Daniel Bryan gets biggest pop during Royal Rumble match, without being in Royal Rumble match

Before the show even started, many WWE fans were hoping for one outcome. And they cheered for it, until it became clear their desired outcome wasn't happening. And then they did something else.

The first shots were fired during the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.

When the Pittsburgh crowd did everything it could thing of to express it's displeasure with John Cena vs. Randy Orton, round infinity plus one, it started with a chant for the man that The Viper had feuded with since Cena put him over at SummerSlam.

DAN-YEL BRY-AN

Sure, they kind of went off the rails there and into "putting themselves over" territory.  But the interference by Bray Wyatt and company gave the impression that this could be the kind of night where new stars were featured and elevated.  And there's one man that pro wrestling fans can agree on wanting to see elevated.

DAN-YEL BRY-AN

So it probably wasn't a surprise to any of the higher ups watching from gorilla, or a luxury suite, or an office back at Titan Towers when the bearded underdog's name rang out at various times during the first half of the Rumble match.  The annual contest to determine who challenges for a title in a main event at WrestleMania thrives on intrigue, and "would Bryan pull double duty?" was a dang intriguing question.

But as the numbers rose and it looked like he might not appear... then when Rey Mysterio ran out as #30 and it was certain he not only wouldn't win, but not even get a chance to compete...

BOOOO

They settled down again, and as some of the presumably more casual fans (or those that share Vince McMahon's fascination with a certain chiseled body type) tried to enjoy what was being offered rather than what many had hoped for, there was stunned silence.  It was broken occasionally by a smattering of hopefuls calling for their hero.

DAN-YEL BRY-AN

When Sheamus, Batista and Roman Reigns were all that was left, some tried to re-capture that optimism for new names that they had when tonight seemed like the Bray Wyatt show.  Folks noticeably cheered for Reigns, heel/face alignments be damned.

The Animal shook the ropes later, and everyone knew.  After he dumped Roman to the floor and tried to perform the obligatory WrestleMania sign pointing scene, he only heard one thing from the crowd in this writer's hometown.

BOOOO

Where do they go from here? Daniel Bryan took to the interwebs immediately after the show with some tweets that could be damage control, or could be setting up the next steps in his evolving program against "the machine".

Great ratings or no, can Batista still be packaged as a babyface to headline in New Orleans?

Should be fun finding out.  Ain't the new kayfabe grand?

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