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.
Last week at Night of Champions Bryan was finally able to face Randy Orton and avenge the loss of his WWE Championship at Summer Slam. In a contrasting encounter of unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, Bryan managed to come up trumps and regained the Championship that was stolen from him. However a fast three count by referee Scott Armstrong will no doubt give something for The Viper to complain about and The Authority to hold over Bryan’s head. If you missed it you can relive it all here gifs and all.
For a number of reasons I have never been a weekly viewer of the WWE, I was actually taking a break when this all happened the first time. What this means is that while I know the broad strokes of the story I am seeing a lot of theses Raw and Smackdown segments for the first time and this week things really kick up another level as the locker room rises up against The Authority.
So without further ado let’s get stuck into YES Relived.
The Life of Bryan
Raw tonight starts with Bryan’s music and the Cleveland crowd erupt into a massive “YES” chant. Bryan picks up a mic and basks in the crowd’s cheers, unfortunately the minute he moves the microphone up to his mouth someone else’s music hits cutting the celebration short:
“Behold the King, the King of Kings”
As Triple H makes his way to the ring, the commentators speculate that he is on his way to congratulate Daniel Bryan. Have these guys even been watching this show over the last few weeks?
When he gets to the ring the COO takes a mic and tells Bryan not to congratulate himself too much as he needs to address the elephant in the room, the fast count that won Bryan the match last night. Triple H brings out Scott Armstrong who sadly doesn’t get any theme music.
In some of the most mind numbing TV you could think of, the motley trio then watch the fast count on the big screen, then a normal count from earlier in the match, then another normal count, then both of them side by side. At this point the crowd starts chanting “NO”, are they just saying no to watching another replay?
The point of it all is that the three count that ended the championship match was the speed of a normal two count. When Triple H asks Scott Armstrong what happened, this bundle of charisma simply replies “Ummm… I made a mistake.” Armstrong then looks unconvincingly to Bryan and mouths, “They’ve got us, they’re onto us”. Bryan looks around flabbergasted, clearly with no idea what is going on and Triple H take the opportunity to strip Bryan of the Championship saying Bryan should be ashamed of himself. The COO says he isn’t going to hand the championship to Randy Orton but Bryan needs to hand over the belt.
As the crowd continues to chant “NO”, Bryan shakes his head and says there is no way he is handing the title over and that Armstrong was a plant. Just to add more to this powder keg, Randy Orton’s music hits and the former champ marches to the ring with fire in his eyes. Business is indeed picking up.
In the ring Bryan is starting to brace himself for a fight but doesn’t know if he should be worried about Triple H or the approaching Orton. Hunter tells Bryan he has one last chance to be reasonable and hand over the belt. Bryan closes his eyes, looks like he is about to do it and lets out a big “NO”. Unfortunately this brief distraction gives Orton just enough time to hit an RKO on Bryan and for Triple H to grab the belt. The segment ends with the COO storming off to the back and Orton standing over Bryan.
Bryan has once again been screwed out of the Championship.
As the night goes on a number of other notable events happen, firstly Brad Maddox makes a match between Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns for the main event tonight. Secondly Scott Armstrong is fired by Triple H, who says WWE Officials have to act with integrity but he will “look after him.”
Finally Randy Orton gets in Triple H’s face backstage, saying he should be handed back the Championship. Stephanie tells Orton that he still got beaten at Night of Champions and if he wants to be the face of the company he needs to find his killer instinct. Orton finds it alright, absolutely brutalizing Miz with a steel chair, sending the man to hospital.
Daniel Bryan v Roman Reigns
All that said we have come to the main event of the evening between the third member of The Shield, Roman Reigns, and Daniel Bryan. This was not the Roman Reigns of today but a much rawer version of the man he would become, all brooding power and strength but lacking some of the refinement that would come later in his career. That said, that rawness meant one thing for Daniel Bryan: danger. Oh also, Randy Orton and his new found killer instinct are sitting in on this match, ‘just watching’.
As the match starts Reigns runs straight at Bryan trying to overpower him but Bryan is alert to the danger and uses his speed to move around, peppering Reign’s legs with low kics, taking away the bigger man’s power. Bryan dances around a few clumsy takedown attempts and the leg work starts to pay off leaving Reigns limping around the ring.
Reigns eventually manages to corner Bryan and finally takes over with some clubbing blows, headbuts and strong irish whips into the corners. As I said at the start this is a very unrefined Roman Reigns who lacks any sort of technique but certainly makes the most of his strength and bulk. For a number of minutes any momentum Bryan tries to build is quickly shut down. Even when it looks like Bryan is finally back on the front foot with a dropkick pushing Reigns to the outside, in the follow up suicide dive he is plucked out of the air and ragdolled against the barricades.
Watching this back now there isn’t a whole lot in this match however the crowd is still hot and every time Bryan looks like he is about to come back they meet it with a roar of approval.
After more back and forth Bryan eventually gets enough space to knock Reigns into the corner and the feisty underdog hits him with a string of corner dropkicks, making the most of this brief moment of offence. Reigns manages to duck the final one though and turns into into a Samoan Drop. Ambrose and Rollins who have been yelling out directions to their less experienced brother the entire match tell him to finish it and Reigns attempts to hoist Bryan up for a Power Bomb. To the delight of the crowd Bryan slips out and transitions into a Yes Lock, holding a screaming Reigns down.
Not for the first time though the final moment is interrupted as Randy Orton dives in, breaking up the lock and causing the DQ ending.
Winner: Daniel Bryan by DQ
Rating: 2 YES’s out of 5
After the really fun matches Bryan had with the other two members of the Shield in the lead up to Night of Champions I was expecting something a little better than this however it is easy to forget just how far Roman Reigns has come in the last five years. I like Reigns more than most and I’ve given this my ‘nothing wrong but bland’ rating. That said, it is hard to watch this and not have CM Punk’s infamous “make Roman look strong” line ringing through your ears. The guy is meant to be the muscle but watching this match in THAT context and I have to ask why this less experienced fighter was able to get around a number of the traps that caught out Rollins, Ambrose and even Orton. I guess for now I’ll just chalk it up to Bryan being tired from the match the night before at Night of Champions.
However our night is not over and to the delight of the crowd Bryan manages to catch the invading Orton in a Yes Lock. That is only cue for Ambrose and Rollins to jump in and The Shield and Orton now begin their customary post match Bryan beatdown.
As Orton grabs a chair the crowd chants for CM Punk (nice to hear it in a genuine way for the first time in a while) but to no avail. To help prove himself to Triple H and Stephanie Orton puts the unconscious Bryan’s head in the chair and looks to stomp on it. In the background Rollins can be heard yelling, “Your career is over” and indeed if Orton hits that stomp it would not do any favours to Bryan’s neck. However in a totally unexpected but awesome moment the beatdown is interrupted by an eruption from the crowd as the locker room of faces runs to the ring to save Bryan.
I did not know this was going to happen and it is so damn good the way the camera catches them out of focus in the background running in. Led by The Usos, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, Justin Gabriel, Zak Ryder, The Prime Time Players, and RVD swarm the ring, giving The Shield a measure of their own medicine as Randy Orton just bails and flees down one of the side exits.
The crowd is going berserk as these guys who have been downtrodden week after week take out their frustration, clearing the ring of everyone but Seth Rollins. Daniel Bryan stands up, the wrestlers part ways and he hits a huge flying clothesline on Rollins.
Everything about this final segment has been so well orchestrated and I will be talking more about why in The Breakdown. For now though Raw goes off the air as the wrestlers hoist Bryan on their shoulders as their true champion, the crowd chants “YES” and Michael Cole sums it all up with the line, “Finally some justice, finally some payback for Daniel Bryan!”
Can I just end this episode by saying YES! YES! YES!
After such an awesome ending to Raw it is natural that there would be a comedown and we are welcomed to Smackdown this week with the shrill cry of “EXCUSE ME!” to announce Vickie Guerrero to the ring.
The Smackdown GM takes the mic and after some jostling with the crowd says she is going to bring to the ring the laughing stock of the WWE. Guerrero then lists off Bob Backlund and CM Punk’s reigns and says unlike those champions today’s guest only managed to hold his belt for 21 hours. Guerrero really was a top quality heat magnet and she is getting booed voraciously as Bryan makes his entrance.
Bryan takes a mic and immediately takes the front foot in the verbal joust saying “he would prefer to be champ for just one day than a shrill corporate suck up his whole life.” Vickie brings up the Scott Armstrong controversy and tells him to just tell the truth and Bryan agrees saying the truth is he kneed Randy Orton in the face, covered him and the ref could have counted to twenty and it wouldn’t have mattered because Orton was knocked out.
After Vickie says she would have fired him Bryan pushes things over the edge when by saying he is lucky Vickie doesn’t have any real power and the Smackdown GM loses it. She brings up the other 10 wrestlers that ran in after the main event on Raw and says they are going to be put in a handicap gauntlet match with all three members of The Shield who will beat each one of them down until all eleven have been eliminated.
The segment ends there and before we move onto Bryan’s main event I want to touch on the gauntlet match mid way through the show. An 11 on 3 handicap gauntlet sounds like a absolute mess waiting to happen but the way it is executed actually works quite well. The faces initially get dominated but after a few eliminations the good guys start to gain ground like a rising tide, inch by inch. The Shield keep finding it harder and harder to retain their advantage until the eighth man in the match, Rob Van Dam truly gets the upper hand and is about to hit the Five Star Frog Splash. Not wanting to see his men lose Triple H comes in to shut the match down. He says Guerrero should be ashamed of herself and instead tells her to make The Usos and Daniel Bryan v The Shield in a 6 man tag match for the main event.
The Usos & Daniel Bryan v The Shield
The Shield start off in the ring showing off both the Tag Team Titles and the US Title. The Usos and Bryan enter the ring and get in The Shield’s face with a defiant Yes Chant.
Rollins and Bryan start things off for their teams, for all the talk of Rollins being The Architect of The Shield it is pretty evident he was also the workhorse of the trio. Ambrose gets his licks in and Reigns roles is designed for short high impact bursts but Rollins certainly shoulders the bulk of the workload in their matches at this point. Despite the experience in the ring Bryan really has Rollins number and he quickly takes over with a succession of kicks and knees to his opponent before catching an attempted counter mid-air and transitioning into a Surfboard.
After Bryan tags Jimmy Uso in Rollins works back towards his corner and gets the fresh Dean Ambrose into the action. Their back and forth ends back in the opposite corner and Jey tags his brother into the action. This is a game of sides and after a number of tags in and out from all the members Daniel Bryan ends up in the ring with Roman Reigns.
Unfortunately for Bryan, Reigns has learnt from their match on Raw and as soon as he gets the chance powers over to his corner and The Shield finally manage to isolate one of their opponents. The trio begins to ruthlessly working over Bryan with economical stomps, forearms, headlocks and more quick tags. Even when Bryan manges to dash across and tag in one of his partners The Shield are rolling and Rollins simply drags Jey across the ring to his team’s corner. As Ambrose says him, “you’re in a bad part of town”.
More tags in and out follow but The Shield maintains their advantage despite a spirited effort from Jimmy Uso taking down Ambrose and Rollins after a tag. The three headed monster keeps coming with Reigns and then Ambrose scratching and clawing to keep Jimmy isolated.
Reigns continues to work over Jimmy but finally the good guys catch some momentum when Jimmy flips out of an attempted slam from Reigns. The older twin slowly crawls his way across the ring and to the delight of the crowd even catches a charging Rollins with a slam on his way to tagging in Daniel Bryan.
The crowd goes nuts as Bryan takes out Rollins and Reigns in quick succession and goes to work on the legal man Dean Ambrose, nailing him with a flying clothesline and hitting him square in the jaw with his trademark running drop kicks. Roman Reigns dives in to break up a pinfall after a hurricanrana from the top turnbuckle and things are really cooking as The Usos jump into the fray too tossing Reigns over the top rope and following through with a splash to Reigns on the outside. Not to be left out Rollins flips over the top rope taking out his Shield brethren as well as Jey Uso. Finally to complete this awesome little sequence Jimmy Uso bounces himself off the top rope to the outside, catching Rollins on the way through.
Unfortunately for The Shield that leaves Dean Ambrose in the ring with a red hot Daniel Bryan. The former American Dragon catches the former Jon Moxley in the Yes Lock and despite Ambrose getting to the ropes, Superkicks from the outside by The Usos put him in prime position for Bryan’s Running Knee. Ambrose gets hit straight in the jaw and this time there is nothing Triple H or Vickie Guerrero can do to help The Shield. Bryan makes the cover and the uprising that started on Raw closes out Smackdown for the week in very fun fashion.
Winner: Daniel Bryan & The Usos by pinfall
Rating: 3.25 YES’s out of 5
What a great week of wrestling! On the back of the downer that was the controversy around Bryan’s win the whole show felt so alive. For the aspect of the shows that worked so well to create that feeling was a phenomenon that over the last decade has become one of the most popular storytelling mechanisms in pop culture, shared universe story telling. I had actually planned something totally different for The Breakdown this week but I loved this uprising subplot so much that I couldn’t not bring it up.
For those who don’t know shared universe story telling is when all the characters in a story occupy the same fictional space and their actions affect others in that universe. Shared universe is not new but has come to the fore in popular media in the last decade off the back of the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe and when the WWE is operating at its peak creatively it often involves this kind of story telling.
One of the biggest strengths of The Authority has been their ability to touch so many parts of the WWE Universe and create this shared universe feeling where all levels of the roster are in the same struggle. On Raw and Smackdown this week we have seen the explosive effect this totalitarian regime has had on a segment of the locker room, uniting them behind a common hero against a common foe. The ten men that ran down the ramp to join Daniel Bryan in the ring against The Shield and Randy Orton were not picked at random, they were motivated by their own struggles with The Authority and saw themselves in the treatment Daniel Bryan had been receiving week after week.
This added motivation only made the storylines of each character richer and got the crowd more invested in not just the lower card stories but even Daniel Bryan’s story. With these men now rising up with him, Bryan is not just the protagonist in his own story fighting a personal battle but the hero of the entire WWE locker room fighting in an uprising against a regime drunk on power. Furthermore when The Usos take on Rollins and Reigns for the Tag Team Title or Dolph Ziggler takes on Dean Ambrose for his US Title these matches are not individual occurrences separate from anything else but a skirmish in a bigger battle.
Too often WWE feels like a show of separate self-contained segments where each rivalry occupies a singular world separate from any other feud on the show. How much more instantly engaging would it be if the WWE was to take a truly shared universe philosophy and create a story that encompasses its current Raw roster from the top to bottom of the card?
It could be as simple as having a portion of the locker room line up behind Roman Reigns to take down Brock Lesnar and then in response have Paul Heyman recruit other ‘prize fighters’ to stand with Lesnar. Seth Rollins could stand opposite Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Title with The Authors of Pain and The Revival squaring off on their sides for the Tag Team Championships, while Finn Balor and Sami Zayn act as backup and Braun Strowman plays the role of a chaotic outsider. Even the women could join in with Rhonda Rousey proving she is a WWE loyalist, coming out with Bayley to fight against the entitled duo of Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks.
Immediately Raw would be filled with a sense of purpose, every match would drive this larger war forward and I believe the audience would be far more invested in the wrestlers, matches and segments at all levels as a result.
That is all hypothetical though and while we wait for the WWE interns to catch this column we will have to stay with the Bryan story. Make sure you stop by next Saturday for all the fallout from the uprising and subsequent triumph of Bryan over The Shield.
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 you can have your say on the LOP Forums. It is a great place for the longer conversations that cannot be had on Twitter or here in the comments. A great place to start is on the LOP Heavyweight Title series where a panel of LOP & LOP Radio vets track the progress of a Unified Championship through pro wrestling’s history. They just covered 1985-1992 and I guarantee you will learn something if you read the series.