WWE SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan was in the news in a major way on Tuesday when it was announced that he was cleared to return to in-ring action by WWE. The company would not do this lightly. Bryan had met with several experts in neurology, concussions, and neurosurgeons. WWE sent him to the best in the United States, such as Dr. Robert Cantu, Dr. Javier Cárdenas and Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher. Of course, it would be up to Dr. Joseph Maroon, WWE's doctor, to clear him.
Maroon is known for doing all the physicals for WWE Superstars and evaluating them for in-ring competition. He decides usually whether someone can return or may need more time out, more rehab, etc. Maroon has met with Bryan for a few years now off and on, each time never clearing him. Meanwhile, the other experts above would all find him perfectly fine. This led to many assuming WWE was forcing Maroon to never clear Bryan. This in spite of expert opinion, even over that of Maroon.
WWE had unbanned the curb stomp earlier this year, a move that Seth Rollins had done for years. It was banned during WWE's Concussion Lawsuit where several past WWE Superstars formed a class-action lawsuit with a lawyer to get millions out of WWE. That case is now no longer valid. Within weeks after this knowledge, the curb stomp was no longer banned. This made people feel good about Bryan's chances to return. Then on Tuesday WWE made the announcement.
WWE fans everywhere have rejoiced over it. However, the real question is not if fans want to see it. We all know WWE fans are happy to see Daniel Bryan back in a WWE ring. The real thing is wondering what they will do with him now that they have him. Interestingly, Daniel Bryan's WWE contract ends at the end of September of this year. He also said that if he did not have a match by WrestleMania 34, a few weeks from now, he would not re-sign. Now that is both cleared and likely to perform at WrestleMania, we may see Bryan for years to come.
The real question is, now what? In this list, we break down things WWE fans have spoken about wanting to see for the last few years. Meanwhile, we'll bring up things WWE may not do. Now please enjoy our list of the 10 things we expect to happen and 5 we don't now that WWE has cleared Daniel Bryan.
15 We Expect To See Daniel Bryan Vs Shinsuke Nakamura
A few years ago Daniel Bryan spoke with WWE about the possibility of doing a cross-promotion match between he and Shinsuke Nakamura. At the time, Nakamura was working for New Japan Pro-Wrestling. NJPW had interest in working with other companies at this time, but there was never a better time than this. WWE was heading to Japan for what was known as The Beast in the East. It was a WWE Network special which included Brock Lesnar in a throw-away match live on the network in front of a live Japanese audience.
The event also included an NXT Championship match between Kevin Owens(c) and Finn Balor. Bryan wanted to work with Nakamura on the show, but the company did not allow it. This is likely due to the company not wanting to give any promotion to another company at the time. This all sort of changed later, and even where Nakamura wrestled. He will have been in WWE two years within a few weeks from now. Bryan can now wrestle the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Due to this, we expect WWE to give us a Daniel Bryan vs Shinsuke Nakamura match eventually. Whether that happens soon or a while from now, it'll certainly go down eventually.
14 We Will See The Return Of The "Daniel Bryan Look"
At the height of his popularity, there was one key thing about Daniel Bryan that everyone obviously knew. He was full of hair all over his head and face. He had grown out his hair to a pretty long state, seeing it hit even to his shoulders at the longest length. On top of this, he had a pretty significant beard that resulted in him being called a GOAT by people like The Rock, CM Punk, and others. While Bryan used this in the form of G.O.A.T. or "greatest of all-time," the name stuck. As he turned face and popularity grew, the hair got more and more out of control seemingly.
Despite all of this, Daniel Bryan's look was appreciated by fans and truly set him apart among many in WWE from the past and present day. Bryan has already been growing out his beard, due to the fact that he planned to return to the ring later this year outside of WWE. He has also slowly let his hair grow out on his head, having kept it cut neatly for the past few years now. It does seem likely that Bryan will eventually get back to the look we know him as. WWE likely would want this, as it is synonymous with the Daniel Bryan character. Though Bryan has said he may not let the hair grow as long as before due to the upkeep being so extreme for his beard alone.
13 We Expect WWE To Let Daniel Bryan Wrestle At WrestleMania 34
It has been rumored for months that we may be seeing a Shane McMahon vs Daniel Bryan match at WrestleMania 34 this year. However, this sort of changed in recent months. Many assumed that due to this, WWE was changing up stories because they chose to not clear Bryan or an in-ring return. We saw Shane McMahon attempt to make a one-on-one match for Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens last week on WWE SmackDown Live. The two would attack the WWE SmackDown Live Commissioner who recently gave up his role right after making that match. This led many to believing Daniel Bryan would get involved.
While storyline wise we had been seeing Bryan sort of take Owens and Zayn's side in recent months, it seemed likely that this would change up a bit. This was making many assume Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan would work as a tag team against Owens and Zayn at WrestleMania 34. This is likely the set-up for WrestleMania for Bryan as of this writing. While Bryan may wrestle more afterward, this is the perfect match for his return.
12 We Expect WWE Will Give Us Daniel Bryan Vs The Miz
One of the biggest rivalries in WWE the past decade has been Daniel Bryan/Miz. When Bryan first got to WWE programming, it was through the original WWE NXT. At this point, NXT was a gameshow of sorts where the winner would get a WWE contract and guaranteed title match. The show would have rookies paired with pros from the WWE Superstar list across both WWE RAW and SmackDown. The Miz would be given Daniel Bryan. The running joke was that Miz's rookie was better than him the entire show. Miz would not take this well, and routinely set out to make Bryan's life miserable on NXT.
Eventually the show concluded but Bryan would get to the WWE roster anyway. He would take on The Miz for his WWE United States Title and beat him for it. The two would battle off an on for years. Then The Miz would appear on Talking Smack, which used to be a weekly show that came on the WWE Network after WWE SmackDown Live ended. It was here that Miz would have a huge promo with Bryan that made people want to see the two wrestle again. Sadly, of course, Bryan would remain not being medically cleared.
Now with Bryan allowed to compete for the WWE once more, it seems like a no-brainer to have Bryan take on The Miz one more time. It is uncertain if that will happen sooner rather than later considering both men are on opposite brands. However, the match will happen considering WWE fans want to see it. Clearly with so many wanting it, it's bound to happen at some point.
11 We Expect Daniel Bryan Will Stay As SmackDown Live GM
With the part-time thing being present, it makes sense to have Daniel Bryan remain the WWE SmackDown Live General Manager. At least, we expect him to be in the role for a little while longer. Bryan could quite easily leave the role for active competition later this year or next year. Though for the time being, we're better off waiting and having him remain on camera but not perform each week. This role opens him up for multiple matches with many many wrestlers.
It would be very simple to have Daniel Bryan remain on camera, keeping his character well-known. Then have him perform in the ring a bit throughout the year. This will allow him to wrestle, easing back in as mentioned prior. Meanwhile, he could still stay relevant as an on-air figure when he is not in the ring wrestling. It's better for his character and for him personally. So why remove him from this role now when you could always do it sometime later on when he's going to go full-time again?
10 We Don't Expect Daniel Bryan Will Automatically Be A Full-Time Talent
While Daniel Bryan has been cleared to wrestle for WWE once again, one thing is certain. He may wrestle for the company but he won't be on the road regularly every day of the week like he was before. That does not mean he'll never be. However, WWE will want to ease Daniel Bryan back into a full-time schedule. He's going to wrestle off and on, and likely go on to become a full-time guy once again. However, remaining part-time is best for Daniel at this point. Not because he's unable to be full-time, but because it is simply smarter to ease him in.
That means he may remain part-time a bulk of this year, but could become a full-time guy by possibly the beginning of 2019. Of course, all of this hinges on how well he does. If he stays healthy with no real injury issue during the part-time stint, it seems quite likely WWE will have him go full-time in 2019. It is smarter to have him prove himself all year long, then see what he can do as a full-time guy. If WWE just throws him to a full-time schedule, they could risk not only injury but something that could once again force him into retirement. This is not something WWE wants to chance again.
9 We Expect WWE Will Re-Sign Daniel Bryan
As mentioned previously, Daniel Bryan's deal with WWE will come to a close at the end of September of this year. With his contract coming up, WWE obviously wants to re-sign him. The question is, does Bryan want to re-sign with WWE? Right now, Bryan's name is quite popular. Before he joined WWE, he went by his real name of Bryan Danielson and currently goes by it on shows such as WWE Total Divas and Total Bellas on the E! Network. Due to his real name and WWE name being known, he would do really well on the independent scene and still only wrestle when he chose to do so.
Due to his fame beforehand, he made near $10,000 a show when working the independents. That was BEFORE he joined WWE. If he could make that much before per show, how much do you think he could make now? On top of this, he could have some big matches with some top indie stars and sell out arenas around the world. All due to the fact that Bryan is there. This means WWE will need to pay him big to stay.
Not only will they have to pay him more not to leave, but Bryan may add clauses that allow him out of his contract if he decides it. Something like this would have been useful before, when he had been cleared to return by experts in the neuroscience industry dating back to 2016. WWE forced him to remain retired despite this. His last deal was pretty high, allowing him to make millions. One could conclude WWE will have to pay him near "Brock Lesnar money" to stay. Which equates to near $5 million per year for those unaware.
8 We Don't Expect WWE Will Have Bryan Go To 205 Live
Many WWE fans assumed that if the company ever cleared Daniel Bryan for a return, he would end up as a cruiserweight for 205 Live. While Bryan does love the cruiserweight division, having even called the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network...it is likely he would never go to it. While Bryan is not above going to the cruiserweight division, it does not make a lot of sense for him to do it. The main reason is due to the fact that he currently does not fit the "205" and under weight class.
WWE usually has weighed Bryan in at 215lbs or so. While usually this is overdone and it is likely Bryan could easily be 205 pounds or less right now, WWE won't change his weight up much. On top of this, Bryan has been a top performer in the heavyweight division for years. Having been a WWE United States, Intercontinental, and World Heavyweight Champion. We would never see him change all of this and go wrestle as a cruiserweight. He is simply too important to be thrown into that division.
7 We Expect WWE To Do The Dream Match Mode For Bryan
While Daniel Bryan has been out of action the better part of three years, WWE has hired some absolutely amazing in-ring workers. They have even brought people back, who are much better now than they were upon leaving. One such person has a connection to Daniel Bryan in EC3. He was part of NXT like Bryan before, but he was the rookie to Bryan's pro. The two did well together, and though he was called Derrick Bateman at the time....they could do well together in match form now that he's back. The same can be said for a guy like Drew McIntyre. Or even matches with old rivals like John Cena, his soon-to-be brother-in-law. Bryan is married to Brie Bella and Cena is about to marry Nikki Bella.
However, the real gold is in the new stars WWE has acquired since Bryan has been out of action. As well as the ones who came to the main roster from NXT since his retirement. He could have amazing matches with Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, Andrade "Cien" Almas, Bobby Roode, Braun Strowman, Chad Gable, Samoa Joe, Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Aleister Black, Kyle O'Reilly, Eric Young, Lio Rush, Roderick Strong, and Velveteen Dream. That is not even including veterans he's never wrestled before like a Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, or even someone like his management partner, Shane McMahon.
Daniel Bryan could also continue to wrestle other major names that continue to come in. With the likes of so many other great workers in the world still unsigned by WWE, imagine what happens when they do finally arrive. Seeing Daniel Bryan take on Kenny Omega would be a no-brainer, for one example alone. For a while, WWE will clearly put Bryan with one of the people he's never worked with before. As every match with the men above could be considered dream-match worthy simply due to the skill-level of each man.
6 We Don't Expect WWE Will Do A Heel Turn Any Time Soon
With Daniel Bryan returning, many think WWE will sort of ruin it by having him turn heel. Playing the bad-guy is something Bryan has done well with in the past, but at this point it would not make much sense. WWE was sort of setting a heel turn up earlier in the year and even dating back to late last year for Bryan. However, this was done for a reason. WWE was not sure they would clear him, but they knew Bryan had planned to leave if he didn't wrestle by WrestleMania 34. This meant that in order to sort of ruin a return to the indies, they wanted to make him out to be the bad guy.
WWE knew the indie crowd would not care about this, but the casual fans likely would. While they would normally go to an indie show due to Bryan being there, or follow him to any company he goes to...they likely wouldn't if the character is ruined. This ended seemingly, and WWE stopped putting the heel turn out there dating back to early last month. This meant that a heel turn was unlikely, and it could be due to the fact that WWE knew they would have him return around this time.
WWE knows they can't ruin the character now, so they avoided this. With Bryan returning to action, they could pull a swerve and do a heel turn that no one expects. However, due to the fact that it won't be good to do for now....they'll likely hold off on this for a long time. It is not because Bryan would do bad in the role or that it could not work. They simply know they can make more off the babyface role he has now, especially with a return like this. Though don't think a heel turn is out of the cards for the distant future.
5 We Expect WWE To Set Up Daniel Bryan Vs AJ Styles
While most of the matches listed before will likely be pretty impressive, there is no way on God's green Earth that WWE won't set up AJ Styles vs Daniel Bryan. WWE realizes how amazing Styles is and they have used him as one of their top guys for the last few years now. Vince McMahon trusts him, and they even made the guy the top man for the entire WWE SmackDown Live brand. This sort of thing does not happen overnight. Vince has to develop trust in a talent, and there is no way he would set them up as a top guy if he did not have that.
Styles may be one of WWE's top performers today but this honor used to belong to Bryan. For years all of Bryan's matches were the best in WWE, all of his matches were unbeatable. For years HIS matches were unable to be followed. If WWE wants to do a Best vs Best match, not only would fans want it but they would go crazy the moment the match was announced. It makes sense, and WWE clearly needs to have it go down eventually. They could even do it in a big match sometime next year.
4 We Don't Expect WWE Will Give Bryan A WWE Title Match This Year
While Daniel Bryan is one of the best wrestlers on the roster, WWE fans must realize how big it is to simply even get Bryan back in a WWE ring at all. The fact that he was cleared to return to in-ring action is massive for him, and the WWE. Every match he has this year will be big and likely bigger than any title match on any card for any show. His particular set-up is that every match becomes a big deal, only because people know his skill-level as well as the current roster's.
WWE knows they have a major name and now they can set up big matches throughout the remainder of the year. That means he can take on people he has faced before like John Cena and Randy Orton or people he never has, like Finn Balor and Adam Cole. No matter what occurs, WWE will be able to set up big matches. The rest of 2018 will clearly be huge for WWE and Daniel Bryan. The only real thing we have to be concerned over is if Bryan gets hurt again. Hopefully this does not occur any time soon.
3 We Expect WWE Will Have Daniel Bryan Main Event WrestleMania Once Again
While it is uncertain when Daniel Bryan will ever get the chance to battle someone in the main event of WrestleMania, some would say that the best time would be next year at WrestleMania 35. Not only would it be the best year for WWE to do it, considering they could develop Bryan as a top star the remainder of this year and in early 2019. They could likely put him in the ring with someone of equal greatness to the pro-wrestling scene. Remember the AJ Styles match we referenced before? This match could likely be the main event of that year.
Not only would WWE give us the dream match that could likely go down in history as one of the best ever, but they would put Bryan in the main event of the show where he belongs. On top of this, it would give AJ Styles the WrestleMania main event that he deserves as well. It could be quite easy to set up an AJ Styles vs Daniel Bryan match for WrestleMania 35. It could even be done similar to how WWE did it with The Rock and John Cena. They had the two announce it a year in advance, having both go their separate ways for most of the year.
The same could easily be done with AJ and Daniel. While they are not the huge, global stars that The Rock and John Cena have become, they are massively popular. They clearly are a dream match for fans, and WWE would be able to make the match mean a lot by that time. Fans would dig the move, WWE would make millions off of it, and everyone would be happy. Regardless of who wins the match in the end. This is the easiest booking decision in the history of WWE, obviously.
2 We Don't Expect WWE Will Have Daniel Bryan Take Roman Reigns' Spot
Many are wanting Daniel Bryan, now that he is cleared, to become the top guy in WWE once again. Many even want him to take Roman Reigns' spot in the WWE Universal Championship match at WrestleMania 34 in a few weeks, when he takes on Brock Lesnar for it. Both are not only illogical, but never going to happen. Some people will be upset by this, but it's merely a fact. WWE has chosen their new top guy, and spent millions trying to put him in this spot. He's main evented 3 WrestleMania events in a row for a reason.
On top of this, WWE never planned to make Daniel Bryan their top guy. In fact, even when he was one of their biggest stars, at the height of his popularity, they were never going to have be "the guy." It isn't because they do not trust Bryan or think he's worthy of a top spot in the company. He's the right age and clearly he's one of the best performers in the history of WWE. He is a WWE Hall of Famer right now, if he were to want to stay retired. That's in only 5 years of action for WWE. A return to action only adds to the legacy.
While WWE will likely have him main event WrestleMania again one day, they would never pull Roman Reigns out of a major match at the show for Bryan to be put in his place. They also are not going to remove him from this top spot they have added him to. They could have several times over the years, but doubled down on him every single time. To assume they would remove him now that they cleared Bryan makes no sense. It's a pipe-dream at best, and WWE fans need to realize this very quick. It is something we'll all need to truly remember and get past. He's back, the GOAT is back. That is big enough, isn't it?
1 We Expect Him To Be WWE Champion Sooner Rather Than Later
While earlier in the list we claimed there was no way Daniel Bryan would win a WWE World Title of any kind for the remainder of 2018, we never said anything about 2019. WWE needs to clearly bring Daniel back into the full-time spectrum before they think about putting a title on him. Bryan would want this as well. Many people have hated Brock Lesnar's role the last number of years, as he has been part-time, only showing up off and on throughout the year. It is irritating enough seeing him do this.
WWE fans were even more furious when they allowed him to be a World Champion not just once, but twice since being in the company. Both times he has rarely defended it, making most fans agree about the use. WWE rules even dictate wrestlers have to be able to defend the title each month to remain champion. There was one period just this year that Brock Lesnar did not defend the Universal Title for 6 freaking months! Daniel Bryan would not want to be like the Beast Incarnate. He would want to defend the title he has.
Due to this, easing him back into the world of WWE once again is simple. He could do that for the remainder of 2018, and by 2019 we could set up his WWE Title run. WWE could easily have him win The Royal Rumble then main event WrestleMania 35 with AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. If you think about it, we've perfectly set this up the entire list anyway. It'll also be the great comeback story that will be remembered for years. Then Bryan can have the title run he truly deserves. Something he's never had as World Champion throughout his illustrious history in WWE.