It has been over two years since we originally saw Daniel Bryan forced to retire from in-ring competition after sustaining massive concussions throughout his career as a wrestler, some of the more recent ones being kept a secret due to Bryan knowing what the response would be. He was correct, and upon disclosing the information, he was fast-tracked to a safer role as General Manager of Smackdown.
He was the Intercontinental Champion at the time, forcing him to eventually drop the title, a measure taken as there was no idea of when a return would be possible. Bryan asked for his release and was adamant that he would wrestle elsewhere, for Ring of Honor and CMLL. He pushed his case and was even cleared by the majority of doctors he saw, the objection being WWE medical staff who had to be the ones to say yes. Bryan announced his retirement, met with tears from the fans and the locker room alike.
After becoming the General Manager of Smackdown and being a guest announcer on the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, Bryan was still as passionate as ever that he would return. With his current WWE contract up later this year he was speculated to be on his way out if not approved. He has always said he would rather be approved and stay there than have to leave to wrestle.
Then came the joyous news of his return, which got me thinking of all of the possibilities. He has captivated audiences before even joining the company, having faced many of the top names on the current rosters in previous promotions he has worked with, so we know they have chemistry. I have made a list of people I think Daniel Bryan should face in what could be his final WWE run.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz
My first choices are the most obvious, starting with The Miz. This rivalry has been brewing ever since Bryan retired, The Miz taking offense to the lack of respect he gets as Intercontinental Champion and mocking Bryan’s ‘YES!’ movement by stealing his moves and taunting the GM at any chance available. There was one problem though, Bryan was General Manager, and The Miz ended up on Raw, but not before pushing Daniel to his limit, yet Bryan bit his lip and did his job by the book. There was even an episode of Talking Smack where Miz unloaded on Bryan. A lot of people would love to see Daniel Bryan get his revenge on The Miz, and with him being recently drafted over to the blue brand, that outcome is an almost certainty, showing him that nobody can do it like Bryan can do it.
Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles
These two have faced off before, outside of WWE, back in IWA Midsouth. Bryan is a former Ring of Honor and WWE Undisputed Champion while Styles, the current WWE Champion, has been fortunate enough to win the IWGP Championship, along with many other titles outside of WWE including the TNA Championship.
The pair had great chemistry back then when they faced off and have shown each other respect when both appearing together on WWE shows, however, both have grown immensely since these encounters. Both men have honed their crafts all around the world and held belts with all of the top companies, making not only the experience but their desire for making their matches into big matches each and every time. We got a small taste of what could be done between the pair in WWE when new SmackDown General Manager Paige announced that as the first match she would be making now in power. I think if they had a larger stage and the WWE Championship is in the line, this could be a big money match given the two opponents, plus I trust them to work a great match, providing there be no outside interference.
Daniel Bryan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Speaking of outside interference, next up on my list is the King of Strongstyle himself, who recently attacked both Bryan and AJ after their SmackDown main event match. Shinsuke is also another IWGP Champion, I’m not aware of these two having ever faced each other before, but I can assure that if they do face each other, it would be nothing short of epic.
Both men have styles that when pitted against each other could be one of the best matches I could think of them announcing. Nakamura as of late has taken on the heel role and has shown a highly vicious side that hasn’t been exhibited in a while With Bryan holding the technical skills to counteract Shinsuke’s attacks perfectly.
Both men are extremely speedy in the ring and know how to sell like they’ve just been shot. This mixed with Shinsuke’s nasty demeanor versus Bryan’s super nice and over with the crowd attitude, it would be a match purely based on skill and intensity, with nothing left to be desired, providing they have the time and freedom to make it the best that they can.
Daniel Bryan vs. Kurt Angle
This match has been spoken of ever since Kurt Angle joined the company again last year as General Manager of Raw. This would be a first-time affair and makes me think of the matches we used to get with Angle and Benoit, Jericho, Malenko, the list could go on forever.
This would be full of technical wrestling at its finest, as Kurt is able to handle the matches pace and is still in his prime, as evidenced by his many great matches leading up to him re-signing with the company. With Bryan retired many assumed they would never get to see these two face off, yet with the great news it could be something that is eventually a true dream match.
With Bryan no longer being GM of SmackDown it could be difficult to build a storyline reason for them to go against one another; however, I am sure that given Kurt’s continued passion for being in the squared circle that his role as GM of Raw will likely be temporary also. Providing both men are fit and ready to wrestle, I could see this being the best match in this list just based on the hype and possibilities. Just say it again in your head; Daniel Bryan Vs. Kurt Angle.
Daniel Bryan vs. Pete Dunne
As much as there is no creative booking thus far that would make sense for these two competitors to cross paths, we are fantasy booking a return here. I think this could be my second favorite choice. Pete Dunne is the current WWE United Kingdom Champion and has put on some stellar matches during his time with the company. I can’t imagine these two having a match that was bad, they both have fast-paced smashmouth styles and are both very proficient with their floor game and technical aspects. Both can go up top when needed, and both are the kind of people that after the first time you see them wrestle, you know they have ‘it.’
Daniel Bryan vs. Braun Strowman
Although these two haven’t had any interaction as of late, Braun’s monster push (pun intended) has seen him on an unstoppable rampage through the Universal and Raw tag divisions, he could be just the man to provide us with one of those classic big guy/little guy, David and Goliath stories. We all know Bryan would never go down without a fight like so many others have, giving him a credible chance of toppling the giant. Undoubtedly, Braun would attempt to demolish Daniel Bryan, and that would play a major role given the injuries he formerly sustained. If I was a betting man, I think I would bet both ways, because as much a chance as I give Bryan or beating Braun, the monster among men would be more than capable of putting the leader of the ‘YES!’ movement back on the shelf.
Daniel Bryan vs. Brock Lesnar
This is a match that has been discussed in great detail, undoubtedly an epic encounter to be had here, knowing Bryan’s capacity to incapacitate an opponent swiftly due to his technical prowess and speed, Lesnar may have to do a little more than just suplex, suplex, suplex, repeat. The Beast would likely have a fight on his hands unlike any he has had of late. We know Brock has his MMA training that has expanded his move set and submission capabilities, however, has had little need to utilize them in his current conqueror role. This skill set would be a necessity in a match with Bryan, who unlike most of the small guys that have come up against Lesnar for the squash has a major push coming his way. WWE knows how lucky they are to have Bryan still working there for them and he always wanted to stay there if possible, combined with how over he is with the fans and his popularity when on fire. Two words, five stars.
Daniel Bryan vs. Samoa Joe
Another man He has faced outside of WWE but not during his tenure here is Samoa Joe, yet. If based just on a wrestling feud, nothing hokey, this could be another one of their great matches. Everytime they step foot in the ring together they make magic happen, similar to Bryan’s feud with Austin Aries in ROH. I would pay good money to see this match and would expect nothing less than a five-star rating on anybody’s scales. Joe is another superstar that has found themselves traded to SmackDown recently making this match not only possible but very likely. Joe has a very nasty side to him that may help him get the upper hand nine out of ten times, but Daniel Bryan can be that one in ten. This would be a long match I expect, with neither man wanting to be bested by the other and despite Joe having the size advantage I actually think this could be quite an even fight, with Bryan’s higher speed and agility counteracting the Samoan’s strength and destructiveness, I would also expect it to turn into equal parts brawl parts/submission fest.
Daniel Bryan vs. Johnny Gargano
I saved what is possibly the best until last. Johnny Wrestling is one of the only people I can think of that has the potential already there popularity-wise to be on a similar rollercoaster to the one Bryan was riding on his way up through the WWE. Both men were super talented before joining the company and are still part of a learning experience, constantly growing their characters and ability to master those characters in front of the fans. The two have met before long ago in AIW and with Johnny hot off the heels of his win in the NXT TakeOver: New Orleans ‘unsanctioned match’ against Tommaso Ciampa, I would expect him to rise through the ranks to become champion before long, leading to him than having his long-awaited call-up to the main roster. I just hope it is onto the same brand as Bryan as I could also imagine Bryan & Brie Vs. Johnny and Candice LeRae.
Bryan has also faced Aleister Black back when he was Tommy End in WxW, Finn Balor when he was Fergal Devitt, Roderick Strong, TJP and many others who you may not suspect, but could still put on stellar performances with Daniel Bryan any day of the week.
All I know is, 2018 is a good year for wrestling.