Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion and current SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan's WWE career is certainly one of the most interesting ones ever witnessed in the history professional wrestling.
Bryan was released twice by the WWE before having any sort of success with the promotion, and would eventually go on to win the Money In The Bank (MITB) briefcase that would guarantee him a WWE World Title match whenever he wanted it. After a long feud with then-World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry, Bryan cashed in his briefcase on The Big Show, who had just defeated Henry to win the title, at the Tables Ladders and Chairs (TLC) pay-per-view (PPV) in 2011.
He then went on to lose the title in just 18 seconds to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28 in a hilarious squash match. The run sparked the beginning of Bryan's successful WWE career, which saw him become one of the most beloved WWE Superstars in the history of the WWE. The potential for Bryan to be the company's biggest star, however, wasn't always shared by those backstage.
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Former WWE creative writer Kevin Eck recently spoke with Sporting News to talk about his time with the WWE and brought up the time Bryan won the MITB briefcase at the similarly named PPV in July of 2011. Eck revealed that "The Chairman Of The Board" Vince McMahon had a bit of 'buyer's remorse' after putting the briefcase on Bryan, but Eck did his best to try and increase Bryan's relevancy by putting him in a storyline with AJ Lee (quotes via Wrestling Inc.):
"I started working for WWE at the end of August 2011, six weeks after Bryan won the SmackDown MITB ladder match. Bryan's victory was surprising at the time because he wasn't getting much of a push beforehand. He wasn't getting much of one after winning the blue briefcase, either.
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"In fact, I was informed by some of my colleagues that Vince McMahon was having buyer's remorse about making Bryan SmackDown's Mr. Money in the Bank. The question was no longer when Bryan would cash in and win the title, it was whether he should be the first MITB winner to cash in and fail. ...I didn't know whether Bryan would ever be world champion, but I figured it could only help his cause if he had a story line, even a minor one.
"I pitched putting Bryan and another nerdy, undersized underdog — AJ Lee — together as a couple. Head writer Brian Gewirtz liked the idea, and we started writing some backstage segments with Bryan and AJ into the show.
"By the way, when I pulled Bryan and AJ aside at TV and told them they were about to become an on-screen couple, AJ was thrilled to be getting any opportunity, but Bryan was something less than thrilled.
"He said the last time he was involved in a romantic story line (with Gail Kim and The Bella Twins), it did him more harm than good. Despite his misgivings, however, Bryan was a total pro."
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