Daniel Bryan, the American Dragon, the GOAT, the bearded one, the YES man, the world's toughest (former) vegan. The son of a lumberjack, Daniel Bryan has become one of the most over superstars in the history of professional wrestling. The YES movement has become a thing unto itself. The chant, done by repeatedly pointing to the sky and chanting "yes" over and over, has grown from wrestling arenas to football stadiums. It is as ubiquitous today as the "crotch chop" was in the 90's. He is so over with the crowd that segments not featuring Daniel Bryan get hijacked by the crowd and the yes chant. And what makes it so special is the genuine joy on his face every time it happens. Bryan is a guy who seems to love what he is doing and is more importantly thankful that people like him.
He started as an independent guy after being trained by Shawn Michaels in Texas. He wrestled all over the world and eventually settled in as one of the founding fathers of Ring of Honor. ROH is where I began to love him. Here was this skinny kid, smaller than most of the roster, kicking ass every week. His kicks, one if his signature moves, are extremely stiff and delivered like an MMA fighter. (so much so that the ROH crowd used to chant, "you're gonna get your fucking head kicked in" before his matches) Bryan has an MMA flair about him. His moveset leads you to believe that in a fight, he would win. It's one of the things that gets people behind him so much; he's believable. He even managed to apprehend a burglar at his home in Arizona by putting him into a rear-naked choke.
His WWE career has been all over the place. Originally part of the NXT competition show that replaced WWECW, Bryan was fired for going too far in pretending to choke out a ring announcer during an invasion storyline. He was rehired and turned on the NXT guys as part of Team WWE at Survivor Series in 2010. He won the United States Championship, the World Championship, and the Tag Team Championship before entering into a feud with The Authority. Storyline wise, and probably a bit real life as well, Daniel Bryan did not fit the look of a traditional Champion. He's not clean cut, tan, and body-builder huge. Everything was done to keep him out of the title picture. The crowd would not let it go however, and Bryan eventually got his moment at WrestleMania 30, winning two matches and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Everything was going well until Bryan lost feeling in his arm. He had to give up the belt and has only recently come back, winning the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31. He's had big feuds at the top of the card and some really forgettable moments.
What I love about this guy is his ability to overcome. To overcome the stereotype of what a champion looks like, what moves they do, how they interact with the crowd. I love that he has come back from injury to be as good if not better than ever. I love that he has overcome the stigma he had when he was signed; a small independent guy who will make other talent look like a million bucks. Most importantly though, I love how much he loves it. It's obvious in every match he has that professional wrestling means something to him. Watch the matches below and let me know what you think.