A mere two months ago, Daniel Bryan was on top of the wrestling world.
He had emerged victorious in the biggest match of his career, winning the WWE heavyweight title at Wrestlemania 30 in front of 75,000 fans in New Orleans, a storybook scenario that could have only been scripted in the pro wrestling arena.
The story, though, was supposed to be just beginning.
Bryan was the undersized guy who didn't look like a world champion and didn't talk like a world champion, but whose amazing ability in the ring and underdog status captured the hearts of the WWE Universe.
What happened next was beyond the capabilities of the best writing staff in the world.
Bryan, who overcame The Authority, three opponents at Wrestlemania, and all the naysayers who had doubted him, couldn't overcome a bad neck.
With his recovery from surgery going slower than WWE had hoped, Bryan was stripped of his world title, less than two months after winning it.
WWE had planned on Bryan headlining its Summer Slam pay-per-view against Brock Lesnar in August, but that matchup looks less and less likely with each passing week.
The mountain of momentum that Bryan had generated in the months preceding Wrestlemania might be difficult, if not impossible, to recapture.
The world title that once belonged to Bryan, if only for a few fleeting weeks, will be back on the line at Sunday night's Money in the Bank pay-per-view.
And the odds-on favorite to win the belt will be John Cena. WWE most likely will pass up the chance to christen a rising young star in favor of going with a more reliable, established commodity like Cena.
Last week WWE prematurely posted a graphic highlighting a Cena-Lesnar match at Summer Slam, and in a news blast on Friday again teased a main event between the two. So unless WWE is pulling a swerve on its fan base, all indications point to Cena winning on Sunday night.
The time will come for sure-bet future titleholders Roman Reigns, Cesaro and Bray Wyatt, but WWE will go the route of slowly building those champions-in-waiting.
Lesnar, who will continue to be promoted as the most invincible force in WWE, should go into next year's Wrestlemania as WWE champion, with Reigns currently penciled in as the challenger.
Where Daniel will fit into the mix, when he returns, is a big question mark. His many fans are hoping that lightning will strike twice in his case, and that the Yes! movement can regain traction when he comes back.
In the meantime, though, Bryan is far from a forgotten figure. Immediately after throwing a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night, San Francisco pitcher Tim Lincecum put on a Team USA soccer jersey, along with a knight's helmet, and led his teammates in Bryan's signature "Yes!" chant.
Vickie Guerrero is leaving WWE after spending the last nine years with the company.
Guerrero, widow of the late WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero, did a yeoman's job in her role as storyline general manager, and her shrill, trademark "Excuse me!" catchphrase will go down as one of the best (and shortest) in WWE history.
Guerrero, 46, passed her college entrance exam and plans to go back to school and earn a degree in medical administration in pursuit of a nursing career.
"I'm so grateful for the wonderful blessings in the last nine years. Live, love, and laugh ... heading home to begin a new chapter in my amazing life. Thank you, Jesus," she wrote on Twitter.
Guerrero was known for her willingness to do whatever it took - whether as an on-air authority figure, involved in relationships with various WWE performers (most notably Edge and Dolph Ziggler), or even as a wrestler in the divas division - to elicit jeers from the audience. Usually, though, her simple two-word catchphrase was enough to make her one of WWE's top heat magnets.
Few embraced the vitriol as seamlessly as Vickie Guerrero.
"I love when they boo me. I love it. I love when I get them mad because if I don't, then I'm not doing my job," she once said in an interview. "I don't want to be cheered. I'm a bad guy, so the boos and the mean faces and the yelling is something I look forward to every night."
In farewell letter to WWE, she recognized the entire crew, ranging from behind-the-scenes employees to Vince and Linda McMahon.
"I am grateful for the opportunities you gave me," she wrote the McMahons. "Thank you for having my family feel accepted as a part of yours ... Vince, Eddie loved you like a dad! He had so much respect for you and it was always important to make you proud. Thank you for believing in me when I didn't!"
Larry Nelson dies
Former AWA announcer Larry Nelson (real name Larry Shipley) passed away Tuesday after a short bout with pancreatic cancer.
Nelson, who was a Minnesota radio DJ prior to his wrestling gig, worked as commentator, host and ring announcer in the mid- to late '80s for Verne Gagne during the last years of the AWA and served as the face of the promotion during its sharp decline from 1986-89.
In 2000, Nelson wrote a self-published autobiography titled "Stranglehold," focusing on his time in wrestling, along with the sex, drugs, and rock and roll of that era. He also was responsible for helping future WCW boss Eric Bischoff get his first wrestling-related job with the AWA.
"Eric made phone calls, marketed the production and put promotions together," said Nelson. "Occasionally he would run camera while I conducted interviews. Eric had no previous broadcast experience. This mattered little and he soon went out on the road with us too."
In 1989, as the AWA headed for bankruptcy, Nelson left the beleaguered company for Florida, never telling the dying promotion that he was leaving. Bischoff replaced him on commentary.
Bischoff, Larry Zbyszko and Greg Gagne jumped to WCW when the AWA collapsed. Bischoff auditioned for WWF but wasn't hired. Eventually, with Dallas Page's help, Bischoff became a part-time "C-squad announcer" in WCW. He would assume control of WCW just over a year later.
Nelson's passing follows the death of fellow AWA announcer Lee Marshall earlier this year. The two worked together at various points in the AWA during the company's run on ESPN.
Southern great dies
Don Greene, one half of the original Heavenly Bodies tag team with storyline brother Al Greene (Al Denney) and manager Sir Dudley Clements (Steven Beresford), passed away at the age of 83 on June 21.
A former U.S. junior heavyweight champion, Greene was a top heel on the Tennessee circuit and, with "brother" Al, held the NWA Southern tag-team title on seven different occasions from 1969-72. The two also held the Gulf Coast tag-team title.
Don formed a short-lived team with a young Jerry Lawler after the Greene Brothers disbanded.
Longtime WWE announcer Josh Mathews (Josh Lomberger) has been released from the company.
Mathews, 33, was a runner-up to Maven and Nidia in the first WWE Tough Enough competition in 2001.
He spent 12 years with the company as a backstage interviewer, announcer and most recently lead anchor on the WWE Network.
Renee Young will replace Mathews as the WWE Network pre-show host starting with the Money in the Bank PPV on Sunday.
Tag Team Wars 7
Old School Championship Wrestling will present Tag Teams Wars 7 on July 20 at the Hanahan Rec Center.
For more information, call 843-743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.
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