Pro Wrestling

Daniel Bryan’s 10 Best WWE Matches Source:

Daniel Bryan is one of the best wrestlers in the world. It’s fairly indisputable, and there’s plenty of video evidence to prove it. And while the best matches of his career did not all take place after he arrived in WWE, he still managed to put together quite an impressive portfolio while he was there. For your consideration, here are the absolute best matches Daniel Bryan was a part of in WWE.

10. vs Chris Jericho – NXT Season 1, 2010

This wasn’t the longest match, and Bryan lost (he’d do that a lot over his WWE career), but it had a great deal of significance for several reasons. This was the main event of the very first episode of NXT, back when it made its debut as a pseudo-reality competition show featuring NXT “Rookies” mentored by WWE Superstars. Bryan’s mentor was, of course, The Miz, while Jericho was the mentor of the man who would go on to win the entire competition, Wade Barrett, and wanted to show off his dominance as World Heavyweight Champion by embarrassing one of the Rookies. Unfortunately for Jericho, he chose to face Daniel Bryan, and while the Champion did emerge victorious, Bryan gave as good as he got, nearly putting Jericho away on several occasions during the five-minute match. With his very first match in WWE against the World Champion, Bryan immediately made his mark in WWE.

9. vs The Wyatt Family – Survivor Series, 2013

Honestly, this almost certainly wasn’t the best match ever for anyone involved, but how could we not include CM Punk and Daniel Bryan’s only WWE Pay Per View match as a tag team? Just over a month later, Punk would suddenly leave WWE and fans would begin openly revolting over Daniel Bryan not winning the 2014 Royal Rumble, setting us off a strange path that culminated at WrestleMania XXX. Even at this point there was some unrest over Punk and Bryan being pushed out of the main event scene and into a basically meaningless match against The Wyatts, but at least Bray hadn’t yet had most of his credibility drained away from constant losses in big matches and was still seen as a rising threat. In this match, Punk and Bryan used all the chemistry that they had as opponents and turned it into a team dynamic. Frankly, if the future hadn’t played out the way it did, we probably wouldn’t have minded a few months of a Punk-Bryan tag team putting on great matches together before ultimately breaking up feuding with each other again. That actually made us a bit sad all over again, because now it can never happen. Source:

8. vs Sheamus – Extreme Rules, 2012

In the wake of Sheamus’ 18-second victory over Bryan at WrestleMania, fans were more than a little upset with WWE, at least in part for denying them what could have been a pretty good match. Almost as an apology, Sheamus and Bryan had their re-match at Extreme Rules, and to ensure it got the appropriate amount of time, it was a Best of 3 Falls Match. With extra motivation due to being denied a real match at WrestleMania, both wrestlers brought their working boots for this match. While Sheamus’ character has taken shots for being one-note and boring, when paired with the right opponent he’s quite skilled, and Daniel Bryan is pretty much everyone’s “right opponent”. This was an excellent display of both men’s abilities, which really only served to raise the question “Why the hell didn’t they get a chance to do this at WrestleMania?” Source:

7. vs The Miz – Night of Champions, 2010

Part of the reason why this whole feud worked is that The Miz was all in. Bryan wrote in his autobiography that Miz came into Season 1 of NXT with the intent of helping Bryan get over, and together, they put together an excellent program. After Bryan’s surprising return to WWE at SummerSlam, Miz was in fine form, having found the perfect balance to his character that would lead to him winning the WWE title later that year, and Bryan was the hottest prospect in the company. Playing off their mentor-rookie tensions from NXT, the two had a great feud that culminated in an excellent match that finally let Bryan show what he could do on the big stage, in a longer one-one-one match. Oh, and it also earned him his first title in WWE, wrestling away Miz’s United States title. Bryan would go on to win every active belt in WWE over his career, but the first one was especially sweet, and between the title win and the match itself, spoke of even greater things to come. Source:

6. vs CM Punk – Over The Limit, 2012

When both men were toiling on the independent scene, this was one of the matchups where people imagined “What would this be like if it happened in WWE?” But most people never thought would ever come true. Punk and Bryan knew exactly what was expected of them going into this match, and were clearly given the freedom to put on the kind of classic that they’d wow’d much smaller crowds with in their early days. The match was partially overshadowed by the ongoing angle involving AJ Lee, but still allowed both men to show off the high level of technical wrestling that they became known for in the indies. Punk, of course, was in the middle of his 434-day streak as WWE Champion and would be turning heel shortly after this feud ended in order to resume his battles with John Cena, and Bryan was spiraling into the insane egomaniac who would eventually be forced into Anger Management and form one of the greatest tag teams/comedy duos of the last decade with Kane. Source:

5. vs Dolph Ziggler – Bragging Rights, 2010

There is a difference between wrestling and fighting. And when the US Champion, Daniel Bryan, faced the Intercontinental Champion, Dolph Ziggler, at Bragging Rights (an interesting concept PPV that sadly went away when the brand split ended), they showed people how you can tell the difference. Bryan and Ziggler (who was hitting his stride as one of WWE’s best workers) put on an absolute clinic in professional wrestling in this match. This wasn’t fighting, or brawling, or (gasp) sports entertainment, this, as the crowds are fond of saying, was wrestling. It was one of those matches that you show to people to make them understand why you like pro wrestling. While it wasn’t a perfect match, it was a textbook example of the sport, one you could use to teach others about how to wrestle. It had fantastic chain wrestling, great rising action, a good finish, and featured two guys who know the best way to sell offense. While it wasn’t Bryan’s best match by any means, it is one that you almost certainly should watch once in your life. Source:

4. vs The Shield – TLC, 2012

The Shield had just debuted a month prior to this and were about to set off on a streak of dominance that would continue for over a year. Kane and Daniel Bryan were the WWE Tag Team Champions, and Ryback was the man on the receiving end of The Shield’s debut beatdown at Survivor Series, looking for revenge. This was the match that would define The Shield as the ultimate united force, nearly unbeatable as a unit. And while Rollins had established himself in NXT as the very first NXT Champion, Reigns had barely appeared there and Ambrose was a completely unknown factor to casual fans. In this, their first PPV match as a squad, they were facing three of WWE’s most dangerous men, and the result was pure chaos. Officially it was a TLC match, but with nothing to actually climb for (the match ended on pinfall or submission), it quickly turned into a general brawl, with action taking place all over the arena. This match would create a template that would be used going forward, with The Shield facing a number of three-man teams in wild matches that would spill out of the ring quickly. It was a shockingly great match, with even Ryback putting on a good showing, and was considered the best match on the show by far. Source:

3. vs Triple H – WrestleMania XXX

If the stories are true (and they seem to be), this match was handed to Bryan after CM Punk left. Originally, the plan was for Bryan to face Sheamus for the third time at WrestleMania, and while arguably, at least this time they might have actually gotten enough time to have a decent match, this was an infinitely better idea. Over the very long life of The Authority, this was probably the biggest and best example of them getting their comeuppance, because it actually mattered. Triple H spent nearly an entire year holding Daniel Bryan down on TV (while forces backstage held him down in reality), constantly berating him and the fans with the idea that he was a “B+ player” who could never hang with the true legends of the ring. And when Bryan and Triple H faced off for real in the opening match of WrestleMania, it was the perfect climax of a feud that had gotten muddled and nearly buried sometime in the fall, but which the fans allowed to persevere. With Triple H bringing his trademark heavyweight style and Bryan his signature “indie” speed and technique, it was a near-perfect meshing of two vastly different ideologies, and the result was magical. The match was so good, and so cathartic when Bryan cleaned defeated The Game, that Bryan’s eventual title win was almost anti-climactic. After all, once he beat The Game, who couldn’t he defeat? Source:

2. vs Randy Orton and Batista – WrestleMania XXX

The answer, of course, is nobody. To cap things off after beating Triple H, Bryan went on to defeat the other two members of Evolution later that same night. It kind of makes The Shield look like wusses for needing all three of them to do the same thing, doesn’t it? Of course, we’re only kidding, but Bryan played his role in this match to perfection. He got beaten up by two bigger guys, repeatedly, but kept coming back. He got strapped into a stretcher, but fought his way up and went right back into the match (Roman Reigns should have taken note of how bad-ass Bryan looked at that point, instead of rolling off the stretcher and walking to the back before returning 30 minutes later at the 2016 Rumble). The Authority ran in and tried to screw him over, first by interfering on their own and then by inserting a biased referee, and Daniel Bryan prevented all of that from stopping him. In the end, Daniel Bryan forced Batista to tap out (almost as if in apology for the Rumble win), and stood tall in the ring as WWE World Heavyweight Champion as confetti rained down and fireworks exploded. The main event of WrestleMania XXX was more than a match, it was an experience. Source:

1. vs John Cena – SummerSlam, 2013

While WrestleMania was the culmination of a story that started here, and neither of them were actually Bryan’s first World title in WWE, this was by far the best match Daniel Bryan had in WWE. Bryan’s biography talks about how Cena himself wanted this match, and talked Vince McMahon up into how big of a deal it would be that Vince actually decided to push the match to the second-biggest Pay Per View of the year, SummerSlam, instead of holding it at the less important Money in the Bank show a month earlier. With that kind of support behind it, it should be no shock that it exceeded all expectations. Cena, who is not-so-secretly one of the best wrestlers on the roster when he needs to be, brought his “A” game and not only broke out some innovative offense, he sold for Bryan more than anyone had in his WWE career up to that point. Few things did more to make Daniel Bryan a legitimate main event talent than John Cena selling Bryan’s kicks like he was getting shot at close range, and ultimately laying down to a single instance of Bryan’s flying knee finisher. In an age where main event matches involved multiple kick-outs from finishers, Bryan’s was sold like death itself, by a man who kicks out of everything at least once, and turned Bryan from a crowd favorite into The Man. Of course, the aftermath nearly screwed everything up for a while, but it all worked out in the end. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.