The fantastic thing about the Daniel Bryan heel turn is it’s reminded everyone that Brian Danielson is one of the best professional wrestlers the business/artform has ever seen.
Many, myself included, were underwhelmed by the post-comeback babyface run Bryan was putting together in WWE in 2018. Some of that was due to the fact that after years of wondering/hoping/fearing a return, anything that followed the news he would actually wrestle again. But it was also because he quickly felt like just another guy. Some of that was down to booking, but even performance-wise, it felt like 2013 2014 DB playing his greatest hits. A widely recognized wrestling genius, we’d heard that all Bryan had been doing while he was out was working to cleared and thinking about what he’d do if he was. There was going to a new style to what he did, new stories to tell.
It took a little while, but in beating AJ Styles for the WWE title, turning heel and unveiling the new Daniel Bryan, we’re there. One of the greatest is being great again.
The above video from WWE, an entry in their “Day of” series that chronicles Bryan’s journey on Sun., Dec. 16 leading up to his championship defense against Styles at TLC in San Jose, contains several examples of how this character is the one we’ve all been waiting for.
He’s gets a chance to go a little more in-depth than his promos on SmackDown allow, and has in-character explanations for why his return was working before he unveiled the “new” Daniel Bryan (he was trapped by having to give us what we wanted) and how being a heel will actually help spread his anti-consumerism message (a lot of people aren’t going to listen to him anyway, but he can make people think about what he has to say by shocking them into hating him than he could if we were mindlessly cheering him).
Bryan also delivers a message that will really resonate with fans who followed his career since the early days of this century and watched him put on hour long epics with Samoa Joe & Nigel McGuinness in Ring of Honor. But even if you never knew the American Dragon, DB will introduce you to him with an elegant mission statement for his new character, which is obviously the product of a smart man thinking a lot about his craft:
“I’m a very different Daniel Bryan than the Daniel Bryan who won the championship in 2014, if only because I’m more confident in what I know. I’m more confident in my abilities. You know, I’ve only been back - it’s been eight months since I returned to wrestling, but somehow I feel more confident than ever.
It’s interesting, there was period when I was on the independent scene - probably about 2007 or 2008 where I literally felt like there was not a better wrestler than me on the planet. And, there were guys who were better at certain things, sure. But overall, there was nobody better on the planet. And now, I’m getting back to that point.
When I was out, I looked at like AJ Styles, I looked at AJ Styles and was like, ‘Man, he might be the best wrestler on the planet.’
I don’t feel like that any more. I don’t feel like AJ Styles can touch me. I don’t feel like all the people who get hype on the internet over in Japan or anywhere else or on the independents - I don’t feel like they can touch me. There is nobody who’s better than the new Daniel Bryan.”