Daniel Bryan WrestleMania Diary: Day 6

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April 06, 2014

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THE HEAT IS ON, 9:46 a.m. 

The temperature feels immoderately warm in Daniel Bryan’s room this morning. With fiancée Brie across the city at Axxess’ early session, The Beard sits in his quarters and describes the first thoughts of the day, WrestleMania Sunday.

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“Once Brie left, I was able to go back to sleep and when I woke up, I had a lot of energy,” says a cool, relaxed Bryan. “And that’s what you want: feeling excited as opposed to nervous.

“You think you’d be a little more nervous about something like this, but I’m not,” he adds. “I woke up and feel really good.”

FAMILY TIME, 10:03 a.m.

Dual knocks at the door bring Bryan to his feet to welcome in this morning’s visitors. The chilled Superstar warmly greets his mom, plus his older sister Billie Sue and young nieces, then they discuss logistics for the day ahead. In between the pass-off of WrestleMania guest wristbands, the brief family banter results in smiles – Bryan and Billie Sue exposing their identical laugh – after cute cut-ins by Billie’s adorable daughters.

“Awww, mannnn,” the adults all say in unison, quoting a character from Dora the Explorer whose adventure unfolds on one girl’s iPad.

Betty hugs and squeezes her son, as he stretches on a piece of furniture mid-conversation. She then leaves him with a maternal kiss on the cheek and the family heads out for now. The support is palpable.

MAKIN’ CHANGE, 11:12 a.m. 

The first Superstar on the coach bus headed to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, The Beard receives the genuine support of all who step aboard and shuffle down the aisle for the biggest day in WWE – from Arn Anderson (“DB! This is your week.”), The Miz, Mark Henry and others.

Once inside the massive stadium, Bryan rolls his suitcase and the modest “Makin’ Groceries” Whole Foods bag he’d picked up earlier in the week. He finds his spot among his fellow warriors in the locker room and carves his niche.

As he’s expressed this week and for the past several months of his developing Movement, a sea change feels imminent. Should he succeed tonight, WWE may never be the same after April 6, 2014.

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“Things will change because expectations have to change,” Bryan declares, addressing The Authority. “What ‘they’ think someone needs in order to be a successful Superstar has to change.”

He continues, “Whether I win or not, my popularity has spoken for itself.”

POWER TO THE PEOPLE’S COUPLE?, 1:20 p.m.

At WrestleMania 30, the “People’s Couple” has a rare opportunity to emerge as a power couple (though they’d likely never prefer to be given such a moniker). Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella could emerge from The Show of Shows with the top prizes in their divisions – not unlike Triple H and Stephanie McMahon themselves once had in 2000. To Bryan, it’s not about the grandeur, however. Near the foot of the entrance ramp of the WrestleMania set, “Braniel” reconnects after their morning apart.

As much as this night means to Bryan, it’s also a significant event for Brie, who’s vying for AJ’s title in a Divas Championship Invitational. It could very well come down to sister against sister, among several other possible outcomes weighing on the “Total Divas” star’s mind. She – like Bryan – needs to be prepared for anything.

“I just try to tell her to go out there and do what you do,” Bryan encourages. “Enjoy being in front of 70,000 people because you don’t get that opportunity too often.

“Last year,” he explains, “[Brie and Nikki’s] match got cut from WrestleMania and that’s hard because that’s one of the reasons they came back. They wanted to wrestle at WrestleMania. [Brie has to] try not to get caught up in the distractions and drama that are inevitable.”

Their ringside huddle shifts, much like The “Yes!” Man’s face, which is slowly changing. The jocular “Goat” starts to resemble an “American Dragon,” as he internally prepares for the battle (or battles) beyond.

THE WARRIORS, 4:23 p.m.

Twenty-four years ago, WrestleMania VI’s “Ultimate Challenge” altered the landscape of the WWE Universe and forged a new breed of fan that rallied behind a behemoth named Ultimate Warrior. Among them was Daniel Bryan. Long before he discovered technicians like Shawn Michaels and Bret “Hit Man” Hart, the submission specialist was an enthralled young Warrior, himself.

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Inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Bryan encounters the greyed-yet-ever-intense Ultimate Warrior, mere hours prior to WrestleMania. The Beard shakes hands with the (currently) fringe-free legend for the first time and fulfills a moment little Daniel Bryan only dreamt of years back.

“I’m looking forward to your match,” Warrior bellows at the 5-foot-10 Superstar.

Ironically, tonight, Bryan takes aim at breaking the mold Warrior once propagated as a successor to “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan. An industry that flourished on the backs of big men is about to change forever.

BOOTS WITH THE FUR, 5:49 p.m.

It’s the final countdown and Daniel Bryan is suiting up for his clash against The King of Kings. In the locker room, Bryan slides on his new fur-lined kickpads. “Bruiser Brody,” he plainly proclaims, hinting at the homage to the similarly feral-bearded, former WWE Superstar.

While changing into his unique battle armor, The Beard finds a moment to converse with his one-time mentor, the rugged William Regal. Another supporter of the “Yes!” Movement, the English grappler is proud to see Bryan take to The Grandest Stage of Them All against one of the ring’s greatest competitors, The Game.

FIT FOR A KING, 6:14 p.m.

Superstars are huddled around monitors in the backstage area watching what is a WWE fan’s dream sequence between Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock in the middle of the ring. Mere yards away, Daniel Bryan is warming up with kicks that would make Craig Wilson (see Diary Day 3) proud. The air takes a beating from The Beard prior to what’s in store for The Cerebral Assassin.

THE MOVEMENT MEETS THE AUTHORITY, 6:36 p.m.

It’s the loudest “Yes!” chant you’ve ever heard. The theatrical entrance and gold accentuating The Game’s affluence of power is an unforgettable image, but instantly topped by a simple heartened gallop down the ramp to the ring. Daniel Bryan emerges upon The Grandest Stage of Them All to 75,167 voices shouting in his favor. Tonight, they seek the fall of The Authority and the progression of the “Yes!” Movement.

WINNING … AND LOSING, 7:01 p.m. 

Any other year, this victory would be any Superstar’s WrestleMania Moment. Dethroning The King of Kings and COO, Triple H – a 13-time World Champion and quintessential competitor – at WrestleMania is something few men can claim. And, Daniel Bryan did it with skill and tenacity, securing an indisputable pinfall on The Game. But before Bryan can celebrate and move on to a Triple Threat Match against Randy Orton and Batista with the WWE World Heavyweight Title on the line, The Cerebral Assassin deploys a brutal attack, sabotaging the underdog even with an already stacked deck. It’s “business” as usual for the nefarious Authority.

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HEALING KISS, 7:09 p.m.

Wounded yet victorious, Bryan hobbles up the ramp in a condition that appears to signify that his greatest hope of winning the WWE World Heavyweight Title is in heavy jeopardy. The “Yes!” Man finds his fiancée waiting for him to pass through the curtain. She’s elated for her husband-to-be and proud of the “Yes!” Movement. Plenty still lies ahead for both and the short exchange is sealed with a kiss.

“I’LL FIGHT THROUGH THIS,” 8:13 p.m.

Weeks ago, The Cerebral Assassin levied a near-critical injury to Daniel Bryan and his post-match assault tonight is methodically consistent. Bryan’s limb seems heavily damaged and The Beard receives attention from WWE medical trainers. The new co-No. 1 contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Title winces the higher he raises his left arm during the assessment while time ticks away before a match against Batista and Randy Orton. Some might stop right there. But The Animal and The Viper will have no choice but to face an American Dragon.

“I’ve got one more match,” Bryan asserts. “I’ve fought through worse and I’ll fight through this.”

THE LAST HOPE, 9:17 p.m.

Following the greatest upset in the history of WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan sustains a “Yes!” chant – with one arm – to rally the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after Brock Lesnar renders a blemish on The Undertaker’s Streak. The WWE Universe was already pulling for the underdog warrior, but now, with the fall of a Phenom, he’s become the last hope for WWE fans this night.

A COUP BY THE COO, 9:35 p.m.

Pained but unrelenting, Daniel Bryan manages to keep Batista and Randy Orton at bay until the three-way dance starts to resemble more of a handicap scenario, and not in The Beard’s favor. Explosive despite an exhausting exhibition with The Game merely two hours sooner, the fight in Daniel Bryan is inconceivable. The rapt audience only grows louder with each passing moment. The collective voice of 75,167 in New Orleans seems to suggest there’s not a soul in the crowd who’s not pulling for The “Yes!” Man … except two deplorable souls named Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.

They even come equipped with their own referee, a returning Scott Armstrong (last seen cheating Bryan with a fast-count at Night of Champions).

Bryan persists. He forces The Game to eat sledgehammer, then performs an Authority-crippling “Flying Goat.” In the midst of his fury, his opponents strike hard. Their vile innovation to take out The Beard? A Batista Bomb-RKO combo through an announce table – a lethal result of an Evolution reunion, like it’s 2004.

YES! HE DID, 9:51 p.m.

The WWE Universe refuses to give up on Daniel Bryan, and he does the same. Mid-transport on a stretcher, the grizzled grappler rolls off the gurney and treads back into action against Batista and Orton as they decimate one another.

Charging knee strikes fell both foes, then it’s the faithful maneuver sharing its name with his Movement that renders a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. At last, The Animal is tamed by submission. He taps to the “Yes!” Lock and a new era begins in WWE.

Confetti pours from all corners of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and envelops the entire ringside area, including WWE’s newly christened champion. “Flight of the Valkyries” never sounded so good.

FAMILY PRIDE, 9:56 p.m.

The euphoria is infectious inside the stadium. Swathed in purple and gold confetti, WWE fans are taking photos to capture the moment when the “Yes!” Movement – their crusade – reached the Promised Land. In the ring, the indy star-turned-WrestleMania history-maker implores his sister, Billie Sue, and her daughters to cherish and savor this emotional triumph.

Billie Sue’s brother has come a long way from sleeping on her sofa on wrestling tours. Tonight, this humble family from Aberdeen, Washington, sits at the epicenter of an entire WWE Universe.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES, 10:18 p.m.

"Feels good," Bryan utters while still catching his breath on the other side of the curtain. "I'm actually very tired right now. 'Yes!'-ing with those titles is a lot harder than people would imagine."

"I just want to thank everyone for their support. I wouldn't be here without them," he says. "We had 75,000 people in there. They were amazing. They made this moment happen and they made this moment special. And for that, I can never thank them enough."

Just beyond him, there's a diverse but committed crew of familiar faces waiting for the man of the hour. Ring of Honor alumni Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, plus Bret “Hit Man” Hart – one of Bryan’s wrestling muses – are among those on hand to applaud the individual who refused to be told he couldn’t be WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The Celtic Warrior Sheamus, who made his own World Title WrestleMania Moment at Bryan’s expense two years ago, shares a strong embrace with his friend.

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Yet it’s a beautiful friend, confidant, fan and lover who offers the warmest arms to Bryan. Though title-less herself despite her best efforts in the Divas Championship Invitational, Brie beams ear-to-ear at her fiancé’s success. They exchange “I love yous” and Bryan drapes his good arm over her. They exit the backstage ramp and walk on toward a brilliant future as husband and wife.

From here, they’ll return to their lives in a new home. They’ll pick up their French bulldog, Josie, from doggy daycare. They’ll finalize their plans for the (unofficially titled) “Yes!” Wedding. Plus, there’s always Raw.

The Face of WWE – more appropriately, a “Sweet Face” as Brie calls her fiancé – just grew a beard.

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