Bryan Danielson's ROH World Heavyweight Title/ROH Pure Title unification match with Nigel McGuinness. A brutal war in Nigel's hometown, with Danielson bringing home the gold thanks to a seemingly endless flurry of elbows to the head of a bruised and bleeding McGuinness.
His entire angle after being eliminated from NXT. Let's go through it:
1. His "Who is Daniel Bryan?" promo after he's eliminated from NXT, wherein he makes it clear that Daniel Bryan =/= Bryan Danielson. (The name change was forgotten by the subsequent episode, but what the hell.) Especially notable is the camera shaking, albeit slightly, as though the cameraman is giddy with the prospect of what's to come for him.
You can also see Matt Striker grinning like a Cheshire Cat whilst Bryan is talking, starting from when Bryan starts building towards the end of the promo.
2. And then the following week, the most brilliant Worked Shoot in recent history — punking out The Miz (with William Regal and CM Punk - who, in WWE kayfabe, have no history with Daniel Bryan except for NXT - both enthusiastically agreeing with Bryan behind Miz's back) and slapping around Michael Cole like he owed him money, all while disassembling the politicking in theWWE and their blatant ignorance of non-WWE promotions. The camera work is notable during that brawl, as well. Other than it airing at all (the first and best sign of a Worked Shoot), tell me that didn't look real.
3. And then the next week, Bryan follows that up by faking an apology to Michael Cole for the previous week's attack, instead apologizing for him being the worst announcer in wrestling today. Cole rips on Bryan with an (uncharacteristically) good promo, saying that Bryan had "tapped out" of NXT because he had "no heart". This earned Cole another attack (with Bryan escaping security's grasp so he could tackle Cole into the ringside barricade), and as security led Bryan past the WWE "Pros", The Miz started to run his mouth at Bryan - so Bryan fired back with a swift right, dropping Miz like a bad habit. In the end, Bryan had punked out both Miz and Cole for the second week in a row.
4. And did it again the next week on Raw, beating The Miz clean in a match. When Miz tries to go for a post-match beatdown, dragging Bryan over to the announcer's desk and making Bryan apologize to Michael Cole, Bryan turns around and throws Miz right over the table, right into Cole.
WWE Raw, May 3, 2010: His match against Batista in a beat-the-clock challenge. It's some of the best 5 minutes you will find in all wrestling. Batista did his fair share too.
WWE Raw, June 7 2010: The NXT Riot. All eight Season 1 NXT rookies laid waste to the entire show during a CM Punk vs. John Cena main event, including beating up commentators, the timekeeper, and even Justin Roberts (whom Bryan was personally choking out with his own tie). After trashing the ringside area, they would proceed to gang attack Cena, brutalizing him with multiple finishers, including Bryan actually kicking John Cena's fucking head in. He preceded this kick by yelling "YOU ARE NOT BETTER THAN ME!!!" several times and then spit in Cena's face.
WWE SummerSlam, August 15 2010: The show's main event is a seven-on-seven elimination match between a team of WWE all-stars and The Nexus, and Team WWE has a one-man deficit. Earlier in the show, The Miz accepted Cena's offer of joining Team WWE; later, he comes out during the Team WWE entrances and looks to be the final man for the team. Cena stops him as he makes his entrance, however, and informs Miz that he took too long deciding whether or not to join the team, and that he'd found someone else in that time. Daniel Bryan comes out, and the cheers of millions of nerds causes the internet to explode. And in what was both his WWE return match and his WWE PPV debut (in the main event of the second biggest show of the year, no less!), "AmDrag" made sure to leave his mark - in this case, by completely owning both Darren Young and Heath Slater in about a minute each, and making it all the way to the final four.
What made this a particularly surprising moment was that almost nobody expected this; Bryan's initial firing had taken place only a few months beforehand, and the general consensus was that he'd maybe be back in late 2010 or worse (if he came back at all). The fact that none of the dirtsheets or news sites picked up on it makes it even more incredible. It would have been the perfect surprise... if WWE.com had not been updated with a story on Bryan's return a few minutes before the main event took place. He'd even done indy shows for CHIKARA, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, Dragon Gate USA and other promotions during the time between his firing and his return.
That .com article doesn't really matter, though, unless you were on .com in those few minutes.
How big was Danielson's return to WWE? After he came back, "Bryan Danielson" was the #1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide.
Not to mention the fact that he was one of the first three professional wrestlers to have his own personal Moment of Awesome page. The other members of this prestigious group? The Undertaker and, Ric Flair. That's the level of awesome Danielson maintains.
WWE Hell in a Cell, October 3 2010: Daniel Bryan would retain his US title against The Miz and John Morrison in a Triple Threat Submissions Count Anywhere match. Following the win, Michael Cole would be forced to admit that Bryan was the better man that night.
WWE Bragging Rights, October 24 2010: Bryan stole the show with Dolph Ziggler in the opening match, winning his Smackdown vs Raw contest and being the ONLY Raw superstar to win their Smackdown vs Raw contest that night. He then went on to beat Ziggler the next night on Raw, and kicked his head in on Smackdown to pin him for a third time that week!
And just to add icing to the cake, that Bragging Rights match is considered by WWE to be one of the top two matches of 2010. The other? The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania. It seems WWE finally realizes that they've got gold with Daniel Bryan Danielson, which might be why they gave him a pair of infatuated escorts in The Bella Twins later in the year.
On the January 25 episode of NXT Season 4, Bryan was in a Pro vs Pro match with Ted DiBiase Jr.. In the middle of the match, fellow pro R-Truth started a call-and-response Daniel Bryan chant. The response was deafening. The chants would only continue through the match.
He brought The Big Show to his knees during the Draft Battle Royal of 2011.
His promo against Cody Rhodes, where he calls out Cody's narcissistic "The World is Ugly" attitude, claiming that his father Dusty Rhodes, despite not being an attractive man, was a much better person than he would ever be and refused to accept that fact.
Winning the goddamn Smackdown Money in the Bank! And people thought he wouldn't go anywhere in WWE!
His promo after winning Money in the Bank did a lot to help his reputation on the mic. He excoriated Michael Cole (again), played to the crowd, and delivered the kind of promo Main Event guys are supposed to deliver. Then he beat the crap out of Heath Slater.
He's still a Badass; unlike all the other Money in the Bank winners that cashed in when the champions had defended their titles (but were totally exhausted from it), he stated that his Money in the Bank contract would be cashed in on Wrestlemania 28's main event. Now, it's a seven month race to see who's gonna have it by April 1st, 2012 and to see who's gonna get his fucking head kicked in.
Or not, as Bryan is champ, and seems to be heading for a Show/Henry feud
After he gets knocked by a jealous Wade Barrett, he catches him in the Lebell Lock while laying down.
His match against Alberto Del Rio also counts. Two of the rising stars of the WWE going head to head...that was amazing!
If I'm not mistaken, didn't he just get an incredible match out of Mark Henry, of all people? And even gave his own against the World's Strongest Man? That's pretty damn awesome.
WWE TLC. The Big Show defeats Mark Henry in a pretty good Chairs match. Mark Henry DDTs Big Show onto Chairs. Daniel Bryan comes out and cashes his Money In the Bank Briefcase to win. The pop was deafening. And then he went to the camera, looked into it, and said "Thank you to everybody that has supported me these past twelve years." Michael Cole is dumbfounded, and Show... has a look on his face as if he was surprised, but impressed. A fitting milestone to one that basically founded one of WWE's biggest feeder organizations, though not as much as WCW, ECW or OVW.
The Raw following TLC saw CM Punk, Zack Ryder and Bryan Danielson in the same ring, basically saying what no one thought possible, had actually happened. They would later in their six man tag match enter through the crowd, which was all kinds of awesome!
Managed to retain his title three weeks in a row, when facing The Big Show and Mark Henry in rematches. The first time he managed to get a disqualification when he got Henry to shove him in front of the referee when he was facing Big Show, the second week, against Big Show again, the match went to a non contest as Big Show ran in to AJ Lee. The third week, he and Mark Henry was in a lumberjack match where Bryan managed to get the lumberjacks so riled up that they stormed the ring and beat both him and Henry, before all hell broke lose and they pretty much started fighting each other.
Make that a month for he survives the Steel Cage match.
January 30, 2012. Champion vs Champion match. Yes, World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan faces WWE Champion CM Punk.
April 2, 2012 edition of Monday Night Raw. Despite being squashed in 18 seconds by Sheamus at the opening match of Wrestlemania XXVIII, that event has made Daniel Bryan more over with the audience now than ever before. While the cameras were off, Daniel Bryan broke his heel character and thanked for the crowd for their undying support and constant cheering of "YES!" which he said most likely got him a new shirt. The audience deafened the arena with "YES!" chants and followed along with Bryan as he began the cheer before leaving.
And that lasted for most of the entire Raw broadcast itself prior to that, where fans were either chanting "YES!" or Bryan's name during most of the show, despite the fact that Bryan himself only appeared for one small segment.
Bryan, along with Sheamus, finally getting their time in the sun with an instant-classic, show-stealing 2-out-of-3 falls at Extreme Rules 2012.
May 25, 2012 edition of Smackdown. Bryan sneak attacks Kane and hits him with twenty-six steel chair shots in a row.
Sept 21, 2012 edition of Smackdown. Bryan and his equally reluctant tag team partner Kane are on the same page for once. They then proceeded to destroy the Tag Team division and Damien Sandow. He hits them with 26 chair shots.
WrestleMania 29. Dolph Ziggler starts the match by kissing AJ Lee, clearly rubbing Bryan's face in the loss from last year. How does the American Dragon respond? By kicking Ziggler's head off! An awesome parallel to last year's joke of a match and how does the match end? Daniel Bryan FINALLY hits the Diving Headbutt on Ziggler and picks up the win! On a broader note, everyone in the match was amped up. No comedy routine from Team Hell No.
April 8th, 2013 edition of Raw. Daniel Bryan gets to help Kane and the Undertaker fight off the Shield. And he gets to pose with the Brothers of Destruction as they leave the ramp. For one night, and possibly more, Daniel Bryan has become the Third Brother of Destruction...who would've thought?
May 31st, 2013 edition of Smackdown. Danielson and Kane come to the rescue of Orton, who is being attacked by The Shield. During this attack, both Orton and Kane get taken out. Danielson proceeds to uneash a onesided curbstomp to all three members of The Shield, powering through each one of them, delivering a flurry of kicks, dropkicks, and so forth before laying every member of them out alone. The show ended with Danielson standing tall in ring with Orton and Kane, his music playing, crowd loving it.
June 6th, 2013: Bryan not only did double duty, taking on the Shield in six-man tag and Ryback one-on-one, but he dominated all four men, dropping them with suplexes, dropkicks, and vicious stiff forearms. He took Ryback, the man who destroyed John Cena at Extreme Rules, to his physical limit, including a top-rope headbutt from two-thirds the length of the ring. Even when it looked like Ryback had stopped him cold with a powerbomb, he freakin' traps him in the NO! Lock...and the crowd explodes.
June 10, 2013: Bryan and Seth Rollins from the Shield get a one-on-one match (Rollins's second on the main roster, as Kane had defeated Rollins on the May 31st SmackDown). WWE gives the two former Ring Of Honor stars about fifteen or twenty minutes... and the result is nothing short of epic.
June 14, 2013: Bryan becomes the very first man to pin a loss on The Shield in six-man tag action, tapping out Seth Rollins in the NO! Lock after a mid-air RKO from Randy Orton...with the crowd going ballistic for him during and after the match. WEAK LINK MY ASS.
June 24, 2013: Daniel Bryan faces Randy Orton in a Street Fight, with chairs, tables and a Singaporecane getting used. At one point, Bryan had Orton in the NO! Lock, but Orton was able to get to the Singapore Cane and hit Bryan enough times to break the hold. At the end, Bryan had Orton in the NO! Lock again, with Orton again using the Singapore cane, but Bryan grabbed the cane, and still holding Orton in the NO! Lock, placed the cane where his hands would go, with Lawler saying that Bryan was going to rip Orton's shoulder out, with Orton clearly in pain until he had no choice but to tap out. As Bryan led the crowd in the "YES!" chant, Orton interrupted, shook Bryan's hand, and left. The show ended with the crowd continuing the "YES!" chant.
July 9, 2013: "The Summer of the Beard" rolls right along with highlights at the beginning and end of the RAW broadcast. The first being Bryan getting into a brutal bout with Sheamus not at all unlike their Extreme Rules match from last year, this time though surprising the Irishman by powering out of the Cloverleaf with ALL 265 lbs of Sheamus bearing down on him and small packaging Sheamus for 3! The next would be following the Orton/Punk main event, with Bryan laying out both men and climbing the ladder to take down the briefcase as a confident sign of his victory at MITB this Sunday. Again, crowd going nuts with YES! chants as this happens.
Money In The Bank, July 14, 2013: While Curtis Axel did ultimately screw him out of a victory, Bryan was a downright BEAST in the match. Nailing Orton with a running dropkick into a ladder, suicide diving onto Punk on a pile of ladders and springing up without a scratch, and subverting Sheamus' usual "drive a small guy through a ladder" spot, kicking the Irishman off the turnbuckle and causing him to crash through a bridged ladder on the outside.
The spot with Sheamus could essentially be a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment since Sheamus received a heavy bruise on his leg and a torn labrum that will take him out for 6 months. Full payback for 18 Seconds?
July 15, 2013: John Cena picked Daniel Bryan as his opponent for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam. Only one word could be heard throughout Brooklyn, chanted by EVERY...SINGLE...MEMBER in the audience: YES!!!
July 22, 2013: Put in a gauntlet match by Raw GM Brad Maddox, Bryan first faced Jack Swagger, taking him down in a short, but physical match by tapping him out with the YES! Lock. Next, he'd face the other half of the "Real Americans" Antonio Cesaro. What would ensue was the most physically brutal match I've ever seen on Raw between Bryan and Cesaro. Cesaro at one point laced into Bryan with 20 European uppercuts in a row followed by a clothesline that flipped Bryan for a 360 and nearly took his head off. How did Bryan respond? By trapping Cesaro in an Indian Deathlock and pounding him repeatedly with vicious forearms. Bryan pulled off the win with an amazing counter of Cesaro's mid-air uppercut into a small package for the three count. And while he was essentially spent for his 3rd match with Ryback, Bryan persevered, countering a Thesz Press into a Single-Leg Crab, nailing a top-rope dropkick that floored the big man, and countering the Meathook clothesline with a knee straight into Ryback's face that nearly knocked him out.
The real crowner? While Cena ultimately played hero and drove Ryback away after the big man powerbombed Bryan through a table, Bryan fought back up from 30+ minutes of wrestling and being driven through a table to get back in the ring and receive a standing ovation from the crowd with his music playing to close out the show. If one counts the subsequent dark match (a six-man tag) then although he had a rest break after the televised main event, Bryan wrestled for even longer live!
August 18, 2013: Bryan beats Cena clean for the WWE championship at SummerSlam '13 in a show-stopping match...Sadly, the moment doesn't last as HHH, who was serving as guest referee, Pedigrees Bryan and allows Orton to cash in and take the title. Still, for that one moment, Bryan was on top of the wrestling world.
How does D-Bry get the win?With a BUSAIKU KNEE!
Notably, it was a win without any shenanigans, i.e. Cena releasing the STFU to stop Johnny Ace from calling the match against CM Punk then returning to get GTS'd at MITB 2011. Who last got such a win over Cena? The Rock.
August 26, 2013: Although it was but the first segment in a gauntlet match against the Shield, Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins would tear it up in the main event of RAW for an extended (for WWE TV) duration AGAIN, culminating in a top rope German suplex (with Rollins rotating so much that he landed on his face!) and a Busaiku Knee!
September 9, 2013: Bryan finally getting one-up on Randy Orton. Despite a grueling contest with Dean Ambrose, taking a post-match Shield beating AND a RKO, he found the strength to get back up and drill Orton with the same Busaiku knee he won the WWE Championship with in the first place, hoisting said championship over a prone Orton. This happens in no small part thanks to The Big Show, who stalled Orton long enough for Bryan to recover.
September 15, 2013: Night of Champions PPV. While it's likely Corporate H will find a way to reverse the decision due to the semi-groggy ref making a fast count, it's nonetheless an awesome sight to see Bryan regain the WWE Championship clean over Randy Orton, highlights including a Spider Suplex, followed by a diving headbutt two-thirds of the way across the ring.
October 28, 2013: After Shawn Michaels gives a rather paltry "Triple H is my friend above all else" excuse for his actions at Hell in the Cell, Bryan's invited out to accept his handshake of apology. After refusing it the first time, Shawn tells him the kick was meant as a finishing lesson: Don't trust ANYONE in the business of professional wrestling, whether it be friend, family, or spouse. After refusing the handshake a second time, HBK snaps and calls out Bryan for being a "self-righteous little puke" and demands that he show respect shake the hand of a real "A-plus player" in Shawn. Bryan does...and shows what a quick learner he is by locking The Showstopper in the YES! Lock and making the Hall of Famer tap!
The kicker out of all of this? The crowd was completely on Bryan's side throughout the segment. Getting everyone on your side against, arguably, one of the most admired, respected performers in pro wrestling is an awesome moment in itself.