Daniel Bryan is doing exactly what WWE expected once he was cleared to get back in the ring.
The leader of the “Yes! Movement” is taking his place atop the company food chain as the top babyface on SmackDown Live. Sorry, AJ Styles. This title belongs to Bryan, the new “People’s Champion” who looks like he has not missed a step since retiring three years ago.
Daniel Bryan and Styles put on a show in the closing segment on Tuesday night that was interrupted by Shinsuke Nakamura. Fans were treated to a possible future title match.
“Bryan has essentially been instantly reestablished as arguably the top babyface in WWE and a business-boosting one at that,” writes Blake Oestriecher of Forbes.com. “In addition to his return upping SmackDown’s TV viewership, it also resulted in a sudden surge in WrestleMania ticket sales, proving that an effectively booked and likable babyface can move the needle at a time when not many stars can.“
Now, Bryan seems to have instantaneously surpassed everyone from Styles to Braun Strowman to Reigns in terms of being WWE’s most-liked superstar. It’s a move WWE is glad happened given things will change the next two nights with the Superstar Shakeup. What happens with Daniel Bryan as rosters change will determine if he carries the WWE Title around his waist before the end of the year.
“There is reason to think that Bryan will continue to be the company’s most popular superstar and be booked in a way that ensures that remains true,” Oestricher explained. “At a time when some stars aren’t clicking with the masses or are failing to get over due to poor booking, Bryan is as close to a sure thing as it gets and is poised to be pushed in a manner that keeps interest high and his popularity soaring to new heights.”
Bryan’s story is one of the best launching pads WWE has right now. While Styles and Nakamura have renewed their overseas rivalry and Reigns continues to challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title, nothing compares to the underdog taking on the heavyweights. And now, the former SmackDown Live general manager gets his hands on the villains he once tried to contain.
WWE could make major changes with programming and booking in the months leading up to SummerSlam. Bryan must be the focal point of those changes. There is still plenty of acreage the company can use, especially if Sami Zayn moves back to the blue brand. Fans could also get behind feuds with Nakamura, Jinder Mahal and the “untouchable” confrontation in John Cena.
Daniel Bryan came back to the squared circle at the right time. The right time for him, the right time for WWE and the right time for the fans. The company seems whole again, even if it comes from the biggest underdog on the company roster.