Is the “Yes! Movement” moving on?
WWE superstar and future Hall of Famer Daniel Bryan recently came out of an emotional main-event program with WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. The two squared off with current Hall of Famer Edge in an instant classic Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania 37, which saw both Bryan and Edge get pinned simultaneously by the “Head of the Table.”
On the April 30 edition of SmackDown, Bryan got another shot at Reigns’s title with an added stipulation: his Smackdown career was on the line. A grueling, close to 40-minute main event ensued, and Reigns found himself the victor.
As a result, Daniel Bryan was banished from Smackdown.
While wrestling has grandiose storylines at times, could this one be in earnest?
Fightful Select’s Sean Ross Sapp recently reported that Bryan’s (real name Bryan Danielson) contract had expired with WWE, and no new deal had been reached.
Unless something transpired behind the scenes that hasn’t been brought to light, the “American Dragon” is possibly the biggest wrestling free agent since Brock Lesnar.
If that truly is the case, and Bryan doesn’t return to the company he’s called home for more than a decade (give or take a few years here or there, like when he retired due to a neck injury before he overcame the odds and returned to the squared circle), where might the “B-plus player” take his A-plus talents?
The obvious first answer is All Elite Wrestling (AEW). The Jacksonville-based company is riding high following its “Blood & Guts” TV special, and is growing rapidly. As rumors of other prized free agents, such as the recently-released former WWE superstar Samoa Joe, swirl around AEW, could Bryan be the next to join them?
Then, there is of course Ring of Honor.
ROH is where Bryan Danielson really made a name for himself on the independent scene in the early-to-mid 2000s, and a homecoming for the Washington-born Danielson could be just what the doctor ordered for the promotion.
Other companies like Impact, Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide in Mexico, or New Japan Pro Wrestling are always in play, albeit probably not favorites for the father of two young children. However, if Bryan did decide to pull a Chris Jericho and head to a company who needs a boost, it would be a coup for Impact.
He could also decide to freelance for a bit and dip his toes in each proverbial pool to see which he’d like to dive head-first (from the top rope) into.
The aforementioned Jericho left WWE, and then had some high-profile matches in New Japan before committing to AEW. Bryan could do the same and see what he likes/where he fits best.
There are high-profile matches around the globe with Bryan’s name all over them. Bryan vs Andrade down in Mexico. Bryan vs. Kazuchika Okada in Japan. Bryan vs Omega anywhere. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about the possibilities!
Another factor is what Bryan wants for himself. He’s been on record saying he has felt detached from the sport recently. Could that mean he leaves the business altogether? Doubtful, but we are not in his head.
Bryan could find himself back with WWE in a hybrid producer/performer role. Over the past few years, Bryan has worked extensively with talents he’d like to see grow in WWE, such as Drew Gulak, Jey Uso and Cesaro. Being a known vegan, and one with the earth, nurturing and helping others grow may be his calling at this point.
All things considered, my best guess is that he will return to WWE in a hybrid role with a lesser schedule.
Most big time companies will begin touring again soon, and a full-time schedule for Bryan just doesn’t seem like it will happen. WWE has let veterans and other superstars in the past take on less commitments, allowing them to avoid certain public appearances or non-televised house shows to spend more time at home.
WWE and AEW have both filmed exclusively in Florida during the pandemic, and with Bryan, his wife Brie (now a WWE Hall of Famer in her own right), and their children Birdie and Buddy now living in Napa Valley, Bryan will most certainly want to spend more time on a vineyard than on a plane heading to Florida week in and week out.
In the pandemic age of Zoom meetings, Bryan could potentially produce or help creatively from his home in California. That doesn’t seem like something entirely feasible anywhere outside of Vince McMahon’s multi-billion dollar corporation.
Wherever Bryan goes, the “Yes! Movement” will follow.
He has one of the more passionate, loyal fanbases in the entirety of sports entertainment. If he does decide to wrestle again, he will make a lot of money doing so, both for himself and the company lucky enough to bring him in.