G’day Lords of Pain, welcome back to my new series reliving 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 we kicked things off by going back to Summer Slam 2013 and watching the amazing main event match between John Cena & Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship and the fallout of a neutral Triple H turning on Bryan, leaving him open for a Randy Orton Money In The Bank cash in. In case you missed it you can check it out, gifs and all here.
We jump in today with the post Summer Slam Raw and Smackdown and Triple H’s betrayal which led to Orton’s cash in. For various reasons, largely where I live, I have never regularly watched the WWE on a weekly basis, I came back to wrestling in the middle of the Yes Movement so I am very excited to sit down and absorb this story in such deep detail. So enough of the preamble, without further ado let’s get stuck in to this week’s YES Relived.
The Life of Bryan
Raw opens tonight to a chorus of boos as John Cena enters the ring to farewell the crowd before going away for surgery on his injured elbow. Despite calling Bryan the true champ and labelling what happened with Orton and Triple H ‘disgusting’, the events of the night before have left the crowd in a foul mood and he gets a ‘Cena Sucks’ chant for his efforts.
Sensing the mood of the crowd, Cena cuts short whatever he was planning and invites out the man he says “earnt the right to be called champion”. Bryan enters to a massive pop and as the crowd chants “YES”, Cena simply hands him the mic and leaves the ring.
However before Bryan can even get a word in, he is interrupted by Stephanie McMahon’s music and the daughter of the CEO of the WWE struts to the ring, presumably to explain what happened last night. Somewhat predictably Stephanie gets showered with a chorus of boos and opens up saying that she is sorry about what happened last night and that Bryan did not deserve to have his dream destroyed. She says unfortunately Triple H is the COO of the company and had to do what was best for business.
Bryan doesn’t take it lying down and jumps in, saying he expects that kind of talk from Steph and Vince but not from a guy that was a leader of DX, a guy that was a renegade but “if you lie down with trash long enough you will start to sink”. The two start to go back and forth with Stephanie telling him she will let that slide because Bryan is a valuable B+ Player. Bryan fires back that he will keep fighting for the top position he earnt and that he isn’t afraid to get fired and go back to wrestling in bingo halls and armouries, selling tshirts out of his car boot.
One thing I don’t think Bryan has ever got enough credit for is his body language and attitude in segments like this. While Steph is completely on point with her corporate style speech, Bryan’s reaction reminds me so much of someone who knows that he is in the right and is getting completely pissed off at someone that is intentionally talking around their arguments and is purposely failing to understand them. I work in a bank in my day job and have seen this play out with angry customers too many times, they believe wholeheartedly they are in the right and an unskilled employee keeps telling the customer ‘they understand’ while so blatantly fobbing off the real complaint.
The segment peaks as Bryan slaps the microphone out of Stephanie’s hand which gets an audible gasp from the crowd. However in an act of ice cold dominance, Steph calmly walks over to the ring apron, gets one of her employees to hand her another microphone, calls for security and has them escort a pissed off but compliant Bryan from the ring. As he leaves Bryan starts a defiant NO chant.
Bryan’s second appearance of the night is in the show’s final segment, Orton’s Championship coronation. We jump in with Stephanie and Triple H walking to the ring, only to be interrupted by Raw GM Brad Maddox who let’s them know that Bryan has got back into the building after being escorted out earlier.
As we cut to the ring we see the whole McMahon family, Vince, Steph and Triple H standing in the ring, The Shield are on guard at the bottom of the ramp and the rest of the roster minus Bryan are standing on the stage ready to witness Orton’s coronation by the company as WWE Champion.
Vince opens up thanking his son-in-law, for changing his mind at Summer Slam and making the right decision for business. Triple H takes the microphone and echos what Stephanie said earlier in the night, he didn’t want to screw over Bryan but he did it for the WWE fans saying they don’t deserve B+, they deserve the best. In a nice bit of acknowledging their prior history Triple H says he doesn’t even like the guy who he handed the championship to but buried his personal feelings to do what was best for the WWE and calls Orton to the ring.
As you might expect this whole thing is getting a massive reaction from the crowd who are showering it with boos and do not relent as Orton’s makes down the ramp, shakes everyone’s hand and says a few forgettable lines about being the right man for the job. After Orton has said his bit Triple H makes the surprising move of inviting Bryan out to make peace with the company, he even guarantees Bryan’s safety.
After some teasing with Bryan’s music, the man of the hour walks in from the side and slowly makes his way to the ring. Despite Triple H’s promise, just as he is about to pull himself up to the apron The Shield jump on him andmanhandle him back up the ramp. In an awesome little brawl, Bryan manages to split the trio up, kicking Seth into oblivion and tossing Ambrose onto the steel ramp.
Despite Triple H’s further assurance, as he comes back to the ring a second time Bryan is ambushed by Reigns, who was hiding behind the barricade in full view of Triple H.
I am a massive fan of all three Shield members so seeing them here was such an fun little cameo and it was very cool how quickly they pressed their advantage after Reigns took down Bryan. The Shield resume their beatdown and despite being called off again by Hunter and further promises about his safety, when Bryan finally does step in the ring he is dropped immediately with an RKO and Raw finishes with Vince, Orton, Triple H and Stephanie standing over a fallen Bryan.
After leaving Bryan on the canvas to close Raw, Orton begins Smackdown by being welcomed to the ring by Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero, who has apparently done a deal with The Authority. Orton continues the rhetoric The Authority started on Monday about being the face of the WWE the fans deserve but is showered in boos until Bryan’s music hits and the man everyone wants to see comes to the ring to massive applause.
Bryan starts out by thanking John Cena for the opportunity that gave him the chance to feel what it is like to be WWE Champion and show that it is time for the face of the WWE to change. He then turns to Orton and talks about how he knows why Triple H likes him: because he is so tall, chiselled and pretty, in fact Orton is so pretty, he wants to kick him in the face.
As the crowd fires up so does Bryan saying Orton has been handed everything in pro wrestling while Bryan had to scratch and claw, wrestling in high school halls and sleeping in his car just to get an ounce of respect. Bryan says he is invoking his rematch clause tonight but Orton immediately declares Bryan has to wait until Night of Champions then goes for a surprise RKO. Bryan has learnt from Monday though and is ready for it, pushing The Viper off and kicking him out of the ring with a dropkick.
Later in the show, sitting in her office backstage, Vickie Guerrero says Bryan spoiled Orton’s moment and someone will have to teach him a lesson. Wade Barrett, who you may remember lost his beard to Bryan in the lead up to Summer Slam, enters the room rocking some surprisingly ginger stubble and takes the match, guaranteeing he will ensure Bryan never reaches his rematch with Orton. Vickie says he has got the job and makes it a Cage Match.
Daniel Bryan v Wade Barrett, Steel Cage Match
That takes us to the main event match of the night between the former Nexus members Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett. It is a match that takes a much more traditional shape of a big man v small man match than the Cena v Bryan outing we saw last week, but these two are very familiar with one another in the ring and it is no less enjoyable for it.
The pair start out with alternating strikes and after Barrett fails in an early attempt to throw Bryan into the cage, the smaller man is able to set the pace with kicks and unanswered mounted punches in the corner. That early momentum doesn’t last too long though as a big boot from Barrett sends Bryan head over heels and Barrett uses it to slow things down, grounding Bryan and viciously grinds his forearm across Bryan’s face.
Bryan’s attempts to come back are met with big cheers from the crowd but are ultimately countered by the bigger man as Barrett keeps control. This includes one very nice sequence where Bryan momentarily escapes Barrett with his trademark backflip from the top turnbuckle but is caught in a big slam that earns 2 count as he tries to press the momentary opportunity.
Barrett continues to grind Bryan down and his dominance climaxes in a vicious big boot as Bryan is pinned between the ropes and the cage. However as Barrett moves in to follow up, Bryan counters with his first offence in a while and starts slamming Barrett’s head against the cage wall and trapping him between the ropes and cage. He follows up with three running dropkick to the larger man who is now the one taking the full force of Bryan’s momentum against the cage.
Having floored the bigger man, Bryan goes to the opposite corner and starts to climb to escape. Barrett is hot on his heels though, grabbing him to halt the attempted escape. Bryan counters with downward kicks and after getting some space hits a huge dropkick off the turnbuckle getting a two count in the centre of the ring.
The follow up Yes Kicks are not as successful as Barrett catches the third kick, hurls Bryan into the cage wall and follows up with two giant clotheslines that turn Bryan inside out.
With Bryan lying motionless in the center of the ring Barrett goes to the corner and starts climbing the cage. He manages to get his left leg over the edge before the smaller man catches up to him. Using strikes and some old fashioned headbutts Bryan drags Barrett back into the cage and after some teasing on the top rope sends Barrett to the canvas with unique sunset flip power bomb variant.
Off the back of the sudden swing in momentum, Bryan goes to the corner and charges at Barrett for the flying knee and gets the pin and the win.
Winner: Daniel Bryan via pinfall
Rating: 3.5 YES’s out of 5
A short but sweet Steel Cage Match that stuck to the tried and tested big man/small man formula, earns bonus points for never using the cage door as an escape method and also for the fantastic finishing sequence with teasing on the turnbuckle and awesome sunset flip variant from the side at the end.
Unfortunately we don’t get a happy ending though because as Bryan is circling the cage, celebrating with the crowd, Randy Orton comes out of nowhere and hits an RKO, leaving Bryan laying at his feet as the show goes off air, for the third time this week.
What a week of wrestling story telling! From the fantastic match at Summer Slam, to establishing the villains of the story on Raw, through to the great cage match at Smackdown. The WWE did not put a foot wrong with kicking off the Bryan v The Authority story and laying the ground work for everything to come.
So much of what will come about in the future was set in motion in these segments, from the introduction of the ‘best for business’ and ‘B+ player’ lines to The Shield being used as pawns and Randy Orton as The Authority’s chosen mercenary. The Authority’s self righteous zeal to do what is ‘best for business’ and clear belief in what they are doing is so believable. The lines between kayfabe and reality were also blurred opposite them as Bryan’s character revelled in his passion for wrestling and determination to continue to headline the WWE at all costs. As a fan you can absolutely believe that to this day Bryan is completely unafraid of being fired and he is purely driven to wrestle on the biggest stages he can find.
One of the questions I wanted to explore across this series was if the story that unfolded from Summer Slam to Wrestlemania 30 was planned from the start. Looking purely at this week it is hard to see how things could have worked out any other way given the starting point of the story. The heroes and villains are so clearly defined, their motives conflict so perfectly and what the crowd wants is so clear. As The Doc said in the comments last week, the WWE shot themselves in the foot when they tried to introduce new players because they had already set up this story so well but hadn’t concluded it.
In the WWE’s defence, one big problem is that the 9 months between Summer Slam and Wrestlemania is a long time to build a story, if you focus the characters on nothing but that feud then you get the monotony of the Shane McMahon v Kevin Owens program that seemed to run on forever between Summer Slam 2017 and Wrestlemania this year. In this case though, when it looked like Bryan had been put on the back burner and was paired with other wrestlers the fans revolted.
We will probably never know the full story of the backstage dealings around this feud, what the plan was for Bryan after Summer Slam or when Batista’s deal came into the picture, but one of the reasons fans revolted so hard, particularly when the Royal Rumble came around, was just because of how perfectly this story was set up.
However we have a long way to go before we get there so let me know in the comments what you thought of the Raw and Smackdown segments and the Bryan v Barrett cage match which I will officially dub the first hidden gem of this series (we’ll say quartz though, don’t want to get too carried away). The story continues next week as Bryan tangles with former Ring of Honour sparring partner Seth Rollins, a match up we are still looking forward to seeing again nearly five years after as part of a gauntlet match against The Shield.
Thanks for checking out Yes Relived, looking forward to seeing you next week for the next instalment in the rise of Daniel Bryan. If you would like to talk some more wrestling feel free to follow me on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or leave a comment below.