The World Heavyweight title picture received a shakeup at Sunday's TLC pay-per-view. First, Big Show made light work (if such a thing is possible) of 'The World's Strongest Man' Mark Henry and pinned him to become the new World Heavyweight champion. Show's celebration was cut short by a chair shot from the former champion, which brought out 'Mr Money in the Bank' Daniel Bryan to cash-in briefcase. Seconds later there was another new World Heavyweight champion crowned.
Is Daniel Bryan 'Best in the World' again now that he's the World Heavyweight champion?
The elevation of Bryan to the main event comes out of nowhere but that's the nature of Money in the Bank cash-ins. The aim is to create a main event star overnight, bypassing the building process that should be a regular occurrence. If WWE follows through on this title switch by booking the new champion strongly they should have a new bona fide main eventer on their hands.
I've said before that having Bryan cash in his title shot before WrestleMania, which is where he originally claimed he'd challenge for gold, would be the perfect way to turn him heel. Right now it's too early to tell whether or not that's going to happen. I think there’s a good chance it will.
A lot of people seem to think a Show heel turn is the way WWE are going to take things but I think that looks unlikely. Throughout his feud with Henry, and association with Bryan, 'The World's Largest Athlete' has been portrayed as the typical babyface: he's stood up to a bully and gotten the better of him, all while slapping hands and smiling at the cameras. It would be a big leap to suddenly turn him heel. With Bryan's size Show would essentially be taking on Henry's bully role, which we’ve already seen done. It's not impossible to imagine that happening but it’s not likely.
A Daniel Bryan heel turn would be far easier to pull off. In an ideal world it would be a slow process that culminates at or around the Royal Rumble. He can be accused of being a poor sportsman for cashing in on an injured opponent (that others have done this is irrelevant, mainly because everybody does it and it’s become the accepted cash-in method) and a liar for falsely stating he'd wait until WrestleMania. A slow turn in which Bryan gradually exhibits progressively more heelish tendencies would draw viewers in and provide an easy to follow storyline.
I think Big Show v Daniel Bryan could work well, especially if it's built up strongly and they don’t wrestle too often. Bryan is such a talented worker that he could not only work a believable match with a much larger, limited opponent but do so from the bad guy side of the face-heel divide too. It's not a feud I want to see run for months but one or two matches before WrestleMania season would be appealing.
The reason ‘D-Bryan’ got the belt is that Mark Henry suffered a pulled groin in his recent RAW match with John Cena and requires time off to recover. The original plan was apparently for 'The World's Strongest Man' to remain champion for several more months. That fact could work in Bryan's favour: WWE have had to alter their plans at the last minute and clearly see Bryan as someone who can step up to replace an established heel at the top of the card. It’s a vote of confidence and he’ll have time in the spotlight to show exactly what he can do.
Longer term what could be in store for the new champion? Should Bryan stay a babyface he'll have a good number of heel challengers. Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes are guys that have been on the rise for a while now and would be fresh faces to the World title scene. A rematch with Mark Henry would probably be in store when he's back from his injury (but if we don't mention it much maybe it won't happen). Christian would be a great opponent for ‘The American Dragon’ too, and Brodus Clay could easily be moved from RAW to work with Bryan.
A heel turn would provide the best matches though. Established main event hands Sheamus and Randy Orton would be potential WrestleMania opponents. Either match would be a good addition to the show. The 'Dragon's' reign could even provide Ezekiel Jackson with something to do again, though that's probably something that would need limiting to a TV feud after 'Mania.
The best thing WWE could do with Bryan is have him become the most arrogant, conceited man in the company and pit him against CM Punk in a title unification feud. People who have only seen his WWE work may be understandably dubious about him being able to pull such a role off, but he could do it with ease. He proved many times during his time in Ring of Honor that he makes a fantastic antagonist.
Punk and Bryan are two of the promotion's best all-rounders. They can work five star matches and give scintillating promos. I can easily imagine a champion versus champion program between the two kicking off with Bryan taking exception to Punk's relatively recently acquired 'Best in the World' moniker. Promos on that topic alone would be highlights of RAW and SmackDown. They could even work around the Rumble-winner-gets-a-title-shot-at-WrestleMania clause by having Punk and Bryan both agree to face the winner separately in order to prove they’re “the best.” Two title matches could be used to improve TV ratings or both take place on one night at Elimination Chamber, giving fans a great pay-per-view and a reason to watch.
A feud with CM Punk would be the best case scenario. That it's not very likely isn't a huge issue. With Barrett, Orton, Rhodes, Sheamus and Big Show around WWE is spoilt for choice when it comes to booking Daniel Bryan’s title reign. Even they can't mess this up.