Wrestling & MMA

PRO WRESTLING: WWE superstar Daniel Bryan set for Royal Rumble

Daniel Bryan (left) battles Bray Wyatt in his first match on WWE Monday Night Raw since his return.
Daniel Bryan (left) battles Bray Wyatt in his first match on WWE Monday Night Raw since his return. Photo Courtesy WWE

If his first few matches are any indication, returning WWE superstar Daniel Bryan hasn’t lost a step in the ring.

The exciting performer is enjoying a successful comeback thus from a serious neck injury. Now the leader of the Yes Movement is looking to build on his meteoric rise from last year by winning the Royal Rumble 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 25 on pay-per-view and the WWE Network.

Overcoming 29 other men in Philadelphia would punch his ticket to WrestleMania 31 and guarantee a WWE heavyweight championship opportunity. Although the current title holder Brock Lesnar has to contend with Seth Rollins and John Cena first at the Royal Rumble, Bryan says facing Goliath at the biggest spectacle in sports entertainment would be his ultimate dream match.

“Facing Brock Lesnar is my ultimate dream match for WrestleMania 31,” he said. “If you asked me right now what would be your ideal situation for WrestleMania 31, it would be wrestling Brock Lesnar for the WWE world heavyweight championship in the main event. I think Brock Lesnar is the ultimate monster. He is the beast, but I also think I’m the ultimate underdog. I think it’s something the fans want to see. I definitely want to see it. So that’s what I’m hoping for.”

It would be the second time in a row Bryan vied for the gold at WrestleMania. New Orleans came alive in 2014 when the fan favorite defeated Randy Orton and Batista to claim the richest prize in his profession. Days later the new champ married the love of his life, WWE diva Brie Bella. Cameras were there to capture the milestone for the “Total Divas” reality show.

“Marriage does change you,” Bryan said. “It changes you mentally in the sense of like, ‘This is the women I’m going to be spending the rest of my life with.’ There is this kind of support and encouragement between the both of us. There was always that feeling where we supported and encouraged each other, but it’s different when all of a sudden you know it’s for the rest of your life. It’s funny because I was in the main event of WrestleMania XXX and then on the following Friday we got married.

“I was excited about main eventing WrestleMania XXX, don’t get me wrong. That was the greatest moment of my career. At the same time I literally cried tears of joy when Brie was walking down the aisle. That’s how emotional the whole thing was and how special that moment was. The support that we can give each other is unlike anything else. So far being married has been awesome.”

During the early months of wedded bliss, Bryan found himself recovering from his surgery and away from his wife. He found it a little difficult to adjust to the routine.

“With my neck injury, Brie had been on the road, and I was at home waiting for her,” Bryan said. “That was completely different than anything in my entire adult life. When Brie and I first started living together, the [Bella Twins] had taken a break from WWE. Then she was at home. That felt normal to me. I think it’s harder for the person being left than the person who is leaving and having to do all these things. This is the first time I was the one being left. I thought, ‘This kind of sucks.’”

Bryan did have a project to occupy his time. The WWE Universe will soon get an inside look at the bearded warrior’s rollercoaster ride inside and outside the ring with an autobiography in the works. The official announcement about “Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania” was made at the past Comic-Con International in San Diego.

“At first I was going to write it myself,” Bryan said. “Then I was doing so much physical therapy and all that stuff, I didn’t think I was able to do it. We had somebody that helped me write it. Then we got the first draft, and he did a really good job, but it wasn’t my voice. My career has been very different with different stories and experiences. It’s hard for anybody else to express that.

“Then all of a sudden you have this first draft of the first attempt on the book, and I didn’t think it was working. So since November, I went back to writing it myself again. Then because the first draft was due actually on Thursday when SmackDown moved to Thursday nights, I’ve been writing like 2,000 words a day. So when everyone is off talking and getting ready for SmackDown, I’m working to get the first draft done.”

Bryan has enjoyed the writing process. At the same time he couldn’t imagine doing it without the internet as a tool.

“When I vaguely forget something, I can just look it up,” he said. “That sparks all these memories. Like when Mick Foley first wrote his book ‘Have a Nice Day,’ I read that as soon as it came out. How did he remember all? That had to be tough, doing all the research for that. There have been a lot of fun things to look back on like how Brie and I first got together and stories from wrestling. Then there have been hard things like writing about my dad, who passed away just shortly after WrestleMania. It forces you to deal with things that maybe you haven’t dealt with before, but you also get to relive things that you’ve forgotten were really awesome moments. It’s been an up-and-down experience.”

The lifelong fan respects those who came before him and how they have inspired him on his way to the top. This is why the WWE Hall of Fame is a fun night for nostalgia. He is thrilled to see the “Macho Man” Randy Savage going into the WWE Hall of Fame.

“I don’t think there is anybody that thinks ‘Macho Man’ shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame,” Bryan said. “He is an iconic WWE character. It’s awesome for me too because as a kid I had the ‘Macho King’ wrestling buddy doll. I had a bunk bed. So I would jump off the top bunk and do the elbow drop on it. I just have great memories of Randy Savage. I think for a lot of us who grew up watching him, it’s about time. We are all excited to see it.”

Bryan is certainly on his way to a WWE Hall of Fame induction one day down the line. This begs the question of who would be his ideal inductor.

“I actually haven’t really thought about it, but if I were to be, I would want William Regal to do the honors,” Bryan said. “He has been the influential person in my career by far. So I would want him. Plus he is a great speaker. I think he would be great.”

Beyond the Royal Rumble, and on the road to WrestleMania, WWE makes a stop for a SmackDown taping 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17 at the BB&T Center in (South Florida) Sunrise. Bryan believes he has an interesting relationship with Florida in general, specifically South Florida.

“The Yes Movement started in Miami the day after WrestleMania 28,” he said. “It actually happened on WrestleMania 28. All of a sudden it was the fans saying we don’t like what you’re doing with Daniel Bryan. We think he deserves better than this. It’s pretty crazy. Miami was also where the first Nexus incident happened. That was when we attacked John Cena and did all this stuff. Shortly, after that I got fired. It’s weird. Every time I go to there I think, ‘What crazy thing is going to happen next?’”

- The Royal Rumble is headlined by the 30-man battle royal 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 25 on pay-per-view and WWE Network. Brock Lesnar also defends the WWE world championship against John Cena and Seth Rollins.

For the full card and more information,

visit www.WWE.com.

- Follow Daniel Bryan on Twitter @WWEDanielBryan

- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN