3/6/14 Wrestler of the Week – Daniel Bryan

The Wrestler of the Week award is designed to highlight a wrestler who made the most of his or her opportunities in a given week. While great matches or memorable promos certainly help a wrestler win Wrestler of the Week, the ultimate decision will also include consistency through the week and bonus points for pulling off a task with a higher degree of difficulty. 

3/6/14 Wrestler of the Week – Daniel Bryan

The 2013 Wrestler of the Year did not start 2014 with the same momentum with which he ended the previous year, but he has moved quickly to elevate his performance and narrative to keep his popularity high. After Bryan finished his surprisingly exciting program with the Wyatt Family, it looked like he might have run into a dead end. When he failed to even appear in the Royal Rumble match, I openly wondered whether he could maintain the goodwill and momentum he built in his quest for the WWE Title. After another loss to Randy Orton to conclude the Elimination Chamber match and an apparent relegation out of the Wrestlemania main event, it truly seemed like Bryan’s die-hard fans started lose hope for the first time. Just when it looked like Bryan was ready to settle into the upper-midcard, he put on such a great performance on Raw that he elevated his entire feud with HHH.

Before his excellent work on Raw, Bryan got an important win against Kane in a six-man tag match from Smackdown. Bryan teamed with the Usos against the New Age Outlaws and Kane. Bryan stayed out of the match in the early going, which helped build anticipation for his entrance. Jimmy Uso finally reached Bryan and he turned the match around. The Usos helped him clear the ring so he had Billy Gunn one-on-one. He hit a running knee to Gunn to get the pin. It was another win over Kane to establish his primacy over the Director of Operations in his feud with The Authority. It also helped give the Usos a rub that proved to be useful when they got a huge pop for their eventual Tag Title win over the Outlaws on Raw.

Bryan’s bigger accomplishment was on Raw where he and HHH had their best exchange to date and whet our appetites for their inevitable match. The arguments between HHH and Bryan have been more and more direct over time- from subdued and respectful last summer to heated and direct on Monday. Stephanie McMahon told Bryan that the WWE made him and HHH told him he was responsible for his own losses. Bryan responded passionately and showed so much anger toward HHH that it made the fans want to see him beat the hell out of HHH. The show ended with a Pedigree on Bryan, the first physicality by HHH since he hit Bryan with the same move at SummerSlam to allow Randy Orton to become champion. The Pedigree came at the end of a good match between Bryan and Batista that Bryan won when Orton interfered and got Batista disqualified. Bryan and HHH needed to raise the stakes in their match and make fans desperate for HHH to get his comeuppance. For a match that seemed like a disappointment as recently as a week ago, they accomplished a great deal.

As I write in the intro to the Wrestler of the Week article, I consider degree of difficulty when I choose the winner each week. Part of what made Bryan’s week so successful was that degree of difficulty. Not only did he have to make what seemed like a consolation feud with HHH feel like a main event, he had to do so in front of an audience that was dead set against it. Despite several missteps along the way, Bryan has remained a sympathetic character who fans love to support. If he can carry that feeling into Wrestlemania and beat HHH, it will be a great moment whether or not he leaves the event with the Title.