As the WWE continues its so far fruitless endeavor to find their next big star, the someone who has the best chance of becoming the next CM Punk or John Cena is on their roster, but the WWE is either too blind or too hesitant to see it. That man of course is Daniel Bryan.
Bryan is everything the WWE should want in a top flight performer (except for size, which we will get too). He possess great in ring skills, he is very charismatic and adept at getting gimmicks and catchphrases over, he is marketable and he is very clean cut, with no real history of outside the ring troubles or of longstanding injuries.
Bryan has gotten over with the audience at a very high level, a level that other fresh faces Ryback, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio wish that they could attain. The crowd always pops loud during his entrance, the viewership for his segments is always very good and he sells a good share of T-shirts. Frankly, I don't think that it is too much of a stretch to say that Bryan is the third most over performer in the WWE when considering only full-time talent, only Cena and Punk really get a bigger reaction then Bryan.
The thing that amazes me the most about Bryan, and what could be a sign of things to come as WWE begins to shake up its management, is that Bryan is the ultimate person that the WWE wouldn't be able to utilize well enough. He was the typical indy god, someone who went far with wrestling skills but short in everything else. He was too short, too pale and too bland to ever be considered a big time player in the WWE, yet he defied those odds and became a significant star.
Before his horrendous match at Wrestlemania 28, I was astonished at just how far Bryan had come in the past few years. When he was first signed, few could imagine that he would be entering Wrestlemania as the World Heavyweight Champion in front of 70,000 fans, when just a short time ago he was main eventing a Pro Wrestling Guerrilla show in front of 400 fans.
The thing that shocked me the most, and probably had a similar effect on some of the WWE brass was how truly charismatic Bryan was. When he became WHC and turned heel, I couldn't imagine him being annoying or arrogant enough to really get heat in his feud. At the time he was locked into a storyline with the Big Show and Mark Henry, how can the crowd hate a guy who is defending his title against wrestlers who easily outweigh him 2 to 1?
Well, I sure as hell was wrong. Bryan was absolute money and made Smackdown easily more entertaining than Raw was for the most part. Just by chanting a simple three letter word he could incite a crowd. A lot of wrestlers, even the very good ones, need a storyline or a character to help them get over the crowd. Bryan never really needed that, he just has a natural aura around him which makes him an extremely skilled entertainer.
So, while the WWE continues its roster wide-search for the next big star, they seemed to have overlooked the most obvious answer, and the immediate explanation seems to be that Bryan is too small to be booked as a legitimate tile contender and champion in the WWE. While it is obvious that Bryan is of small stature, I do not really buy that his size could instantly destroy his chances of becoming a consistent main event level star.
Even though he is small, there are plenty ways to make someone look legitimate besides their physical size. The simplest way would be to have them routinely defeat larger opponents in convincing fashion, which is something the WWE has done fairly well with Bryan so far. Bryan has won an astounding 78% of his matches in 2013, going 57-16 so far. Bryan is certainly booked to be a winner, so what is stopping him from going all the way to the top?
Bryan can also be booked as being a dangerous submission star, similar to Bret Hart. Hart was not the biggest guy, but fans knew that he could theoretically still be the best wrestler in the company because he was booked as "The Excellence of Execution." Bryan really became a big star on the independent scene by using that same method, and if he were to be pushed more often as "Mr. Tap or Snap" then he could easily be looked at as a credible champion.
Another thing holding Bryan back is his current tag team situation with Kane. This is not a knock on Kane or team Hell-No, their segments together are usually one of the best parts of Raw, but it is time for Bryan to move on to bigger and better things. Hell-No is one of the biggest things the WWE has going for them, and it makes sense for them to be hesitant to break them up, but Bryan is probably worth a lot more to them as a main event singles start then he is as part of a tag team, it is just the way the world works.
When you really get down to it, it's obvious why Bryan really has not gotten the call yet, and this is because the WWE still can't see past his size. They would rather dump Sheamus, a much larger but much less charismatic and talented into the main event then they would Bryan. I think the WWE has made great strides in recent years of shedding their "Muscleheads come first" image, but the decision to push Sheamus and to degrade Bryan was a classic example of Vince having his head up his ass.
If you made a head to head assessment of Bryan and Sheamus, it is obvious who the better performer is. Bryan gets the Edge in in-ring ability, charisma, age, merchandise sales, fan reactions and a host of other areas. Sheamus has the edge in one category and one category only: size. The good news is that the WWE's decision quickly and evidently backfired on them, as Sheamus's popularity took a big hit and Bryan's prominence with the fans rose even higher after their disaster of a match at Wrestlemania 28.
Will Bryan ever reach his full potential as a WWE superstar? My theory is that yes, he would have to eventually. It isn't like the WWE is unaware of Bryan's popularity, he gets plenty of TV times and is almost always in a fairly significant feud. The real issue is that the WWE seems way to cautious of giving him the ball and letting him run with it. He has gotten it a few times, mainly when he was the WHC, but it ended up with them taking the ball away from him and handing it to Sheamus, who fumbled it all over the place for almost a year. Ultimately, the WWE will probably realize that they can't keep just plugging the holes in their roster left by the full-time departures of many of their biggest stars, and Bryan will finally get his shot at the big time. Let's all hope he makes the most of it.