Daniel Bryan's neck injury is a major bummer. After months and months of build, and defying the odds, he finally overcame The Authority at WrestleMania 30, and it was perfect. It was always going to be hard to follow that kind of WrestleMania payoff, but after everything Bryan has been through in the last year having a slight summer lull isn't the worst route to take until SummerSlam season rolls around.
Pitting Kane, Bray Wyatt, Batista, or Cesaro against Bryan over the next couple of months with Bryan remaining on top would have been a perfectly logical route to go, but WWE was thrown a curve ball with Bryan's neck surgery. What looked like a pretty laid back summer has turned into a mess with the company's stock plunging and the guy who was just put over in rare fashion at the biggest pay-per-view (PPV) of the year out of action for an extended period of time. The powers that be were probably expecting to coast through this summer, but that's no longer an option. They have to completely change course.
Since finding out about Bryan's injury, WWE hasn't committed to a long-term solution for the WWE world heavyweight championship. There are a plethora of routes WWE can ultimately choose to go in, but there is one that could intrigue more than any other -- bringing back the Gold Rush Tournament.
The last time the Gold Rush Tournament was implemented on television was during a post-WrestleMania lull in 2005 right around Backlash. The Gold Rush Tournament did return in 2012 at NXT to crown the first-ever NXT Champion, Seth Rollins, but it wasn't a televised event. (So did it really even happen?). It's been over nine years since the Gold Rush Tournament has appeared on a national stage, and now would be the perfect time to bring it back.
The biggest question mark in successfully pulling off another exciting Gold Rush Tournament is deciding who to place in said tournament. I decided to do a little fantasy booking to help out.
John Cena vs. Batista
Bray Wyatt vs. Sheamus
Wade Barrett vs. Roman Reigns
Cesaro vs. Dolph Ziggler
The first round of any tournament is always the most enjoyable because of the upsets and chaos it typically brings. Not a lot of surprises in these pairings, but I felt this was the most logical approach to take in constructing a realistic and fun bracket. Cesaro and Ziggler would probably highlight this round and could put together a classic that rivals Shawn Michaels' and Shelton Benjamin's first round match.
John Cena vs. Wyatt
Reigns vs. Cesaro
So I had two options here: either I go Cena vs. Cesaro in what would most likely be a fantastic championship round, or go the bold route and have two rising stars vie for the title in the final. As you can see, I chose the latter. Reigns and Wyatt are at the top of their game and seeing these two face-off one-on-one for the title would be exactly the kind of intriguing boost WWE and its fans want.
Wyatt vs. Reigns
Wyatt is the logical winner here, via shenanigans, because of the big-picture implications a Wyatt title run would bring about. Bryan already has a history with Wyatt, so having the two feud when he returns would make sense, at least storyline wise. Reigns winning the tournament would be interesting, but his first title win should be special -- WrestleMania special. Wyatt just makes the most sense to temporarily hold the title until Bryan returns and the two potentially headline SummerSlam in a WWE title match with Bryan once again as the underdog trying to get back on top.
WWE has the opportunity to shake things up again in a major way, and a Gold Rush Tournament would be one alluring way to go about doing so.