Bryan Lloyd Danielson (born May 22, 1981) is an American retired professional wrestler currently signed to WWE under the ring name Daniel Bryan, where he is the on-screen general manager of SmackDown.
In WWE, Bryan held the WWE Championship three times and WWE's World Heavyweight Championship once, in addition to being a one-time United States Champion, a one-time Intercontinental Champion, and a one time WWE Tag Team Champion as part of Team Hell No (with Demon Kane). He was also the 2011 SmackDown Money in the Bank winner and the 2013 Superstar of the Year Slammy Award winner. He is the 26th Triple Crown Champion and the 15th Grand Slam Champion in WWE history and headlined several major pay-per-view events, including SummerSlam in 2013 and WrestleMania XXX.
Danielson was previously signed to the WWE, then known as the WWF, for an 18-month period from 2000–2001. Prior to joining WWE for his second stint in 2009, Danielson wrestled for various companies internationally using both his real name and the ring name (and later nickname) "American Dragon". 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-time ROH World Champion, as well the final Pure Wrestling Champion (unifying the Pure title with the World title). He was the first winner of ROH's annual Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004. Along with CM Punk, Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, Danielson is one of four men to have won a world championship in both WWE and ROH.
Danielson also wrestled extensively in Japan, winning the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship in Pro Wrestling Noah (NOAH) and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (with Curry Man) in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Between WWE, ROH, and Japanese promotions, he held eleven total championships, including five world titles. Danielson also won numerous titles on the independent circuit, including two PWG World Championships, the FIP Heavyweight Championship, and the wXw World Heavyweight Championship.
In 2016, at age 34, Danielson retired from professional wrestling due to medical issues (including seizures) arising from multiple concussions and a brain lesion. Later that year in July, he was named the General Manager of SmackDown following the return of the WWE brand extension.
Danielson was born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington, to a father who was a logger and a therapist mother, who divorced when Danielson was young. Danielson has an older sister, named Billie Sue. He competed in various sports at Aberdeen-Weatherwax High School including football.
Professional wrestling career
Early career (1999–2000)
After Danielson graduated from high school in 1999, he decided to pursue wrestling professionally and attempted to train at Dean Malenko's wrestling school. When it closed he trained under Shawn Michaels and Rudy Gonzalez at the Texas Wrestling Academy (TWA). He debuted in the TWA, and on March 21, 2000, won his first title when he teamed with Spanky to win the TWA Tag Team Championship, defeating Jeromy Sage and Ruben Cruz.
World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment
Memphis Championship Wrestling (2000–2001)
While touring the country he 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). There, Danielson gained exposure, and was trained by WWF competitor William Regal, whom he credited as instrumental in the development of his career. During this time Danielson adopted his moniker "American Dragon". WWF severed its ties with MCW in 2001, releasing Danielson from his contract, but not before he won the MCW Light Heavyweight Championship and the MCW Tag Team Championship with Spanky.
After 18 months with the company, Danielson 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 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).
Enhancement talent (2002–2003)
In 2002, Danielson wrestled two matches for the renamed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) despite not being a contracted performer for the company. Danielson was squashed by both Sean O'Haire and Little Guido in his two appearances. Danielson went on to make four additional non contracted appearances for WWE in 2003 on its secondary programming, 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 making his final appearance in November in a tag team match against Paul London and Spanky at a Velocity taping in which Danielson was partnered with John Walters.
Danielson first toured Japan with Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) with Lance Cade, a fellow trainee from the TWA, competing in several tag team matches. He returned to Japan after his release from the WWF, competing in Japan's premier promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he used his American Dragon persona, and donned a red, white, and blue mask reminiscent of a dragon. As a part of the junior heavyweight division, Danielson had success in both singles and tag team competition in the company, winning (without wearing a mask) the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with Curry Man on March 12, 2004.
Ring of Honor
Founding father (2002–2005)
In 2002, Danielson joined the independent promotion Ring of Honor (ROH), where he is acknowledged as a "Founding Father" of the company. 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, lasted eighty minutes. One of the more notable rivalries he had in the early years in the company was with Homicide; the two fought numerous matches with a variety of stipulations, culminating in a steel cage match at The Final Showdown, where Danielson was victorious.
Despite winning the company's inaugural Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004, championship gold eluded him. In 2005, Danielson announced 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. Danielson had several dates booked in Europe and Japan, however, leading fans to believe that the periodical was likely a storyline claim for Danielson's absence during this period. In May 2005, rumors started that Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) was interested in signing Danielson, and he also had some more tryout matches with WWE at that time, but none of these events led to anything and he remained in ROH.
ROH World Champion (2005–2006)
Danielson defeated James Gibson for the ROH World Championship at Glory by Honor IV on September 15, 2005. The rest of the year saw Danielson have successful title defenses even against wrestlers from other companies, such as Pro Wrestling Noah (NOAH) star Naomichi Marufuji, at Final Battle 2005.
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, where Danielson successfully defended the ROH World Championship. 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, he 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.
ROH, while having the ROH World Championship, 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' native England, where ROH declared there would 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. During a match with Colt Cabana on August 26, Danielson 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, and was challenged by KENTA, a guest competitor from NOAH, due to the two company's talent exchange agreement; Danielson again retained his championship. At the last ROH's event of 2006, Final Battle, 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, which appeared on the company's next pay per view, Driven. This allowed him, now as a face, to challenge Morishima for the title at Manhattan Mayhem in a losing effort; he also suffered a legitimate detached retina. Following surgery, he fought Morishima again in a match at Man Up, but the referee stop the match since Danielson was unable to respond to him. In a rematch at Rising Above, Morishima was disqualified. Morishima returned to the company at Final Battle in a match billed as a "Fight Without Honor"; 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.
The following months, Danielson worked with Austin Aries again as friendly rivals exchanging victories, including a match on pay-per-view at Take No Prisoners, which Danielson won. He helped Aries as a partner in order to take on The Age of the Fall; the two wrestled all members of the group in a series of different stipulation matches, and teaming together frequently to challenge members Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black for the ROH World Tag Team Championship.
As part of ROH's agreement with Pro Wrestling Noah, the company held a show in Japan; at Tokyo Summit, Danielson wrestled GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion Yoshinobu Kanemaru and won the championship. Following his victory, he announced that NOAH would allow him defend the title in Ring of Honor, with his first defense being at Glory By Honor VII, defeating Katsuhiko Nakajima. This was his only successful defense, however, as he returned to Japan on October 13 to lose the title to KENTA. Following his loss, Danielson challenged McGuinness for the World Championship at the next ROH pay-per-view, Rising Above, 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 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 UK, 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 UK, 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 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 Champion Frankie 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 May 2009, he made another appearance teaming with Paul London, referring to himself as "American Dolphin" in a parodied manner. On September 4, 2009 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 face Brent Albright on September 1, but due to the eye injury he sustained at ROH's Manhattan Mayhem event, the NWA announced he withdrew from the tournament with and Adam Pearce replacing him; Danielson was appointed the referee of the match.
In 2009, Danielson's contract with Ring of Honor expired; this opened up Danielson to travel to other companies more freely while competing in his home promotion.
In 2009, Danielson signed a short-term contract with German wrestling promotion westside Xtreme wrestling (wXw). Shortly after his debut Danielson won the wXw World Heavyweight Championship against Bad Bones holding it over a month until losing it to Absolute Andy.
After his departure from wXw, he made his debut with Philadelphia-based independent promotion, CHIKARA to compete in their King of Trios tournament, which saw him team with Claudio Castagnoli and Dave Taylor in a contingency called Team Uppercut. In the same year, it was announced Danielson would compete in Dragon Gate USA (DGUSA) in their second show, which saw him lose to Open the Dream Gate Champion Naruki Doi.
Return to WWE
Florida Championship Wrestling (2009−2010)
Danielson re-signed with WWE in August 2009. He made his WWE 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 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.
NXT and The Nexus (2010)
He made his debut on the inaugural episode of NXT on February 23, losing by submission to then World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho. After the match, Bryan was attacked by The Miz, his storyline mentor, 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 pinning Santino 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; Bryan defeated him and threw him into Cole at ringside after the match. On the June 7, 2010 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, WWE announced that Danielson was fired from WWE, because Bryan had been too violent, pretending to strangle ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own neck tie. Danielson noted that WWE apologized to him for his release, claiming 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 holder Tim Donst in a non–title match. On July 3, Danielson returned to westside Xtreme wrestling, defeating Wade Fitzgerald and TJP in the round robin stage of the Ambition 1 tournament. The following day, he defeated Tommy End, 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, he defeated Bobby Fish, while Danielson continued on undefeated the following day by returning to Dragon Gate USA, and submitted Shingo in the dark match main event 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 (later known as Dean Ambrose in WWE) 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. The day after that 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)
On August 15, 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, 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. He 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, Bryan defeated The Miz to win the United States Championship, his first championship in WWE.
He then successfully defended the championship two weeks later by defeating The Miz and John Morrison in a triple threat submissions count anywhere match at Hell in a Cell. Bryan went on to challenge then Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler to a Champion vs. Champion match at Bragging Rights as a special attraction SmackDown vs. Raw match, defeating Ziggler in a highly acclaimed match. Bryan went on to successfully defend his United States title against Ted DiBiase at Survivor Series. On the November 30 episode of NXT, it was announced that Bryan was returning to the show as the Pro to NXT Rookie Derrick Bateman on season four.
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, 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. Bryan lost his title rematch the next night on Raw, after which he was saved from Sheamus by the debuting Sin Cara.
World Heavyweight Champion (2011–2012)
On April 26, Bryan was drafted to the SmackDown brand as part of the 2011 supplemental draft. Bryan debuted for the SmackDown brand on the May 6 episode, when he lost to Sheamus. Cody Rhodes then started a feud with Bryan by attacking him after losing their match and placing a paper bag on his head. Bryan then aligned with Sin Cara to feud with Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. On June 28, Bryan returned to NXT to manage Derrick Bateman once again.
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 WrestleMania XXVIII. 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. Big Show, as a friend of Bryan, 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. After losing a rematch, Bryan suffered attacks from Henry the following two weeks. On November 25 at 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. However, SmackDown authority figure Theodore 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 realised he may not make it to WrestleMania due to Henry's continued attacks. Regardless of his briefcase, Bryan won a 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 his 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 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 began a slow heel turn 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 count-out. Also, despite AJ's declaration of love for Bryan, 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 Show which ended abruptly after Show accidentally ran into AJ, hospitalising her within the storyline for which Bryan blamed him; 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 2012 Royal Rumble event, Bryan escaped the cage after freeing himself from Big Show's grasp to retain his championship.
At Elimination Chamber, 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 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 champion ended at 105 days when Sheamus squashed him in 18 seconds at WrestleMania XXVIII due to Bryan being distracted with receiving a good luck kiss from AJ. On the following SmackDown, Bryan blamed AJ for his world 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, Bryan failed to regain the World Heavyweight Championship from Sheamus in a 2-out-of-3 falls match, losing two falls to one.
Team Hell No (2012–2013)
The following 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 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 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, 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 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 Tag Team Championship 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 face 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, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns). 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 at TLC, 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 TV/PPV 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 Bryan's 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)
As Bryan being pinned led to the loss of the tag team titles, Bryan became obsessed about proving that he was not the weak link of Team Hell No and, as a result, Bryan 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 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. Two days later 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. Four days later on SmackDown, Bryan defeated Orton, but to Bryan's dismay, it was via countout. On the next 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 the match, Bryan was attacked by Curtis Axel, a non-participant, which ultimately prevented Bryan from winning the match that was won by Orton.
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 COO Triple H was in support of Bryan. On the July 22 episode of Raw, Triple H called Bryan a "B+ Player" and made him run a gauntlet match to prove his worth as number one contender. He defeated Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro in succession, but his third opponent Ryback was disqualified after powerbombing Bryan through a table. The following week on Raw, Bryan was forced to face Kane and emerged victorious, but Kane attacked Bryan 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.
The next night on Raw, Triple H and the McMahons endorsed Orton as "the face of the WWE", forming The Authority faction, claiming that the company was looking for Orton as champion instead of Bryan, who also assumed the top babyface role 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 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. Bryan and Orton faced off again for the vacant title on October 6 at Battleground, but the match ended in a no contest after Big Show interfered and knocked out both men. Bryan once again challenged Orton for the vacant championship at Hell in a Cell, but was unsuccessful after the special guest referee Shawn Michaels superkicked Bryan for attacking Michaels' best friend Triple H. The following night on Raw, Bryan confronted Michaels, who offered a handshake, but Bryan put Michaels in the "Yes!" Lock.
Later that same night, Bryan was attacked by The Wyatt Family. Bryan then found an ally in former rival CM Punk, as the duo would defeat Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of The Wyatt Family at Survivor Series, However, the entire Wyatt Family defeated Bryan in a handicap match at TLC: Tables, Ladders and 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 wasn't 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 "Sister Abigail" Bryan, but Bryan attacked him and the rest of the 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 "Raw" audience in a "Yes! chant". At the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, 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 Rumble match and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.
On the January 27 episode of Raw, Bryan qualified for the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the eponymous pay-per-view 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, 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 Daniel 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 the event. At WrestleMania XXX, 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 WrestleMania main event to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. (Batista tapped out to the "Yes-lock") Pro Wrestling Torch editor Wade Keller analysed (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.
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.
On the Raw following WrestleMania, Triple H used his authority to grant himself a title match against Bryan. Bryan was then attacked by Orton, Batista, and Kane just before the match. The match 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; 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 Bryan time off to mourn his recently deceased father. At Extreme Rules, Bryan defeated Kane in an Extreme Rules match to retain his title.
First major injury and Intercontinental Champion (2014–2015)
At some point in time, Bryan lost all strength in his right arm. This caused Bryan to announce on the May 12 episode of Raw that he would have to undergo neck surgery. That same night, he was attacked by Kane and stretchered away. On May 15, Bryan underwent successful neck surgery, with a cervical foraminotomy to decompress the nerve root having been performed. When Bryan refused to relinquish his title on May 26, Stephanie McMahon threatened to fire Bryan's wife Brie Bella if Bryan did not give up his championship at Payback. The ultimatum resulted in Brie Bella "quitting" WWE so that Bryan did not have to give up his championship at Payback. 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. Several 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.
Bryan returned to WWE television on the November 24 episode of Raw, taunting the recently deposed Authority. As the guest General Manager for that episode of Raw and the next episode of SmackDown for November 28, Bryan arranged for the punishments of those allied with The Authority. Apart from announcing a Chairs match between Kane and Ryback for TLC, Bryan also affirmed that he would return soon.
On the December 29, 2014, episode of Raw, Bryan declared that he would be able to continue wrestling and would be participating in the 2015 Royal Rumble match. In an interview, Bryan said he told 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; later in the episode, Bryan won the six-man tag main event. On the next week's 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.
This caused 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 "guy" Roman Reigns.
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; the winner of the Fastlane match would challenge Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. At Fastlane, Bryan lost to Reigns, failing to make his entry to WrestleMania main event.
Following Fastlane, Bryan became involved in the Intercontinental Championship picture for WrestleMania, 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. Bryan announced his entry into the multi-man ladder match for the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania on the March 12 episode of SmackDown. 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 babyface 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 labelled 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. 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 and Intercontinental Championships. (The qualifications for the Triple Crown required either the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship, along with the Tag Team and Intercontinental Championship. Bryan had already won both the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship before the titles were unified.) Bryan is one of only 3 wrestlers that have been all of the following: WWE World Heavyweight Champion, WWE Champion, World Heavyweight Champion, Intercontinental Champion, and Tag Team Champion. Triple H and Randy Orton are the other 2 wrestlers. At the Raw after WrestleMania 31, Bryan defeated Dolph Ziggler for his first successful title defense; however, after the match, Bryan and Ziggler were attacked by Barrett only for Sheamus to return and chase off Barrett before attacking Bryan and Ziggler. Bryan faced Sheamus on that week's SmackDown and lost the match by countout when Barrett interfered. During the match, Bryan hit his head on the announce table and suffered an unplanned cut on his forehead which caused him to bleed and later acquired stitches for the wound. His final in-ring match was teaming up with United States Champion John Cena and defeating WWE Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Tyson Kidd via submission.
Second major injury and in-ring retirement (2015–2016)
Following the April 14 SmackDown taping, 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 cancelled 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. However, he announced that after having undergone an MRI, he would be out for an unknown period of time, and could possibly have to retire; the nature of his injuries were not revealed. Therefore, he relinquished the Intercontinental Championship. On the Elimination Chamber pre-show later that month, 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 announced his retirement due to medical reasons via Twitter. Later on that day's episode of Raw, emanating live from Seattle, Washington (Bryan's home state) 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 10 documented concussions while wrestling, but more might have been undocumented or misdiagnosed. He also 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 (previously hidden by him) and led to his retirement decision.
On Thank You Daniel, a WWE Network tribute to Bryan, he confirmed that he has been asked about working for WWE in a different capacity, but Bryan compared 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 needs time to heal emotionally before he can agree to such an offer. During this period WWE confirmed that Bryan would continue to appear for the WWE in a non in-ring role alongside his wife Brie Bella, who now serves as a WWE Ambassador following her retirement from in-ring competition at WrestleMania 32.
Bryan, now an officially recognized WWE Legend, co-hosted the WWE Network summer series WWE Cruiserweight Classic alongside SmackDown commentator Mauro Ranallo.
SmackDown General Manager (2016–present)
Following the announcement of the second WWE brand extension, on the July 18 episode of Raw, Bryan was appointed by Shane McMahon as the new general manager of SmackDown. Along with McMahon, Bryan played a vital role in the WWE draft with the duo selecting WWE Champion Dean Ambrose as their overall first pick for SmackDown. After SummerSlam, Bryan unveiled two new championships exclusive to the SmackDown brand - the SmackDown Tag Team Championships and the SmackDown Women's Championship.
As part of his general manager duties, Bryan co-hosts Talking Smack with Renee Young, a post-SmackDown interview show on the WWE Network. On the August 23 episode of Talking Smack, The Miz went on a tirade against Bryan for calling him a coward, with Miz calling Bryan the coward for not returning to the ring when he promised the fans he would. Later that month, Bryan booked Miz in a match against Dolph Ziggler at Backlash with the Intercontinental Championship on the line. The two continued to feud into the month of September with Miz often running away from Bryan when a physical altercation was teased. On the October 11 episode of SmackDown, Bryan, along with commissioner Shane McMahon challenged the Raw brand to three 5-on-5 traditional Survivor Series elimination tag team matches at the namesake pay-per-view as a means to determine which brand was superior. On the October 16 episode of Raw, commissioner Stephanie McMahon and general manager Mick Foley accepted Bryan's challenge with a males, tag team and women's Survivor Series matches announced. On the November 1 episode of SmackDown, Bryan was a guest on Miz TV where the two got into yet another verbal altercation. On the November 7 episode of Raw it was announced Bryan along with commissioner Shane McMahon would be appearing on the final RAW before Survivor Series as special guests in a State of the WWE provocative debate. On the November 9 episode of SmackDown Bryan announced alongside Shane McMahon, that McMahon himself would replace the injured Baron Corbin in the men's Survivor Series team at the event of the same name. Bryan would later give into Miz and give him an Intercontinental Championship match against the champion, Dolph Ziggler, on the 900th episode of SmackDown. Bryan would state on the November 9 episode of Talking Smack that if Ziggler successfully retains his championship on the 900th episode, The Miz, along with Maryse will be traded to RAW for someone else. Bryan would appear on the November 14 episode of Raw along with the members of Team SmackDown Live. During the State of the WWE provocative debate, Raw general manager Mick Foley ranted on Bryan for only being SmackDown GM because of a contract. Bryan would go on to say that Foley can't hold that against him as Foley quit WWE and went to TNA to wrestle in 2001 when he was forced to retire. On November 15, Bryan would go on to open the historic 900th episode of SmackDown, announcing Dolph Ziggler vs The Miz would open the show with the Intercontinental Championship on the line. The Miz would go on to become a six-time Intercontinental Champion after beating Ziggler, preventing himself from being traded to Raw and keeping his feud alive with Bryan in the process.
At Survivor Series, after his sister-in-law Nikki Bella was attacked from Carmella before the Women's Survivor Series match could begin and was rendered unable to compete by medical staff, Bryan would put team coach Natalya in her position on the team. SmackDown Live would go on to lose the match. At the same event, the SmackDown Live Survivor Series tag teams were also unsuccessful in defeating Team Raw but the Men's SmackDown Live Survivor Series team led by Shane McMahon were successful in preventing RAW from earning a cleansweep with the Wyatt Family being the sole survivors; while also on the show, The Miz would go on to retain his Intercontinental Championship against Raw superstar Sami Zayn which kept the title on the blue brand in the process. Although Kalisto was unsuccessful in his attempt to bring the Cruiserweight division to SmackDown with Baron Corbin interfering in the match and attacking his rival Kalisto to have the match end in a disqualification. Daniel Bryan went on to call Baron Corbin selfish after the match and told him he will be punished for his actions. During the November 22 episode of Smackdown live, Bryan announced as punishment, Corbin would face Kalisto at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in a Chairs match. While also announcing the feud between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler would end at TLC in a ladder match with the Intercontinental Championship up for grabs. After defeating Ziggler to retain his Intercontinental Championship at TLC, The Miz dedicated his victory to Daniel Bryan. On the January 3 episode of SmackDown, Bryan scheduled a contract signing between AJ Styles and John Cena for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.
Danielson 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. 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 are his mannerisms and the reaction he inspires from the crowd during the course of his matches that include:
- During his time in Ring of Honor, Danielson made his way to the ring to his entrance song, "The Final Countdown"; once in the ring, he stood on the top turnbuckle and sang the refrain along with the fans in attendance.
- After winning the ROH World Championship, Danielson displayed traits of a heel-like persona, starting to behave more aggressively and threatening to the fans, as well as taking more liberties with the rules. 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.
- As a heel, applying a submission hold while the opponent gets a part of their body in the ring ropes, leading to the referee counting to five (not releasing the hold by the count of five would result in a disqualification); as the referee would be about to disqualify Danielson, the latter would release the hold, instructing the referee: "I have till five!".
- 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.
- At the beginning of Danielson's ROH matches the crowd chanted, "You're gonna get your fucking head kicked in!" at Danielson's opponent.
- After winning WWE's World Heavyweight Championship, Bryan began shouting "Yes!" repeatedly on his way to the ring and after defeating an opponent. Danielson credits mixed martial arts fighter Diego Sanchez with the inspiration. This chant grew in popularity, and has been even heard outside WWE events, at Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, and National Basketball Association games, and even at music concerts, in particular at Andrew W.K. concerts in both Glasgow and Manchester, UK. After turning heel at the start of 2012, Bryan slowly turned against the fans, and after WrestleMania XXVIII, 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. This then further encouraged the crowd to chant "Yes!" at him to annoy him as he was a villain. Shortly after turning face, Bryan began saying "Yes!" again, but would still shout "No!" when in a negative situation or showing disdain towards a critique, which also involves 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 basketball home 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. 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", the fan's continuing "Yes!" chants forced John Cena to go off-script and acknowledge Bryan (especially since the show was held in Seattle), since that 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 heel persona to elicit heat from the crowd.
- Murphy, Dan. "Report Cards of the Stars". Pro Wrestling Illustrated July 2008. 152.
- Castle, Al. "The Best in the World: Is this more than hype?" Pro Wrestling Illustrated February 2009. 50.
- Detrick, Jason (September 21, 2007). "ROH News: Spoiler-free preview of ROH's Driven PPV". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
- Lipinski, Keith. "Ring of Honor". Retrieved June 10, 2009.
- "Favorite Bryan Danielson intro". 411 Mania. September 15, 2007. Retrieved July 14, 2009.
- Radican, Sean (July 20, 2007). "Radican's ROH Respect Is Earned Report 7/20: ongoing "virtual time" coverage of PPV". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved July 14, 2009.
- Caldwell, James (March 30, 2012). "Video – Bryan reveals "Yes!" inspiration, Nigel would have been bigger WWE star?". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
- ^ Breihan, Tom (April 11, 2012). "Video – Daniel Bryan on Wrestlemania, His History with the WWE, and Being a Vegan Pro fWrestler". GQ. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- Ocal, Arda. "'Incredible' support from fans has WWE superstar Daniel Bryan primed for Extreme Rules (Page 1)". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 29, 2012.
- Johnson, Mike (April 3, 2012). "THE DANIEL BRYAN LOVE CONTINUES". Pro Wrestling Insider. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
- Geddes, Jonathan (April 16, 2012). "Andrew WK, the Garage, Glasgow". The Herald. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
- "Top-5 OT Thriller". SportsCenter. January 7, 2014. ESPN. Retrieved February 10, 2014. (republished by WWE)
- ^ Michael, Patrick (January 15, 2014). "Did Michigan State University Change the Course of WWE History?". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- Dan Treadway. "Daniel Bryan's 'Yes' Chant Has Invaded Major League Baseball". SI.com.
- Baggarly, Andrew (May 14, 2014). "Rewind: Blanco runs, Giants kick it old school to beat Braves". Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
- O'Brien, James (November 14, 2014). "PHT Morning Skate: Yes! Isles fans indeed stole chant from WWE".
- Caldwell, James (March 21, 2012). "WWE News: D-Bryan interview – stiff match vs. Sheamus at WM28?, reaction to playing heel vegan, health issues discovered pre-WWE, more". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
- Nunnally, Doug (June 7, 2013). "The World's Most Humble Man: An Interview With WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan". RVA Magazine. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
Danielson was prominently featured in the Wrestling Road Diaries documentary, which was filmed in 2009 before he signed with WWE. Danielson is a fan of indie rock music and recorded a single with Kimya Dawson that was a tribute to wrestling legend "Captain" Lou Albano.
Danielson's relationship with his wife Brie Bella, including their wedding is regularly covered in the WWE reality series Total Divas on the E! Network.
On July 21, 2015, Danielson published an autobiography entitled Yes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania. It was co-written by Craig Tello.
Danielson was one of the judges on the sixth season of Tough Enough, alongside Hulk Hogan, who was later replaced by The Miz, and Paige.
Danielson has cited a number of wrestlers as influences to his style, including Toshiaki Kawada, Mitsuharu Misawa, and William Regal. He has also made mention of modeling his wrestling on that of Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit in his early career, then using Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a platform to develop his own style.
In 2009, Danielson relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he began training in mixed martial arts at Randy Couture's Xtreme Couture gym. He was also roommates with Xtreme Couture's head grappling trainer, Neil Melanson.
During his time as ROH World Champion, Danielson was appointed the head trainer of the ROH Wrestling Academy, replacing Austin Aries. He relinquished the position to Delirious in 2007.
Danielson became a vegan in 2009, after getting elevated liver enzymes and several staph infections. In 2012, he was awarded a Libby Award from PETA for being the "Most Animal-Friendly Athlete". In honor of Danielson, Mayor Micah Cawley of Yakima, Washington declared January 13 "Daniel Bryan Day". In September 2012, Danielson revealed that he was no longer a vegan due to his inability to find vegan food while travelling on the road for WWE. He later elaborated that he had developed a soy intolerance and could not find enough non-soy-based vegan food, but he still keeps a mostly vegan diet on the road. On Twitter, he stated that he has vitiligo. Danielson has stated in his book that he does not drink due to his father's past as an alcoholic.
Danielson described himself in ranking in the bottom 1 percentile for ambition in a personality test WWE gave him. In response, he said, "I have no ambition for what society says is important as far as things like money, and all that kind of stuff. What I am ambitious about is I want to be the best wrestler that I can possibly be."
In October 2012, a social media campaign was started in an attempt to help Connor Michalek meet Danielson, his personal hero. Michalek was aged six at the time, and suffered from cancer of the brain and spine. The campaign succeeded, with Danielson meeting Michalek at the Consol Energy Center (now known as PPG Paints Arena) in December 2012, and again in October 2013. Michalek was an inspiration to Danielson due to "the way he approached life and the joy that he had" while never complaining. Michalek, at ringside at WrestleMania XXX, was the first person Danielson embraced after he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
On April 11, 2014, Danielson married WWE Superstar 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. On October 5, 2016, it was announced that Bryan and Brie Danielson were expecting their first child. Bryan and Brie's child was revealed to be a girl expected to be due in April of 2017
On April 21, 2014, WWE announced the death of Danielson's father. He insisted on performing that night on Raw as scheduled, but left for home immediately after his segment had aired.
Danielson described his WrestleMania XXX victories and his marriage shortly after as high points in his professional and personal life, but within two months he then experienced personal low points – the deaths of his father and Connor Michalek – followed by a professional low point of requiring surgery.
In July 2014, Danielson's home in Phoenix, Arizona was broken into by two burglars. Danielson came home at that time, and managed to chase down and subdue one of the burglars with a rear naked choke until police arrived. Based on information gleaned from the caught burglar, police apprehended three other people who were involved in burglaries throughout Arcadia and Phoenix.
During a 2014 interview, Danielson stated that he cannot swim or go deep into water due to a ruptured ear drum he suffered in an unspecified 2007 Ring of Honor match against Kenta. Danielson has never had the ruptured ear drum fixed, and he claims he still has problems hearing in his left ear.
Danielson is a supporter of Premier League club Everton, and a fan of his homestate Seattle Seahawks.
Danielson endorsed Green Party candidate Jill Stein during the 2016 United States presidential election.
- Finishing moves
- As Daniel Bryan
- Guillotine choke – 2011
- LeBell Lock/"No!" Lock/"Yes!" Lock (Omoplata crossface) – 2010–2016
- Running single leg high knee – 2013–2016; adopted from Kenta Kobayashi
- As American Dragon/Bryan Danielson
- Bridging dragon suplex
- Arms Across America/Cattle Mutilation (Bridging double chickenwing)
- Crossface chickenwing, sometimes with bodyscissors
- Crucifix position followed by multiple elbow strikes to the side of the opponent's head
- Double wristlock to a grounded opponent followed by multiple stomps to the opponent's chest, face, and head
- LeBell Lock (Omoplata crossface) – 2010
- Regal-Plex (Bridging leg hook belly-to-back suplex) – adopted from William Regal
- Triangle choke, sometimes followed by multiple elbow strikes to the opponent's head
- As Daniel Bryan
- Signature moves
- Air Goat (Suicide dive)
- Ankle lock
- Arm trap seated abdominal stretch
- Backflip off the top rope over a standing opponent followed by a crooked arm lariat
- Cobra clutch to a facedown opponent
- Corner elbow smash
- Discus elbow smash
- Diving headbutt (Independent circuit)/Flying Goat (WWE)
- Dragon screw
- Dragon sleeper
- Drop toe-hold into the turnbuckles, sometimes followed by kicking the second rope into the opponent's throat
- European uppercut
- Heel hook
- High knee from the apron to the outside of the ring
- Indian deathlock
- Jumping knee drop
- Multiple kick variations
- Corner drop
- Front missile drop
- Yes! Kicks (Repeated shoot to a kneeling opponent's chest followed by a roundhouse to the opponent's head, with theatrics)
- Running big boot
- Multiple suplex variations
- Belly-to-back, sometimes from the top rope
- Danielson Special - Innovated (Double underhook floated over into a cross armbreaker)
- Northern Lights
- Snap underhook
- Rolling fireman's carry slam
- Running leg lariat
- Single leg Boston crab
- Sleeper hold
- Small package
- Surfboard, sometimes while applying a dragon sleeper
- AJ Lee
- Brie Bella
- Bray Wyatt
- Dave Prazak
- Gail Kim
- The Miz
- As American Dragon/Bryan Danielson
- "The American Dolphin"
- "The American Dragon"
- "The Best Wrestler in the World"
- "The Master of the Small Package"
- As Daniel Bryan
- "The Beard"
- "The Dazzler"
- "G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)"
- "The King of Beards"
- "The "No!"/"Yes!" Man
- "Mr. Small Package"
- "The Submission Specialist"
- "The World's Toughest Vegan"
- As American Dragon/Bryan Danielson
- Entrance themes
- "Self Esteem" by The Offspring (Independent circuit)
- "Obsession" by Animotion (Independent circuit)
- "The Final Countdown" by Europe (ROH/independent circuit)
- "The Rage (WWE Edit)" by Hermann Langschwert, Wolfgang Killian (WWE; August 15, 2010 – September 13, 2010)
- "Ride of the Valkyries" by Richard Wagner (WWE; September 20, 2010 – July 29, 2011)
- "Big Epic Thing" by Jim Johnston (WWE; August 5, 2011 – November 4, 2011)
- "Flight of the Valkyries" by Jim Johnston (WWE; November 11, 2011–present)
- Alex Payne
- Andrew Patterson
- Bobby Quance
- Cheerleader Melissa
- Dan Marshall
- Farmer Joe
- Killer J Mathias
- Nikki Bella
- Rhett Titus
- Robbie Ryder
- Simon Gotch
- Sara Del Rey
Championships and accomplishments
- All Pro Wrestling
- APW Worldwide Internet Championship (1 time)
- King of the Indies (2001)
- All Star Wrestling
- ASW World Mid-Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- East Coast Wrestling Association
- ECWA Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Low Ki
- Connecticut Wrestling Entertainment
- CTWE Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Match of the Year (2010) vs. Munenori Sawa on September 11
- Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling
- NWA Canadian Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Full Impact Pro
- FIP Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- International Wrestling Association
- IWA Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Memphis Championship Wrestling
- MCW Southern Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- MCW Southern Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Spanky
- NWA Mid-South
- NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Curry Man
- Best of the American Super Juniors (2004)
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
- PWG World Championship (2 times)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Feud of the Year (2013) vs. The Authority
- Match of the Year (2013) vs. John Cena at SummerSlam
- Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year (2014)
- Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (2013)
- Wrestler of the Year (2013)
- Ranked No. 1 of the top 500 wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2014
- Pro Wrestling Noah
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Ring of Honor
- ROH Pure Championship (1 time)
- ROH World Championship (1 time)
- Survival of the Fittest (2004)
- Rolling Stone
- Most Painful Injury of the Year (2015) – shared with Cesaro and Seth Rollins
- Sporadically Active Face of the Year (2014)
- Texas Wrestling Alliance
- TWA Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Spanky
- westside Xtreme wrestling
- wXw World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Ambition 1 (2010)
- World Series Wrestling
- WSW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE
- WWE (World Heavyweight) Championship (3 times)1
- World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- WWE United States Championship (1 time)
- WWE Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
- WWE Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Kane
- Money in the Bank (SmackDown 2011)
- Slammy Awards (12 times)
- Shocker of the Year (2010) – The debut of The Nexus
- Cole in Your Stocking (2010) – Attacking Michael Cole on NXT
- Facial Hair of the Year (2012)
- Tweet of the Year (2012) – "Goat face is a horrible insult. My face is practically perfect in every way. In fact, from now on I demand to be called Beautiful Bryan"
- Upset of the Year (2012) – Defeating Mark Henry and Big Show at Royal Rumble
- Beard of the Year (2013)
- Catchphrase of the Year (2013) – YES! YES! YES!
- Fan Participation of the Year (2013) – YES! YES! YES!
- Superstar of the Year (2013)
- Couple of the Year (2013, 2014) – with Brie Bella
- Rivalry of the Year (2014) – vs. The Authority
- Twenty-Sixth Triple Crown Champion
- 6th Grand Slam Champion (under the current format)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Pro Wrestling Book (2015) Yes! with Craig Tello
- Best Pro Wrestling DVD (2015) Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes!
- Best Technical Wrestler (2005–2013)
- Match of the Year (2007) vs. Takeshi Morishima at ROH Manhattan Mayhem II on August 25
- Most Outstanding Wrestler (2006–2010)
- Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Decade (2000–2009)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 2016)
- 1 ^ Bryan's first two reigns were as WWE Champion. His final reign was as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The title was once again renamed the WWE World Championship in 2016.
Other awards and honors
- PETA Libby Award for Most Animal-Friendly Athlete (2012)
- "All Pro Wrestling Title Histories". titlehistories.com. Retrieved July 11, 2008.
- "All Pro Wrestling 2001 Results". All Pro Wrestling. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
- "ECWA Tag Team Championship".
- "Titles-Daniel Bryan".
- "Results Of Year End Awards". Evolve. January 4, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
- "NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship". Archived from the original on March 22, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
- "IWA SUMMER ATTIUDE RESULTS: BRYAN DANIELSON WINS GOLD". July 19, 2010. Retrieved September 16, 2012.
- "NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Championship". Retrieved July 8, 2009.
- "PuroresuMission R (Reborn, Return, Revolution)". Puroresumission.com. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
- Westcott, Brian. "PWG – Pro Wrestling Guerrilla PWG Heavyweight Title History". Solie. Retrieved July 27, 2008.
- "2013 Feud of the Year". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. 34 (2): 34–35. 2014.
- "2013 Match of the Year". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. 34 (2): 40–41. 2014.
- "2014 Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. 36 (2): 14–15. 2015.
- "2013 Most Popular Wrestler of the Year". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. 34 (2): 36–37. 2014.
- "2013 Wrestler of the Year". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. 34 (2): 44–45. 2014.
- "Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) 500 for 2014". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. The Internet Wrestling Database. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- "Ring Of Honor Pure Championship". Ring of Honor. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- "WWE Wrestler(s) of the Year". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
- Herzog, Kenny (December 17, 2014). "WWE Wrestler of the Year: Dolph Ziggler". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- "wXw World Heavyweight Title". Westside Xtreme Wrestling. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
- Pulsone, Mario. "WSW – World Series Wrestling WSW Heavyweight Title History". Solie. Retrieved July 3, 2008.
- "Daniel Bryan's first WWE Championship reign". WWE. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- "Daniel Bryan's second WWE Championship reign". WWE. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- "Daniel Bryan's third WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign". WWE. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- "Daniel Bryan's first United States Championship reign". World Wrestling Entertainment. September 19, 2010. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- "Intercontinental Championship - Daniel Bryan". WWE. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- "Team Hell No's first WWE Tag Team Championship reign". WWE. Archived from the original on March 24, 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- "Daniel Bryan wins the Smack Down Money in the Bank Ladder Match". WWE. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
- ^ "WWE News: Full list of 2010 Slammy Awards – , 10 announced on WWE's website". Pro Wrestling Torch. December 13, 2010. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
- ^ "Slammy award winners voted by WWE.com". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. December 16, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- "2012 WWE Slammy Awards and WWE.com Slammy Awards winners". WWE. December 16, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- ^ "2013 Slammy Award winners". WWE. December 8, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- ^ Caldwell, James (December 9, 2013). "WWE news: Complete list of "Slammys" winners during Raw". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- ^ Laboon, Jeff (December 8, 2014). "2014 Slammy Award winners". WWE. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- "411's Wrestler of the Week – Rollins Takes WOTY". 411Mania. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
- ^ Meltzer, Dave (January 25, 2016). "January 25, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 2015 Observer Awards Issue". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Campbell, California: 48. ISSN 1083-9593.
- Meltzer, Dave (January 27, 2014). "Jan 27 2014 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 2013 Annual awards issue, best in the world in numerous categories, plus all the news in pro-wrestling and MMA over the past week and more". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Campbell, California: 1–37. ISSN 1083-9593.
- Meltzer, Dave (November 30, 2016). "December 5, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame with 4 inductees". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
- Caldwell, James (January 18, 2012). "Bryan tops pro athletes for PETA award". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved March 21, 2015.