Yes! WWE fans make strong case for Daniel Bryan
"Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Those thunderous chants may still be reverberating off the walls at Key Arena in Seattle, Wash., where thousands of fans cheered wildly for WWE favorite Daniel Bryan at last week's Monday Night Raw event.
The show of support was unplanned and unrehearsed, occurring at a pivotal point when WWE executive Triple H was pushing the "historic" showdown between John Cena and Randy Orton at the company's TLC pay-per-view.
But something special happened to shift the hard-sell focus on the pay-per-view to a message that the WWE Universe has been trying to send the promotion for the past several months.
The Universe likes Daniel Bryan. Not a little, but a lot.
Enough, in fact, to join forces at WWE events and voice unwavering support for a performer these fans feel should be carrying the gold.
Although Monday night's show was held only a hundred miles from Bryan's hometown of Aberdeen, the company couldn't have anticipated the deafening applause he received in the all-important final segment of the show.
Give credit, though, to Cena, who masterfully helped shift direction to Bryan, worked him into his "go-home" promo and even turned the ever-present Cena "boo birds" into cheering fanatics who threatened to break another Seattle noise record.
It was a risky audible, but one that paid off.
That's how you make new stars in the business or, in Bryan's case, make current stars even bigger stars.
Spontaneous moments like that are rare, and ever rarer is a group of performers who can change gears at that special moment's notice and craft it into something that will be memorable for days, months and sometimes even years to come.
Bryan, Cena and Triple H all accomplished just that, assisted by a group of former world champions on hand for a ceremony that turned out to be quite unforgettable despite veering wildly off the rails.
The segment and the show's final 15 minutes were filled with action and intrigue that planted seeds leading all the way up to next year's Wrestlemania 30.
Can't be denied
Bryan, who as "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson was a multi-time champion in the Ring of Honor promotion, has proved again and again that, despite his slightly unorthodox demeanor, the Shawn Michaels protege can connect with his fans on a personal and emotional level.
The problem is that WWE higher-ups, while acknowledging Bryan's superior ability in the ring and connection with his loyal fan base, just don't feel that Bryan has the "look" of a WWE heavyweight champion or the kind of drawing power that pushes PPV buyrates or TV ratings.
Maybe that's because they made him grow a beard a la "Duck Dynasty" that earned him the less-than-appealing "Goat Face" moniker. Once he embraced that image, however, Bryan's popularity increased even more.
It seems that no matter what they do to the likable performer, or how they position him on the show, Bryan finds a way to shine.
The fact that he didn't fit the mold of Vince McMahon's typical WWE superstar was even used as part of an angle.
When WWE creative put Bryan in a gimmick comedy team with Kane called Team Hell No, he quickly emerged as the star of the duo, proving that he could project an entertaining personality as well as an amazing ring repertoire.
Kane (Glenn Jacobs), who was among the performers in the ring Monday night when the fans burst into "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chants, has been one of Bryan's biggest boosters.
"I am an enormous fan of Daniel Bryan. I think he's the best technical wrestler we have on the roster," he said in an interview earlier this year. "He's also been able to make a connection with our fans which not many people are able to do. It doesn't matter whether people are booing him or cheering him, he always gets one of the best reactions of the night."
Kane's far from his only supporter. Bryan dominated the fan voting at Monday night's Slammys by either winning or playing a role in six awards - the biggest being WWE's "Superstar of the Year" honor. This year's event also set a record with 1.64 million votes via the WWE app, an increase of 180 percent from last year's record-setting awards show.
While the 32-year-old Bryan has held the WWE heavyweight title two separate times, he hasn't held the championship for one full day during those two reigns.
But none of that mattered Monday night when thousands of fans made sure they were heard on live TV.
They spoke loud and clear.
What's "best for business" just might be Daniel Bryan.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.