On February 8th, 2016, a teary-eyed Daniel Bryan stood in front of a sold out Key Arena in his hometown of Seattle Washington, and with a lump in his throat, he announced his retirement.
Concussions and a nagging neck injury may have cut Bryan’s career short and forced him to retire at the young age of only 34 years old, but his six year run with the WWE will stay with fans of him and the product forever.
A legend on the independent circuit, Daniel Bryan was a fan favorite the second he stepped foot on WWE TV. Whether the Bella twins were fighting over him, he was losing a World Heavyweight Championship in 18 seconds at WrestleMania, or he was hugging it out with Kane, the fans chewed it up. No matter what was happening, Bryan was always wildly entertaining.
However, the best of Bryan happened between 2013 and WrestleMania 30, when the Yes! Movement came into being. In the main event of SummerSlam 2013, Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship, only to be immediately screwed by Triple H and Mr. Money in the Bank, Randy Orton. This would begin a feud with Orton and the Authority that would last for eight months, even when the creative team tried to move on from it. The original plan was for Batista to beat Randy Orton in the main event of WrestleMania 30 so that he could advertise his movie, Guardians of the Galaxy. But the fans rejected him. They wanted Daniel Bryan, and during a historic title unification, where the WWE Universe was supposed to be getting excited for John Cena vs. Randy Orton, they chanted Daniel Bryan’s name.
That fan power, along with the unexpected departure of CM Punk, pushed Daniel Bryan from mid-card match with Sheamus to WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Injuries may have ended the career of Daniel Bryan, but as they say, the show must go on, and no show goes like the WWE. Pro wrestling has no off-season, and while Bryan will never be forgotten, there’s no doubt that he left a void. A void that needs to be filled.
The people’s champion. The people need an underdog. Like Daniel Bryan, and CM Punk before him, and Jeff Hardy or Rey Mysterio before him. The WWE Universe need someone to root for that they can relate to. They don’t need a fifth generation superstar or a washed up NFL player, they need a wrestler. They need someone who maybe doesn’t fit the “WWE mold” and has never wanted to be anything but a professional wrestler. Luckily, such a man exists, and he’s already on the roster. The Lunatic Fringe, Dean Ambrose can be the next Daniel Bryan.
When The Shield broke up in the summer of 2014, each superstar shot off into their own direction in the night sky. Roman Reigns, the blue chip prospect, was destined from debut to be a big star in the WWE. Seth Rollins, the highflyer of the group, was immediately placed under Triple H’s tutelage and groomed to become champion. And Dean Ambrose, the mouthpiece of the group, he exploded.
With wildly entertaining promos, an aloof carelessness, and an intoxicating lunacy, Ambrose became one of the company’s most popular stars. The crowd exploded every time his music hit, his merchandise sales skyrocketed, and then he proceeded to lose to almost everyone.
Despite appearing at every pay per view since the Shield split, Ambrose has only gotten the win in three pay per views, and he had to wait a full year and a half to get his first taste of championship gold. Even then, it was only the Intercontinental Championship. Both of his other Shieldmates have held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship then, with Reigns winning the title twice.
While prominently positioned, Ambrose seems to be the guy who gets put in high profile matches to take the pin. He’s never been able to pin Seth Rollins, and Ambrose has already been used as fodder for Roman Reigns. At FastLane, Reigns will likely pin Ambrose again, despite the cries and pleas of the fans.
Entertaining promos, a deep character, and a devil-may-care attitude, the fans can’t help but get behind him. As the WWE refuse to give Ambrose a shot, watch as the fans rally behind him.
If the fans reject Roman Reigns as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, the cries for Dean Ambrose will get louder. Even with the inevitable returns of Randy Orton, John Cena, and Seth Rollins, fans will cry for something fresh. Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, and other NXT standouts will come up, but just like Daniel Bryan in 2013, the fans will reject everything in favor of the Lunatic Fringe.