So I had a big article planned about the improvements that Ring of Honor has been making of late, and then the wrestling world was turned upside down. Yesterday, in one of the biggest surprises I ever could have imagined, Daniel Bryan was cleared to return to the ring after over two years of retirement. Bryan had tried to get his medical clearance for well over a year and while several doctors had cleared him, it wasn’t until recently that he received the clearance that matters.

Bryan’s clearance comes at the perfect time as we’re less than three weeks to go before “Wrestlemania XXXIV” (I’m sure there’s no coincidence to the timing) and you know what that means: we get to speculate about matches! While it’s pretty clear that Bryan is going to team with Shane McMahon against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, that’s not going to be his last match.

Here’s how he went about the return announcement.

Today we’re going to look at the potential matchups that Bryan could be having in his latest WWE run. I can’t imagine any of these will be a surprise, but that doesn’t mean fans shouldn’t be salivating over the thought of most of them. Bryan has a style that can work against anyone and if he can wrestle at the level he was at before his string of injuries (or even close for that matter), these could tear down a lot of houses.

In no particular order.

Sami Zayn

Sure this is likely going to take place in tag team format at “Wrestlemania”, but the chemistry these two could have in a singles match, preferably with a lot of time to use, could be excellent. Zayn and Bryan are both outstanding at making you care about them, which has turned Zayn into that great of a heel. Let these two do their thing in a solid midcard level match and see how fast they tear the house down.

In theory this should be Zayn as a heel, but he’s only going to be fighting for the forces of evil for so long. He’s one of the most natural faces you’ll ever see and a battle between Bryan and Zayn with the fans unsure of who they like more (ok it’s going to be Bryan) could be a blast. But yeah, Zayn would be an excellent heel opponent, perhaps in Bryan’s first major singles match.

Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens confront Daniel Bryan: SmackDown LIVE, Oct. 17, 2017

Seth Rollins

This is a similar vein to Zayn but with a much more natural heel. Rollins has been one of the top guys in the company since Bryan left and that story writes itself. It’s another match where they could tear the house down with both guys getting to show off some crazy athleticism. Rollins can more than carry his own weight on the mic and talking about wanting to injure Bryan all over again would make him the biggest villain in the world.

Bryan on the other hand could bring up his past with the Shield (Are they still officially a thing?) and then kick the heck out of Rollins, including kicking him out of the air on a springboard attempt. It’s another match where the styles will work well together, especially in a match second from the top on a pay per view. Perhaps for the Intercontinental Title down the line?

Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins: Raw, February 2, 2015

Jinder Mahal

No long explanation here. I just rather enjoy the idea of Mahal being repetedly kicked put in severe pain.

Shinsuke Nakamura

This is another one that writes itself. They both kick each other really hard and they can both get the crowd going nuts for them. These two are very similar with their offenses and if you watch them get going, they’re some of the best in the world. If nothing else, just make it into a match of the running knees to the face. That’s a story in and of itself and an easy way to see the thing.

While Bryan could benefit quite a bit from this, Nakamura would have a lot to gain as well. At the end of the day, his main roster run hasn’t been the biggest success. However, if you let him get in there with someone who can hang with him every step of the day (and beat him in certain cases), it could be quite the motivating factor. This could be a great match and I’d love to see where it could go.

Kevin Owens

If Zayn could make for an interesting match, this one is an obvious one. Bryan is the smaller guy who is trying to get back into the ring. Owens, by definition, is a bully. He knows how to talk down to anyone and make himself seem like the greatest thing in the world. Throw in the fact that he can wrestle a heck of a match too and this is all you could ask for.

While the wrestling works perfectly well, you could also go several ways with the talking. Bryan might not be the best talker in the world but a few YES Kicks and the running knee will be more than enough to get him out of trouble. Owens can hang with Bryan in every aspect of the game and that’s not something you can see very often. This would be excellent stuff, especially with Owens being a jerk the whole way.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn unleash a brutal assault on Daniel Bryan: SmackDown LIVE, March 20, 2018

Brock Lesnar

It’s four years late but why not see how this works? I mean, aside from Bryan’s neck being turned into coleslaw of course. This is the ultimate David vs. Goliath match and that makes for another easy story to tell. Lesnar is the guy there just for the money while Bryan loves wrestling like no one else. How much easier do you need this to be?

The other nice change of pace here is there’s no guarantee that Lesnar would win. Back in 2014 this was pretty clearly just a way to get the title onto Lesnar, but now not so much. Bryan would seem to be a longer range star for WWE so maybe they would let him get the big upset win over Lesnar. A running knee or two could put Lesnar down and it would make Bryan look like a star all over again.

And then, of course, number one with a bullet.

The Miz

If there has EVER been a match that has been built up better than this with no payoff, I can’t think of it off the top of my head. These two have been building a match for years now and until yesterday, there was no reason to believe that it could ever actually happen. Miz was there when Bryan came into WWE and while they had a match here or there before, it was never when they were at their peaks.

Above all else, go back and look at what these two did on the first episode of “Talking Smack”. They have such a natural difference between each other that it’s easy to want to see them go at it. Let them talk it up and then have Bryan FINALLY get his hands on Miz. I would have preferred WWE to not announce Bryan’s return and then have Miz issue an open challenge the night after “Wrestlemania XXXIV”, but if I just have to watch them build a feud into a match, so be it.


The Miz completely loses it in the face of GM Daniel Bryan: WWE Talking Smack, Aug. 23. 2016

Back in 2014, I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans for Bryan’s career pinnacle at “Wrestlemania XXX”. While it was a big deal, I never was the biggest Bryan fan. It was sad when he had to retire because he comes off like the nicest guy in the world, but I’ve been excited since hearing about his in-ring return. This has serious potential and there’s a real opportunity to make this work. Just please WWE, don’t screw this up.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at, or check out his Amazon author page with 26 wrestling books. His latest book is the History of the WWE Championship.

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