Wednesday Morning Backlash: Daniel Bryan, Money in the Bank, and WWE Wrestlemania 28

Columns, Top Story

Daniel Bryan, or rather, Bryan Danielson is my favorite wrestler. I’m putting that aside and looking at this objectively.

Daniel Bryan isn’t getting over. His personality, at this point, given what he shows, not merely what he says, is that of a well-intentioned goof. He rarely wins, rarely has a story that’s actually about him, and his crowd responses are dwindling. Now, don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t all been bad. He’s had moments of greatness – his NXT angle with Michael Cole, his Summerslam return last year, an occasional very good match, and winning Money in the Bank. But nothing has been sustained. Right now, he’s just a great wrestler, like, say for example William Regal and Tyson Kidd… guys who are almost never on television. This is a problem.

WWE had Daniel Bryan announce he was cashing in his Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania 28. I mean, merely winning the thing is a big enough deal, but actually saying you’ll be main eventing Wrestlemania?
That’s huge on a whole other level. Since then though, Bryan’s been getting very little response. Surely, his shirts sell a bit from his indy devoted fanbase and he has some supporters backstage, otherwise he’d be in the Paul London zone off of television, but the crowd has yet to connect with him in anything approaching a way meaningful enough to be on top of any PPV, let alone Wrestlemania. I mean, there are flashes, as mentioned above, so there’s still promise, but, well, they’re just that, flashes. Honestly, there isn’t really enough response to warrant a major mid-card program, which is why he’s been made a third string in the Sin Caras storyline. There’s clearly a chicken or the egg phenomenon here – is he not getting over because of the lack of push, or is he not getting the push because he isn’t getting over – but there is simply no question that WWE views it as the latter situation.

There are, of course, protocols for getting out of this situation in WWE. Ken Kennedy never got to cash in his Money in the Bank, and Jack Swagger’s title win is politely ignored, but neither ever got half the reaction of Bryan when he’s on. Further complicating matters is that there are two easy money angles WWE is clearly wanting, if not exactly dying to tell. The first involves the nice guy snapping, going heel, and showing an intense, dangerous side.

This was explored with Michael Cole, with his Nexus original turn, but nothing ever came of either. The other, the one that seemed likely, was to play up his “boyhood dream” and Shawn Michaels ties (HBK was Bryan’s first trainer) on his way to Wrestlemania. If he can’t get a mid-card angle, though, he’s clearly not going to be put in there with HBK.

So, what’s the company to do? Right now, my guess is Bryan simply loses the briefcase. They could put him in a three-way at Wrestlemania, using Rock-Cena and, hopefully Punk-Austin to soften having him in such a big spot, but a mid-carder challenging for the title at Wrestlemania is simply unheard of. A three-way is more likely, but, once more, he’s a mid-carder getting no reaction. With the company booked into a corner, the simplest idea is for him to simply lose the briefcase to Sin Cara or someone else WWE is comfortable with in a top spot.

There is one other option, one other idea, though it remains a huge long shot and hard-sell. If WWE ever meant for Bryan to do the HBK angle, he could always get the big Royal Rumble win. With winning the Rumble, to WWE, comes immediate top card prestige – ask Yokozuna and Rey Mysterio – and then go full on with the push. If the spark were there at all, it’d come out then. And, better, fans would immediately buy it, given both the prestige of the Rumble and that being around when everyone starts paying attention again after football. Of course, that is a ridiculously huge gamble on a guy who, quite frankly, hasn’t earned it. More likely, around Survivor Series, he’ll get a little push and, eventually, if he really isn’t over enough after that, or making major strides in the character department, he can always lose his shot in Elimination Chamber, coming so close, but so far to the coveted top spot at Wrestlemania.

Glazer is a former senior editor at Pulse Wrestling and editor and reviewer at The Comics Nexus.