The Daniel Bryan contract situation with WWE is still very much up in the air. Leading wrestling journalists and fans alike are still none the wiser in gathering any definitive news as to what’s next for the leader of the Yes Movement.
A return to ROH? A shock debut in AEW? A new contract with WWE?
Each option is seemingly viable and there are certainly many more – check out Jeff M’s article on a possible Bryan/NJPW alliance.
One question many will be asking is what could Daniel Bryan possibly still accomplish in WWE? The man is a multiple-time world champion with Tag Team, Intercontinental and US title reigns to boot. He’s headlined WrestleMania, been fired for choking Justin Roberts with a tie, been SmackDown General Manager and nearly married AJ Lee on Raw. However, there is one brand he has yet to conquer – NXT.
Following the end of the Wednesday Night Wars with AEW, the black and gold brand is still finding its footing on Tuesday nights. One thing that NXT does masterfully is reintroducing audiences to wrestlers that are in need of a refresh – just look at how they saved the likes of Finn Balor and Ember Moon from obscurity. Now, I am by no means insinuating that Daniel Bryan needs a refresh as he has, after all, recently main evented WrestleMania. I am, however, suggesting that NXT is the only logical destination for Bryan from a WWE standpoint.
With fresh match-ups, clear objectives and a new lease of life on the menu, let’s look at five possible opponents for Daniel Bryan if he were to resign with NXT.
5: Adam Cole
This one is obviously a given. Who else epitomises NXT as well as Adam Cole? A performer who doesn’t fit the McMahon mould with an unimposing physique, stature and technical ring style – sound familiar? The parallels between Cole and Bryan are clear and a story between the two writes itself. Cole would take umbrage with Bryan entering his world and the NXT veteran would have a clear goal to defend his position as the MVP of the black and gold brand.
The Undisputed Era is done, leaving Cole in a bit of a void. Who better to fill it than Daniel Bryan? Plus, we all know that the match possibilities between these two is a mouth-watering prospect and a TakeOver slugfest between Cole and Bryan would be a welcome thirst quencher.
We got a taste of what these two can do together on an episode of SmackDown in 2019 and it has left this writer hungry for more.
Currently the NXT Cruiserweight Champion having usurped Santos Escobar, Kushida is on quite a roll at the moment. One of the most natural babyfaces you’ll ever see, the Japanese star now needs to find a heel challenger to elevate the championship. Or does he?
Daniel Bryan is arguably wrestling’s most over babyface from the last 10 years and often proves that matches don’t always require a heel/face dynamic to work. A face vs face approach could yield great rewards for both men and would surely elevate the Cruiserweight title. It’s not an entirely crazy proposition either, given the fact that Bryan is well within reach of the 205lb weight limit.
In 2016, Kushida stated that his “greatest wish would be to wrestle Daniel Bryan”. Let’s hope that wish can become a reality soon.
3: Timothy Thatcher
This one doesn’t need a particular storyline or championship to warrant its place on this list. A match between Daniel Bryan and Timothy Thatcher is a no-brainer for any fan who loves well told submission-based contests. The idea of the Thatch-as-Thatch-Can style innovator clash with the master of the Yes Lock is yet another concept worthy of the TakeOver stage.
Thatcher and Bryan are yet to share a ring together and a first-time match between the two would only solidify the idea that NXT is the best brand as far as in-ring competition goes. Thatcher has proven himself in recent bouts with the likes of Tommaso Ciampa as a real force in NXT and someone who can help carry the brand forward. With the possibility of Bryan joining, the black and gold brand could be in very safe hands.
2: Pete Dunne
Daniel Bryan has long spoken of his love and admiration for British wrestling, citing that many of his inspirations come from Blighty. Bryan considers William Regal one of the very best in the business and is also a noted fan of NXT UK General Manager, Johnny Saint. Utilising much of the stiff British style in his arsenal, Bryan may just find his match in the shape of NXT’s resident Bruiserweight, Pete Dunne.
A truly believable brute, Pete Dunne is one of NXT’s most valuable prospects and would surely benefit from a programme with the similarly built Bryan. The story possibilities here are exciting what with the logical involvement of William Regal and the notion of a veteran taking on a younger star.
Both men are hard to categorise as wrestlers, with brawling, submission technique and stiff striking all seen as attributes of Dunne and Bryan. If they were given 25 minutes on a TakeOver, I think we could be in for an all time classic. Make it happen NXT!
1: Karrion Kross
When Karrion Kross defeated Finn Balor for the NXT Championship at TakeOver Stand & Deliver, it’s fair to say that opinion was relatively mixed. Some felt that Kross had lost some momentum following his injury some months earlier – of course no fault of his own – and that may have impeded the impact of the title win.
So, what does Kross need to be properly legitimised? Or perhaps a more potent question, who? Daniel Bryan has portrayed the David versus Goliath scenario numerous times in his career to great success and adulation. Whether it be his struggle against The Authority or even his real-life struggle against his medical clearance to come out of retirement, Bryan consistently overcomes the odds through true grit and determination. Karrion Kross is the antithesis to such fairy tales.
Standing at 6-foot-4 and boasting a varied move set characterised by his Kross Jacket submission and Doomsday Saito suplex, Kross would present Bryan with a fresh challenge. The added allure of the NXT Championship, a title never held by Bryan, and the serpent tongued Scarlett at ringside would make this a logical opponent for Daniel Bryan.
All he has to do is re-sign!