The announcement of Daniel Bryan’s return to the ring is nothing but pure happiness. Watching him earn his spot as the best wrestler in the WWE and then have it all fall away was heartbreaking. Knowing that all this new talent was pouring into the company and the one thing we couldn’t see was a potential Daniel Bryan match was heartbreaking. Three years later we finally have the American Dragon back, but to what end?
Ever since Bryan announced his retirement there has always been doubt. Bryan was pretty vocal over his disdain with the WWE’s choice to leave him out of the ring. He always said that outside doctors had given him the go ahead to get back in the ring. Year after year there was always the floating chance that Bryan would make a triumphant return, and since 2018 was the final year of his WWE contract, suddenly those rumors seemed somewhat viable. After all, Daniel has always struggled with medical decisions. In the indie wrestling documentary Wrestling Road Diaries we watch as Bryan tries to convince WWE doctors his strange test results are normal for him. It’s a lifelong issue for Bryan and one he’s rarely let sideline him for long.
Three years after that retirement, how should Daniel return? If you were booking a good wrestling show, he’d be a surprise. An unannounced entrant at the Royal Rumble or a surprise return a la the Hardy Brothers at WrestleMania. Instead he’s announced via a tweet. Rather than build suspense, or build a story, or build anything Bryan is just thrust back into the wrestler's life with nothing but the excitement from his return.
One of the many bright spots about Bryan’s return is the potential. Before Bryan was just one of a handful of supremely talented indie wrestlers on a WWE roster, much has changed since then. A WWE locker room resembles that of any PWG or ROH locker room from the mid to late-2000s. Bryan’s return means dream match after dream match that we could only see through grainy footage uploaded to Youtube ten years ago. And even his first match at WrestleMania features two of those dream match candidates: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
These three wrestlers will almost certainly put on a wonderful match. It’s just a shame Shane McMahon is there, and the story is absolute garbage. In typical WWE fashion the company slapped together the cheapest, quickest, easiest story someone could create. Owens and Zayn are the heel power couple on SmackDown and rather than book them in a title scene, they get Bryan and the boss' son. Shane will certainly be replaced (he’s currently in the hospital with medical issues) and Bryan and his mystery partner will probably lose. No way does Zayn and Owens lose a match that results in their firing.
So Bryan’s return is a tag match, potentially with Shane McMahon, which he will likely lose, and it’s all taking place where Bryan won his WWE title. Wonderful.
Despite my continual distrust and distaste for the WWE, I still am absolutely head over heels in love with their roster. Talent oozes out of every match and every show. Even the bad matches are light years ahead of where the WWE was just five years ago. Daniel Bryan has ample opportunity to spend the next few months or years creating more exciting matches and stories than what his return has been saddled with. His potential is endless.
I will however be keeping my fingers crossed that come September, when Bryan’s contract does end, we see him seize opportunity and potential elsewhere. Because the worst thing that could result from Bryan’s WWE return is more wasted potential.