At one time, Daniel Bryan was one of the biggest babyfaces in the entire WWE and was more popular than anyone in the company.
Now, Bryan is one of the most hated heels in the WWE, someone who preaches the importance of enviromental issues but does it in a way that is condescending and arrogant.
In a recent podcast on CBS Sports titled “State of Combat,” Bryan talked about what it was hard for him and others to really succeed as pure white meat babyfaces and how he was able to change his character so successfully into a despised heel — despite saying things that he really believes in.
Daniel Bryan: The WWE screwed up babyfaces
Many years ago, the WWE had a wrestler named Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. He was arguably the best babyface in WWE history and fans really pulled for him while his enemeies became immediate hated villains.
When Daniel Bryan rose to power, he was able to get the fans behind him — but it was really because the WWE didn’t see it coming and had to make constant changes due to the fans
At one WrestleMania, the WWE had to change directions and stop a proposed Batista world title reign, and instead gave it to Bryan instead — a moment that was one of the best fan experiences in years.
However, Bryan said it is not easy for the babyfaces to stay on top and keep the fans invested in them in the WWE today.
“A good guy, white meat babyface that you’re talking about can’t be presented as a loser or a dork or where an authority figure tells them that ‘we’re going to fire you if you do this’ and they hang their head … If you want a good character that people like and he has something you believe in, and they’re going to fire them, then say, ‘Fire me, fine, I’ll go get a job somewhere else.'”Daniel Bryan
That is what made Stone Cold Steve Austin so great — although, he was not a pure white meat babyface. Same with CM Punk.
However, the WWE has a bad habit of sending someone like Stephanie McMahon or Triple H or Vince McMahon out to dress down the babyfaces and they look bad as a result.
The New Daniel Bryan
According to Daniel Bryan, when he returned to the WWE, he was thrown back into the same role he had before and the fans still loved him. However, he heard the cheers lessening over time as the fans wanted the same things and he knew he had to change his wrestling style to extend his career.
Fans who used to love John Cena have been booing him for years because they wanted him to become a heel. Same with Roman Reigns. Daniel Bryan knew that it could happen to him too.
“I started to realize that, hey, the tide is turning on this whole thing of me being a good guy and eventually it’s going to be people getting tired of me in the same way people had gotten tired of John Cena and all that stuff.”Daniel Bryan
As a result, he became a heel and is now perfecting a character of an extreme environmentalist. It is similar to CM Punk’s old straight edge gimmick.
In both cases, the wrestlers believe in their characters. CM Punk really was straight edge and didn’t drink or do drugs. Daniel Bryan is a huge environmentalist and lives a vegan lifestyle. However, what makes them heels is that they insult everyone who doesn’t live like them.
Bryan said that he does not feel that way in his life. He said he won’t tell someone not to eat meat or eggs in real life. But, when he is talking to the crowds, he says things to them that he says to himself.
“All of this that I’m saying is when I say it, I think about it about myself more so than anything else… I don’t yell at other people, ‘Hey, stop eating eggs!’ I say to myself, I should stop eating eggs on the road… a lot of these things are frustrations with myself because I know the consequences.”Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan is the current WWE world champion and appears on SmackDown Live every Tuesday night on USA Network at 8/7c.