Danielson was previously signed to WWE, then known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), for an 18-month period from 2000-2001, and made additional uncontracted appearances for the promotion until 2003. Prior to joining WWE for his third stint in 2009, Danielson wrestled for various companies internationally using both his real name and the ring name American Dragon, which later became his nickname. David Shoemaker of ESPN's Grantland noted that Danielson "was widely regarded as the best wrestler in the world before he got the call-up from WWE". He wrestled for Ring of Honor (ROH) from 2002 to 2009, being recognized as a "Founding Father" of the promotion, where he was a one-timeROH World Champion and one-timePure Wrestling Champion, at some point unifying both titles. He was the first winner of ROH's annual Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004.
Bryan Lloyd Danielson was born on May 22, 1981, in Aberdeen, Washington, the son of a lumberjack and a therapist. His parents got divorced when he was young. During his childhood, Danielson was shown a professional wrestling magazine by a friend and since became a fan of wrestling. He considered himself antisocial in high school but competed in sports such as American football.
During his sophomore year of high school, Danielson decided to pursue a pro wrestling career and attempted to train at Dean Malenko's wrestling school in Florida. However, by the time he graduated from school in 1999, Malenko's school had closed down. Following a friend's suggestion, he instead began training under Rudy Gonzalez and veteran wrestler Shawn Michaels at the Texas Wrestling Academy (TWA) in San Antonio, Texas. After his wrestling debut in December 1999, Danielson toured Japan with Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) alongside Lance Cade, a fellow trainee from the TWA, and they competed in several tag team matches. He won the TWA Tag Team Championship with Spanky in March 2000, but they dropped the titles back to Jeremy Sage and Ruben Cruz two weeks later.
World Wrestling Federation (2000-2001)
While touring the country's independent circuit, Danielson was signed to a developmental deal by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) to work in their developmental system and was assigned to Memphis Championship Wrestling (MCW), where he gained exposure and was trained by WWF competitor William Regal, whom he credited as being instrumental in the development of his career. During this time, he adopted his moniker of the "American Dragon". WWF severed its ties with MCW in 2001, but not before Danielson won the MCW Light Heavyweight Championship and the MCW Tag Team Championship with Spanky. After 18 months with the company, he was released from his WWF contract in July 2001. Danielson revealed in his 2015 autobiography that he was close to being called up to the main roster during the 2001 Royal Rumble match: he explained that the WWF thought of using him as one of their key figures in the newly created cruiserweight division, which was inspired by World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
In 2002, Danielson wrestled two matches for the renamed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) despite not being a contracted performer for the company. He was quickly defeated by both Sean O'Haire and Little Guido in his two appearances. He went on to make four additional non-contracted appearances for WWE in 2003 on its secondary shows, Velocity and Heat, initially as enhancement talent before being allowed to compete in longer matches; he wrestled Jamie Noble at a Velocity taping in January, Rico at a Heat taping in February, John Cena at a Velocity taping also in February, and made his final appearance in November in a tag team match against Paul London and Spanky at a Velocity taping, in which he was partnered with John Walters. This was his final appearance for the promotion for over five years.
Ring of Honor
Founding father (2002-2005)
Danielson posing in 2004
In 2002, Danielson joined the independent promotionRing of Honor (ROH), where he is acknowledged as a "Founding Father" of the company. On February 22, he competed in the main event of the company's debut event, The Era of Honor Begins, in a three-way match against Christopher Daniels and Low Ki. One of his matches with Austin Aries, performed on August 7, 2004 at Testing the Limit, lasted seventy-four minutes before Aries was finally declared the victor. One of the more notable rivalries he had in the early years in the company was with Homicide, as the two fought numerous matches with a variety of stipulations, culminating in a steel cage match on May 13, 2005 at The Final Showdown, where Danielson was victorious.
Despite winning the company's inaugural Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004, Bryan did not win a ROH title. In 2005, Danielson explained in the company's newsletter, The ROH Newswire, that he had quit ROH after being frustrated by his inability to defeat Austin Aries for the ROH World Championship. It was later revealed Danielson had become frustrated in general with professional wrestling and planned to take some time off to evaluate his career options. However, Danielson had several dates booked in Europe and Japan, leading fans to believe that the periodical was likely a storyline claim for Danielson's absence during this period.
At the beginning of 2006, Chris Hero, a representative from Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), invaded ROH and targeted Danielson--the two exchanged words over the internet before having a match together, with nearly the entire roster of both companies embarking on an interpromotional feud. Danielson became personally invested in this feud and invaded CZW himself, which led to him having physical altercations with a number of CZW wrestlers. Hero intensified the rivalry, leading to the two wrestling at ROH's Hell Freezes Over event on January 14, where Danielson successfully defended the ROH World Championship. On July 15 at Death Before Dishonor IV, he soon filled the vacant slot on ROH's five-man team which participated in one of CZW's more popular attractions, a steel cage match called the Cage of Death, a ten-man tag team match in which a man from each team starts in the cage and a random wrestler enters periodically thereafter. During the match, Danielson turned on his team by assaulting his rival Samoa Joe before leaving the match and effectively abandoning his involvement in the animosity between the two promotions. As the interpromotional hostility with CZW heightened, Danielson also defended against challengers from the rival company, who had signed an open contract for any CZW wrestler willing to challenge for the ROH World Championship. Former champion Samoa Joe also challenged Danielson at Fight of the Century on August 5, but their match ended in a 60-minute draw.
Danielson in the ring in 2006
While having the ROH World Championship, ROH faced the issue of having another title with seemingly equal value, the ROH Pure Championship. Danielson and the ROH Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness had a match to unify the titles. They met at April 29 in a match fought under pure wrestling rules and McGuinness left Danielson outside the ring after a chair shot to win by countout--this was enough to retain the Pure title, but not to win Danielson's World Championship. They had another unification match in McGuinness's native England; ROH decided that there had to be a winner, with a title changing hands by countout and disqualification and a draw forcing a restart. Danielson won the match on August 12 and retired the Pure title as its last champion (the title would be reinstated in 2020). During a match with Colt Cabana on August 26, Danielson suffered a real injury when he separated his shoulder, tearing two tendons in it and he tore another tendon in his chest. Danielson returned at Glory by Honor V: Night 2 on September 16 and was challenged by Kenta, a guest competitor from NOAH, due to the two companies' talent exchange agreement--Danielson again retained his championship. At Final Battle on December 23, Danielson's fifteen-month title reign finally ended after he lost to Homicide at his 39th defense and he subsequently took time off from wrestling in order to heal his shoulder.
Final feuds and departure (2007-2009)
On May 11, 2007, Danielson returned to ROH at Reborn Again and defeated Shane Hagadorn and Adam Pearce in separate matches. On May 12, ROH filmed its first pay-per-view, Respect is Earned, which had Danielson team with ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima against Nigel McGuinness and Kenta. Danielson's team won after Danielson made Kenta tap out to his signature submission hold, the Cattle Mutilation. Danielson vied to contend for the ROH World Championship by defeating McGuinness at Domination on June 9, which appeared on the company's next pay per view named Driven which took place on June 23, but was aired on September 21. This allowed him, now as a fan favorite, to challenge Morishima for the title at Manhattan Mayhem II on August 25 in a losing effort in which he also suffered a legitimate detached retina. Following surgery, he fought Morishima again in a match at Man Up on September 15, but the referee stopped the match since Danielson was unable to respond to him. In a rematch at Rising Above on December 29, Morishima was disqualified. Morishima returned to the company at Final Battle on December 27, 2008 in a match billed as a "Fight Without Honor" in which both men were allowed weapons and which Danielson won. Danielson commented in March 2012 on how he felt validated at Final Battle 2008, because he and Morishima managed to get 2,500 people to see the show in New York City.
As part of ROH's agreement with Pro Wrestling Noah, the company held a show in Japan named Tokyo Summit on September 14, where Danielson wrestled GHC Junior Heavyweight ChampionYoshinobu Kanemaru and won the championship. Following his victory, NOAH allowed him to defend the title in Ring of Honor, with his first defense being at Glory By Honor VII on September 20, defeating Katsuhiko Nakajima. However, this was his only successful defense as he returned to Japan on October 13 to lose the title to Kenta. Following his loss, Danielson challenged McGuinness for the ROH World Championship at the next ROH pay-per-view Rising Above on November 22, in a losing effort. Ring of Honor made its national television debut with the program Ring of Honor Wrestling and Danielson made his television debut in the main event of its third episode on February 28, 2009 by defeating Austin Aries.
In the fall of 2009, Danielson signed with WWE after a farewell tour with ROH, during which he challenged Aries for the title again and lost. On September 26 at Glory by Honor VIII: The Final Countdown, he won his last match in the company against McGuinness, who was also having his final match with the company.
Independent circuit (2003-2009)
Aside from competing primarily in ROH, Danielson has also competed in a multitude of other independent promotions, both in the United States and abroad. In 2003, Danielson also toured the United Kingdom for British promotion, All Star Wrestling (ASW). While he was in the United Kingdom, Danielson won the World Heavy Middleweight Championship on May 6 in an eight-man one-night tournament in Croydon defeating James Mason. He spent the next six months in the United Kingdom, working for ASW, Frontier Wrestling Alliance (FWA), the World Association of Wrestling (WAW) and Premier Promotions. He returned several times over the next five years, working for various promotions. In February 2005 at New Dawn Rising, Danielson made his debut in ROH's sister promotion, Full Impact Pro (FIP), teaming up with Rocky Romero in a match against Austin Aries and Homicide. The next night at Dangerous Intentions, Danielson competed in a losing effort against CM Punk, which led to a brief feud between the two. Danielson's biggest success came in 2006 by winning the FIP Heavyweight Championship, holding the belt for eleven months before losing it to Roderick Strong. Danielson wrestled his last match for FIP in December 2006 at Florida Rumble, where he lost to Erick Stevens.
Danielson also wrestled in the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) promotion. He made his debut in November 2003 at An Inch Longer Than Average in a losing effort to PWG ChampionFrankie Kazarian. He continued to appear in PWG over the next couple of years, winning the PWG World Championship in 2007 and holding it for six months before taking an eleven-month hiatus from the company. He made his return to PWG at the 2008 Battle of Los Angeles tournament. In April 2009, at PWG: One Hundred, Danielson defeated Kenny Omega. The match was notable for its opening, which included Omega and Danielson performing variable tests of strength, including arm wrestling and a thumb war, before singing "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" along with the crowd. In May, he made another appearance teaming with Paul London, referring to himself as "American Dolphin" in a parodied manner. On September 4 at Guerre Sans Frontières during his last night in PWG, Danielson defeated Chris Hero to win the PWG World Championship for the second time and immediately vacated it afterward.
Following his return from his injury in 2007, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) published a video of Danielson stating his intent to challenge for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, as the establishment that sanctioned the title at the time, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, was relinquishing the title back to the NWA. A tournament, titled Reclaiming the Glory, was held to determine the new champion with Danielson making his way to finals, scheduled to compete Brent Albright on September 1, but due to the eye injury he sustained at ROH's Manhattan Mayhem event, he withdrew from the tournament and instead acted as the referee of the match.
In 2009, Danielson's contract with Ring of Honor expired, which opened up Danielson to travel to other companies more freely while competing in his home promotion.
Danielson re-signed with WWE in August 2009. He made his debut on January 4, 2010 in a dark match prior to Raw, defeating Chavo Guerrero. He went to Florida to train with Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), the WWE developmental territory, to acclimate himself to his new work environment and work on his ring rust. He debuted at the FCW television tapings on January 14 and lost to Kaval. At the February 11 tapings, Danielson was renamed Daniel Bryan. He later indicated that he was given a list of ten possible ring names to use in WWE (including Buddy Peacock and Lloyd Bonaire) and Daniel Bryan was one of them while his real name was not on that list. His name was given by William Regal.
Bryan made his debut on the inaugural episode of NXT on February 23, losing by submission to then World Heavyweight ChampionChris Jericho and being attacked by his storyline mentor The Miz for disrespecting him earlier in the show. Over the next several weeks, Bryan failed to win a single match, but despite a record of 0-5 he was ranked first in the inaugural Pros' Poll on the March 30 episode of NXT. After losing five more matches on NXT, Bryan got his first victory on the May 10 episode of Raw by pinningSantino Marella in an eight-on-four handicap match. The following night on NXT, he was eliminated from the show along with Michael Tarver as neither man had confidence in themselves to win the competition. Despite his elimination, he appeared on the following episodes of NXT, being interviewed by Matt Striker and attacking both Michael Cole and The Miz.
On the May 31 episode of Raw, Bryan was granted a match against The Miz by guest host Ashton Kutcher, which he won and threw Miz into Cole at ringside after the match. On the June 7 episode of Raw, the faction known as The Nexus (NXT rookies from season one) invaded the WWE ring, attacking John Cena and causing destruction around the ringside area. On June 11, Danielson was fired from WWE for being too violent, strangling ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own neck tie. Danielson noted that WWE apologized to him for his release, explaining that they "had sponsors they had to deal with". His release was put in a storyline, where the rest of the NXT rookies kicked him out of the group for showing remorse for his actions and declared that Bryan would never return to the WWE again.
Return to the independent circuit (2010)
After being released, Danielson received several offers to sign with other wrestling companies, being contacted by TNA, albeit indirectly and some Japanese promotions. Two weeks after his departure from WWE, Danielson made his return to the independent circuit on June 26, defeating Eddie Kingston at the CHIKARA event We Must Eat Michigan's Brain in Taylor, Michigan. Rather than receiving streamers, the fans instead threw neck ties in light of the Justin Roberts incident in WWE. The following day at CHIKARA's Faded Scars and Lines, Danielson defeated Young Lions Cup holderTim Donst in a non-title match. On July 3, Danielson returned to wXw, defeating Wade Fitzgerald and TJP in the round robin stage of the Ambition 1 tournament. The following day, he defeated TJP in a rematch and finally Johnny Moss in the finals of the tournament to win Ambition 1. On July 17, Danielson debuted in the International Wrestling Association (IWA), being booked to defeat Q.T. Marshall for the IWA Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship. On July 23, Danielson debuted in the fledgling EVOLVE promotion, which was originally conceived to be built around Danielson as their top star before he signed to WWE. In the main event, Danielson defeated Bobby Fish. The following day, Danielson returned to Dragon Gate USA and submitted Shingo in the dark match main event of Return of the Dragon. After the match, Danielson joined BxB Hulk, Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi and PAC as the fifth member of the stable World-1. On July 30, Danielson returned to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, competing in a match where he defeated Roderick Strong. On August 7, Danielson unsuccessfully challenged Adam Pearce for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the NWA Legends Fanfest.
Despite returning to WWE on August 15, Danielson honored most of his independent bookings, making his first appearance on August 20 and defeating Jon Moxley at Heartland Wrestling Association's Road to Destiny. The following day, he was defeated by Drake Younger at Insanity Pro Wrestling's Ninth Anniversary Reign of the Insane. On August 22, Danielson defeated J Freddie at a Squared Circle Wrestling event. On September 10, he returned to the IWA using the name Daniel Bryan and lost the IWA Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship to Dennis Rivera. The following day, Danielson returned to EVOLVE by defeating Munenori Sawa in the main event. Later that same night, Danielson wrestled for New York Wrestling Connection in a tag team match, where he and Tony Nese defeated Dimitrios Papadon and Alex Reynolds. On September 25, Danielson returned to Dragon Gate USA and defeated YAMATO in the main event of the evening. The following day, Danielson defeated Jon Moxley. On October 1, Danielson wrestled the last of his independent matches by defeating Shelton Benjamin at a Northeast Wrestling event.
Second return to WWE
United States Champion (2010-2011)
Bryan (right) wrestling his former NXT mentor, The Miz
Danielson returned to WWE as Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam, where he was revealed as the surprise seventh member of Team WWE for the seven-on-seven elimination tag team match against The Nexus, the other NXT season one competitors. At the event on August 15, Bryan was one of the two final members of Team WWE and managed to eliminate two members of The Nexus, but was eliminated by Wade Barrett after The Miz, whose place he took in Team WWE, attacked him. Despite this, Team WWE won the match. The following night, he was revealed as part of the Raw roster. Bryan feuded with The Miz, with both interfering in each other's matches and The Miz being aided by Alex Riley, his rookie from the second season of NXT. At Night of Champions on September 19, Bryan defeated The Miz to win the United States Championship, his first championship in WWE.
In late 2010, The Bella Twins began competing for Bryan's affection, leading to them supporting him at ringside and competing in mixed tag team matches together. On the January 24, 2011 episode of Raw, it was revealed that Bryan had been secretly dating Gail Kim, who began accompanying him to ringside. On the March 14 episode of Raw, Bryan lost the United States Championship to Sheamus, ending his reign at 176 days. Bryan was originally scheduled to have his rematch against Sheamus for the United States Championship on the main card at WrestleMania XXVII on April 3, but the match was rescheduled as a dark lumberjack match that ended in a no contest when the lumberjacks fought among themselves to trigger the start of a battle royal, which he lost. Bryan lost his title rematch the next night on Raw, after which he was saved from Sheamus by the debuting Sin Cara.
On July 17 at Money in the Bank, Bryan won the SmackDown Money in the Bank ladder match which earned him a World Heavyweight Championship match at any point within the following year. On the July 22 episode of SmackDown, Bryan declared he would cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase at the following year's WrestleMania. After several months of losing matches, Bryan began a feud with then World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry on the November 4 episode of SmackDown after Henry challenged Bryan to a non-title match to prove that Bryan could not become champion. During the match, Big Show knocked out Henry, making Bryan lose by disqualification. As his friend, Big Show then urged a groggy Bryan to cash in his championship match, but Henry recovered and attacked both Bryan and Big Show before the match could start. Bryan suffered attacks from Henry the following two weeks. On the November 25 episode of SmackDown, Henry was knocked out again by Big Show, at which point Bryan cashed in his briefcase for a title match and quickly pinned Henry, but SmackDown General ManagerTheodore Long revealed that Henry was not medically cleared to compete and voided the match, so Henry remained champion and the briefcase was returned to Bryan. Bryan later admitted he betrayed his principles by not waiting for WrestleMania, but explained he felt strongly about exacting revenge on Henry and realized he may not make it to WrestleMania due to Henry's continued attacks. Regardless of his briefcase, Bryan won a fatal four-way match on the same episode of SmackDown to become the contender for Henry's championship. On the live November 29 episode of SmackDown, Henry managed to pin Bryan to retain the title in a steel cage match. Also in November, Bryan started being involved in a romantic storyline with AJ.
Bryan cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on December 18 at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs against Big Show, who had just defeated Henry and subsequently received a DDT onto a steel chair, which allowed Bryan to secure a pinfall victory and become the World Heavyweight Champion, thus making him also the first ever wrestler from NXT to win a WWE world championship. In the following weeks, tension was teased between Bryan and Big Show, with Big Show unhappy about Bryan taking the World Heavyweight Championship from him and Bryan being displeased about Big Show's lack of appreciation for Bryan's help in matches against Henry. As World Heavyweight Champion, Bryan turned heel as he gradually showed signs of overconfidence and arrogance, with Bryan beginning to partake in excessive victory celebrations, even when he won his matches by disqualification or countout. Despite AJ's declaration of love for him, Bryan avoided saying that he loved her in return.
In January 2012, Bryan successfully defended his title three times: the first occasion against Big Show when Bryan goaded Mark Henry into attacking him and causing a disqualification; the second occasion a no disqualification rematch with Big Show which ended abruptly after Big Show accidentally ran into AJ, hospitalizing her within the storyline for which Bryan blamed him; and the third occasion against Henry in a lumberjack match when Bryan provoked the lumberjacks to interfere and cause a no contest. This culminated in a triple threat steel cage match to exclude outside interference at the Royal Rumble on January 29, where Bryan escaped the cage after freeing himself from Big Show's grasp to retain the championship.
At Elimination Chamber on February 19, Bryan defeated Big Show, Cody Rhodes, The Great Khali, Santino Marella and Wade Barrett in an Elimination Chamber match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. After the match, Royal Rumble match winner Sheamus attacked Bryan and chose him as his WrestleMania opponent for the World Heavyweight Championship. In March, Bryan began to mistreat AJ, publicly demanding her to shut up and claiming that she always got in his way. Despite these actions, AJ continued to stand by Bryan. Bryan's reign as World Heavyweight Champion ended at 105 days when Sheamus defeated him in 18 seconds at WrestleMania XXVIII due to Bryan being distracted with receiving a good luck kiss from AJ. On the following episode of SmackDown, Bryan blamed AJ for his title loss and ended their relationship. Despite AJ's attempts to mend their relationship, Bryan cruelly rebuffed her multiple times, leaving AJ an emotional wreck. At Extreme Rules on April 29, Bryan failed to regain the World Heavyweight Championship from Sheamus in a two-out-of-three falls match, losing two falls to one.
The next night on Raw, Bryan became the number one contender to CM Punk's WWE Championship when he won a Beat the Clock challenge by defeating Jerry Lawler in under three minutes. Bryan received his title shot at Over the Limit on May 20 and suffered a controversial loss--when Bryan rolled back onto his shoulders as he applied the "Yes!" Lock, Punk tapped out immediately after the referee counted a pinfall win for Punk. Shortly before Over the Limit, Bryan interfered in a match between Punk and Kane to frame Punk attacking Kane with a steel chair, leading to a three-way feud. During this time, a jilted AJ turned her affections to both Punk and Kane. On the June 1 episode of SmackDown, Bryan's interference caused WWE Championship match between Punk and Kane to end in a double disqualification, resulting in a triple threat match being set up on June 17 at No Way Out, where Punk managed to retain the title after AJ distracted Kane. On the June 25 episode of Raw, Bryan defeated Punk and Kane in a non-title three-way elimination match to earn another shot at the WWE Championship. At Money in the Bank on July 15, Bryan failed to capture the WWE Championship again from Punk in a no disqualification match with AJ as special guest referee. The following night on Raw, AJ accepted Bryan's marriage proposal, On Raw 1000, Bryan's storyline wedding ended in failure when AJ left Bryan at the altar and instead accepted Mr. McMahon's offer of the position of permanent Raw General Manager. Bryan's night turned from bad to worse as he was later attacked by The Rock and insulted by celebrity Charlie Sheen.
AJ's rejection of Bryan turned him into an angry and bitter individual and resulted in Bryan lashing out at audiences. AJ continued to exact her revenge on Bryan by denying him a WWE Championship shot and instead forcing him to face Kane on August 19 at SummerSlam, where Bryan emerged victorious. As a result of Bryan and Kane's issues, AJ enrolled them in anger management classes hosted by Dr. Shelby and they were later forced to "hug it out". At the arrangement of Dr. Shelby and AJ, the two adversaries formed a team whose constant bickering and infighting even during matches inadvertently resulted in them defeating The Prime Time Players (Titus O'Neil and Darren Young) to become the number one contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championship on the September 10 episode of Raw and then defeating champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth to win the championship on September 16 at Night of Champions.
Bryan and Kane made their first successful title defense the following night on Raw, defeating the former champions in a rematch. The following week on Raw, "Team Hell No" was chosen as the official team name via a Twitter poll while Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow) started a feud with Bryan and Kane, turning Bryan into a fan favorite once again. On October 28 at Hell in a Cell, Team Hell No lost to the Rhodes Scholars via disqualification, but retained their title. This was followed by a rematch on the November 14 Main Event, where Team Hell No defeated the Rhodes Scholars to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship. On the November 26 episode of Raw, after Kane lost to WWE Champion CM Punk in a non-title match, he was assaulted by The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins) and Bryan and Ryback, who both attempted to save Kane, suffered a similar fate. This attack had the effect of uniting Bryan and Kane and after The Shield and Team Hell No, along with Ryback, attacked each other on the December 3 episode of Raw, all six men were decreed to face each other in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match on December 16 at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, where The Shield was victorious after pinning Bryan. Team Hell No went on to defend the tag team titles through the end of the year, retaining against Team Rhodes Scholars on the following Main Event and against 3MB (Drew McIntyre and Heath Slater) on the December 31 episode of Raw. Bryan ended 2012 having wrestled the second most televised and pay-per-view matches that year with 90.
On January 27 at the 2013 Royal Rumble, Team Hell No retained the WWE Tag Team Championship against Team Rhodes Scholars. During the Royal Rumble match, Bryan eliminated Kane and was in turn thrown out of the ring by Antonio Cesaro--Kane caught Bryan before he touched the floor and despite Bryan's begging dropped him to complete his elimination. On the February 4 episode of Raw, Bryan was inserted into the World Heavyweight Championship number one contender Elimination Chamber match when he defeated Rey Mysterio, after which the returning Mark Henry attacked both men. On February 17 at Elimination Chamber, Bryan was the first man eliminated from the match, courtesy of Henry. On April 7 at WrestleMania 29, Team Hell No defeated Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston for another successful title defense. Team Hell No rekindled their rivalry with The Shield the following night on Raw after saving The Undertaker from an ambush by them. On the April 22 episode of Raw, Team Hell No and The Undertaker were defeated by The Shield in a six-man tag team match. The Shield went on to take out Undertaker and rack up wins over Bryan and Kane in both singles and tag matches that also included WWE Champion John Cena. On May 19 at Extreme Rules, Bryan and Kane lost the WWE Tag Team Championship to Shield members Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, ending their reign at 245 days.
Yes! Movement (2013-2014)
Bryan in July 2013
As Bryan being pinned led to the loss of the WWE Tag Team Championship, he became obsessed about proving that he was not the weak link of Team Hell No and as a result became even more aggressive, but his overzealous behavior led to Team Hell No losing their rematch against Rollins and Reigns on the May 27 episode of Raw. When Kane tried to reassure Bryan, he replied with harsh rebukes that alienated Kane from him and as a result Bryan was paired with Randy Orton despite their poor relationship to face a common enemy in The Shield. During this storyline, Bryan was praised as the best performer in WWE and having an unmatched connection with crowds by critics, peers and veterans of the professional wrestling industry.
On the June 14 episode of SmackDown, Bryan (with Kane and Randy Orton as his tag team partners) ended The Shield's unpinned and unsubmitted streak in a televised six-man tag match by forcing Rollins to submit. On June 16 at Payback, Bryan and Orton's poor teamwork resulted in an unsuccessful challenge for Rollins and Reigns' WWE Tag Team Championship. The following night on Raw, while the status of Team Hell No was left up in the air after both members considered individual pursuits, Bryan and Orton faced off in a no disqualification match that Orton won via referee stoppage after Bryan suffered a legit nerve injury, which was a stinger resulting in Bryan being unable to feel both his arms for the rest of the match. On the June 21 episode of SmackDown, Bryan defeated Orton, but to Bryan's dismay it was via countout. On the following Raw, Bryan decisively defeated Orton via submission in a street fight and later continued his hot streak by picking up wins over Sheamus and Christian. On July 14 at Money in the Bank, Bryan competed in the WWE Championship Money in the Bank ladder match, during which Bryan was attacked by Curtis Axel, a non-participant, which ultimately prevented him from winning the match that was won by Randy Orton.
He's the most technically proficient wrestler the WWE main-event scene has seen possibly since Bret Hart, and he connects with the crowd (the whole crowd -- sorry, Mr. Cena) in a near-euphoric way we haven't seen consistently since The Rock in his prime.
--David Shoemaker of Grantland, while declaring Bryan as the MVP for the WWE Midseason Awards in October 2013
On the July 15 episode of Raw, WWE Champion John Cena picked Bryan to be his opponent for the WWE title match at SummerSlam. This led to Bryan being embroiled (in storyline) in the McMahon family's internal feud, with WWE chairman Vince McMahon against Bryan due to Bryan's image not fitting of McMahon's vision of a typical WWE wrestler, while WWE chief operating officer Triple H was in support of Bryan. On the July 22 episode of Raw, Bryan ran a gauntlet match to prove his worth as number one contender, defeating Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro in succession while his third opponent Ryback was disqualified after performing a powerbomb on Bryan through a table. The following week on Raw, Bryan was forced to face Kane and emerged victorious, but Kane attacked him after the match. On August 18 at SummerSlam, Bryan defeated Cena to win his first WWE Championship, but after the match special referee Triple H performed his Pedigree finishing move on Bryan, leading to Randy Orton cashing in his Money in the Bank contract to win the title from Bryan.
When [Vince McMahon] had HHH call Bryan a B+ player, that is because Vince saw Bryan that way. Vince was just going to screw Bryan in the storylines and then push him down the card.
--Dave Scherer of PWInsider.com's analysis of Bryan's feud with the Authority
The next night on Raw, Triple H and the McMahons endorsed Orton as "the face of the WWE" while labeling Bryan a "B+ player" and forming The Authority faction, claiming that the company was looking for Orton as champion instead of Bryan, who also assumed the top face role (heroic character) in WWE with Cena being out injured. With Triple H threatening to fire anyone who disobeyed him, Bryan was left alone to take on and suffer attacks from Orton and The Shield. On September 15 at Night of Champions, Bryan defeated Orton to regain the WWE Championship, but he was stripped of the title the following night on Raw by Triple H after referee Scott Armstrong said he had made a fast count the previous night resulting in Bryan's win while Bryan denied that Armstrong was working for him. Armstrong was then kayfabe fired by The Authority while Bryan and Orton faced off again for the vacant title on October 6 at Battleground in a match that ended in a no contest after Big Show interfered and knocked out both men. Bryan once again challenged Orton for the vacant championship on October 27 at Hell in a Cell, but was unsuccessful after the special guest referee Shawn Michaels hit Bryan with a superkick for attacking his best friend Triple H. The following night on Raw, Bryan confronted Michaels, who offered a handshake, but Bryan put Michaels in the "Yes!" Lock.
I wasn't supposed to be anywhere near the top of the card. I think I was scheduled to wrestle Sheamus, and probably be 5th or 6th match from the top, and maybe get a 10 minute match if we were lucky, but because of fan support, all of the sudden now I'm doing 2 matches and I'm in the main event of WrestleMania.
Later that same night, Bryan was attacked by The Wyatt Family. Bryan then found an ally in former rival CM Punk, as the duo defeated Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of The Wyatt Family on November 24 at Survivor Series, However, the entire Wyatt Family defeated Bryan in a handicap match on December 15 at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, with Wyatt attempting to recruit Bryan in the previous weeks. On the final Raw of 2013, Bryan defeated Harper and then Rowan in a gauntlet match so that he could face Wyatt, whereupon Harper and Rowan interfered for a disqualification and beat him down. Bryan then acknowledged that no matter how many times the fans chanted "Yes!" or supported him, it was not enough for "the machine", so he gave up and decided to join The Wyatt Family. On the January 13 episode of Raw, after Wyatt and Bryan lost to The Usos in a tag team steel cage match, Wyatt was attempting to "punish" Bryan for their lack of success since he joined the group, but Bryan attacked him and the rest of The Wyatt Family. Afterwards Bryan discarded the blue overalls he had been wearing as a member of The Wyatt Family, scaled the cage and led the live audience in a "Yes!" chant. At the Royal Rumble on January 26, despite Bryan losing to Wyatt in a singles match and later not participating in the Royal Rumble match, the audience continued to chant for Bryan during the Royal Rumble match and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between John Cena and Randy Orton.
On the January 27 episode of Raw, Bryan qualified for the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber by teaming up with John Cena and Sheamus to defeat The Shield via disqualification. Meanwhile, he also continued his feud with The Authority as Kane attacked him on multiple occasions, attempting to injure Bryan before his Elimination Chamber match on February 23 at Elimination Chamber, in which Bryan survived until he was one of the final two participants, but defending champion Randy Orton retained after Kane interfered in the match by attacking Bryan.
On the March 10 episode of Raw, Bryan and multiple fans occupied the ring (while WWE road crew members dressed in Bryan T-shirts posed as fans outside the ring) and refused to leave, resulting in an irate Triple H agreeing to Bryan's demand for a match at WrestleMania XXX, with the stipulation that the winner would be inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania. At WrestleMania on April 6, Bryan defeated Triple H and was inserted into the title match, but Triple H attacked Bryan after their match. Despite a storyline injury and interference from The Authority and a crooked referee, Bryan prevailed over Batista and champion Randy Orton in the main event to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.Pro Wrestling Torch editor Wade Keller analyzed (and Danielson later confirmed in his memoir) that Bryan's WrestleMania journey was due to several factors: the fans' rejection of Batista and continual support of Bryan over the previous six months (even when he joined The Wyatt Family) as well as CM Punk legitimately walking out on WWE after the Royal Rumble. Both Bryan and Chris Jericho later said that Bryan's original WrestleMania XXX opponent was supposed to be Sheamus.
I don't know how my life got to be like this... I'm just a normal dude. I was never a special athlete. I wasn't great at any sports or anything like that. And now an arena full of people were chanting, 'You deserve it'. And I don't know what I've done to deserve it.
The Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter wrote: "Leading into WrestleMania 30, the Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H program was the top draw of Raw each week. Coming out of WM30, Bryan as new WWE World Hvt. champion has been solidified as a ratings draw". This trend continued until at least May 2014, when Bryan had to undergo neck surgery due his first of the two major injuries that would eventually force him to retire in February 2016.
On the Raw following WrestleMania XXX, Triple H used his authority to grant himself a title match against Bryan, who was then attacked by Orton, Batista and Kane just before the match which ended in a no contest and Bryan's retention when The Shield interfered to chase away Bryan's adversaries. Stephanie McMahon enticed Kane to return to his masked self which Kane complied and was granted a future title match against Bryan and proceeded to carry out a brutal attack against Bryan which led to a scripted injury to give him time off to mourn his recently deceased father. At Extreme Rules on May 4, Bryan defeated Kane in an Extreme Rules match to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Major Injury and Intercontinental Champion (2014-2015)
At some point in time, Bryan lost all strength in his right arm and required neck surgery. On the May 12 episode of Raw, he was attacked by Kane and stretchered away that same night to justify his absence. On May 15, Bryan underwent successful neck surgery, with a cervical foraminotomy to decompress the nerve root having been performed. Two weeks later on Raw, when Bryan refused to relinquish his title Stephanie McMahon threatened to fire Bryan's wife Brie Bella, if Bryan did not give up his title on June 1 at Payback. The ultimatum resulted in Bella "quitting" WWE so that Bryan did not have to give up his title. However, when it was revealed that Bryan would not be able to compete at Money in the Bank and defend his title, The Authority stripped him of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the June 9 episode of Raw, ending Bryan's third reign at 64 days. Due to his injury, Bryan was largely off WWE television during this period. Months after the neck surgery, Bryan's strength still had not returned to his arm. Many doctors felt a second surgery was needed, while others told Bryan he would not be able to return to wrestling. Bryan contemplated further elbow surgery, but instead went to Denver to undergo the Muscle Activation Techniques program, which successfully returned the strength to his right arm. To prepare for his in-ring return, he trained in kickboxing and jujitsu.
On the November 24 episode of Raw, Bryan returned to WWE, taunting the recently deposed Authority. As guest general manager for that episode of Raw and the November 28 episode of SmackDown, Bryan arranged punishments for those allied with The Authority. Apart from scheduling a chairs match between Kane and Ryback for TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs on December 14, Bryan also affirmed that he would return soon.
Bryan told WWE management that he wished to be the "face of SmackDown" to increase the show's viewership. Bryan returned to the ring on the January 15, 2015 episode of SmackDown, with his opponent Kane being disqualified due to The Authority's interference and later that night Bryan won the six-man tag team main event. The next week on SmackDown, despite more interference by The Authority, Bryan defeated Kane in a no disqualification main event to keep his Royal Rumble match spot.
Bryan entered the 2015 Royal Rumble match at number 10, managing one elimination before being eliminated by Bray Wyatt in the first half of the match, causing the Philadelphia crowd to repeatedly chant for him during the second half of the match while booing other wrestlers entering the match, including eventual winner and fellow "good guy" Roman Reigns.
Bryan came in like a homecoming hero and was gone, just a few minutes later, like a freshman nerd. ... Beyond that, the lion's share of the WWE audience wants him to be a top guy - and are willing to pay for that.
--Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com on Bryan's showing in the 2015 Royal Rumble match 
His workrate in the ring and what he gives through the match just means so much more to the wrestling fans than anything else... His run [as champion] was cut short and I think fans wanted to see him get that [WrestleMania] moment that he deserves... WWE put a line through that.
On the January 29 episode of SmackDown, Bryan ended his feud with Kane by defeating him in a casket match. On the February 2 episode of Raw, Bryan defeated Seth Rollins, earning the right to face Roman Reigns at Fastlane, as the winner of the Fastlane match would challenge Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. At Fastlane on February 22, Bryan lost to Reigns, failing to make his entry to the WrestleMania main event.
After Fastlane, Bryan set his sights on the Intercontinental Championship for WrestleMania 31, where he was one of multiple wrestlers who came to possess champion Bad News Barrett's title belt while defeating Barrett in non-title matches. On the March 12 episode of SmackDown, Bryan declared his entry into the multi-man ladder match for the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania 31. After Bryan was pinned twice within a week by fellow ladder match entrant Dolph Ziggler, the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter reported that "WWE has made it clear where Bryan stands after starting to lose regularly now".
WWE's storylines for Bryan since his return were widely criticized. Dave Scherer of Pro Wrestling Insider questioned "bringing Bryan back for the Rumble in the first place" if there was no intention of letting Bryan win. Benjamin Tucker of Pro Wrestling Torch criticized WWE for having "watered down" Bryan's heroic character to a "sneaky, backstabbing, cheap, aggravating jerk" for the feud against Roman Reigns. Mike Tedesco of WrestleView wrote in March that WWE "killed Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton dead in the last two months. It takes a special bunch of nincompoops to pull that off". Jake Barnett of Pro Wrestling Dot Net said that Bryan being labeled a "turd" was "asking fans to disbelieve what they see with their own eyes" and "will do nothing to calm down the conspiracy theorists who insist WWE is intentionally cooling off Bryan to make Reigns look better in comparison". In a piece for the Wrestling Observer, Zach Dominello was "dumbfounded and disheartened" that "after returning from a very serious injury, WWE's bright idea is to put Bryan in one of the most dangerous matches possible at WrestleMania", while having "dragged Bryan down to the levels of R-Truth and Stardust".
Bryan won the Intercontinental Championship ladder match at WrestleMania 31 on March 29. This made him one of six wrestlers at the time to achieve WWE's new Grand Slam due to winning every active title in WWE (except for female-exclusive titles), while also making him WWE's 26th Triple Crown Champion having won the WWE, World Heavyweight, Tag Team, United States and Intercontinental Championships. The next night on Raw, Bryan defeated Dolph Ziggler in his first successful title defense, before they were attacked by Barrett only for Sheamus to return and chase off Barrett before attacking Bryan and Ziggler. Bryan lost to Sheamus on the April 2 SmackDown by countout when Barrett interfered. During the match, Bryan split his forehead open on the broadcast table, causing him to bleed and later requiring stitches for the wound. On the April 16 episode of SmackDown, in his last in-ring match for nearly three years, Bryan teamed up with United States Champion John Cena to defeat WWE Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Tyson Kidd by submission.
First Retirement (2015-2016)
[Professional wrestling] is a far better place because of his involvement. There were things dating back to 2001 that he was involved with that changed the underground foundation of the industry, and over the past few years, significantly changed talent evaluation at the highest level of the industry.
Following the April 16 episode of SmackDown, WWE pulled Bryan from wrestling on the remainder of WWE's touring of Europe as a "precautionary measure". Bryan's scheduled title defense at Extreme Rules on April 26 against Bad News Barrett was later canceled as Bryan was "medically unable to compete". Less than a week later, WWE stopped advertising Bryan from all future live events or television tapings. After about a month off television, Bryan returned on the May 11 episode of Raw to explain that after having undergone an MRI he would be out for an unknown period of time and could possibly have to retire (though the nature of his injuries were not revealed), therefore he relinquished the Intercontinental Championship. On the Elimination Chamber pre-show on May 31, Bryan stated that he would eventually wrestle again.
In July, Bryan revealed that his injury was concussion-related and claimed that he had been cleared to return to the ring by external medical professionals and was waiting for WWE to clear him. During his time away, he trimmed his signature beard and cut his hair short, donating his hair to Wigs 4 Kids, a charity similar to that of Locks of Love.
On February 8, 2016, Bryan retired due to medical reasons. Later on that day's episode of Raw, broadcast from Bryan's home state of Washington, Bryan gave a retirement speech expressing his gratefulness for the happiness wrestling had brought him. The following day on ESPN, Bryan revealed that he suffered ten documented concussions while wrestling, but more might have been undocumented or misdiagnosed. He said a recent EEG reflex test revealed slowing and a small subacute or chronic lesion in his brain's temporoparietal region, which explained Bryan's post-concussion seizures and led to his retirement decision. Bryan had been cleared by a doctor for the Arizona Cardinals and passed a concussion test at UCLA with "flying colors", but WWE's head of medical Joseph Maroon refused to clear him. Journalist Dave Meltzer suggested that this may have been because of Maroon having been portrayed in a negative light in the film Concussion. Initially, Bryan requested his release from WWE and was looking to return to NJPW and ROH as well as work in Mexico for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), but the request was turned down by Vince McMahon. Bryan underwent a new test, where the lesion in his brain was discovered, after which he himself made the decision to retire. On Thank You Daniel, a WWE Network tribute to Bryan, he confirmed that he had been asked about working for WWE in a different capacity while comparing this to "a partner breaking up with you, getting married to someone else and then asking you to be best friends", expanding to say that he needed time to heal emotionally before he could agree to such an offer. During this period, WWE confirmed that Bryan would continue to appear for the company in a non in-ring role alongside his wife Brie Bella, who served as a WWE Ambassador following her retirement from in-ring competition on April 3 at WrestleMania 32. Recognized as a WWE Legend, Bryan co-hosted the WWE Network tournament Cruiserweight Classic alongside SmackDown commentator Mauro Ranallo in mid-2016.
SmackDown General Manager (2016-2018)
With the inception of WWE's second brand split, Bryan was appointed by SmackDown General Manager on the July 18 episode of Raw. Along with SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon, Bryan played a vital role in the WWE draft. After SummerSlam on August 21, Bryan unveiled two new championships exclusive to the SmackDown brand: the SmackDown Women's Championship and the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. As part of his General Manager duties, Bryan co-hosted Talking Smack with Renee Young, a post-show interview segment on the WWE Network. The segment frequently became the site for heated altercations between Bryan and The Miz; Bryan openly expressed his disdain while Miz complained about being mistreated. The two continued to feud for the rest of the year, with Miz often running away from Bryan when a physical altercation was teased. These altercations were intertwined with Miz feuding over the Intercontinental championship with Dolph Ziggler. Following another verbal clash on Miz TV at the November 1 episode of SmackDown, Bryan decided to trade Miz to Raw if he failed to regain the championship from Ziggler. Miz defeated Ziggler on the 900th episode of SmackDown Live on November 15 to become a six-time Intercontinental Champion.
On the April 10 and 11, 2017 episodes of Raw and SmackDown, Bryan was involved in the 2017 Superstar Shake-up in which brand's former champions Alexa Bliss, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Heath Slater and Rhyno were traded to Raw. Bryan later took time off from WWE television for paternity leave and returned on the June 20 episode, during which he stripped Carmella of her Money In The Bank briefcase and suspended James Ellsworth due to his interference in the match. On the August 1 episode of SmackDown, Bryan appointed Shane McMahon as a guest referee for United States Champion AJ Styles's title defense against Kevin Owens at SummerSlam, thereby triggering a long-term feud between Owens and Shane that would ultimately also involve Bryan himself.
Bryan was again absent from television after being attacked by Kane on the October 30 episode of Raw. He returned on the November 14 episode of SmackDown.
After Survivor Series Bryan became deeply involved in Shane McMahon's feud against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, favoring the latter two. On the November 21 episode of Smackdown Shane was about to fire the two for attacking him during their Survivor Series interbrand elimination match against Team Raw, which SmackDown ultimately lost. To settle the dispute whether Owens and Zayn should be fired, the two were scheduled to wrestle Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura at Clash of Champions with Owens's and Zayn's jobs on the line. During the match Shane and Bryan acted as guest referees and come to blows: after Shane intentionally stopped a count at two during a pinfall attempt by Zayn, while Bryan made a fast count to give Owens and Zayn the win. Over the following weeks, Bryan kept on favoring Owens and Zayn by giving them multiple opportunities at AJ Styles's WWE Championship, first in a handicap title match at the Royal Rumble and then by including Owens and Zayn among the five challengers at Fastlane. During the latter match, Shane broke up pinfall attempts by Owens and Zayn, resulting in a brutal attack by Owens and Zayn on the following SmackDown.
In-ring return and "The New" Daniel Bryan (2018-2019)
At that time, after more than two years of evaluations, reviews of his medical history and neurological and physical evaluations, Bryan was cleared by three external independent neurosurgeons, neurologists and concussion experts -- in addition to Joseph Maroon -- to return to WWE in-ring competition on March 20. On that day's SmackDown Live, Bryan thanked fans for their constant support and vowed to wrestle again. In his role as General Manager, he (kayfabe) fired Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn for attacking Shane McMahon the week before, resulting in Owens and Zayn attacking Bryan. In response, Bryan expressed regret over favoring them and scheduled a tag team match at WrestleMania 34 pitting himself and Shane against Owens and Zayn, with the latter being rehired if they win. At WrestleMania on April 8, Bryan and McMahon won after Bryan made Zayn submit in his first match since April 2015. As a result of being medically cleared, Bryan resigned as general manager.
Bryan participated in the 50-man Royal Rumble match at the Greatest Royal Rumble event as the first entrant, lasting for 76 minutes--the record for longest time in a Royal Rumble match--before being eliminated by Big Cass in the final three. Bryan defeated Cass at Backlash on May 6 and Money in the Bank on June 17. On the June 26 episode of SmackDown Live, Bryan was aided by Kane in a post-match attack from The Bludgeon Brothers, thus reuniting Team Hell No. At Extreme Rules, Team Hell No lost to The Bludgeon Brothers, after Kane was attacked pre-match with Bryan having to compete in a handicap match.
After months of goading and later avoiding Bryan--as well as getting involved in Team Hell No's feud with The Bludgeon Brothers--Bryan competed against long-time rival The Miz at SummerSlam, but lost due to an undetected use of brass knuckles. Following SummerSlam, Miz mocked Bryan by delivering a fake retirement speech and Bryan's wife Brie Bella returned as his partner. At Hell in a Cell on September 16, Bryan and Bella lost to Miz and Maryse after Maryse pinned Bella. At Super Show-Down on October 6, Bryan defeated Miz to earn a WWE Championship opportunity against AJ Styles at Crown Jewel on November 2. However, in wake of the Khashoggi death incident he refused to work the Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia and the storyline was altered so that their match took place on the October 30 episode of SmackDown Live, which Bryan lost. On the November 6 episode of SmackDown Live, Bryan was named team captain of SmackDown at Survivor Series on November 18, but later had to share this role with The Miz.
On the November 13 episode of SmackDown Live, Bryan defeated AJ Styles to win the WWE Championship for the fourth time following a low blow. After the match, he attacked Styles, turning heel for the first time since 2012. As a result of his title win, Bryan was removed from Team SmackDown at Survivor Series with Jeff Hardy taking his place on the team. Instead, he faced WWE Universal ChampionBrock Lesnar in an interbrand champion vs. champion match, which he lost. Two days later on SmackDown Live, Bryan explained his actions, stating that he was following his dreams and that the fans were not with him during his recovery to return to the ring. He then christened himself as "The New" Daniel Bryan, and a rematch between Bryan and Styles for the title was scheduled for TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, where he successfully defended the title. At the Royal Rumble on January 27, 2019, Bryan successfully retained his title against Styles once again, this time following interference from the returning Rowan. On the January 29 episode of SmackDown Live, Bryan threw the standard title belt in a garbage can (bemoaning the fact it was made from leather) and introduced a new belt, made from "entirely sustainable materials". Bryan was then scheduled to defend his championship in an Elimination Chamber at the Elimination Chamber event on February 17, where he successfully retained the title by last eliminating Kofi Kingston. At Fastlane, Bryan was originally scheduled to defend his championship against Kingston, but after Mr. McMahon replaced Kingston, Bryan successfully retained the title in a triple-threat match against Kevin Owens and Mustafa Ali. Bryan eventually defended the championship against Kingston at WrestleMania 35, where Bryan lost, ending his fifth world championship reign at 145 days. After WrestleMania, Bryan was briefly sidelined by an undisclosed injury, but was cleared to return to action on April 30. On May 6, Bryan competed on his first match on Raw since March 2015, where he lost to Kingston in a WrestleMania rematch, ending their feud.
In August, Bryan and Rowan became involved in a storyline with Roman Reigns, as Reigns was being targeted for attacks by a mystery conspirator. Reigns suspected Rowan as his attacker due to seemingly incriminating video footage, but Bryan instead revealed that the attacker was merely a man who resembled Rowan. However, Rowan later turned on Bryan and revealed that he was the attacker the entire time, ending the alliance between the two. On the September 24 episode of SmackDown Live, Bryan was saved by Reigns from an assault from Rowan and Luke Harper. Bryan then joined with Reigns to take down Rowan and Harper, thus turning face in the process. At Hell in a Cell, Bryan teamed with Reigns to defeat Rowan and Harper.
On the November 8 episode of SmackDown, Bryan was attacked by Universal Champion"The Fiend" Bray Wyatt. In response, Bryan challenged Wyatt for the Universal Championship at Survivor Series, which Bryan lost. On the following SmackDown, after Wyatt challenged Bryan to another match, Bryan accepted the challenge and said that the Yes Movement is back. During the Yes chants, Wyatt appeared as The Fiend and attacked Bryan, ripping out his hair and beard. Bryan, sporting a clean shave and hair cut short, returned at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs to attack Wyatt. On the December 20 episode of SmackDown, Bryan defeated The Miz and King Corbin in a triple threat match to earn another Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble on January 26, 2020, but Bryan was again unsuccessful at the event.
After the Royal Rumble, Bryan began a rivalry with Drew Gulak, who claimed to have "found holes in Bryan's game". This led to a match being made for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view on March 8, which Bryan won. On the March 13 episode of SmackDown, Bryan formed an alliance with Gulak, as Gulak managed Bryan during his match against Cesaro, where both were subsequently attacked by Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Intercontinental ChampionSami Zayn. On the March 27 episode of SmackDown, after Gulak defeated Nakamura, Bryan earned an Intercontinental Championship match against Zayn at WrestleMania 36 which he lost. On the April 17 episode of SmackDown, Bryan defeated Cesaro to qualify for the 2020 Men's Money in the Bank Ladder match. At the Money in the Banks event on May 10, Bryan was unsuccessful as the match was won by Otis. On the May 15 episode of SmackDown, Bryan defeated Drew Gulak in the quarter finals of a tournament for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. On the May 29 episode of SmackDown, Bryan then defeated Sheamus in the semi finals who replaced Bryan's scheduled opponent Jeff Hardy, who was arrested for crashing his car into Elias and who had won a battle royal to face Bryan. Bryan ultimately lost to AJ Styles in the finals on the June 12 episode of SmackDown. Bryan returned on the October 23 episode of SmackDown, as a guest on the Kevin Owens Show. Later in the night, Bryan teamed with Owens and The Street Profits in winning fashion against Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. The following Week, Bryan lost to Jey Uso in a Survivor Series qualifier match and was later attacked by Roman Reigns and the latter after the contest. This led to a rematch on the November 20 episode, which Bryan won. At TLC Bryan teamed with Big E, Chad Gable and Otis in winning fashion when the team beat Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura. On the following SmackDown, after defeating Jey Uso, Bryan declared himself for the 2021 Royal Rumble match.
Professional wrestling persona
Bryan in his signature "Yes!" T-shirt while addressing the audience
Danielson has spent the majority of his career without an overt character in favor of becoming popular with the fans through his monikers, signature mannerisms and wrestling ability, while his attire has varied as well, with the majority of his tenure wearing a pair of short trunks, but also ventured into wearing a mask for a time in Japan as an extension of his American Dragon persona.
A notable part of Danielson's persona is his mannerisms and the reaction he inspires from the crowd during the course of his matches that include:
After winning the ROH World Championship, Danielson displayed traits of a villain-like persona, starting to behave more aggressively and threatening to the fans as well as taking more liberties with the rules, but despite his rulebreaking character he still retained a certain level of popularity with the fans as well as his upholding of the company's Code of Honor, ROH's storyline rules of wrestler conduct, allowing him to perform as a more neutral character.
During his initial reign as ROH World Champion, telling the ring announcer to add an extra note about him appertaining to the current circumstances around his match--this was generally insulting the crowd or his opponent.
After winning WWE's World Heavyweight Championship, Bryan began shouting "Yes!" repeatedly on his way to the ring and after defeating an opponent, crediting mixed martial arts fighter Diego Sanchez with the inspiration. This chant grew in popularity and has been even heard outside WWE events such as at Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association games as well as at music concerts, in particular at Andrew W.K. concerts in both Glasgow and Manchester, England. After turning into a villainous character at the start of 2012, Bryan slowly turned against the fans and after WrestleMania XXVIII in April he began chanting "No!" instead of "Yes!". Bryan claimed that the fans were mocking him by chanting "Yes!" so he chanted "No!" back at them, but this then further encouraged the crowd to chant "Yes!" to annoy him as he was a villain. Shortly after turning back into a heroic character, Bryan began saying "Yes!" again, but would still shout "No!" when in a negative situation or showing disdain towards a critique which also involved crowd participation.
Bryan's "Yes!" chant again entered popular culture in late 2013 and early 2014. During Michigan State's regular-season victory over arch-rival Michigan, Spartans guard Travis Jackson celebrated a touchdown with a "Yes!" chant. On January 7, the university honored the football team, fresh off victory in the Rose Bowl, during halftime of the men's basketballhome game against Ohio State. Jackson again led Bryan's chant, this time with the entire home crowd, especially the student section, joining in. The event quickly went viral and drew extensive coverage on ESPN's SportsCenter. One contributor to Yahoo! Sports speculated that this event and the associated media coverage led WWE to turn Bryan away from The Wyatt Family. In the wake of Bryan's championship victory at WrestleMania XXX, the Pittsburgh Pirates began using the "Yes!" chant as a rallying cry, gradually replacing the Zoltan gesture the Pirates had been using the previous two years and it is said that Pirates first baseman Gaby Sánchez, a huge wrestling fan, was behind the team using the "Yes!" chants. In May, members of the San Francisco Giants started using the chant and hand gesture to celebrate home runs. This led to Bryan performing the chant at a Giants playoff game and actively supporting the team all the way to the World Series, which the Giants won against the Kansas City Royals in seven games. Bryan was also a part of the team's victory parade. Fans of the New York Islanders now use the "Yes!" chant after every Islanders goal scored during home games.
On several occasions, such as during the 2013 Slammy Awards, fans have successfully hijacked segments in which Bryan was either not involved in, or involved only secondarily, with his "Yes!" chant. In the case of the "Championship Ascension Ceremony" segment, the fan's continuing "Yes!" chants forced John Cena to go off-script and acknowledge Bryan (especially since the show was held in Seattle) even though the segment was supposed to be about Cena and Randy Orton's impending title unification match.
Danielson, who was a vegan in his day-to-day life previously, incorporated his vegan lifestyle into his villain-like persona to elicit heat from the crowd.
Throughout his career, Bryan has been known as a submission specialist. In his initial run on the independent circuit, he utilized a bridging double chickenwing, named Cattle Mutilation, to finish his opponents. This style has continued throughout his WWE career, where he used an omoplatacrossface, which depending on his persona at the time he called either the LeBell Lock, "No!" Lock, or "Yes!" Lock. After his return to active performing in 2018, he began using a heel hook to finish matches.
Shortly after capturing the WWE Championship for a fourth time, by low blowing A.J. Styles and turning into a villainous character at the end of 2018, Bryan changed his in-ring persona, beginning to smile more often in a sinister way and not leading any "Yes!" chants, which resulted in him receiving heat from the crowd. After Survivor Series in November of that year, Bryan also started to repeatedly call the fans "fickle" while he claimed that the "old" Daniel Bryan that the people loved and the Yes! Movement are dead before christening himself as the "new" Daniel Bryan. Bryan's on-screen character then became an ultra-environmentalist who constantly chastises the WWE fans for their blatant consumerism, damaging the environment, while also bashing them for consuming meat, proclaiming that animals were being harmed, including fellow wrestlers such as Mustafa Ali just because they drive an SUV. Two days after the 2019 Royal Rumble, Bryan threw the standard title belt in a garbage can (bemoaning the fact it was made from leather) and introduced a new custom belt with the same design as the standard belt, but made from entirely sustainable materials (such as the strap being made from hemp and the front and side plates carved from the wood of a naturally fallen oak tree) to go with his current persona.
Danielson was prominently featured in the Wrestling Road Diaries documentary, which was filmed in 2009 before he signed with WWE. In 2011, Danielson recorded a single with Kimya Dawson that was a tribute to wrestling legend "Captain" Lou Albano.
Danielson, as Daniel Bryan, has featured in 10 WWE games, starting with WWE '12 in 2011 to WWE 2K Battlegrounds, released in 2020. He was the alternate cover star of WWE 2K14, alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He made his first video game appearance under his real name in WWE 2K19, which featured a showcase story mode based on his career in WWE.
On April 11, 2014, Danielson married WWE wrestler Brie Bella, with whom he had been in a relationship for nearly three years. On April 6, 2016, nearly two months after Danielson's retirement, Bella also semi-retired from wrestling in order to start a family with him. They have a daughter named Birdie Joe Danielson (born May 9, 2017). On August 1, 2020, Brie gave birth to their second child, a boy.
Danielson became a vegan in 2009 after suffering from elevated liver enzymes and several staph infections. In 2012, he was awarded a Libby Award from PETA for being the Most Animal-Friendly Athlete. That same year, Mayor Micah Cawley of Yakima, Washington declared January 13 "Daniel Bryan Day". Later that year, Danielson explained that he was no longer a vegan due to his inability to find vegan food while traveling with WWE. He later elaborated that he had developed a soy intolerance and could not find enough non-soy vegan food, but he still keeps a mostly vegan diet on the road. In 2018, it was reported that both he and his wife are vegetarians. Danielson has stated that he has vitiligo.
Bryan is a five-time world champion in WWE--pictured here as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, then represented by the former World Heavyweight Championship belt (around his waist) and the 2013-2014 version of the WWE Championship belt (over his shoulder)
^"First match revealed for tonight's Raw". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2012. In the video, Bryan plays up his new over-confident, success-has-gone-to-his-head persona interacting with Kingston outside of the venue in Corpus Christi, Texas.
^Daniel Bryan (July 30, 2011). "Tweet Number 97214858474422272". Twitter. Retrieved 2014. @tarynlove77 It's vitiligo, not any artificial patch, which is an autoimmune disease you can look up on Wikipedia.