We all know Bryan works well as an underdog. It was part of his original appeal and was the reason that his WrestleMania XXX storyline worked so well. If Bryan was not presented as a man who had to overcome long odds to win his battle against The Authority would have been nowhere near as satisfying as it was.
But as effective as the approach is the Bryan being an underdog thing can only go on for so long. The WWE management crew’s instinct is always going to be to present a man of Bryan’s height as an underdog but they need to move beyond that. Continuing with it indefinitely would see it become familiar and boring, running the risk of harming ‘The Dazzler’s’ popularity and making him look out of his depth at the top. Luckily there’s an alternate approach that wouldn’t go against anything that’s been established about the Bryan character at this point.
|The beard should remain untrimmed.|
Bryan should be portrayed as a super-efficient tapout machine. Have him wrestle expendable guys that are bigger than him (Titus O’Neil, Goldust and even Mark Henry would fit the bill) on TV and beat them in two or three minute glorified squash matches with the Yes Lock or a new hold that can be presented as even more deadly (have Cole tell a story about how Bryan devised it while he was recuperating from the neck surgery). When wrestling on pay-per-view or on TV against more credible opponents Bryan’s size should become less of a factor and he could simply be portrayed as a great technical wrestler.
The only exception I want to see with this is Bryan v Lesnar. That match is so obviously begging for the underdog treatment that it would be foolish not to take it. Have Bryan take a pasting from Lesnar before sneaking in a quick small package win. Or, if he’s losing, have him take a pasting, mount a comeback, and then fall to a kimura lock applied in desperation, showing that Bryan was able to push Lesnar to the limit and that ‘The Beast’ only got the victory in a last ditch attempt himself.
Even then it would only work once. A Bryan Lesnar rematch would probably work best (or at least be most enjoyable) if the story were that Bryan had figured out a weakness of Lesnar’s and was focusing incredibly proficiently on exploiting it.
If Bryan comes back and enters the same WWE routine his popularity’s going to take a hit. It might not ruin him, but why allow any damage at all to be done to a man who’s become a success for the company? Better to avoid it and continue to play to Bryan’s strengths.