Daniel Bryan fans aren’t going to be satisfied at what WWE hands the fan favorite at WrestleMania 31.
Nothing will please the chanting, roaring Bryan supporters other than the company putting him back in the throne he occupied at WrestleMania 30. The trouble is, though, WWE has already found another king in Roman Reigns.
Bryan, who announced that he is ready to return to action, is destined to work somewhere other than center stage.
The word for months has been that Reigns is set to win the Royal Rumble and go on to defeat Brock Lesnar. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription required, h/t Wrestling Inc), those plans have not changed yet with Bryan’s return. Reigns is still scheduled to win the Royal Rumble and then take home the WWE title at WrestleMania.
Whether one views that as a mistake or not, that appears to be where WWE is heading. Reigns looks to be getting the treatment Batista did in 2005.
That means Bryan has to take another path to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. It’s destined to be one where he collides with The Authority once again.
Cheated out of the Rumble
Bryan will be one of the highlights of the 2015 Royal Rumble.
As much as WWE wants Reigns to be the next big thing, it knows the kind of buzz Bryan brings. That means he will be a big part of the match despite not winning, much like CM Punk and Reigns were last year.
Expect him to draw an early number and provide the “Iron Man” role, surviving over 45 minutes in the fray. That would play up his gutsiness, tease him possibly winning and allow him a number of chances at memorable moments.
When the time comes to finally toss out Bryan and leave Reigns by his lonesome, the company has to provide some help for the powerhouse. If Reigns is the one to eliminate Bryan, he instantly becomes just as hated as Seth Rollins or Brock Lesnar.
Officials certainly don’t want a repeat of a babyface Batista earning a chorus of boos like we saw in 2014.
Instead, look for WWE to restart the feud between The Authority and Bryan. Rollins can pull him out of the match illegally. Kane, J&J Security or Triple H himself could also be the ones to garner scorching heat by crushing Bryan’s Rumble dreams.
The Authority’s vendetta against Bryan continued even when he was injured. Triple H often tossed out potshots at him. The group stripped Bryan of the title for not defending it within 30 days but allowed Lesnar to go months without putting the belt on the line.
That means there’s still plenty of fuel should the company decide to relight that fire. That’s excellent news for Rollins.
A Discontent Fanbase, A Strange Alliance
Bryan already knocked off Triple H. He has conquered Kane in the past as well. Expect WWE to thrust the bearded warrior into a feud with Rollins instead.
That is not the marquee rivalry Bryan fans will be hoping for, but it’s a high-profile battle that allows two top performers to shine. They clashed in the past, often with sparks shooting off.
This, though, has a fresher feel now that Rollins has evolved into a top heel, a supervillain rather than simply a cog in a destructive machine.
With one pay-per-view between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, look for WWE to save the one-on-one battle for the biggest show of the year. For the first edition of Fast Lane, that likely means fans are in for a tag team match to set up that battle.
Kane and Rollins vs. Bryan and Orton offers the subplot of the latter duo having to move beyond their animosity-filled past. It can wrap up Orton’s issues with The Authority and allow Rollins and Bryan’s rivalry to grow more intense.
Bryan’s fanbase won’t be thrilled with this arrangement. While Reigns gets groomed for Lesnar, they will be chanting for Bryan, hoping to have a repeat of 2014 where vocal support of their underappreciated hero forced WWE to find a place for him at the main event table at WrestleMania.
It won’t be enough, though.
WWE will be unsure of about Bryan’s health going forward thanks to neck surgery and the slow recovery afterward. Reigns, meanwhile, is young, built like an action hero and clearly the man it wants to pin its hopes on.
A Classic Awaits
Fans aren’t going to like the idea of Bryan vs. Rollins at WrestleMania until it happens. As much as some may view it as a slight to Bryan, it promises to be a stunner of a match.
Rollins will be entering his first singles match at the event. He has stepped up to every at-bat WWE has handed him, delivering great matches at Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series. This will be a career-maker for him should he and Bryan create magic.
The expectation should be that they do just that.
Not only will Bryan be looking to steal the show as a way to say, “You should have made me the headliner,” but he and Rollins have great chemistry together. When they battled as members of Team Hell No and The Shield, their confrontations stood out. That continued when Bryan was in the hunt for the WWE title and the members of The Shield served as blockades to that goal.
Those battles had the kind of electricity WWE hopes for each time it pits two rivals against each other. Take the Sept. 6 edition of SmackDown, for example.
They clicked together, a smoothness and energy powering the match.
Given a bigger stage, far more buildup and with both men looking to insert their names into WrestleMania history, the audience can expect greatness. Whether that’s enough to pacify fans angry about him being pushed aside for Reigns remains to be seen.