From the NAI Archive - March 3, 2015 - Defending Daniel - Why Bryan fans shouldn't be "Crippled" by their hero's supposed fall from grace.

One of the most anticipated matches at this year’s Wrestlemania, at least according to the NAIbors I’ve spoken with, is the ladder match for the IC title.  Not only is it impressive because it’s received so much TV time, or its, in just a couple of weeks, seemingly revived the multiple-time-dead career of one R-Truth, but it also is going to be, it seems, the Wrestlemania spot for one Daniel Bryan.  You know, the guy who won the World Heavyweight Championship at the main event of last year’s Mania.

This got me thinking.  How does this rank among others who have won a World title at wrestling’s greatest stage?  Specifically, I looked at those who won in the main event match.  The results, as expected, were surprising.

Randy Savage - Wins title at Wrestlemania IV, in main event at V.

It’s weird to think that the World title didn’t change hands at a ‘Mania until this one, isn’t it?  Of course, these were peak Hulkamania years, so I suppose its not that unusual.  Savage held onto the belt until the following year, dropping it to. . .

Hulk Hogan - Wins title at Wrestlemania V, main event of VI.

See above - Hogan holds the belt until his match with. . .

Ultimate Warrior - Wins title at Wrestlemania VI, in retirement match with Savage at VII.

This is the first time the victorious champion “takes a step back”, as it were.  Again, knowing what we know now about Warrior’s career, this makes sense.  Still, being the one to (supposedly) retire Macho Man isn’t anything to sneeze about.

Hulk Hogan - Wins title at Wrestlemania VII, wrestles Sid in main event of VIII.

While Hogan continued his main event run, his match with Sid was not for the title, which when you add this to the fact that the World title wasn’t even DEFENDED at the initial Wrestlemania, proves that certain superstars, in the mind of Vince McMahon, eclipse the championship.  Remember that when Cena vs. Rusev or HHH vs. Sting is the final match in 27 or so days.

Side note here:  Randy Savage wins another World title at WM VIII, defeating Ric Flair.  The following year?  He’s on commentary in Las Vegas.  Mr. Macho is going to appear in tomorrow’s “What If Wednesday” as well, so stay tuned.

Yokozuna - Wins title at Wrestlemania IX, wrestles Luger and Bret for the belt at X.

Hulk Hogan - Wins title at Wrestlemania IX, is gone from the WWF months afterwards.

Most Daniel Bryan fans should take solace in this fact, though those who enjoy ROH, Japan or are excited for the prospects of GFW might be wishing the American Dragon was there instead of in the mid-card of WWE.

Bret Hart - Wins title at X, in an “I Quit” match with Bob Backlund at XI.

Many, I imagine, have forgotten (if they were aware at all) how big this feud was back in the mid-90’s.  Bob Backlund doesn’t get enough credit for completely rejuvenating his career by. . . Well, by being insane.

Shawn Michaels - Wins title at XII, is on commentary for main event of 13.

I don’t recall specifics, but I imagine injury was involved here, so HBK gets a pass.  Again, Bryan fans, be grateful DB isn’t on the sidelines.

Undertaker - Wins title at 13, faces Kane at XIV.

This was the first showdown between the two brothers, thus essentially a second main event.

Steve Austin - Wins title at XIV AND at XV - doesn’t appear at Mania 2000.

Stone Cold was rehabbing from neck surgery, so like Michaels, he gets a pass.  Winning the title at 2 consecutive Manias is quite the feat, though, only duplicated once.  Sorry, folks, you knew we were going to have to talk about Cena at some point, right?

Steve Austin - Wins title at X-7, wrestles Scott Hall at X8.

This is definitely a big step back, though to be fair, its partially Austin’s fault.  Refusing to lose to Hogan (Hogan would also refuse to lose to Austin, it should be mentioned), Austin was booked with Hall instead.  Let’s call this a self-imposed step back, with some chemical assistance.

Triple H - Wins title at X8, wrestles Booker T for a title at XIX.

Note the use of the indefinite article “a” here, for XIX is the first time there were 2 “top titles”.  HHH and Booker T was for the World Heavyweight Championship and was not the final match of the evening.  That honor was shared with Kurt Angle and. . .

Brock Lesnar - Wins title at XIX, wrestles Goldberg at XX.

The name value for the Brock and Bill showdown was huge. . . As for the match, well. . . You can ask Jason Moltov about that. . .

Chris Benoit - wins title at XX, is part of the inaugural MITB match at XXI.

This looks familiar, doesn’t it?  Keep that in mind, we have a little longer to go yet.  I’ll try to speed things up a bit, since we’re entering a more modern, Cena-filled era.

Batista - Wins title at XXI, is injured for 22.

Undertaker - wins title at 24, wrestles HBK at 25.

Having just seen this match from 25 recently, I can tell you that actually Taker had a step up in this instance.

John Cena - wins title at 29, wrestles Bray at 30.

We are lucky that most of Cena’s Wrestlemania title wins didn’t take place in show-ending matches.  In fact, I think that tells us quite a bit, don’t you?

Daniel Bryan - Wins title at 30, presumed to be in IC ladder match at 31.



So what can we learn here?  Well, aside from the fact that there’s been a whole LOT of title changes to end Wrestlemanias (this is where the Roman Empire squeals with glee), Daniel Bryan’s professional wrestling career. . . SOLELY IN TERMS OF HIS “WRESTLEMANIA MOMENT”. . . seems to be most mirroring the Canadian Crippler, Chris Benoit.

Note:  While I don’t feel like I really need this disclaimer, just to be safe, I am only referring to Benoit the wrestling talent.  I am able to distinguish between the performer and the man. . . As we all should.

Benoit had one of the more emotional and personally satisfying Mania moments in history.
Benoit overcame a series of obstacles and his fairly diminutive size to achieve wrestling glory.
Benoit’s title run was relatively short.
Following that, Benoit was back to winning mid-card titles.

Sound familiar?

This, my friends, like it or not, is what Daniel Bryan is.  He had a momentous achievement in his career. . . And he’ll almost certainly never reach that pinnacle again.  He might win 4-5 Intercontinental and US titles, he’ll likely have another couple Match of the Year candidates, and that’s going to have to satisfy us.

Let me close here by drawing yet another comparison between the American Dragon and the Rabid Wolverine.  If Twitter had existed back in 2003/2004, Chris Benoit (among others) would have been the IWC’s darling.  We’d all have been wondering when the hell this guy. . .This supremely talented guy. . . was going to get his day in the sun.  We’d have worshipped the ground he walked on while also lambasting the “chosen one” with the family history who may or may not have taken his spot.  (In this case, Randy Orton, who beat Benoit for the title 4-5 months after he won it.)

When WM 21 rolled around, we’d have howled at the audacity of WWE for putting our hero in such a “low-tier” spot. . . Until the match happened, when we’d have loved every second of it.

Daniel Bryan can still be our hero, even if he is never again our champion.  He doesn’t need a belt to be a phenomenal wrestler, and frankly, isn’t that what we want?

Plus, if the career path (and ONLY the career path) continues like this, we’ve got a Best of Seven series coming up with Bryan and Dolph Ziggler.  Admit it - you just got chills thinking about that possibility.
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