his rematch against AJ Styles at TLC in December 2018. The match with Styles was an excellent one with Bryan retaining (****3/4). But on the following SmackDown Mustafa Ali, teaming with AJ Styles, got the win in a tag team match against Bryan and Andrade by pinning the WWE Champion… On the Christmas Day edition of SmackDown Bryan not only cut a promo on SANTA CLAUS (Well… Truthy Clause technically) but also attacked Mustafa Ali backstage… A couple of weeks later Bryan cut another incredible promo until again his words cost him…

Again you can’t say he’s wrong in anything he’s saying, but he has a way of making us hate him for saying it. That night he beat R Truth (so yes already he as WWE CHAMPION has given amazing exposure to Mustafa Ali and R Truth… think about that…). The next week a similarly themed promo took place, but this time it was from AJ Styles…

The next week, on the final SmackDown before their title match at the Royal Rumble… the only authority figure worthy of being in the middle of this heated rivalry made an appearance to officiate a final face off…

(TAKEN FROM MY REVIEW OF THE 2019 Royal Rumble PPV)

Daniel Bryan (C) defeated AJ Styles to retain the WWE Championship 

It is amazing to think a WWE Championship mach between possibly the two best wrestlers in the company could be in the death spot on the show, but such was the fan rejoice at the result of the previous match I don’t think everyone watching was as in to the quality of wrestling on show from these two as they otherwise would have been. It was pretty much what you would expect from these two throughout; hard hitting at times, great exchanges of mat wrestling at others etc etc. Not long before the finish it got weird. Erick Rowan came out… Bryan went for an Enziguri kick on Styles but hit the ref instead. This allowed for AJ to hit a Styles Clash only to then be Chokeslammed by Rowan and then Bryan got the win. The match was obviously good, but that ending… I’ve no idea where that came from… everyone watching no-sold it… Rowan picked up AJ after the match and Daniel Bryan hit the running knee. This was all surprising to say the least. Weird. Ending for me at least killed what was a good match. 

***3/4 

So yes, Rowan was now Daniel Bryan’s heavy… and with his giant friend beside him Bryan went about changing WWE is own image once again, with one of the more novel ideas for many years… one that really got people going at the time…

It was also on this SmackDown where his next title defence was announced… against 5 other SmackDown superstars in the Elimination Chamber! Now, whilst I’m sure you all know what was special about the build to this show (go back and read my recent blog about The New Day for more on that), I want to keep the focus on your WWE Champion here… so we went on to the Chamber where we would witness one of the better matches inside the giant structure there has ever been. And your WWE Champion was at the heart of it… In the match itself Bryan would retain the WWE Championship against AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy and lastly Kofi Kingston (****1/2), the action between Bryan and new top contender Kingston was particularly special.

From here on the story became about as much Daniel Bryan trying desperately to keep hold of his precious (now echo-friendly) WWE Championship, as it was about Kofi trying to win or even get a shot at it. But for every hero you need a villain and for me the story of KOFImania wouldn’t have been as great if it not for the exceptional Daniel Bryan for Kingston to play off. In the weeks after Elimination Chamber it seemed on TV, and rumours online backed this up, that it would be the returning Kevin Owens getting the big WrestleMania shot against Bryan. On the February 26th SmackDown this seemed to become even more likely… as after Mr McMahon had earlier announced that a much more ‘box office’ title match between Bryan and Owens would take place at Fastlane, a tag team match later followed…

On the final SmackDown before Fastlane, Bryan let the people know what the ‘Planet’s Champion’ thought of his new opponent…

At Fastlane 2019 Kofi Kingston was told to go to the McMahon’s office… eventually New Day talked to Vince and they got him to agree to a triple threat match for that night… and Vince agreed and told them the match was taking place right now… Kofi then went to the ring… only to find out the ‘three man match. McMahon was referring to was a handicap match for himself against Sheamus & Cesaro… in which of course Kingston was beat… Later that night when Owens and Bryan went to the ring for their title match it was still announced as being a triple threat match… but the third man that came out was… Mustafa Ali, the man who pinned Bryan some months back and was scheduled to be his challenger, only for an injury to rule him out of the Pre-Chamber gauntlet match… a spot that went to Kofi and the rest is history… so whilst the live crowd hated Ali (purely because he wasn’t Kofi Kingston) he was part of what turned out to be a solid match with Bryan retaining over Owens and Ali (****).

After being messed about once again Kingston would not be denied and kept fighting to get his shot at Bryan for WrestleMania… on the following SmackDown Kofi, Woods and E would approach Vince again, who offered Kofi a potential title shot… but only if he could win a multi-man gauntlet match the next week… meanwhile in the main event Bryan and Rowan won a tag match against Ali & Owens, but by now the story was all about Kingston… So the next week Kofi overcame incredible odds to beat all the assigned competitors in the gauntlet… until Mr McMahon looked to deny him with one more roadblock…

Having grown tired of McMahon constantly putting them and Kofi down, The New Day were on the verge of giving up, but to be given one final chance to get Kingston to the promised land… this time it would have to be Xavier Woods and Big E who would have to run the gauntlet to earn their brother a place at WrestleMania… and after themselves overcoming the odds, they had a familiar-looking final hurdle to overcome…

So it was finally and officially on… Bryan vs Kofi for Mania… and the next week on the final SmackDown before the show of shows… the two would come face to face…

And THEN… in the best match of the night (****3/4) Kofi accomplished his dream…

It was a shame for one of the best title runs in years to have to end, but what a way to end it. From here after failing to win the title back, Bryan and Rowan would go on to eventually win the SmackDown Tag Team titles… but tension between the pair would become apparent when they lost those same titles. From then they became involved in a feud/attacker angle with Roman Reigns which ended up as Bryan and Reigns taking on Rowan and his friend Harper in a tag match. A win there would help turn Bryan from heel to tweener and then begin his accent to once again becoming a force of good in WWE where he would eventually run into another familiar former foe… But for as long as it lasted the run and gimmick of ‘The New’ Daniel Bryan was absolutely incredible for so many reasons. He gave the spotlight to so many others, he increased his already great promo skills and continued to have fantastic matches against a variety of opponents. Daniel Bryan is great, but ‘The New’ Daniel Bryan as ‘The Planet’s Champion’ was one of the best gimmicks and runs of recent years.

Josh. 

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