Daniel Bryan has been injured for the past six months and nobody knows when he might return to the ring. He has said on numerous occasions that the doctors he has visited have cleared him to return after his latest serious concussion, but WWE's doctors have been hesitant to let him wrestle again.
Assuming he returns to the ring in the near future, Bryan is going to be one of the hottest performers in World Wrestling Entertainment. He's a beloved figured that is always going to be the perennial underdog even though he's a four time WWE World Heavyweight Champion (three times with the WWE Title and one time with the World Title).
Due to his concussion history as well as the neck injury that sidelined him for much of 2014, fans are going to be sympathetic towards him. It will be an easy story to tell to have somebody beat on him in a match, then have the announcers say they don't know if Bryan can keep going and then he finds the fighting spirit to keep going. His ability to always come back makes Bryan such a special performer.
If Bryan does come back, he'll likely stay in that babyface role for the rest of his career. There's really no reason for that to change because there's nobody better at making the comebacks or winning over the fans the way Bryan has done in recent years. He's arguably been the best in-ring performer in the business for over a decade now.
Who should Bryan feud with when he returns to action? Here are ten names that come to mind.
10 Dolph Ziggler
There are all kinds of rumors that Ziggler is turning heel soon along with a US Title win. In order to legitimize his heel turn as well as get fans to boo him, WWE will need to put him against the most popular guys on the roster. There aren't many guys more popular than Bryan, so it's a rivalry that would make a lot of sense.
They feuded five years ago and had some great matches, but it was so long ago that if they went at it again their matches would feel fresh again. Both guys have also experienced a lot since that time with Bryan becoming a huge star while Ziggler is more of a big deal than he was five years ago.
In addition to making a lot of sense, they could also have some of the best matches on the show. Ziggler works a safe style and Bryan could ease his way back into ring shape by getting in the ring with a talented performer like Ziggler on a regular basis.
As the former tag team known as Team Hell No, it would be pretty easy to rekindle a friendship since Kane is in a face role. They could also get back to the time where, in the spring of 2014, Kane is a heel monster that is trying to end Bryan's career. It's not like Kane stays in the face role for very long anyway.
At this point in his career, Kane isn't a guy that is going to win a lot of feuds because he's old, so he would just be a guy for Bryan to beat as a way to get to the others.
Whether heel or face, it makes sense for Kane to have some sort of storyline association with Bryan soon after his return to the ring.
There's a lot of history between them and if you really delve deep into that history then you know that Bryan rarely beat Sheamus. That's because when they feuded in 2012, it was Bryan in the heel role while Sheamus was the face. Now it's a different story with Sheamus being booked as a dominant heel.
Their most famous match at WrestleMania 28 ended after 18 seconds when Sheamus nailed a Brogue Kick after Bryan got a kiss from AJ Lee. Then they had several other matches that were much better although less memorable since they weren't at WrestleMania.
Since Sheamus has that aura of an ass-kicker type of wrestler, he's the perfect kind of guy for Bryan to face upon his return. Can Bryan find a way to win or will he get hurt again? It's an easy story to tell.
7 Dean Ambrose
There are all kinds of rumors that Ambrose is going to turn heel between now and WrestleMania. If he does, he would need a strong babyface wrestler to go against him at some point. That's where Daniel Bryan comes in.
They actually have quite a bit of history together because Bryan teamed with Kane against The Shield so many times a few years ago, but they haven't feuded with both of them as top singles performers. That would make it a memorable feud and it would likely allow Ambrose to get over as a strong heel since few babyface performers can be as sympathetic as Bryan.
This would be an awesome feud and something for WWE to consider if Ambrose does that heel turn.
6 Roman Reigns
The main event at February's Fastlane pay-per-view saw Roman Reigns pin Daniel Bryan clean in the middle of the ring. It was WWE's way of trying to legitimize Reigns as the #1 contender to the WWE Title at WrestleMania. That's because they knew that if anybody is going to get a great match out of Reigns then it would be Bryan and they were right to think that.
In order for Bryan to get that main event level or close to it, he should really get back to challenging wrestlers like Reigns. Even with Reigns in a face role, they can build it by having Bryan say he wants to see if he still has it and if he can beat a guy like Reigns.
Another match between them would be smart just based on how good the last one is. Can they top it? Let's see it again so that we can find out.
5 Bray Wyatt
Remember Daniel Wyatt? There's a history here. Their match at the 2014 Royal Rumble was fantastic and is probably the best singles match in Wyatt's career thus far. That's in large part because Bryan makes him look like a physical beast due to the style that Bryan works.
They could also have Bryan try to get through Wyatt's henchmen Luke Harper and Braun Strowman as a way to build up the rivalry more. He's already had so many great matches with Harper. It's unlikely that anybody can carry Strowman to a great match, but Bryan would be the most ideal opponent for him.
With Wyatt locked in as one of the top heels in WWE, he's a great future opponent for Bryan.
4 John Cena
They haven't had a rematch from their awesome SummerSlam 2013 match when Bryan beat Cena clean to win the WWE Title. Due to injuries and other things, there just hasn't been a moment for them to have another match.
Could you imagine the crowd reaction if Daniel Bryan's music hit when Cena had one of his US Title Open Challenges and Bryan ended up leaving with the US Title? That would be amazing.
If they were to have a rivalry it would likely be a face vs. face type of deal because turning one of them heel seems unlikely at this point. Can Bryan beat Cena again? It would be a terrific story if he did.
3 Seth Rollins
The current WWE Champion is arguably the best performer in all of WWE, which is a title that Bryan held for a few years at least. They both come from the indies as well as being headliners for Ring of Honor and they have worked together in WWE quite a bit when The Shield were first called up.
A proper feud between these two would be a joy to watch. They can wrestle matches in so many different styles whether it's a technical wrestling clinic, a high flying matchup with a lot of aerial moves or a technical wrestling classic - there's really nothing they can't do.
When you add in the WWE Title into the mix, suddenly the interest goes up even more. Bryan going for the WWE Title one more time is a great story if he fails to get it. Fans would be legitimately happy to see him in the title picture again.
2 Kevin Owens
When Daniel Bryan was sent to the sidelines in April, he was the Intercontinental Champion. His reign was short since he was forced to surrender the title and then Ryback won the Elimination Chamber match to win the title. Kevin Owens recently won the title from Ryback, so he makes sense as an opponent against Bryan.
Not only would Owens vs. Bryan be a fresh matchup, but Owens is one of the few pure heels that WWE has on their roster. They both came from the indies so there's that connection too.
As mentioned with the other guys, Bryan is the perfect underdog so seeing him try to deal with a power wrestler like Owens would be a lot of fun to watch. This is a feud that a lot of fans want to see. Plus, it makes sense to involve the IC Title as well.
1 Brock Lesnar
It's one of the few dream matches left in today's WWE environment with "The Beast" Brock Lesnar as the overwhelming favorite against the short man that the fans love more than anybody else, Daniel Bryan.
The tricky thing about the feud right now would be that Lesnar is in a face role, so there's less appeal for this match. If Lesnar was in the dominant heel role that he was in from 2012 to 2014 then this match would draw up the kind of emotions that people want on a wrestling show. That's why this feud should only happen if Lesnar goes back to being a heel.
The only question is that if they do the match, can Bryan get out of it unscathed? If the answer is yes, WWE absolutely needs to make this happen.
Imagine the story they could tell with Lesnar beating up on Bryan for the majority of the match when suddenly, the hero Bryan finds a way to slay the beast. There's no better matchup to tell the perfect David vs. Goliath type of story in WWE today.