Daniel Bryan WrestleMania Diary: Day 5

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April 05, 2014

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BED, BEARD & BEYOND, 8:49 a.m.

It’s very still this Saturday morning in the hotel bedroom of a future husband and wife, both one day removed from two major championship matches at their profession’s most magnificent event.

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The quiet scene sharply contrasts what Daniel Bryan is most known for: explosiveness, intensity. The drama of “Total Divas” is nowhere in sight. A bare-chested Bryan and his bath-robed Bella lay hushed, exchanging only short statements before Daniel departs.

After several moments, the two sit up and Brie reaches for the hairbrush on a nightstand littered with burned tea light candles. She brushes her fiancé’s mane until the clock clicks close to Bryan’s call time. It’s time to go to work.

WORDS OF HONOR, 9:22 a.m.

The “Yes!” Man’s psyched for his VIP Axxess event, now four years after his very first Axxess in 2010. He ends up encountering NXT’s Sami Zayn (in his first appearance of this kind) and the two talk their way up the ramp into the loading area of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. There’s tremendous history between both stars who made their pre-WWE fame in Ring of Honor.

Watch WWE NXT on WWE Network | Wild and Young: The Oral History of WWE NXT

“Personally, [Bryan] represents to me what he represents to millions of people already,” Zayn says, “which is an unconventional hero that has really defied the odds. He means as much to me – as the one spearheading the Movement for the little guy – as he does to every kid who sees himself in him.

“I’m still a kid who sees himself in him as well.”

It’s been 10 years since Bryan and Zayn first met in 2004, at a time when The Beard was just starting to grow. Bryan’s opportunity at WrestleMania – the dream stage for these warriors – is a powerful symbol to his friend and fellow entertainer.

“Professionally, I’ve always looked up to [Bryan] and always tried to catch up with him,” the tenacious NXT grappler concedes. “For him to break this barrier, he’s paving the way for guys like myself.”

He adds, “Daniel Bryan is smashing those boundaries and now, more than ever, anything’s possible – for me and countless people like me.”

WRESTLEMANIA AXX-“YES!”, 10:01 a.m.

An anticipated “Yes!” chant serves as Daniel Bryan’s entrance theme during his Axxess table arrival. Among the first jubilant members of the “Yes!” Movement he meets is young Hunter. Despite his name, he’s actually not pulling for the “other guy” at WrestleMania. He’s one of the biggest little supporters Daniel Bryan has.

“He’s the best wrestler ever,” Hunter says after his encounter with The Beard.

Danielle from Long Island, N.Y., got her nails done for The Show of Shows with fingertips supporting The Shield, AJ Lee and Daniel Bryan by way of a “YES” inscription on her thumb. There’s also an 8-month-old baby girl in a Bryan goat top who can’t help but lock her eyes on the Superstar’s face up close.

“Signings are great,” Bryan says. “It’s an opportunity to meet the fans. We have great fans. They’re pretty awesome. It’s all about seeing the way that we touch people.”

TEXAS THROWBACK, 10:39 a.m.

As the line progresses, the man who could soon be the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion signs posters, people, shirts, replica titles and even one-sheet programs from his past.

Trey Gonzalez from Oklahoma City totes a Texas Wrestling Alliance match card from 10 years ago yesterday that features Bryan as “The American Dragon” competing as a pupil in Shawn Michaels’ Academy. The throwback surprises Bryan as he autographs the heavily creased paper.

Meanwhile, simultaneous to the signing, HBK stands in the main ring for a live Q&A at Axxess. He’s asked about the 30th edition of WrestleMania and the match he’s most looking forward to seeing – a show-stealer. He names Bryan’s bout with The Game.

THE GIFT OF INSPIRATION, 12:16 p.m.

The Beard settles into his vehicle from WrestleMania Axxess and uses the few minutes in transit to examine some unexpected gifts from WWE fans at the event, as well as unwrap some other presents.

He smiles when holding a handmade construction paper booklet with marker drawings of himself with purple hair. He’s surprised by an early birthday card from another WWE Universe member, several weeks before the date on May 22.

Bryan is absolutely moved by a giftwrapped box that contains twin antibacterial towels for future hikes with his bride-to-be. It’s a wedding present based on a comment Bryan recently made in an interview and the thoughtfulness overwhelms him, particularly when reading the message inscribed on the card.

“Your love is an inspiration,” writes Bibo Reyes.

The gesture is an inspiration to Bryan.

Daniel Bryan WrestleMania Diary

TIED UP AT THE MOMENT, 5:11 p.m.

The lobby of the hotel is starting to fill up with Superstars and Legends in evening wear as they prepare to head to the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. Several floors above, Daniel Bryan is slipping on his suit jacket and wrestling with his feelings about his tie.

It’s the color, really. To Bryan, it’s a little too much on the purple side. To Brie, it’s the perfect shade of blue for her fiancé tonight. (Hint: She bought it.) Mid-debate, the stunning Bella slides on her stiletto heels and convinces The “Yes!” Man to say just that to the neckwear.

What’s more important to Bryan is that tonight he will watch his childhood favorite join myriad others in the Hall.

“Other than WrestleMania itself, [the thing] I’m looking forward to the most is Ultimate Warrior’s Hall of Fame speech,” says Bryan of ’Mania Week.

Daniel Bryan WrestleMania Diary

THE “YES!” MOM, 5:55 p.m.

A late Saturday night arrival in New Orleans adds a guest to “Braniel’s” Hall of Fame crew: Daniel Bryan’s mom, Betty. A social worker from Aberdeen, Wash., the “Yes!” mom has traveled to The Big Easy for the definitive Daniel Bryan bout on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Tonight, she gets a glimpse into what may one day be in store for her son, which is enshrinement in WWE’s Hall of Fame.

Overwhelmed and humbled by the pleasantries of those she encounters, Betty beams as she joins Bryan through crowds of Superstars, Legends and more. The mom and son, plus Brie and her family head toward the bus en route to the Smoothie King Center for a momentous event.

Watch the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony now on WWE Network

Daniel Bryan WrestleMania Diary

PAST MEETS PRESENT, 6:20 p.m.

In the backstage corridors at the site of the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony, friends reunite and families extend. Scott Hall raps with Bret Hart. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin trades tales with JBL. Michelle McCool and Layla reform LayCool. In one particularly compelling instance, the past of the WWE Championship meets the potential future of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The beloved “Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino meets the leader of the “Yes!” Movement Daniel Bryan. Both past champions of the people, it’s an appropriate connection made behind the scenes.

Daniel Bryan WrestleMania Diary

MUGGIN’, 7:34 p.m.

Couples congregate backstage at a small cloaked booth with pictures plastered all over its exterior. The WWE.com WrestleMania photo booth gives all Hall of Fame guests the chance to snap four quick pics, commemorate the night to remember and bring home something for the front of their fridges.

“Braniel” keeps the mood light with peace sign poses (Brie) and mean mugs (Bryan), then take the opportunity for a sweet lip connection. They collect their print then get prompted to the line for their arena entrance. Bryan and Brie are warmly greeted by the crowd on hand, forcing Renee Young to speak a bit louder during her red carpet interview with the duo on the pre-Hall of Fame program streamed live on WWE Network.

Daniel Bryan WrestleMania Diary

THE STARS ALIGN, 8:42 p.m.

The front row alone at the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony seats Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and John Cena. It’s uncanny. Sharing that row is an individual whom many believe has the potential to be a star of similar proportion, Daniel Bryan.

Beside him, the “Braniel” families watch intently as Mr. T gets a “Yes!” chant for so profoundly expressing his love for his momma. Yet another chant begins during “the most anticipated speech in the history of sports-entertainment,” delivered by The Ultimate Warrior.

Daniel Bryan WrestleMania Diary

THE JOURNEY, 11:33 p.m.

The ceremony has concluded and The Beard and company regroup with Brie Bella, who’s spent the evening escorting the honorees. A body-to-body crowd marches ahead with less than 30 minutes before WrestleMania Sunday is officially upon the WWE Universe.

The potent words selected by Ultimate Warrior surely make an impression on those who isolate the spirit of the message. On the eve of WrestleMania 30, tonight has been a celebration of countless successes – from Warrior to Lita – and Bryan’s perspective is unflagging.

“I felt successful the first time I wrestled,” he reflects, “actually doing it. “But as soon as you get success, the measure for success changes. The idea is to enjoy the journey and not the destination.”

In 24 hours, the journey will continue beyond WrestleMania 30 for Daniel Bryan. The variable, however, will be whether or not he’ll be taking two large golden prizes on the journey with him.

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