They say that some men are destined for greatness, but there is an argument to be made that Daniel Bryan is one of the few who was literally chosen for it.
Chosen not by the WWE decision-makers who hired him off the recommendation of Bryan’s mentors, Shawn Michaels and William Regal, or even by the mass-marketing machine that has helped elevate stars into Superstars since the dawn of sports-entertainment. No, Daniel Bryan was quite literally chosen by the people.
It was the WWE Universe who saw something special in the 5-foot-10 bearded bulldog, powering him from a one-and-done NXT Rookie to a scrappy United States Champion, a Money in the Bank winner-turned cocky World Heavyweight Champion and one-half of the dysfunctional Team Hell No alongside Kane. It was the WWE Universe who took Bryan’s signature “YES!” chant — initially an ironic display of unearned arrogance — and transformed it into a rallying cry, screaming it in unison every time they sensed Bryan was being passed over for someone less deserving.
And it was the WWE Universe who propelled the world-traveled independent veteran to the greatest upset in WrestleMania history when Bryan, after nearly a year of battling the powers that be, defeated Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista in the same night to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Unfortunately, Bryan’s legacy since then has been more complicated than his beloved “Yes!” Movement would prefer: A slew of injuries forced him to vacate the WWE World Heavyweight Title and also the Intercontinental Championship he won upon his return in 2015. Ultimately, Bryan formally announced his retirement from in-ring competition, citing the cumulated effects of several concussions he'd sustained over his career.
In his final message to the WWE Universe, The Beard proclaimed himself "grateful" for the gifts sports-entertainment had given him before departing amid a chorus of "Yes!" chants.
Despite the heartfelt goodbye, the "Yes!" Movement couldn't keep Bryan away for long. He returned the night before the 2016 WWE Brand Extension Draft as Shane McMahon's choice for SmackDown Live General Manager. For a Superstar who overcame so much to find great success as an in-ring competitor, there's nothing stopping him from taking SmackDown Live to new heights every Tuesday.
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