G’day Lords of Pain, welcome back to YES Relived, the weekly series where we go back to relive one of pro wrestling’s greatest ever stories, the rise of Daniel Bryan and The Yes Movement. Starting at Summer Slam 2013 and going through to Wrestlemania 30 I will be rewatching, reviewing and analysing Daniel Bryan’s story on a week by week basis with PPV’s getting their own bonus columns too.
This week we have come to our second PPV for the series, Night of Champions, where our hero will finally get the chance to avenge Randy Orton’s Money In The Bank cash in at Summer Slam that cost him the title he had just won off John Cena (you can read more about that night here).
It has been a rough few weeks for Bryan leading up to this match. The man has been blindsided, insulted and stabbed in the back at every turn by not just Randy Orton but Triple H, The Shield and even The Big Show. However, last week he managed to finally get one up on The Authority and comes into tonight with a big point to prove: that he is the best wrestler in the world and can indeed reign as the face of the WWE. So let’s get stuck into Night of Champions 2013.
The Life Of Bryan
Before we get to the actual match today I wanted to speak a little about Randy Orton and why he ended up being such an inspired choice as the poster boy of The Authority. In the prologue to this series I spoke at length about the contrast between Daniel Bryan and John Cena, Bryan’s predecessor as the top face of the company. While the original Face That Runs The Place was the perfect person to kick this story off with, the corporate creation that is Randy Orton, was an even better choice to push the conflict in the story of Bryan’s rise along.
The thing that made the rise of the Yes Movement so special was how much the WWE leveraged the natural reaction of the crowd, bootstrapping it to the classic Reality Era storytelling trope of blurring the lines between on-screen presentation and perceived backstage politics. All the talk on screen by genuine backstage personalities suggesting Bryan was ‘not fit to be the face of the company’ and his status as a ‘B+ Player’ fed into the perception that Bryan was actually undervalued backstage. This layering of story only made the crowd want to cheer for him more as our hero scratched and clawed to prove himself.
In that context there could not have been a better antagonist than this third generation wrestler, who was literally born into the company. Where Bryan had to work every step of the way to just get his foot in the door a Titan Towers, Orton had his first World Championship handed to him at 24, well before his time had truly arrived. Where Bryan’s small mistakes were met with massive consequences, even getting him fired at one point, Orton’s laundry list of misdeeds were consistently explained away and excused by a company that seemed to barely want to slap him on the wrist.
Orton also perfectly fit the WWE’s perceived narrow view of what a sports entertainer should look like. As JBL would so nauseatingly proclaim about Orton throughout his career, ‘If you built a sports entertainer from the ground up, it would look like this man.’ That same commentator would regularly refer to Bryan as a gnome or goat, further solidifying in the audience’s mind the contrast between Bryan and Orton and the different standing these two men enjoyed backstage.
With all this history running through the subtext of the story, it would come to no surprise to the crowd that the WWE’s on screen authorities would select Orton over Bryan. It was also no stretch to imagine the entitled Orton justifying accepting a role he didn’t deserve (something Cena’s character, who has just about always fought for his championships, would never have done).
This contrast between the entitled golden child and the underdog scrapper, was perfectly highlighted by Bryan in a promo on Raw that leads nicely up to their Night of Champions match:
“See Randy this is the part that you don’t understand because no one has ever told you that you can’t do something. I have been told my entire career the things I can’t do. I was told I can’t do any better than wrestling in high school gyms and flea markets. I was told I can’t get to the WWE and when I got here I was told I couldn’t be a top guy because all I was was a good little hand. I was told I would never be World Champion. And you know what? All of those things they told me I couldn’t do, all of those things made me the man I am today and made me know, MADE ME KNOW I can do things. I loved the fight, I loved scraping and crawling and every horrible thing I had to do to get here, I loved all of it and you will never understand it because you were given everything.”
Randy Orton (c) v Daniel Bryan (WWE Championship Match)
Finally we are here! After five long weeks of waiting Bryan gets to face down the man who stole his Championship at Summer Slam. Bryan enters to a massive ovation with a fiery confidence in his eyes. Orton on the other hand cradles his title on his way to the ring, protecting it from a man he knows from the last few weeks may well have his number. While Orton makes his way to the ring the announcers reiterate that Triple H has declared that, unlike every other match up to this point, there will be no outside interference in this match.
The two start out slow, exchanging holds and strikes, looking to wear one another down. Despite the name calling in the lead up to this match, it is clear both men know they are facing a fighter at the top of their game.
Bryan is the first one to really gain an upper hand, grabbing a standing arm lock on Orton and then pushing his advantage with both punches and kicks in the corner. Orton is quick to counter though, catching Bryan’s hair, using his longer limbs to transtition into a headlock and hitting an inventive elevated back breaker off the turnbuckle.
It is worth remembering that despite their tumultuous relationship, Orton is the protege of the Cerebral Assassin, and is at his best in the ring when he is able to put his temper to the side and ruthlessly execute a plan. Against Bryan today, he has clearly come to prepared. Informed by his own previous matches with the man and having seen how the likes of John Cena and The Shield were overwhelmed by the pace of a fired up Bryan, through this match Orton refuses to offer Bryan any momentum to counter and launch himself off, coldly slowing the pace of the match with methodical strikes, stomps and holds.
Even when met with Bryan’s attempts to rally himself, The Viper calmly absorbs punishment and waits for his chance to take over again before putting Bryan back on the defensive. Say what you like about Orton’s chinlock of doom but there is no doubt that in this match it is cruelly effective, robbing Bryan of the speed and momentum that allows him to flourish on the ring.
This cannot last though and after fending off two attempted rallys from Bryan, Orton’s game plan finally cracks as he makes the mistake of using an irish whip, so often a standard move, but against Bryan an opening. Bryan rides the momentum of the whip up to the top turnbuckle, flips over Orton and gets on the front foot for the first time since the very beginning of the match.
Bryan goes straight to the tools he knows work with a flying clothesline off the ropes, corner dropkicks once both men rise, Yes Kicks in the corner and a hurricanrana from the top turnbuckle.
Now Bryan is well and truly on the defensive, Orton tries to slow things back down by rolling out of the ring but Bryan is suffocating him with attention, running and launching himself, through the ropes with a Suicide Dive. The action goes back into the ring and after a missile dropkick Orton desperately tries to roll out the other side of the ring only to be followed straight through again by Bryan. Orton is no man’s fool though and on the third time trying to escape he catches Bryan as the high flyer tries to come at him through the ropes again.
After a brief second to catch his breath Orton grabs Bryan in a headlock, pulls him out from the apron, dangling him over the matting outside the ring before dropping down, hitting an elevated DDT to the floor outside.
Things are now back at Orton’s pace as he rolls in and waits as the ref counts to nine.
As Bryan rolls back into the ring Orton attempts to grab an RKO but is pushed off into the ref. A follow up drop kick from Bryan pushes Orton into the ref again and sends the official through the ropes and to the canvas. As Bryan grapples for a Yes Lock and Orton counters with his signature smooth scoop slam a second brunette ref appears in the ring and I smell shenanigans are coming.
Both men are now well and truly fatigued from this matchup and as Orton goes to drape Bryan off the second rope for another DDT, Bryan manages to catch The Viper in a Yes Lock. After Orton makes it to the rope for a break, Bryan digs his Yes Kicks into his opponents now injured shoulder and arm.
The pair continue to struggle in close quarters for control and ultimately Bryan again ends up trumps, gouging Orton’s nose and eye as payback for the earlier dirty play as he takes over in the corner. After a few tries Bryan lifts Orton up to the top turnbuckle and as he did with Cena, suplexes Orton through the air but hangs onto the turnbuckle with his legs, leaving him hanging upside down and pumping himself up. Bryan pulls himself up and launches himself three quarters of the way across the ring for a huge flying headbutt.
As a side note I don’t love watching Bryan’s headbutts considering what they probably contributed to his health issues down the line but you have to admit this particular one was indded quite impressive.
As Bryan gets a two count the refs do a swap and the original blonde ref is back. This stinks to high hell but the fight goes continues to climax. After a bevy or Yes Kicks and counters Bryan manages to very slickly counter an RKO attempt into a final kick then goes to the corner for the running knee and hits it it take the pin, win and championship despite a suspiciously fast three count from the referee.
Winner: Daniel Bryan by pinfall
Rating: 3.5 YES’s out of 5
Bryan finally gets his win and the crowd celebrates accordingly along with Bryan, surely now he will be able to reign in his rightful position as WWE Champion right…… right?
In terms of the match itself, it was an interesting one for me to rate as the more times I watched it the more it grew on me. Maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome but it seemed to me that the levels of character and story in this match revealed themselves further upon each rewatch. While it didn’t match the fantastic build of pace and momentum of the Cena match from Summer Slam, the difference in approach for both performers provided a great contrast. This difference also highlighted the in-ring intelligence of each wrestler as they sought to negate their opponents prefered tactics, firstly with Orton slowing Bryan to a halt and then Bryan bum-rushing Orton when he got the upper hand. The counters to each other’s signature moves really drove home the educated nature of the match and the moment with the suicide dives also emphasised how Orton was learning as the match went on.
It isn’t going to make any best of lists and while Orton’s approach was smart in terms of the overall story it didn’t help earn a whole lot of critical praise at the time. However if you are following along at home this is a match that is definitely worth a revisit.
There is something to be said about long term storytelling in our instant gratification world today.
It is no spoiler to say that this feel good moment won’t last but at the time this ending truly was met with a lot of jubilation. A good portion of the arena join Bryan in a hearty “YES” chant and the commentators marvel at his resilience at being able to outlast all the attacks on him over the weeks and still have enough left to take down Orton. However, this good reception is nothing on the ovation we know is to come for Bryan after the chase of a lifetime to the main event of Wrestlemania 30.
Next week I’m going to indulge in a bit of fantasy booking and present to you a road for Daniel Bryan to Wrestlemania 30 if he had held onto the Championship after this win. At the time this Championship run was something people were calling for, begging for, even stopping watching WWE in protest of not having (this was before you could cancel your Network subscription). I actually went back into the LOP Radio archives and listened to the post show for Night of Champions and there was a lot of disappointment amongst the commentators (some of which you can still find on LOP) at the idea Bryan’s reign would only last one night on account of the fast count.
I’ve done the outline so I know there is an interesting way to have Bryan as champion and still create a buzz. However, by accident or design, being made to look like he was completely out of the championship picture got Bryan more popular and got the audience more invested in his story than any story with him as champion ever could have.
The WWE fans at the time wanted Bryan to be the rightful champion straight away, they wanted to fast forward to the end of the story but they had only seen the introduction an epic, that would never have existed if Bryan had moved into title defence mode after Night of Champions.
So savour this victory while it last Daniel Bryan fans, next week I suspect that fast counting blonde ref will come back to haunt us all. See you next Saturday for it all!
Thanks for checking out YES Relived, if you would like to talk some more wrestling feel free to follow me on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or even better you can sign up for the newly restored LOP Forums. It is a great place for the longer conversations that quite frankly cannot be had on Twitter or here in the comments. A great place to start is a recent column by LOP vet Prime Time and current main pager ‘Plan who put together a wrestling column version of the Desert Island Discs check it out here.