In 2002, Danielson joined the independent promotion, Ring of Honor, where he is acknowledged as a "Founding Father" of the company as he was one of the wrestlers who made the company prominent during its inception, and competed in the main event of the company's début show, The Era of Honor Begins, in a three-way match against Low Ki and Christopher Daniels. He continued to have long and critically acclaimed matches with numerous wrestlers, including one with Austin Aries that lasted eighty minutes. One of the more notable rivalries he had in the early years in the company was with Homicide; the two embarked in numerous matches with a variety of stipulations, culminating in a steel cage match at The Final Showdown, which was won by Danielson.
Danielson posing in 2004.
Despite winning the company's inaugural Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004, championship gold constantly eluded him. It came to the point where, in 2005, Danielson announced in the company's newsletter, the ROH Newswire, that he had quit ROH after being frustrated by his inability to defeat Austin Aries for the ROH World Championship. It was later revealed Danielson had become frustrated in general with professional wrestling and planned to take some time off to evaluate his career options. Danielson had several dates booked in Europe and Japan, however, leading fans to believe that the periodical was likely a storyline claim for Danielson's absence during this period. In May 2005, rumors started that Total Nonstop Action Wrestling was interested in signing Danielson, and he also had some more tryout matches with WWE at that time, but none of these events led to anything, as he remained in ROH.
At the beginning of 2006, Chris Hero, a representative from Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), invaded ROH and targeted Danielson; this led to the two exchanging words over the Internet before having a match together with nearly the entire roster of both companies embarking on an interpromotional feud. Danielson became personally invested in this feud, and invaded CZW himself, which led to him having physical altercations with a number of CZW wrestlers. Hero intensified the rivalry, leading to the two wrestling at ROH's Hell Freezes Over event, where Danielson successfully defended the ROH World Championship. He soon filled the vacant slot on ROH's five-man team which participated in one of CZW's more popular attractions, a steel cage match called the Cage of Death, a ten-man tag team match in which a man from each team starts in the cage, and a random wrestler enters periodically thereafter. During the match he turned on his team by assaulting his rival, Samoa Joe, before leaving the match and effectively abandoning his involvement in the animosity between the two promotions. As the interpromotional hostility with CZW heightened, Danielson also defended against challengers from the rival company, who had signed an open contract for any CZW wrestler willing to challenge for the ROH World Title. Former champion Samoa Joe also challenged Danielson during his constant defenses, only to have their match end in a sixty-minute draw.
Danielson in the ring in 2006.
Ring of Honor, while having the ROH World Championship, faced the issue of having another title with seemingly equal value, the ROH Pure Championship. Danielson and the ROH Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness had a match to unify the titles. They met at April 29 in a match fought under pure wrestling rules and McGuinness left Danielson outside the ring after a chair shot to win by count out; this was enough to win the Pure Title but not Danielson's World Title. Consequently, they had another unification match in McGuinness' native England, where ROH declared there would be a winner, with a title changing hands by count out and disqualification and a draw forcing a restart. Danielson won the match on August 12 and retired the Pure Title as its last champion. During a match with Colt Cabana on August 26, Danielson received an injury; he separated his shoulder, tearing two tendons in it, and tore another tendon in his chest, which led to his next few matches being cancelled. Danielson returned at Glory by Honor V: Night 2, and was challenged by KENTA, a guest competitor from Pro Wrestling Noah, due to the two company's talent exchange agreement; Danielson again retained his championship. At Final Battle 2006, Danielson's fifteen-month title reign finally ended after losing to Homicide, and he subsequently took time off from wrestling in order to heal his shoulder.
Various feuds and departure (2007–2009)
On May 11, Danielson made his return to the company at Reborn Again where he defeated Shane Hagadorn and Adam Pearce in separate matches. On May 12 Ring of Honor filmed its first pay-per-view, Respect is Earned, which had Danielson team with ROH World Champion, Takeshi Morishima, to take on Nigel McGuinness and KENTA. Danielson's team scored the win, as Danielson made KENTA tap out to his signature submission hold, the Cattle Mutilation. Danielson made his return to contention for the ROH World Title by defeating Nigel McGuinness at Domination, which appeared on the company's next pay per view, Driven. This allowed him to, now as a face, challenge Morishima for the title at Manhattan Mayhem in a losing effort; he also suffered a legitimatedetached retina. Following a subsequent surgery, Danielson returned with intent to challenge Morishima once more, leading to a match at Man Up that had the referee stop the match due to Danielson being unable to respond to him. Danielson exacted revenge, albeit by Morishima getting disqualified, at Rising Above against his rival by assaulting him before Morishima returned to Japan. Morishima returned to the company at Final Battle 2008, in a match billed as a "Fight Without Honor", which allowed both men to use weapons, which Danielson won. Danielson noted in a March 2012 interview that the biggest sense of validation he ever had at that point was at Final Battle 2008 because he and Morishima managed to sell out 2,500 people in New York City.
Over the coming months Danielson worked with Austin Aries again as friendly rivals, exchanging victories including a match on pay-per-view at Take No Prisoners, which was won by Danielson. Danielson also aided Aries by becoming his partner in order to take on The Age of the Fall as revenge for Aries. The two wrestled all members of the group in a series of different stipulation matches, as well as teaming together frequently to challenge members Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black for the ROH World Tag Team Championship.
As part of ROH's agreement with Pro Wrestling Noah, the company held a show in Japan on September 14 titled the Tokyo Summit, where Danielson wrestled GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and won the championship. Following his victory, he was interviewed, and announced that Noah would allow him defend the title in Ring of Honor, with his first defense being at Glory By Honor VII, defeating Katsuhiko Nakajima, a competitor from the Kensuke Office, another member promotion of the GPWA. This would ultimately be his only successful defense, however, as he returned to Japan on October 13 to lose the title to KENTA. Following his loss, Danielson challenged McGuinness for the title at the next ROH pay per view, Rising Above in a losing effort.
Ring of Honor made its national television début with the program, Ring of Honor Wrestling, and Danielson made his television début in the main event of its third episode by defeating Austin Aries. The following episode to feature Danielson had him wrestle Tyler Black, which ended in a draw. This was the start of a rivalry between the two that was highlighted by Danielson's respect for Tyler, even claiming Black would be the top star in the future, with Danielson's antithesis being that would not happen for a while, leading to the two have many more matches that kept the notion of neither man truly being better. At this point as well, Danielson became more involved in trying to win the ROH World Tag Team Title, so, out of respect to his rival, he had chosen Black to be his partner. The two attempted to win the title multiple times, but their inability to do so lead to a conflict that ultimately dismantled the partnership.
On August 23, it was announced Danielson signed a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment. Prior to joining the company, he embarked on a farewell tour with ROH known as The Final Countdown Tour, which saw him challenge Aries for the title again in a losing effort. On September 26 at Glory by Honor VIII: The Final Countdown, he won his last match in the company against Nigel McGuinness, who was also having his final match with the company.
Independent circuit and other promotions (2003–2009)
Aside from competing primarily in ROH, Danielson has also competed in a multitude of other independent promotions, both in the United States and abroad. In 2003, Danielson also toured the United Kingdom for British promotion, All Star Wrestling. While he was in the UK, Danielson won the World Heavy Middleweight Championship on May 6 in an 8 Man One Night Tournament in Croydon defeating James Mason. He spent the next 6 months in the UK, working for ASW, FWA, WAW and Premier Promotions. He returned several times over the next 5 years, working for various promotions. In February 2005, at New Dawn Rising, Danielson made his début in ROH's sister promotion, Full Impact Pro (FIP), teaming up with Rocky Romero in a match against Austin Aries and Homicide. The next night at Dangerous Intentions Danielson competed in a losing effort against CM Punk, which led to a brief feud between the two. Danielson's biggest success came in 2006 by winning the FIP World Heavyweight Championship, holding the belt for eleven months before losing it to Roderick Strong. Danielson wrestled his last match for FIP in December 2006 at Florida Rumble, in a losing effort to Erick Stevens.
Danielson wrestled in the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) promotion. He made his début in November 2003 at An Inch Longer Than Average, in a losing effort to PWG ChampionFrankie Kazarian. He continued to appear in PWG over the next couple of years, winning the PWG World Championship in 2007, and holding it for six months before taking an eleven-month hiatus from the company. He made his return to PWG at the 2008 Battle of Los Angeles tournament. In May 2009, he made another appearance teaming with Paul London, referring to himself as American Dolphin in a parodied manner. On September 4, 2009, at Guerre Sans Frontières, during his last night in PWG, Danielson defeated Chris Hero to win the PWG World Championship for the second time and immediately vacated it afterward.
Following his return from his injury in 2007, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) published a video of Danielson stating his intent to challenge for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, as the establishment that sanctioned the title at the time, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, was relinquishing the title back to the NWA. A tournament, titled Reclaiming the Glory, was held to determine the new champion with Danielson making his way to finals, scheduled to compete face Brent Albright on September 1, but due to the eye injury he sustained at Manhattan Mayhem, the NWA announced he withdrew from the tournament with and Adam Pearce replacing him; Danielson was appointed the referee of the match.
In 2009, Danielson's contract with Ring of Honor expired; this opened up Danielson to travel to other companies more freely while competing in his home promotion.
On August 23, 2009, ROH announced that Danielson had signed a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Danielson made his début as a WWE contracted wrestler on January 4, 2010, in a dark match prior to Raw, defeating Chavo Guerrero. Later that week it was reported that Danielson had requested to go to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), the WWE developmental territory, to acclimate himself to his new work environment and work what he saw as "ring rust". He made his début at the FCW television tapings on January 14, where he was defeated by Kaval. At the February 11 tapings, Danielson was renamed Daniel Bryan. He later indicated that he was given a list of ten possible names to use in WWE and "Daniel Bryan" was one of them, while his real name was not on that list.
On February 16, it was announced that he would wrestle on the first season of the NXT show, using the name Daniel Bryan, with The Miz as his storyline mentor. He made his début on the inaugural episode of NXT on February 23, losing by submission to the World Heavyweight Champion, Chris Jericho. After the match, Bryan was attacked by The Miz for disrespecting him earlier in the show. Over the next several weeks, Bryan failed to win a single match, but despite having a win-loss record of 0–5, he was ranked first in the inaugural Pros' Poll on the March 30 NXT. After losing five more matches on NXT, Bryan earned his first victory on the May 10 Raw by pinning Santino Marella in an eight-on-four handicap match. The following night on NXT, he was eliminated from the show, along with Michael Tarver, as neither man had confidence in themselves to win the competition. Later that night, in an interview, Danielson said that the elimination might be the end of Daniel Bryan, but that Bryan Danielson will be fine. Despite his elimination, he appeared on the following episodes of NXT, being interviewed by Matt Striker and attacking both Michael Cole, who had constantly belittled him on commentary, and The Miz.
On the May 31 Raw, Bryan was granted a match against the Miz by guest host Ashton Kutcher; Bryan defeated Miz and threw him into Cole at ringside after the match. The following week on Raw, the season one NXT rookies interfered in the main event match between John Cena and CM Punk, attacking both competitors, the announce team, and the ring announcerJustin Roberts, before dismantling the ring area and surrounding equipment, turning Bryan and the other rookies heel in the process. On June 11, 2010, WWE announced that Danielson was fired from WWE. It was reported by the Wrestling Observer that Bryan was released as WWE felt that Bryan's act of strangling ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie during the segment on the June 7 Raw was too violent for their TV-PG programming. Danielson noted that WWE apologized to him for his release, claiming that they "had sponsors they had to deal with". His release was put in a storyline, where the rest of the NXT rookies kicked him out of the group for showing remorse for his actions and declared that Bryan will never return to the WWE again.
Return to the independent circuit (2010)
Danielson wrestling against Bobby Fish for his first ever match in Evolve in its main event.
After being released, Danielson received several offers to sign with other wrestling companies, being contacted by Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, albeit indirectly, and some Japanese promotions. Two weeks after his departure from WWE, Danielson made his return to the independent circuit on June 26, 2010, defeating Eddie Kingston at the Chikara event We Must Eat Michigan's Brain in Taylor, Michigan. Rather than receiving streamers, the fans instead threw neck ties in light of the Justin Roberts incident in WWE. The following day at Chikara's Faded Scars and Lines Danielson defeated Young Lions Cup holderTim Donst in a non–title match. On July 3 Danielson returned to westside Xtreme wrestling, defeating Wade Fitzgerald and TJP in the round robin stage of the Ambition 1 tournament. The following day he defeated Tommy End, TJP in a rematch and finally Johnny Moss in the finals of the tournament to win Ambition 1. On July 17, Danielson débuted in the International Wrestling Association (IWA), being booked to defeat Q.T. Marshall for the IWA Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship. On July 23 Danielson débuted in the fledgling Evolve promotion, which was originally conceived to be built around Danielson as their top star before he signed to WWE. In the main event, he defeated Bobby Fish, while Danielson continued on undefeated the following day by returning to Dragon Gate USA, and submitted Shingo in the dark match main event Return of the Dragon. After the match Danielson joined BxB Hulk, Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi and PAC as the fifth member of the stable World–1. On July 30 Danielson returned to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, competing in a match where he defeated Roderick Strong. On August 7 Danielson unsuccessfully challenged Adam Pearce for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the NWA Legends Fanfest.
Despite returning to WWE on August 15, Danielson honored most of his independent bookings, making his first appearance on August 20 and defeating Jon Moxley at Heartland Wrestling Association's Road to Destiny. The following day he was defeated by Drake Younger at Insanity Pro Wrestling's Ninth Anniversary Reign of the Insane. The day after that Danielson defeated J Freddie at a Squared Circle Wrestling event. On September 10 he returned to the IWA, using the name Daniel Bryan, and lost the IWA Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship to Dennis Rivera. The following day Danielson returned to Evolve, defeating Munenori Sawa in the main event. Later that same night Danielson wrestled for New York Wrestling Connection in a tag team match, where he and Tony Nese defeated Dimitrios Papadon and Alex Reynolds. On September 25 Danielson returned to Dragon Gate USA and defeated YAMATO in the main event of the evening. The following day Danielson defeated Jon Moxley. On October 1 Danielson wrestled the last of his independent matches by defeating Shelton Benjamin at a Northeast Wrestling event.
Return to WWE
United States Champion (2010–2011)
Bryan (right) wrestling his former NXT mentor, The Miz.
On August 15, 2010, Danielson returned to WWE as Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam, where he was revealed as the surprise seventh member of Team WWE for the seven-on-seven elimination tag team match against The Nexus, the other NXT season one competitors. At the event, Bryan was one of the two final members of Team WWE, and managed to eliminate two members of the Nexus, but was eliminated by Wade Barrett after his former pro The Miz, whose place he took in Team WWE, attacked him. Despite this, Team WWE won the match. The following night, he was revealed as part of the Raw roster. He feuded with the Miz, with both interfering in each other's matches, and The Miz being aided by Alex Riley, his rookie from the second season of NXT. At Night of Champions, Bryan defeated The Miz to win the WWE United States Championship, his first championship in WWE.
He then successfully defended the championship two weeks later by defeating The Miz and John Morrison in a triple threat submissions count anywhere match at Hell in a Cell. Bryan went on to challenge then Intercontinental ChampionDolph Ziggler to a Champion vs. Champion match at Bragging Rights as a special attraction Smackdown vs. RAW match, defeating Ziggler in a highly acclaimed match. Bryan went on to successfully defend his United States title against Ted DiBiase at Survivor Series. On the November 30 NXT, it was announced that Bryan was returning to the show as the Pro to NXT Rookie Derrick Bateman on season four. In late 2010, The Bella Twins began competing for Bryan's affection, leading to them supporting him at ringside and competing in mixed tag team matches together. On the January 24, 2011 Raw, it was revealed that Bryan had been secretly dating Gail Kim, who began accompanying him to ringside. On the March 14 Raw, Bryan lost the United States Championship to Sheamus. Bryan was originally scheduled to have his rematch against Sheamus for the United States Championship on the main card at WrestleMania XXVII, but the match was rescheduled as a dark lumberjack match that ended in a no contest when the lumberjacks fought among themselves to trigger the start of a battle royal. Bryan lost his title rematch the next night on Raw, after which he was saved from Sheamus by the débuting Sin Cara.
Money in the Bank and World Heavyweight Champion (2011–2012)
On July 17 at Money in the Bank, Bryan won the SmackDown Money in the Bank ladder match which earned him a World Heavyweight Championship match at any point within the following year. On the July 22 SmackDown, Bryan declared he would cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania XXVIII. After several months of losing matches, Bryan began a feud with World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry on the November 4 SmackDown, after Henry challenged Bryan to a non-title match to prove that Bryan could not become champion. During the match, Big Show knocked out Henry, making him win by disqualification. Big Show, as a friend of Bryan, then urged a groggy Bryan to cash in his championship match, but Henry recovered and attacked both Bryan and Big Show before the match could start. After losing a rematch, Bryan suffered attacks from Henry the following two weeks. On November 25, Henry was knocked out again by Big Show, at which point Bryan cashed in his briefcase for a title match and quickly pinned Henry. However, SmackDown authority figure Theodore Long revealed that Henry was not medically cleared to compete and voided the match, so Henry remained champion and the briefcase was returned to Bryan. Bryan later admitted he betrayed his principles by not waiting for WrestleMania, but explained he felt strongly about exacting revenge on Henry and realised he may not make it to WrestleMania due to Henry's continued attacks. Regardless of his briefcase, Bryan won a four-way match on the same episode of SmackDown to become the contender for Henry's championship. On the live November 29 SmackDown, Henry managed to pin Bryan to retain his title in a steel cage match. Also in November, Bryan started being involved in a romantic storyline with AJ.
Bryan cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on December 18 at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs against Big Show, who had just defeated Henry and subsequently received a DDT onto a steel chair, which allowed Bryan to secure a pinfall victory and become the World Heavyweight Champion. In the following weeks, tension was teased between Bryan and Big Show, with Big Show unhappy about Bryan taking the world championship from him, and Bryan being displeased about Big Show's lack of appreciation for Bryan's help in matches against Henry. As World Champion, Bryan began a slow heel turn as he gradually showed signs of overconfidence and arrogance, with Bryan beginning to partake in excessive victory celebrations, even when he won his matches by disqualification or count-out. Also, despite AJ's declaration of love for Bryan, Bryan avoided saying that he loved her in return.
In January 2012, Bryan successfully defended his title three times; the first occasion against Big Show when Bryan goaded Mark Henry into attacking him and causing a disqualification; the second occasion a No Disqualification rematch with Show which ended abruptly after Show accidentally ran into AJ, hospitalising her within the storyline for which Bryan blamed him; the third occasion against Henry in a Lumberjack match when Bryan provoked the lumberjacks to interfere and cause a no contest. This culminated in a Triple Threat Steel Cage match to exclude outside interference; at the 2012 Royal Rumble event, Bryan escaped the cage after freeing himself from Big Show's grasp to retain his championship.
At Elimination Chamber, Bryan defeated Big Show, Cody Rhodes, The Great Khali, Santino Marella, and Wade Barrett in an Elimination Chamber match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. After the match, Sheamus attacked Bryan and chose him as his WrestleMania opponent for the World Heavyweight Championship. In March, Bryan began to mistreat AJ, publicly demanding her to shut up and claiming that she always got in his way. Despite these actions, AJ continued to stand by Bryan. Bryan's reign as world champion ended when Sheamus defeated him in eighteen seconds at WrestleMania XXVIII due to Bryan being distracted with receiving a good luck kiss from AJ. On the next SmackDown, Bryan blamed AJ for his world title loss and ended their relationship. Despite AJ's attempts to mend their relationship, Bryan cruelly rebuffed her multiple times, leaving AJ an emotional wreck. At Extreme Rules, Bryan failed to regain the World Heavyweight Championship from Sheamus in a 2-out-of-3 falls match, losing two falls to one.
The following night on Raw, Bryan became the number one contender to CM Punk's WWE Championship when he won a Beat The Clock challenge by defeating Jerry "The King" Lawler in under three minutes. Bryan received his title shot at Over the Limit and suffered a controversial loss; when Bryan rolled back onto his shoulders as he applied the "Yes!" Lock, Punk tapped out immediately after the referee counted a pinfall win for Punk. Shortly before Over the Limit, Bryan interfered in a match between Punk and Kane to frame Punk attacking Kane with a steel chair, leading to a three-way feud. During this time, a jilted AJ turned her affections to both Punk and Kane. On the June 1 SmackDown, Bryan's interference caused WWE Championship match between Punk and Kane to end in a double disqualification, resulting in a triple threat match being set up at No Way Out, where Punk managed to retain the title after AJ distracted Kane. On the June 25 Raw, Bryan defeated Punk and Kane in a non-title three-way elimination match to earn another shot at the WWE Championship. At Money in the Bank, Bryan failed to capture the WWE Championship again from Punk in a No Disqualification match with AJ as special guest referee. The following night on Raw, AJ accepted Bryan's marriage proposal, On Raw 1000, Bryan's wedding ended in failure when AJ left Bryan at the altar and instead accepted Mr. McMahon's offer of the position of permanent Raw General Manager. Bryan's night turned from bad to worse as he was later attacked by The Rock and insulted by celebrity Charlie Sheen.
AJ's rejection of Bryan turned him into an angry and bitter individual and resulted in Bryan lashing out at audiences. AJ continued to exact her revenge on Bryan by denying him a WWE Championship shot and instead forcing him to face Kane at SummerSlam, where Bryan emerged victorious. As a result of Bryan and Kane's issues, AJ enrolled them in anger management classes hosted by Dr. Shelby, and they were later forced to "hug it out". At the arrangement of Dr. Shelby and AJ, the two adversaries formed a team whose constant bickering and infighting even during matches inadvertently resulted in them defeating The Prime Time Players (Titus O'Neil and Darren Young) to become the number one contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championship on the September 10 Raw and then defeating champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth to win the Tag Team Championship at Night of Champions. Bryan and Kane made their first successful title defense the following night on Raw, defeating the former champions in a rematch. The following week on Raw, "Team Hell No" was chosen as the official team name via a Twitter poll while Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow) started a feud with Bryan and Kane, turning Bryan face once again. On October 28 at Hell in a Cell, Team Hell No lost to the Rhodes Scholars via disqualification, but retained their title. This was followed by a rematch on the November 14 Main Event, where Team Hell No defeated the Rhodes Scholars to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship. On the November 26 Raw, after Kane lost to WWE Champion CM Punk in a non-title match, he was assaulted by The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns). Bryan and Ryback, who both attempted to save Kane, suffered a similar fate. This attack had the effect of uniting Bryan and Kane, and after The Shield and Team Hell No, along with Ryback, attacked each other on the December 3 Raw, all six men were decreed to face each other in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, where The Shield was victorious after pinning Bryan. Team Hell No went on to defend the Tag Team titles through the end of the year, retaining against Team Rhodes Scholars on the following Main Event, and against 3MB (Drew McIntyre and Heath Slater) on the December 31 Raw. Bryan ended 2012 having wrestled the second most TV/PPV matches that year with 90.
On January 27 at the 2013 Royal Rumble, Team Hell No retained the WWE Tag Team Championship against Team Rhodes Scholars. During the Royal Rumble Match, Bryan eliminated Kane and was in turn thrown out of the ring by Antonio Cesaro; Kane caught Bryan before he touched the floor and despite Bryan's begging, dropped him to complete Bryan's elimination. On the February 4 Raw, Bryan was inserted into the World Heavyweight Championship number one contender Elimination Chamber match when he defeated Rey Mysterio, after which, the returning Mark Henry attacked both men. On February 17 at Elimination Chamber, Bryan was the first man eliminated from the match, courtesy of Henry. On April 7 at WrestleMania 29, Team Hell No defeated Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston for another successful title defense. Team Hell No rekindled their rivalry with The Shield the following night on Raw, after saving The Undertaker from an ambush by them. On the April 22 Raw, Team Hell No and The Undertaker were defeated by the Shield in a six-man tag team match. The Shield went on to take out Undertaker and rack up wins over Bryan and Kane in both singles and tag matches that also included WWE Champion John Cena. On May 19 at Extreme Rules, Bryan and Kane lost the WWE Tag Team Championship to Shield members Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, ending their reign at 245 days.
Rise to WWE Champion (2013–present)
As Bryan being pinned led to the loss of the tag titles, Bryan became obsessed about proving that he was not the weak link of Team Hell No. As a result, Bryan became even more aggressive, but his overzealous behavior led to Team Hell No losing their rematch against Reigns and Rollins on the May 27 Raw. When Kane tried to reassure Bryan, Bryan replied with harsh rebukes that alienated Kane from him. As a result, Bryan was paired with Randy Orton despite their poor relationship to face a common enemy in the Shield. During this storyline, Bryan was praised as the best performer in WWE and having an unmatched connection with crowds by critics, peers and veterans of the professional wrestling industry. On the June 14 SmackDown, Bryan ended the Shield's unpinned and unsubmitted streak in televised six-man tag matches by forcing Rollins to submit in a match with Kane and Orton as his tag partners. Two days later at Payback, Bryan and Orton's poor teamwork resulted in an unsuccessful challenge for Reigns and Rollins' Tag Team Championship. The following night on Raw, while the status of Team Hell No was left up in the air after both members considered individual pursuits, Bryan and Orton faced off in a no disqualification match that Orton won via referee stoppage after Bryan suffered a legitimate nerve injury. Four days later on SmackDown, Bryan defeated Orton, but to Bryan's dismay, it was via count-out. On the next Raw, Bryan decisively defeated Orton via submission in a street fight, and later continued his hot streak by picking up wins over Sheamus and Christian. On July 14 at Money in the Bank, Bryan competed in the WWE ChampionshipMoney in the Bank ladder match; during the match, Bryan was attacked by Curtis Axel, a non-participant, which ultimately prevented Bryan from winning the match that was won by Orton.
The following night on Raw, WWE Champion John Cena picked Bryan to be his opponent for the WWE title match at SummerSlam. This led to Bryan being embroiled in the McMahon family's internal feud, with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon against Bryan due to Bryan's image not fitting the mold of McMahon's typical "WWE Superstar", while WWE COO Triple H was in support of Bryan. On the July 22 Raw, Bryan ran a gauntlet match to prove his worth as number one contender, defeating Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro in succession, while his third opponent Ryback was disqualified after powerbombing Bryan through a table. The following week on Raw, Bryan was forced to face Kane and emerged victorious, but Kane attacked Bryan after the match. On August 18 at SummerSlam, Bryan defeated Cena to win his first WWE Championship. However, after the match, special referee Triple H attacked Bryan, leading to Randy Orton cashing in his Money in the Bank contract to win the title from Bryan.
The next night on Raw, Triple H and the McMahons endorsed Orton as "the face of the WWE" that the company was looking for as champion instead of Bryan. Bryan also assumed the top babyface role in WWE with Cena being out injured. With Triple H threatening to fire anyone who disobeyed him, Bryan was left alone to take on and suffer attacks from Orton and the Shield. On September 15 at Night of Champions, Bryan defeated Orton to regain the WWE Championship, but was stripped of the title the following night on Raw by Triple H after referee Scott Armstrong admitted he had made a fast-count the previous night resulting in Bryan's win, while Bryan denied that Armstrong was working for him. This resulting in his second WWE Championship reign coming to an end, meaning Bryan hasn't held the WWE Championship for one full day over his two reigns as the WWE Champion. Bryan and Orton faced off again for the vacant title on October 6 at WWE Battleground, but the match ended in a no contest after Big Show interfered and knocked out both men. Bryan once again challenged Orton for the vacant championship at Hell in a Cell, but was unsuccessful after the special guest referee Shawn Michaels superkicked Bryan for attacking Michaels' best friend Triple H. The following night on Raw, Bryan confronted Michaels, who offered a handshake, but Bryan put Michaels in the "Yes!" Lock. Later in the night, Bryan was attacked by The Wyatt Family. As a result, Bryan allied himself with CM Punk, and the duo defeated Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of the Wyatt Family at Survivor Series, but the entire Wyatt Family defeated Bryan in a handicap match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs.
Bryan wearing his signature "Yes!" T-shirt while addressing the audience.
Danielson has spent the majority of his career without an overt character in favor of becoming popular with the fans through his monikers, signature mannerisms, and wrestling ability. His attire has varied, as well, with the majority of his tenure wearing a pair of short trunks, but also ventured into wearing a mask for a time in Japan as an extension of his "American Dragon" persona.
A notable part of Danielson's persona are his mannerisms and the reaction he inspires from the crowd during the course of his matches that include:
As a heel, applying a submission hold while the opponent gets a part of their body in the ring ropes, leading to the referee counting to five (not releasing the hold by the count of five would result in a disqualification); as the referee would be about to disqualify Danielson, the latter would release the hold, instructing the referee: "I have till five!"
During his initial reign as ROH World Champion, telling the ring announcer to add an extra note about him appertaining to the current circumstances around his match; this was generally insulting the crowd or his opponent.
After winning WWE's World Heavyweight Championship Bryan began shouting "Yes!" repeatedly on his way to the ring and after defeating an opponent. Danielson credits mixed martial arts fighter Diego Sanchez with the inspiration. This chant grew in popularity, and has been even heard outside WWE events, at Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association games, and even at music concerts, in particular at Andrew W.K. concerts in both Glasgow and Manchester, UK. After turning heel at the start of 2012, Bryan slowly turned against the fans and after WrestleMania 28 he began chanting "No!" instead of "Yes!" Bryan claimed that the fans were mocking him by chanting "Yes!" so he chanted "No!" back at them. This then further encouraged the crowd to chant "Yes!" at him to annoy him as he was a villain. Shortly after turning face, Bryan began saying "Yes!" again, but would still shout "No!" when something he didn't like happened and the crowd would also shout "No!" too.
Danielson, who was a vegan in his day-to-day life, had incorporated his vegan lifestyle into his heel persona to elicit heat from the crowd. Despite his dropping of the diet in real life, his in-ring persona is still depicted as a vegan.
Danielson was prominently featured in the Wrestling Road Diaries documentary, which was filmed in 2009 before he signed with WWE. Danielson is a fan of indie rock music and recorded a single with Kimya Dawson that was a tribute to wrestling legend "Captain" Lou Albano.
Danielson became a vegan in 2009, after getting elevated liver enzymes and several staph infections. In 2012, Danielson was awarded a Libby Award from PETA for being the "Most Animal-Friendly Athlete". In honor of Danielson, Mayor Micah Cawley of Yakima, Washington declared January 13 as “Daniel Bryan Day." In September 2012, Danielson revealed that he was no longer a vegan due to his inability to find vegan food on the road as he travels with the WWE. He later elaborated that he had developed a soy intolerance and could not find enough non-soy based vegan food, but he still keeps a mostly vegetarian diet on the road.
Danielson is engaged to WWE Diva Brie Bella, with whom he has been in a relationship for nearly three years, which has been acknowledged on the WWE reality series Total Divas on the E! Network., and has become part of the WWE storyline.
^"First match revealed for tonight's Raw". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 10 January 2012. "In the video, Bryan plays up his new over-confident, success-has-gone-to-his-head persona interacting with Kingston outside of the venue in Corpus Christi, Texas."
^"TUCKER ON RAW 6/3: DVR Guide & Instant Reaction to the Daniel Bryan & Friends Show". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 15 June 2013. "Bryan has become the number one reason to watch WWE television. His performances tonight out-shined every single member of the roster by a mile. He showed incredible range in his moveset and an un-matched connection with the crowd ... ... he was the true, unquestionable star of tonight's broadcast"