On March 20th, 2018, WWE tweeted out breaking news that would announce that Daniel Bryan was returning to the ring as he had finally been cleared by the team of doctors to be a wrestler once again following his retirement back in February of 2016. Today marks one whole year since the leader of the YES Movement was cleared, and what a year it has been. He would head out to the ring on SmackDown that same day to let it be known that the YES Movement was officially back. Let’s take a look at how this year faired for the former WrestleMania main eventer.
The First Year Back for Daniel Bryan
He would make his in-ring return at WrestleMania, teaming up with Shane McMahon to face Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, two men who at one time Bryan supported as the SmackDown LIVE General Manager. Bryan would make his return in the same place he had the “Miracle on Bourbon Street” when he defeated all of Evolution in the same night to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. With the entire WWE Universe doing the “YES!” chants in such a heartfelt moment. Bryan and Shane O’Mac would win in the return match of Bryan as he would hook the Yes Lock onto Sami Zayn for the victory.
Following the epic return of Bryan, the SmackDown after WrestleMania would continue to bring dream scenarios for Daniel Bryan, as he would be scheduled to face the WWE Champion AJ Styles that very night. A match that the WWE Universe never thought they would see would take place but never have a real finish, as Shinsuke Nakamura would continue his low blow patterns by coming into the match and ruining it for the fans. Then, for the first time in months, Big Cass would show up to take out Daniel Bryan, leading to their feud.
Daniel Bryan would enter the Greatest Royal Rumble at number one, lasting all the way until the final three. He was beaten badly but showing the heart that so many fans fell in love with when Bryan was inside the ring. Bryan would last a record 1 hour and 16 minutes, longer than any other in any Rumble prior. He would be eliminated by his new rival, Big Cass, and showed that if you didn’t think the Yes was back before, he sure is now.
There continuous feud of “big vs small” would continue into Backlash, where Bryan would make Big Cass tap out to his newly established heel hook in a relatively short match. Yet, Big Cass would not be finished with Daniel Bryan, as he would continue to pester him until he could get his win back. They would go at it one more time at Money in the Bank, where, in a more competitive match, Daniel would once again be victorious. This would mark the end of Big Cass in the company and mark a return of a memorable point in Bryan’s career.
Daniel Bryan would reunite with his Team Hell No partner, Kane, to take on the Bludgeon Brothers for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at Extreme Rules. After Kane came to the aid of Bryan during a bludgeon beatdown by Harper and Rowan, they would embrace in the middle of the ring with a hug. For one last time, they would team up to try and win tag team gold. Unfortunately, Kane would get hurt prior to the PPV, which made him a non-participant for most of the match. Harper and Rowan would decimate Bryan for most of the match, which would mark a sad end to such a memorable tag team and key part of Bryan’s career.
Daniel Bryan would move on to a rivalry that started when he was retired. He would finally get his hands on The Miz. Bryan and the Miz would enter a fiery feud, where it would all culminate at SummerSlam. After weeks of promos and pure hate between both men, from saying that Bryan is too loyal to The Miz discussing how sometimes “any means necessary” is what you must do. They would finally face off in the biggest match since Bryan had returned. This would be the match that many fans would notice that Daniel Bryan would be receiving fewer chants than usual. In a long bout, The Miz would pick up the victory by cheating his way to victory with the use of brass knuckles, thanks to Maryse. This would be yet another loss by Bryan, which was hurting the momentum he had from his return to the WWE.
The tough times would continue to Daniel Bryan, as he would continue feuding with The Miz, this time with their wives getting involved. Brie Bella and Maryse would join the fray as they would go to Hell in a Cell to compete in a mixed tag team match. This wouldn’t fair well for Bryan and Brie, as The Miz would get yet another victory over Daniel Bryan when Maryse would pin Brie Bella. It started to become a problem as the fans were beginning to lose that love more and more as Bryan would take yet another loss.
The Miz and Bryan would finish up their rivalry for now as they would face each other at Australia’s Super Show-Down, where they would face off one last time, but this time would be for a future WWE Championship opportunity. This match would last just over two minutes, however, as Daniel Bryan would finally defeat The Miz by bringing back his old nickname of “Mr. Small Package”, rolling him up for the quick three and a future WWE Championship opportunity after months of certainly being held back.
The match that was never finished would be set for Crown Jewel, as Daniel Bryan would be scheduled to face AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. However, Daniel Bryan would refuse to go to Saudi Arabia, so they would have the match the SmackDown LIVE prior to the show. This would end with the “Phenomenal One” retaining his championship once again on his way to being champion for one whole year. These two would not be done with each other, however, and the unheard of would occur. Daniel Bryan would face AJ Styles on the November 13th episode of SmackDown for the WWE Championship. Daniel Bryan would hit Styles with a low blow as the match came to a close, then nailing him with the flying knee to become the new WWE Champion, officially turning on the fans and becoming the Planet’s Champion.
Daniel Bryan would go into Survivor Series as the WWE Champion, and he would be going into the show to be in the main event against the Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar. This was a match that so many wanted for years, and they would finally get it here. It was hard hitting, as Daniel Bryan would come so close to slaying the beast. He would even lock on the newly renamed Lebell Lock, but Brock would power out, hitting Bryan with an F5 for the victory. But a new, more aggressive Daniel Bryan was born.
Bryan would become known as the Planet’s Champion in this time, from making a new championship made out of organic hemp, to enlisting Rowan as his new guardian of sorts. He would defeat AJ Styles once again at TLC and the Royal Rumble, proving that the Planet’s Champion was here to stay. He would retain his championship once again at the Elimination Chamber PPV when he would end the Kofi Kingston fairy tale for the first time. With the odds stacked against him once again, he would defeat both Kevin Owens and Mustafa Ali in a phenomenal match leading him to another marvellous victory. The work that Daniel Bryan has been doing on the mic during the past few months has been his best, as he currently stands as the top champion in the company.
As we head into WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan is one year removed from being cleared and going into the biggest show of the year as the WWE Champion and one of the most disliked acts in the company. Crazy to say, but Daniel Bryan is in the process of some of the best work in his entire career.
Congrats to Daniel Bryan on one full year of health, as he continues to be apart of one of the best stories in wrestling with Kofi Kingston, switching the B+ player stigma to him after being called that on his chase to the big one. Here’s to another marvellous year for the Planet’s Champion.
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