It's hard to believe it's been this long, a year and six months since WWE went rolling through the greater Miami area with its biggest show of the year, WrestleMania, in this case the 28th edition. It was one of the biggest pay-per-view (PPV) events in company history, if not the biggest.
But what happened the next evening on Monday Night Raw was even bigger, at least for Daniel Bryan.
Bryan, you see, had spent a great deal of time scratching and clawing his way past all the stereotypes that had plagued him, all the negativity surrounding his size and stature. He had spent years crawling his way to the top, and a pairing with the great AJ Lee helped push him something close to it. A Money in the Bank contract win solidified his status as the future, and the subsequent world heavyweight championship victory and title reign pushed that even further. But he wasn't quite there yet.
That glass ceiling had yet to be broken.
That all changed on April 2, 2012, at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. The previous night, Bryan had been booked to lose the world title to Sheamus in the opening match on the card in just 18 seconds, a new record for WrestleMania, or at least that's what WWE tells us. That was the angle the creative brain trust pushed because it was the one they thought would help get Sheamus over as an even bigger star, which was always the goal.
But that's not what happened.
Instead, the fans who traveled far and wide to attend the "Showcase of the Immortals" rebelled against the machine. They paid damn good money to watch Bryan, perhaps the most talented worker on the WWE roster and definitely in the argument to be its best wrestler, tear the house down. What they were treated to was a kiss, a Brogue Kick, and a new champion they had no interest in endorsing.
Bryan himself was disappointed in how it went down, as he recently told the Miami Herald:
"Obviously, you're disappointed [losing like that]. If you're the World champion going into WrestleMania, you want to go out there and steal the show. You want to be what that WrestleMania is remembered for. Ironically, I may be a part of what that WrestleMania is remembered for, but not for the reasons that you'd want it to be. It's not for the great match that you had. It's for the 18-second loss."
The displeasure was clear that evening, but there was an entire show left to play out and other rooting interests to consider. No, the revolution wouldn't come until the next night on Raw.
"YES! YES! YES!"
It didn't matter who was in the ring wrestling or who was on the mic talking, the fans at the American Airlines Arena chanted "YES!" They did it when it made sense and when it didn't because they wanted to make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Daniel Bryan was their guy.
He made it.
Shockingly enough, Bryan wasn't even booked for the show. In fact, he didn't actually appear on the televised broadcast while fans were chanting his chant, for him and because of him. He did, however, get a chance to work the dark match, which is the bout that comes after the broadcast goes off the air.
That meant the fans in attendance got the chance to shower him with the praise he's always deserved, the praise WWE, for whatever reason, never seemed to want to give him.
So we did it for them:
Bryan, again speaking to the Miami Herald, talked about that night:
"Before the show, that day, I didn't think anything of it. When we were pulling up to the [American Airlines Arena], there were tons and tons of fans outside screaming, ‘Yes,' when I was walking in. I was like, ‘Whoa, that's kind of cool.' Then once the show started, and The Rock is in the ring cutting a promo, and the entire arena is yelling, ‘Yes,' it was pretty surreal. That's when I realized that night was going to be very special. ... I think so (that's when the YES chants really took off). There have been smatterings of it before, but that Raw in Miami the night after WrestleMania , that's when it really took hold. I think everything else cascaded off of that. People seeing that reaction of people being that enthusiastic."
We can safely look back on those two nights and say that's when Bryan was made. He had everything else up to that point, but it was then and only then that fans ensured WWE could ignore him no longer.
Fast forward a year and six months and we're just less than two weeks away from Hell in a Cell, scheduled for Sun., Oct. 27, 2013. The venue? The American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. This time, though, Bryan is in the main event in a cage match against Randy Orton (with Shawn Michaels serving as special guest referee) for the vacant WWE championship.
And it's entirely possible, likely even, that he wins that belt and celebrates with it as the show goes off the air. The crowd will once again shower him with "YES" chants and lavish him with praise. It's not unfair to think they deserve a piece of his action, considering the fans can be credited for helping create this.
Here's to hoping for another special moment back at the scene of the turning point in Bryan's career.