There are dozens of ways to determine a new number-one contender. Battle royales, tournaments, fatal four ways, you name it. But, the WWE recently went with an unorthodox method that produced one of the most heartwarming television segments they’ve put together in quite some time…
They let the fans decide.
With a sea of challengers to choose from, the WWE Universe let champ John Cena know that they wanted the coveted SummerSlam title match to go to unlikely hero Daniel Bryan. When Cena gave the nod to the bearded Bryan, the reaction was deafening.
I had a chance to talk to the master of the “Yes” lock a few days later at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con. While surrounded by Stormtroopers, zombies, and other costumed characters we talked about the upcoming SummerSlam main event, CM Punk’s date with Brock Lesnar, and whether or not his love life will be a factor in the biggest match of his career…
Gordon Holmes: A year ago you told me that your career aspiration is to be where John Cena is. Now twelve months later you’re slated to go toe-to-toe with Cena for the WWE Championship at one of the biggest shows of the year. How did we get here?
Daniel Bryan: (Laughs) I don’t know. It’s really surreal because I shouldn’t really be here. I was doing a comedy thing with Kane and then for some reason in the last several months…it’s changed. I don’t know if the fans changed, if I’ve changed. I’ve been popular for the last year, but in the last several months it’s been crazy. I don’t understand how it happens.
Holmes: I feel like sometimes the company wants somebody to succeed and sometimes the fans decide who they want to succeed. This feels like a win for the fans.
Bryan: Yeah, and it’s strange because I don’t know how that connection was made, but there’s a definite connection between me and the fans. It makes me smile every time my music hits and you hear that reaction. I look out and see everyone “Yes-ing.” And even here at Comic Con, people say, “We feel such a connection with you.” I feel it too. It’s almost like I’m one of them. I’m just a big, giant fan who just happens to wear spandex.
Holmes: I think part of what put you over the top was this thing you’ve started to do where you’ll just turn on this mind-blowing wave of offense. It’s almost like you have another gear you shift into. Do you have a name for that?
Bryan: I don’t, I just want to make things exciting. Some writers say they don’t know where their inspiration comes from. Stephen King is someone who says he just writes and lets the process do it for him. For wrestling, that’s the thing. I do what hits me and that’s what happens. (Laughs) I don’t know how to describe it.
Holmes: It’s not an understatement to say that this match at SummerSlam is easily the biggest in your career to this point.
Holmes: For the WWE Championship against the biggest name of this generation in the main event of a major show…do you approach it differently? Are there nerves? Walk me through the process.
Bryan: I’m not nervous at all. I’m very prepared for this. I’ve been wrestling almost fourteen years now. There have been matches where I’ve felt the pressures of expectations, and I know there are a lot of expectations going into this match. But I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be able to live up to that. I’m really excited.
Holmes: Nothing has been announced yet, but I’m hoping to see CM Punk and Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Any thoughts on that one?
Bryan: I think it’s going to be awesome. Those are the kinds of matches I wanted to see when Brock Lesnar came back. I want to see matches with Punk, I’d like to wrestle Brock Lesnar because I think it’d be a different kind of match. I’m excited for it, it’s hard to bet against Brock Lesnar. When he beat up Punk on Monday it was pretty intense. But, I’m always rooting for Punk. Me and him are cut from the same cloth.
(Editor’s Note: Daniel Bryan is currently dating WWE Diva Brie Bella. John Cena is currently dating her twin sister, WWE Diva Nikki Bella.)
Holmes: Now, not to jump into your personal life, but I heard a rumor that your girlfriend looks an awful lot like John Cena’s girlfriend.
Bryan: (Laughs) Yeah, yeah.
Holmes: Is that accurate?
Bryan: That is accurate. And it’s funny because “Total Divas” (the Bellas’ new reality show) starts on July 28th and people will be able to start to see that before SummerSlam. I’ll be interested to see if WWE tries to wrap that in somehow.
Holmes: Are you worried at all that this match could drive a wedge between two sisters who get along so well?
Bryan: (Laughs) Well, if you knew them you wouldn’t think that they got along so well. They’re twins! They get into it a little bit.
Holmes: Either way, one twin will have bragging rights when it’s all said and done.
Bryan: Yeah, potentially.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes
Watch the premiere of “Total Divas,” Sunday, July 28, 2013 at 10 pm ET on E!
Watch “WWE: Summerslam,” Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.