Thursday, May 28, 2015

Top Ten Thursday: Daniel Bryan WWE Matches

With the unfortunate recent news about Daniel Bryan's health and his possible retirement, I've been meaning to make this list, but have been pressed for time. The criteria is simple. I'm listing my top ten Daniel Bryan WWE matches. If I went into his Bryan Danielson stuff, this would be unbelievably hard. Instead, I'll focus on his WWE work, spanning 2010-2015. I'm not saying this is the definitive best or most important. Just my favorite. Some matches may be higher, but get a lower star rating from me just because I like them more. I'd live to give honorable mentions out to his match against Roman Reigns at Fast Lane and the WrestleMania Ladder match where he won the Intercontinental Championship.

10) Daniel Bryan runs the gauntlet; Raw 7/22/2013 - Hot off the heels of a fantastic run with Kane as Team Hell No, Daniel Bryan embarked on an interesting journey. He was out to prove that he wasn't the weak link in the unit. While that path eventually led him to the WWE Championship, one of the best stops on the road was this gauntlet match. First, Bryan bested Jack Swagger and he won by beating Ryback last. This doesn't make the list because of those guys. It does for the middle match, where Bryan faced Antonio Cesaro. Knowing their Ring of Honor history, I knew these two could put on a classic. They did just that, giving us one of the more memorable exchanges in recent Raw memory. Excellent stuff. **** (purely for the Cesaro/Bryan part)

9) Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton; Raw 6/24/13 - While I would grow tired of their matches by the end of 2013, this encounter between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton was phenomenal. As part of the whole "prove he's not the weak link" angle, Bryan tried to earn the respect of Orton. They would meet a few times, but this Street Fight was the blowoff for the time being. This is my favorite match they've had together. It was brutal, physical and most importantly, a major win for Bryan. Not only did he beat Orton, but he did so via submission. Making a face Orton submit is a big deal, and doing it via a Yes Lock with a kendo stick was pretty badass. ****

8) WWE United States Championship: The Miz (c) vs. Daniel Bryan; Night of Champions 2010 - The first of many big wins in the WWE career of Daniel Bryan came on this night. Their backstory was well done as Miz was Bryan's pro during Season One of NXT. Miz treated Bryan like shit before Bryan got fired. He was brought back at SummerSlam, but got eliminated in that match due to Miz. It all led to this match, which is still my favorite in the entire career of the Miz. I loved most of what happened in this match. From Miz being a perfect heel, to the Nigel McGuiness lite clothesline from Miz and of course, to Bryan actually winning the title. This was the perfect ending to their rivalry. ***3/4

7) World Heavyweight Championship 2 Out of 3 Falls: Sheamus (c) vs. Daniel Bryan; Extreme Rules 2012 - At WrestleMania 28, Daniel Bryan entered the event as the reigning World Heavyweight Champion. His unsuccessful title defense against Sheamus lasted 18 seconds. It was disheartening though it changed his career forever. Before we realized that though, he got his rematch the following month in a 2 out of 3 falls match. This proved that if given time, Bryan and Sheamus could have an excellent match. Bryan gave up the first fall via disqualification before winning the second instantly via submission. He ultimately lost the entire thing, but this was a big showing that proved both guys could hang at the top of the card. ****1/4

6) TLC Match: Team Hell No and Ryback vs. the Shield; TLC 2012 - The Shield completely made the six man tag match their bitch during their run. At this point however, they hadn't even had an official match. Their first was against Team Hell No and Ryback in a TLC match and boy, was it great. While the bigger story is that it was the Shield's coming out party of sorts, I do have to commend Bryan for his efforts here. He bumped like crazy for the new guys and, while he wasn't the MVP of this contest, it's still one hell of a ride. There have been a lot of great TLC matches in history, but this is top five easily. ****1/4

5) WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs. Daniel Bryan; Over the Limit 2012 - A few years before this, it would have been an insane thought to say that CM Punk and Daniel Bryan would compete for the WWE Title on a Pay-Per-View. However, that exact thing happened on this May night. While they weren't given the main event spot (because John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis was SUCH an important match), it was hands down the best match on the card. This was just two of the better pure wrestlers putting on a wrestling match. Not much in the way of nonsense and just an absolutely match to watch. ****1/4

4) WWE Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan; WrestleMania XXX - Even if we never see Daniel Bryan wrestle again, I, and every Bryan fan, will always have WrestleMania XXX. It's even been called "YestleMania". The show was based around him, made all the more impressive by the fact that the original plan was a midcard match between Bryan and Sheamus. Instead, the fans forced the WWE's hand and Bryan was thrust into the main event. What followed was an overbooked masterpiece. I say that because often, overbooking can be awful. Here, it was done perfectly, resulting in the greatest moment in the career of Daniel Bryan as he stood tall with the gold to close the biggest show of the year. ***3/4

3) Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H; WrestleMania XXX - I told you it might as well be called "YestleMania". Before Daniel Bryan got into the main event and won the WWE World Heavyweight Title, he had to go through Triple H in the opening contest. These two went out and had the best singles match on the main roster in all of 2014. Hell, if it wasn't for Bret/Owen at WrestleMania X, this would be the best WrestleMania opener ever. Bryan's performance at this show is the greatest in WrestleMania history. Not only did he win two matches, but he had two fantastic outings. Excellent stuff all around. ****1/2

2) Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler; Bragging Rights 2010 - In 2015, Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan are widely considered two of the best workers in all of professional wrestling. However, in 2010, Bryan was still fresh to a WWE audience and Dolph was a dastardly heel. With both guys holding the midcard titles of Raw and Smackdown, they were put to face off at the Bragging Rights Pay-Per-View as a part of the brands battling. Bryan and Ziggler went out and stole the show. It is widely forgotten and overlooked but I absolutely loved everything about this. It's one of my favorite matches of all-time. ****1/4

1) WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Daniel Bryan; SummerSlam 2013 - When it comes to big matches, there aren't many better than John Cena. When he goes up against one of my favorite, the atmosphere is insane. I remember being nervous and pumped for this in ways I can't describe. The only thing that rivals it is what I felt during Punk/Cena at Money in the Bank 2011. I wanted so badly for Bryan to win the WWE Title and beat THE MAN in the WWE. He did just that in a classic match and picked up the cleanest victory I can remember someone ever getting on Cena. It was an indescribable feeling that, while short lived, meant the world to me. ****1/4