It's a wrestling story like no other - can you can put yourself on the journey with the leader of the Yes movement
WWE superstar Daniel Bryan has opened up about his relationship with The Miz, the part the Middle East played in his in-ring return, and the unique opportunities that have come up for him in the new WWE 2K19 video game.
The fan-favourite goes into SummerSlam this weekend to face long-time rival The Miz, but it is only a few short months ago that a return to the ring seemed only a distant dream.
Forced to retire in 2016 due to concussion issues, the leader of the Yes movement made a dramatic return to action this year at Wrestlemania, but it was in the Middle East that the wheels were set in motion.
“I was in Bahrain for the Comic Con convention, and then I went to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics,” he explains. “Then I get this late-night phone call saying they want me to go to Pittsburgh. So I took a direct flight from Dubai to Dallas, which is a bit of a long flight! I land in Dallas, where we are filming Smackdown, and have to fly straight to Pittsburgh. I then had a meeting with four different doctors, doing more and more tests, and then at 9.30pm that Monday night I got the news I was cleared – I don’t think I’ll forget that weekend for the rest of my life.”
His first match back happened to be on the Grandest Stage of them All, Wrestlemania in New Orleans, teaming with Shane McMahon to take on Sammy Zayn and Kevin Owens.
It was a moment, that tingled spines, raised goosebumps, and one he will never forget.
“When I came out, I really wanted to feel it,” he said. “A lot of times when you are a performer, you go out there and you’re so obsessed with the performance that you don’t get to just really feel it.
“I want to make sure this time, since I had come back, that I really enjoy and not take for granted the fact that I get to do what I really love again. An injury can happen at any time, so who knows how much longer I will be able to do this.
“The idea of appreciating it all, you only get that moment once where you come back after three years – and it’s at WrestleMania – that’s never going to happen again so being able to go out there and appreciate it and just drink it in for a second.
One of the lasting images from Wrestlemania, is a picture posted to Instagram by Daniel’s wife, Brie Bella. It showed their daughter, Birdie, sat at home gazing up at her dad on television.
Daniel the family man
Fatherhood, and his family life with Brie is something that has given Daniel a different outlook on life.
“I feel like as a human being I am much more balanced than I was before. I always used to put wrestling first, which is maybe not a healthy perspective,” he said
“When that really hit me the hardest was when my dad passed away in 2014, about two weeks after Wrestlemania 30. All I kept thinking was ‘what have I been doing with my life?’ I love wrestling, and I thought when I was done wrestling then I can go and spend time with my family and friends.
“Then you realise that life doesn’t work that way, and it’s not ordered in a sequential way, like you would want it to be. You have to find a better balance in your life for your wrestling, but also what is more important in your life – your family and friends. I really feel like my life now is much more balanced and WWE has been great working with me, they don’t have me traveling as much as I was before, because I made it clear I don’t want to be the dad who is away from his daughter. I don’t want to be away from Birdie for 250 days a year.”
The Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia
One such occasion when Daniel was forced to be away from home was for the Greatest Royal Rumble, held in Saudi Arabia in April. It was a groundbreaking event in more ways than one, and something he was glad to have been part of. He is firmly aware of the cultural shifts taking place in the country, but was also somewhat unsure about how fans would react to him.
“It’s fascinating,” he said. “This is a positive change. I was talking to people in Bahrain and they were talking to me about the shifts going on in Saudi Arabia and I just think progress is what we are all aiming for and it’s great to be part of it.
“What was interesting to me, is I always wonder when I come out, are these people going to know who I am? You always have that doubt, and ask how much wrestling have they seen? I was very pleasantly surprised by the reaction I got when I came out, it was really cool. One of the things I love about the independent scene is the unique cultural experiences that you would get. I love wrestling in different places, experiencing different cultures, and meeting different people, so yeah it was awesome.”
Who’s next? Brock, AJ, or Gargano
Now with his position within active WWE talent firmly re-established, Daniel can look to the future and start to think about some of his dream matches that could arise in the future. While acknowledging he is no booker of matches, there are a few names he has in his sights.
“One of my big failings is that I don’t think in terms of stories in wrestling,” he said.
I have tried to get better at it, and pitch ideas, but in terms of matches I’d like to do, I am actually really excited to wrestle Miz.
“We are two guys who genuinely don’t like each other, and the fans can feel it, and I think that sort of atmosphere is really cool. I’d love to wrestle Shinsuke Nakamura. I don’t know how long he is sticking around, but I have always wanted something with Brock Lesnar. A big build-up title match on a Pay-Per-
“View with AJ Styles would be so much fun, same thing with Samoa Joe. And then there’s the stuff that’s not even on the table yet with the NXT guys – Johnny Gargano and guys like that. There’s so many cool ones. Another guy I’d love to wrestle who it on the rise is Andrade Cien Almas.”
Daniel Bryan and The Miz, best of enemies
At Summerslam this weekend, he will come up against long-time foe The Miz, but with the A-Lister now also a father, the two are starting to show some noticeable similarities – unlike previous years where the dislike for each other was palpable.
“Here’s what I think,” explained Daniel. “You know how sometime people get married, and they get divorced and they really hate each other? That’s because they are similar, but the part that makes them different are so great – I think that’s what happens with Miz and I.
“Mentally I respect him because he works really hard, and all the things people have bashed about for years, like him being a reality star – he has worked on the things he was not good at. He wasn’t a natural at the wrestling part of this, he has always been good the entertaining part of it, but he has worked really hard to get good at wrestling.
“On the flip side I was naturally not good at promos, or doing interviews, but I have worked hard to get better at it. So we are coming at it from two opposite points of view. So, mentally I can respect the fact he works so hard, but you know the feeling that you get in your gut where you just see somebody and you dislike them – I don’t know if that will ever go away!
“He loves being a dad, and he wants to spend time at home. If you were to ask him what the difficulties are about this job, he would tell you the same things I would tell you. It’s so hard being away from my baby, baby and family comes first – all that kind of stuff. So you see these ideologies that make you think these guys should get along pretty good…..but we don’t!”
Daniel Bryan in WWW 2K19 Showcase mode
With such a storied and illustrious career, it was only a matter of time before Daniel Bryan’s story was immortalised, and that has now come in the latest iteration of the smash hit WWE 2K video game.
WWE 2K19 will see gamers able to enjoy Showcase mode again, a hugely popular feature in earlier versions of the game, which return for the latest release.
Here they will be able to relive some of the highs, and lows, of what has been a storybook journey for one of sports entertainment’s most popular figures.
While paying tribute to fans for lobbying for the return of Showcase mode, Daniel talks of his excitement of seeing his real name, Bryan Danielson, in a game for the first time – and how the game could introduce his story, and wrestling as a whole to an entirely new audience.
“To me it’s really flattering, and I think it is something that’s fan driven – and not just about me per se,” he says.
“Now fans can say to a game maker ‘hey that showcase mode you did was really cool, we want that back’. Then the company listens to that and then puts it in the game. I think that part of it is cool, how the dynamics of the world are shifting, but I also think it’s really neat for it to be me featured.
“There are things like me against John Cena from Velocity in 2003, and it will literally be Bryan Danielson, it’s the first time Bryan Danielson has been in a video game, and opposed to Daniel Bryan.
“Another cool thing is they had me doing these interviews that you can watch in the game and they talk about what these things meant to me at that time in my life. You also get the different looks from down the years – and I’ve had some really bizarre looks throughout my career! And all this together is just really cool.
“It used to seem to me that wrestling fans would buy wrestling video games, and that’s still the case. But now, video games fans are buying wrestling video games and can be introduced to wrestling that way, and that’s, for me as a performer, reaching a whole new market of people who didn’t realise this guy had wrestled for ten years before getting a shot, and it reintroduces my story to a whole new group of people – and I think it’s really unique opportunity.
WWE 2K19 has an initial release date of October 5 and will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows. For more information see https://wwe.2k.com/