G’day Lords of Pain, welcome back to YES Relived, the 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.
After a week off we are back in the saddle, in case you missed the last chapter in the story, Bryan and Randy Orton’s match at Hell in a Cell for the WWE Champtionship was announced as a Hell in a Cell match (who ever saw that coming). The audience also choose Shawn Michaels to be the guest referee, a man who has a lot of history with Bryan, Orton and COO of The Authority Triple H.
As we move towards Hell in a Cell things are breaking down more and more in Bryan’s life and things doesn’t slow down this week. So without further ado, let’s get stuck in.
The Life of Bryan
It is fair to say Bryan’s involvement in the product has scaled back from the lead up to the last two PPV matches when he was opening and closing the majority of Raws and Smackdowns. Instead of Bryan, the special guest referee for the upcoming WWE Championship match, Shawn Michaels, opens Raw, confronting Randy Orton and trying to hit him with Sweet Chin Music after promising he will be calling things down the middle at Hell in a Cell. With this kind of ref in the cage are things finally going Bryan’s way?
The first mention of our hero tonight isn’t until midway through the show when Triple H calls out the crowd for cheering as Bryan laughed at him at the end of Raw last week. He says that he understands his position won’t make him popular but every man has his breaking point and he reached his when the crowd chanted YES while he was in an intriguingly lucid unconscious state.
I’ve got questions about how he knew what was going on if he was unconscious but they will have to wait as Trips says if the crowd want him to be the bad guy, then he will be the bad guy. He says anyone in that locker room who thinks about defying them will need to beg to keep their job and if anyone even thinks the word yes they had better start praying.
That is the cue for Bryan’s music to hit and the man himself to appear to a wild ovation and series of Yes Chants from the crowd. He poses at the top of the ramp, thinking what to do before launching into a big Yes Chant, defying Triple H to do something.
Unfortunately before he can say anything he is blindsided by the World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio who he will also be facing tonight, ending the segment.
I’m really interested in the Del Rio match, I haven’t seen a lot of him and Bryan and I can imagine them having a great match, so let’s fast forward to the second last segment of the night between Bryan and Del Rio.
Daniel Bryan v Alberto Del Rio
These two couldn’t have more conflicting characters really, the everyman Bryan who has had to scratch and claw for everything, against the privilege of Del Rio. As the pair face off Bryan is focused, knowing not to take Del Rio lightly but the World Heavyweight Champion is all cocky smiles.
Bryan rushes Del Rio early, putting his opponent under pressure with his usual offence of kicks, strikes and knees. He even shrugs off Del Rio’s two volleys of offence, immediately getting back on the front foot with his focused furry.
As the commentary team talk about how Del Rio is trying to get out of his next championship match with John Cena, Del Rio finds a way back into proceedings and the two grapplers start to trade control. As the two alternate pinfall attempts Del Rio starts yelling at Bryan “it’s not YES, it’s SI” which is a weird motivation for a match but at least gets some passion out of Del Rio, who is honestly pretty bland through most of this match.
A particularly interesting part of this match is that both men are quite proficient technical grapplers and have submission finishers so the struggles over holds and counters are given a little extra emphasis to highlight the skill of each man. Just for example as Bryan gets back on the front foot and looks to lock in the Yes Lock Del Rio is able to ride things through, countering into a Codebreaker, before Bryan can even lock in the arm.
Towards the end Bryan’s focused fury manages to take back over and he begins to get some of his signature offence linked together: the corner dropkicks, the suicide dive and the missile dropkick from the top turnbuckle. However the finishing sequence is interrupted as Randy Orton appears on the big screen standing outside Brie Bella’s change room and he promises to ‘see if she’s ok’ after the beatdown she received earlier in the night.
Orton walks into the room and as he is shutting the door we see the Bella Twins standing nervously in the corner. The second the door shuts we hear their screams and Bryan immediately tries to get out of the ring only to be blindsided for a second time by Del Rio. Bryan is done with the match and tries a second time to get out but is caught again and cops some ground and pound for his efforts. As soon as Bryan is able to get some space he hits Del Rio with a cool roundhouse kick to the head, knocking the World Heavyweight Champion out and high tails it out of the ring towards the back, taking a loss by count out.
The camera follows Bryan as he runs through the backstage area, quickly cutting away form the sad site of the referee counting Bryan out with gusto, at least he is dedicated to procedure I guess.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio by countout
Rating: 2.25 YES’s out of 5
When Bryan arrives at his fiance’s dressing room he quickly barges the door down but when he gets in, Orton is nowhere to be seen. He asks where Orton got to and Brie says she doesn’t know. Anyone has seen any horror movie will now be yelling “LOOK BEHIND YOU” and on cue Orton flies in from off camera, blindsiding Bryan. Orton tosses Bryan into the side of an empty ice bath tub, leaving Bryan sprawled out on the ground in front of his fiance before a pair of officials arrive and talk Orton out of the room.
Brie and a doctor come over to tend to Bryan and it is safe to say it is not the most glorious end to Raw our hero has ever seen.
That brings us to Smackdown for the week and as Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox respectively court nuclear and flacid levels of heat from the crowd in the opening segment, we are blessed with a Daniel Bryan interruption!
Vickie is ranting about how she will have complete order on her show to the chorus of ten thousand boos, while poor Brad is left to simply thank the crowd for coming out when Bryan’s music hits for the interjection. Bryan enters the ring and congratulate them on wanting what is best for business and he says he can help tell them what is best, him beating Randy Orton at Hell in a Cell.
Bryan must be in a charitable mood because he lets them know that The Big Show may have got past their outer security. Big Show was of course fired a couple of weeks ago but has since shown up on Raw twice, knocking out Triple H and helping the Rhodes boys win the Tag Team Titles. Vickie and Brad look worried but shake their heads before Bryan throws to The Big Show’s music and the world’s largest athlete’s video hit the screen.
Poor Bradley looks like he may need to change his undies but Bryan turns around with a smirk on his face and says he was just messing with them. As punishment for the interruption Bryan is put into a 6 man tag match with Goldust and Cody Rhodes against The Shield for the main event.
Certainly not a punishment for us.
Daniel Bryan, Goldust & Cody Rhodes v The Shield (Tag Team Match)
Last month we covered the excellent Battleground match between The Rhodes Brothers and the team of Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins that won both boys their jobs with WWE. Their rivalry with The Shield has continued since then and on Raw this week, with the help of The Big Show, the Rhodes boys beat The Shield duo in a No DQ match to win the WWE Tag Team Championships. It is one of the hottest TV matches from the whole year and if you have time, I would seriously recommend going back and watching it.
It is safe to say that between Bryan’s now countless run ins with The Shield and the bubbling Rhodes rivalry, this match comes with a sizeable sprinkling of spice. Before we get there though Randy Orton interrupts, mic in hand, to let Bryan know he thinks Bryan is in over his head. This doesn’t phase Bryan though and he looks calm as his teammates join him in the ring to watch The Shield come down the arena stairs.
By now Bryan and The Shield could have a great six man match in their sleep and things start off in a fairly standard way with the three men in black exchanging frequent tags, doing everything they can to keep Goldust and then Cody isolated and away from their team’s corner.
Cody takes the lion’s share of the offence, stuck in the ring without a tag for over five minutes as The Shield boys work him over physically and mentally with Rollins and Ambrose deliver a constant stream of trash talk from the outside. Eventually though the youngest Rhodes manages to dodge an attempted Spear from Roman Reigns, creating enough space to deliver a follow up dropkick, drag himself to his corner and tag in Bryan as Reigns tags in the fresher Dean Ambrose.
Bryan immediately goes to work on Amrbose throwing him from corner to corner and hitting his signature backflip off the turnbuckle, flying clothesline and then getting Dean in place for a Super Hurricanrana. However the triple headed monster that is The Shield has not been sufficiently weakened and the second Bryan goes for a pin, both Ambrose teammates immediately jump in the ring to break it up.
We reach the third act of the match now and things begin to break down as Goldust enters the fray dispatching Reigns from the ring and then Cody manages to get rid of Rollins. Bryan and Ambrose both hit the ropes and slam hard into each other with simultaneous crossbodies.
The four non-legal men continue to brawl on the outside as Ambrose and Bryan rise up and start trading shots once again. In the ring it is clear Bryan has the upper hand over Ambrose but as things break down further on the outside, Seth Rollins manages to put both Cody and Goldust out of commission with an awesome sunset flip power bomb to Cody that sends both brothers flying over the announce table.
Just when it looks like the numbers will catch up on Bryan though, our hero catches Rollins and Ambrose with a Suicide Dive to the outside. He rolls the lifeless Ambrose back in, hits his running knee and gets the win for his team.
Winner: Daniel Bryan, Goldust & Cody Rhodes
Rating: 2.5 YES’s out of 5
This was fun and had the expected amazing escalation at the end that all Shield 6 man matches seem to have. However the start and middle were simply too focused on the Cody Rhodes beat down for my liking, I would have liked at least one or two rallies before the actual ending sequence kicked in with Bryan’s tag in. These guys have all had much better 6 man matches than this so by their very high standards I have had to mark this one down a little to sit just in between bland and good.
Overall it hasn’t been an amazing week of wrestling but there has been some nice building of tension towards Hell in a Cell. Using Brie to get to Bryan has made Orton look like a proper psycho and I wonder if that is a well they will keep going back to in the next two weeks. For his part, Bryan looks as determined as ever, you can see his frustration and fury slowly growing, hopefully it explodes into something awesome when Hell in a Cell comes around.
The Breakdown: Daniel Bryan & The Shield
One of the most important things any top star in wrestling ever does is prepare the next generation of headliners for the top spot and slowly pass them the theoretical torch. Be it Ric Flair to Sting in WCW, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels to Steve Austin in the late 90s or JBL and Triple H to John Cena in the mid 00s, making sure the next generation is ready is something all the greats have done.
Given that mindset, it has been interesting watching just how many times Daniel Bryan has faced off against The Shield trio throughout this series and what an important role he played in establishing them early in their main roster careers.
The Shield were always positioned as the future of the WWE and there is probably no other wrestler that had more to do with them than Bryan in their formative years. In just the three months I’ve covered here not one week has gone by where Bryan hasn’t tangled with The Shield either in singles matches against either member, in six man tag matches alongside The Usos and The Rhodes Brothers or even just as part of a beat down. Even before this particular stint of hostilities Bryan was part of the first team that ever faced The Hounds of Justice and alongside Kane, Bryan had another series of standard and 6 man tag matches through early 2013.
The great thing about Bryan being the man tasked with establishing The Shield was that his wrestling style bought out contrasting parts of each of group’s members.
Against Seth Rollins, the most pure wrestler in the trio, the pair were able to display their speed and technical mastery. Earlier in this series they pulled off TV singles matches that went flat out all the way through and featured a number of moves you get the feeling only those two could actually pull off.
Against Dean Ambrose Bryan’s submission skills put Dean Ambrose resilience and selling at the forefront of their matches. Despite Bryan’s ability to wrap people in knots , Ambrose high tolerance for pain made him a difficult proposition for Bryan. Ambrose propensity for dirty tactics when countering those holds also added another dimension to their more gruelling encounters.
Finally opposite Reigns, Bryan brings out Roman’s power in a big way. Normally against bigger opponents Bryan’s method is to grind the bigger man down, however when they get a hold of him he is happy to be tossed from pillar to post all around the ring. Reigns is also the only guy from The Shield Bryan has had any sort of program with post-Shield split. When they met they continued the path of passing the torch even though the crowed was not exactly ready to accept the narrative at the time.
Currently Bryan and the former members of The Shield are separated by the brand split and Bryan’s position in the company is far less clear. Is he still a top star? Is he an upper midcarder like Chris Jericho or is he something else entirely? Since his Wrestlemania return he has comprehensively beaten all three younger roster members he has faced on PPV but was also used as a step up for Rusev on his way to facing AJ Styles.
The Shield were originally set up as the future of the company, the men that would assume the crown from the likes of Bryan, CM Punk and John Cena however that clean transition never completely happened. The crowd has refused to get behind Reigns despite the WWE’s repeated insistence with positioning him as the top guy on the card and after pushing their chips in on Rollins and Ambrose at different points, they now seem hesitant to let them run as the undisputed top guy. Given they were the ones earmarked to take over from Bryan it will be interesting indeed to see who comes up trumps when they finally do meet Bryan again. Will they be shown as equals at the top of the card or will the WWE return to the narrative of Bryan passing the torch?
Against Rollins and Ambrose I can’t help but think that they will be shown to be equals. The WWE seems to have a lot of men who all hover at the top of the card. They trade wins without ever coming across as truly dominant, it is what has trapped Ambrose and Rollins since the brand split and it seems to be where they see Bryan too given his results against AJ Styles and Rusev.
With the final man in The Shield my prediction is that they will keep Bryan well away from Roman Reigns at least in the short term. If they still see Reigns as the top guy in the company then the last thing he needs is the spectre of Bryan there to drag the audience further away. Long term though if they really wanted to make an about face Daniel Bryan would be the perfect opponent for Roman Reigns to properly turn heel against. It would take a big about face but putting a halt to a second Yes Movement could truly cement a man audiences already want to hate as the most loathed wrestler of this century.
Thanks for checking out YES Relived, I’ll be back next Saturday with the next chapter. If you would like to keep the conversation going you can reach me on Twitter @Sir_Samuel, let me know in the comments or have your say on the LOP Forums. It is a great place for in depth discussion and you will find an intelligent and engaged community.