The next match on the countdown is a match I attended in person at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans. It was a happy moment for the WWE Universe as WWE finally listened to us and put the spotlight on Daniel Bryan heading into WrestleMania 30.

If you’ve missed anything in the countdown so far, the WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches archives are here.

Who: Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H @ WrestleMania 30

When: April 6, 2014

Where: Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana

The Build

This match wasn’t even supposed to happen if you recall the plans WWE made around the Royal Rumble. It was supposed to be CM Punk vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 30 while Daniel Bryan was scheduled to face Sheamus at WrestleMania 30. If you think I’m joking, you are wrong. That was the plan. The reason plans changed is because CM Punk quit WWE the day after the Royal Rumble because he was miserable, so WWE had to come up with another match idea for Triple H.

Speaking of the 2014 Royal Rumble, WWE should have had Bryan win that match and go on to face the WWE Champion at WrestleMania. Instead, Bryan wasn’t even in the match. He was on the undercard losing to Bray Wyatt. Meanwhile, Batista made a return to WWE after a four-year absence and he won the Rumble. The crowd hated it while those of us watching wondered how WWE could ignore Bryan’s popularity.

The Triple H/Bryan story goes back to SummerSlam 2013. Daniel Bryan, who was a rising babyface star, beat John Cena clean to win the WWE Title with Triple H as the referee. After the match was over, Triple H hit Bryan with a Pedigree and Randy Orton cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase leading to him leaving with the WWE Title. After the Orton title win, Bryan won the title back one month later, but that was changed after a fast count by a referee. Orton ended up carrying the WWE Title into WrestleMania.

After fans were very vocal about how they didn’t like a proposed Orton vs. Batista match at WrestleMania 30, WWE changed plans by putting Bryan in a more featured role.

The turning point was an episode on Raw on March 10, 2014 in Memphis. It was a famous “Occupy Raw” segment where Bryan was defiant against The Authority (on screen WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H and wife Stephanie McMahon). Bryan said he was tired of them, but he was going to make it so they had to listen to him. Bryan stated he wasn’t going to leave the ring until he gets a match at WrestleMania with Triple H. That led to Bryan calling out fans and having them fill the ring with him to show they supported him in the “Occupy Raw” movement.

With the ring full of Daniel Bryan and members of the “Yes Movement,” it led to Triple H and Stephanie telling them to get out of the ring because they had a show to run. When Triple H sent security to take them out, the security guys didn’t do anything because there were so many people out there.

After Bryan got Triple H to accept his match request, Bryan asked for more. He wanted to make the WWE Title match at WrestleMania a triple threat match if he could beat Triple H. The fans loved it and suddenly all was right again because WWE finally gave the WWE Universe what they wanted with Bryan getting the WWE Title shot. To try to throw the fans off, they also said if Triple H won then he would get inserted into the WrestleMania main event as well.

While I’m not sure WWE sent CM Punk a thank you email for quitting after the Rumble, they probably should have because WrestleMania 30 was a lot better because of Daniel Bryan’s performance that night.

What I Thought Back Then

The build to the match was fantastic. Bryan did the best promo work of his career as he rallied the crowd behind him while Triple H and Stephanie were great at trying to hold him down. It was easy to love Bryan and easy to hate them. The “Occupy Raw” segment set it up so well. That was the best Raw segment of 2014 and really one of the best Raw moments for years.

Was the outcome of this match predictable? Sure. We all knew who was going to win the match. That didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it at all because this was the first Bryan vs. Triple H match after Hunter screwed him over at SummerSlam 2013. After seven long months of build, Bryan got to take on his boss at the biggest show of the year.

It was easy to get excited about this match because it was fresh and they are both outstanding performers.

Here’s the “Monster” video package about Daniel Bryan. It was exceptional. Covered his journey to the top so well.

Here’s my full review of the match plus the analysis, which was written in 2014.

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (w/Stephanie McMahon) @ WrestleMania 30

There was a video package about Daniel Bryan to the song “Monster” by Imagine Dragons about his rise to the top while also incorporating the feud with Triple H. Really good video. They replayed it on Raw too.

Stephanie McMahon introduced her husband Triple H. He got an elaborate entrance with a throne and headgear because he’s more important than anybody else. Just ask him. Huge reaction for Daniel Bryan as expected. Lots of “yes” signs and a stadium full of “yes” chants as well. It was incredible to look across the building and see that reaction. Bryan had his left shoulder taped up still.

Hunter wanted a handshake. Bryan kicked him and got a rollup for two. Shoulder tackle by Hunter and then Bryan got a headlock takeover. Bryan went for his kick sequence, but Hunter slammed his leg into the mat. Bryan hit a dropkick that sent Hunter outside the ring and then a Tornado DDT off the apron by Bryan. Bryan went up top and hit a flipping dive onto Triple H although Bryan crashed on the floor pretty hard. Stephanie: “You’re B+ at best.” That’s trash talk apparently. Bryan got tripped up while he was on the top rope and Hunter hit a forearm shot to send Bryan to the floor. They fought around the announce table, which led to Hunter slamming Bryan’s left arm into the table. Back in the ring, Hunter focused on the injured arm of Bryan. Bryan ducked by the ropes and Hunter went over the top to the floor. Bryan wanted the Flying Goat dive outside the ring, but Hunter nailed him with a forearm shot to the face. Hunter continued to wear him down by using a Crossface until Bryan got to the ropes to break it. Slow pace continued as Hunter worked on the left arm of Bryan. They exchanged punches, which led to Bryan hitting a forearm shot to the face. Bryan hit a German suplex for two. He hit another one for two. Hunter hooked Bryan’s arms and gave him a Tiger Suplex. You don’t see Hunter use that move very often. That earned Hunter a two count.

They battled on the turnbuckle, which led to Bryan hitting a sunset flip into a Powerbomb. Both guys were down. Running corner dropkick by Bryan two times, but Hunter countered the third one with a huge clothesline. Stephanie was celebrating at ringside. Bryan countered a Pedigree for a two count and then hit a kick to the head as the crowd went wild with “yes” chants. Bryan went up top for the headbutt, but Hunter countered by getting his knee up. Another Crossface by Hunter that Bryan countered by rolling into a pinfall. Bryan applied the Yes Lock. Hunter was able to get to the ropes and he went to the floor. Bryan hit the Flying Goat dive outside the ring. Then he hit it again. Crowd was on fire for him. Missile dropkick in the ring by Bryan. There was a HBK-like kip up by Bryan followed by kicks to the chest and the roundhouse kick for the two count. Bryan went for the running knee, but Hunter countered into a Spinebuster. Pedigree by Hunter. One…two…no! Bryan kicked out. Tremendous nearfall right there. Best of the match. Hunter didn’t know what to do to finish him, so Bryan was able to sneak in an inside cradle for two. Hunter came back and wanted a Pedigree, but Bryan countered with a back body drop. Hunter hit knees to the head to wear Bryan down some more. Bryan slipped out of a Pedigree attempt with a kick to the face. Hunter wanted a suplex, Bryan got out of that and fired back with a running knee to the face (the Knee Plus?) and he covered for the one…two…three! Bryan wins! Huge pop for the pinfall win by Bryan. The match went 26 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Daniel Bryan

Analysis: ****1/4 We all expected Bryan to win and that’s what happened, but they sure made it close. That’s what I loved about it. There was so much drama in this match. It could have headlined a WrestleMania yet here it was in the opening match. What a way to start WrestleMania. They had a really long match, which is why Hunter was able to work on him at a slow pace and then it really picked up towards the end. Hunter’s offense was perfect. Bryan’s tremendous at selling. That’s why there was chemistry between them even though they hadn’t wrestled before. They know what they’re doing out there. My initial reaction was that Hunter would kick out of that running knee before getting pinned by another one, but I have no problem with it as the finish. It was an outstanding wrestling match that will be remembered as one of the best openers in WWE PPV history. Not at the level of Owen vs. Bret at WM10, but it was still awesome.

Post match, Cole called it an upset. I don’t really like that although I understand why they would say it. JBL called Bryan a “garden creature” as he complained about it. Stephanie slapped Bryan in the face a few times. Hunter took him down from behind. He placed Bryan’s arm against the post and hit it with a steel chair.

Analysis: They did that to get more heat on Hunter and make Bryan even more of a sympathetic figure going into the main event. Smart booking move even if it was a bit predictable.

You can read my full recap of WrestleMania 30 right here.

What They Said

Triple H shared a lot about this match with Bleacher Report in 2015. Here are his comments on a few different aspects of it.

Triple H on preparing for the match: “It’s full on, twice a day. I’ve got to get in shape because I know Daniel Bryan is one of the best guys in the world. And I’ve got to hang with him. I’ve got to be in there and do my part. We’ve told this massive story, and it all hinges on delivering. So I’ve got to go out there in that first match at WrestleMania and I’ve got to kill it and put him on that platform.”

Triple H on his style compared to Daniel Bryan: “I can chain wrestle. I can do all that other stuff. I just don’t do it. It’s about doing them at the right moment, safely, with a guy you can do them with. And Daniel’s a guy you can do just about anything with. He’s a little bit like Shawn [Michaels] in that you can do anything with him. So pulling that out of the bag was something I could do.”

Triple H on the payoff after Bryan beat him and won the match: “I lean over to Steph, and I said, ‘Look at that.’ What a story. And even just thinking about it now, I get chillbumps. To be able to take that 10-month arc of a story and have it pay off for Daniel Bryan—who on every level is just the nicest guy and a guy you just want to help succeed—for every reason you just want him to be big, and then here it is. And man, it’s huge. And you’re just like, ‘Yeah!’”

Daniel Bryan also spoke about the match in the same Bleacher Report article from 2015:

“Triple H and I have very different styles. The fans would not be happy if I did a Triple H match. And likewise, they would not have been happy with Hunter doing a Daniel Bryan match. Especially when it comes to WrestleMania. And that’s where it really gets interesting. To me, the funnest part of wrestling is creatively putting together a match. Especially when you have two guys that have so many different ideas. We had so many ideas to choose from, and we just had to decide, ‘What story do we want to tell the crowd?’

“We also knew that I was going on to wrestle a second match. So it couldn’t be the kind of match where I’d be nearly dead, because then the next match wouldn’t be realistic. But there still had to be some steam there in the first match. It was Hunter bringing all of his great ideas and me bringing all of my great ideas and us saying, ‘Let’s make this something special.'”

“The way we started the match, with a handshake and me kicking away his hand, and then he goes to the floor—that’s not something I would usually start with. That’s more of a Triple H-type thing, something of an older style of starting a match. But it worked great. It’s part of incorporating all these little things to tell the story we want to tell.”

If you want more comments, Daniel Bryan wrote a book that featured a lot of thoughts on this match. There’s also a WrestleMania 30 special on WWE Network as well.

What I Think Now

I like this match more right now than I did when I saw it live in 2014 because of how much I miss watching Daniel Bryan wrestle. His style is unlike anybody I have ever seen before. Very few wrestlers in the history of the business could sell a beating like him. He was always able to get the crowd behind him with the most incredible comebacks of any wrestler in that period. The only face wrestler I could really compare him to is Shawn Michaels, but Shawn was a few inches taller. Bryan, despite being so much smaller than Triple H, looked like the perfect underdog as he fought back to win the match in a clean way.

The post match attack was obvious, but again it fit the story. If something is right for the story then I have no problem with WWE doing predictable things.

I know this match may be forgotten in some ways because of Brock Lesnar beating The Undertaker to end “The Streak” and Bryan winning the WWE Title later in the night. It really shouldn’t be forgotten, though. It’s an awesome match between two of the best in-ring performers in WWE history.

What Happened Next

This part makes me sad because Bryan’s injuries really started to mount around this time. He had neck surgery in May 2014, missed a lot of action and was never able to work a full time schedule again. After he got back from the neck surgery, a serious concussion slowed him down in 2015. When Bryan retired in February 2016 it was due to a series of concussions. He wasn’t going to cleared by WWE, so he had to stop wrestling before he turned 35 years old. In a perfect world, he would have been able to wrestle into his 40s. Sadly, it’s not a perfect world.

As for Triple H, he continued to wrestle as a part timer, but has a more important role as WWE’s head of Talent Relations and Vince McMahon’s #2 so to speak in terms of the WWE creative process. After Vince, he’s probably the most valuable person to WWE right now and will be for many years to come. Moving to an executive role when he did about five years ago was the right thing for him and I certainly don’t mind seeing him back in the ring once in a while to put over talent.

Final Thoughts

I always say that even though Bryan’s career was cut short, we can always watch WrestleMania 30 with a smile knowing how much he accomplished that night. Kudos to Triple H for putting him over clean in the middle of the ring like he should have.

Those “yes” chants are still ringing in my ears. Nights like that are why I’m still a fan after all these years.

If you’re wondering, Daniel Bryan’s second match at WrestleMania 30 is coming up later on the list.

Rankings So Far

  1. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H @ WrestleMania 30
  2. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @ WrestleMania 17
  3. The Rock vs. Steve Austin @ WrestleMania 19
  4. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins) @ WrestleMania 31
  5. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WrestleMania 20
  6. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania 18
  7. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair @ WrestleMania 24
  8. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch @ WrestleMania 32
  9. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WrestleMania 8
  10. Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania 6

WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches archives are here.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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