Hello and welcome to My Pinterest Is Piledrivers. I am James A. Sawyer and you can tweet me @todaysjimsawyer. On a personal note, I just found out on Thursday the 16th that I am in full remission of cancer. I like to think it’s because John Cena told me to rise above it. No one boo him ever again.
Something that I really don’t see often is an examination of exactly why a particular wrestler (or sports-entertainer) is popular. Oftentimes in comments people will mention being entertained, or liking someone, but not really why. I can’t lay claim to speak for anyone but myself, but I wanted to try to get a discussion on the biggest phenomenon in recent wrestling history, and that’s of the huge rise to the top of “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson. Wait, I mean Daniel Bryan.
Okay, clearly they knew they had something when they put him in NXT. They gave him the opening segment, promo, main “mentor/protege” rivalry and put him against the then-champion Chris Jericho in the main event. Also, they did what might have been an “accidental smart move.” (We miss you Cory/Kory/Korey) By openly referencing his worldwide experience and time in the indies and popularity on the internet, they created intrigue with the majority of the mainstream WWE audience, which let’s face facts, likely had no idea who he was, or only knew him by vague reputation. They were inviting fans to Google, YouTube, and research him. In doing so, they knew that they’d be impressed by what they saw and be more inclined to like him and give him more of a chance than Cowboy Magee. Seriously, I don’t know who that is.
But admittedly, at least at first it didn’t seem personality was something he had in spades. They built his initial character on being nerdy, a book-reader versus a TV watcher, nondescript and bland. Clearly anyone that has listened to his Art of Wrestling interview and heard the story of him giving his first girlfriend a bacon shirt (ironic giving his lean towards veganism later in life) and seen him in his “Dazzler” outfit knows that he’s a fun guy with a good sense of humor, but admittedly I suppose they thought the best approach was the intense shooter type, the quiet badass.
He really started to gain momentum on going heel.
But something weird happened. He never got full-on booed and jeered. The more of a cowardly smug heel he became, the more people loved him.
(I love how Cena tells Bryan that he owes him one and the audience boos him at trying to co-opt a natural rise to the top) There’s a lot of theories as to why the audience went nuts for Bryan after that Wrestlemania, and the one that sticks in my mind is that fans knew that this was Bryan’s first Mania, and he could offer a lot more than an eight-second comedy match (which in retrospect might’ve made his career by giving fans a cause to rally against)
Why? What is it about this quiet unassuming guy from Washington who barely tweets and stated on Cabana’s podcast that he doesn’t mind if people don’t buy his merch because he knows times are tough and he grew up without money himself?
He’s an excellent wrestler, for sure. No one could argue that. The guy is a prodigy, both Shawn Michael’s and William Regal’s best student. In fact, Regal has stated in interviews that helping train Bryan is his proudest career moment.
His character has undergone some revisions, from starting out as a determined, capable-yet-geeky guy to a cheating, cowardly heel as well as a bad boyfriend to an anger management patient to… I dunno. An epically bearded guy that people go absolutely nuts over?
It could be the beard. They’ve been in fashion in hipster circles for years now, which means that the mainstream is just now catching on. Whatever they were doing in Silverlake, Portland and Bushwick ten years ago they’re finally doing in Kansas City today. It’s how I was voted “hippest guy” in Kansas City for five years and “lamest dork” in Brooklyn for one.
There’s something else that would just become applicable in recent times. We live in an era of social media and instant news cycles. We have a chance to know our superstars way more than we ever did. There are precious few secrets left, and more than a handful of fluff and gossip. Frankly, this goes for the worlds of wrestling, entertainment, politics and life in general. No longer do you have to guess whether that cute guy/girl has a guy/girl. Just check the relationship status on your SnapBook or what-have-you.
So maybe fans can elect who to get behind based on what they learn about them. It’s why to some people Randy Orton will always be the petty Quagmire of the WWE based on how he supposedly acted years ago. And maybe fans figure they know a bit about Bryan. His causes, cares, family, background. The grand total picture is a genuinely decent person, a good guy who’s humbled by everything that’s happened to him despite him deserving all of it. What’s that? You want to see him make a boy’s dreams come true again? Well okay…
As a fan of pro wrestling and someone who’s had internet access to some degree for about 15 years now, you hear things, but the one thing I’ve never heard is a bad story about Daniel. About him being rude, or unwilling to do something, or bad-mouthing anyone.
Wasn’t there a commentator trying to make an argument that Bryan was only over in “smark” cities? Yeah, I think they were in Providence, Rhode Island that night. Daniel Bryan has arrived. He’s the superstar we need, and the superstar we deserve.
Tags: aj lee, chris jericho, colt cabana, Daniel Bryan, hbk, john cena, NXT, randy orton, shawn michaels, William Regal, wrestlemania, WWE