Daniel Bryan Comments on Universal Title Match on WWE Smackdown, Being “Banished” From Smackdown if He Loses, More

There’s a big match on WWE Friday Night Smackdown on Fox tonight. The former five-time WWE Champion Daniel will challenge the dominant Universal Champion Roman Reigns in the main event of Smackdown tonight. It’s just not any title match, though. It’s a match where Bryan will be “banished” from Smackdown if he loses.

It is well known that Bryan’s WWE contract is up soon and Bryan, who turns 40 years old next month, has openly spoken about how he doesn’t want to be a full-time wrestler because he wants to be home more with his wife Brie, their daughter Birdie and their son Buddy. In anticipation of his big match tonight, Bryan talked to TVLine about the match and here are some highlights.

Bryan commented on what it would mean to be banished from Smackdown:

“Before the brand split in 2015, I went to [WWE creative] with this idea that I would be a SmackDown exclusive wrestler. This was before we were on Fox, so it’s still considered the underdog show but it was using the same wrestlers [on both Raw and SmackDown]. I thought, ‘How do we make the show special?’ When the brand split, I became the general manager of SmackDown, and since that time, I’ve been exclusive to SmackDown.”

“The idea of being banished from my favorite show is a tough pill to swallow. Falling in love with ‘80s Mexican wrestling, one of the things that I think Mexican wrestling does better than anybody is they have matches with stipulations that have real consequences. They’ll do mask versus mask matches, or hair versus hair matches, and they never go back on the situation. If you lose the mask versus mask match, your mask is gone and you wrestle without a mask for the rest of your career. So, that’s one of the things that I’ve really tried to take to heart with my love of lucha libre. If I do this, and if I lose, I’m banished from SmackDown and I have to be OK with that.”

“The flip side of that is getting the opportunity for the Universal Championship. There’s nothing quite like being the top guy. I love wrestling under any circumstance, but when you’re in a championship match and you’re the champion, there’s just a different feel [to them] and that’s the feeling I love… When I came back from my injury, Roman was the one guy on my list that I wanted to have a big match with. This is it. This is as big as it gets.”

You could definitely say that WrestleMania 37 was “as big as it gets” since it was the main event, but that was a triple threat match with Edge, so I can see where Bryan was coming from. Bryan also had a Universal Title match with Reigns at Fastlane, but that match didn’t have the added stipulation that this Smackdown match has.

Bryan spoke about his good friend Cesaro getting more opportunities of Smackdown of late:

“My mentor William Regal… when he sees somebody who’s special, he uses the word magic because part of what we do is magic, like the illusion. Cesaro is magic. He’s never had a singles match at WrestleMania, and so I watched the first night and I was so happy for him. When you see somebody else do things that they’ve dreamed up or they accomplish something awesome, and you love that person, it almost feels better. One of the things that people don’t think about a lot in regard to entertainment personalities is their lives outside of what they see on television. One of the things with WWE superstars, specifically, is that there’s a lot of camaraderie there and a lot of love for each other. When somebody does something great, like Cesaro finally getting to break through, there’s a whole slew of people who are happy for him. I think that’s one of the beautiful things about our industry that a lot of people don’t get to see.”

When Bryan was asked about his WWE contract expiring soon, Bryan specified when it doesn’t end and talked more about it:

“It’s funny that people gravitate towards the date ‘September,’ and I think it’s because that’s when my last contract ended, but it doesn’t end in September. [Note: Bryan was tight-lipped about when his contract actually runs out.] I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like… I had a tag team match on SmackDown last Friday, and it was a lot of fun, but my neck was just wrecked. I’m going to be 40 in May and my daughter likes to get on my shoulders to pick leaves from a Japanese maple in front of our house [and he couldn’t this time due to the pain]. You get to that point where it’s like, how long can I do this full-time and still be able to do those kinds of things with my daughter? What’s the right balance between part-time and that sort of thing? It may be that it’s just every once in a while when the urge strikes, or maybe like a schedule where it’s like eight months on, these months off.”

“One of the coolest things about wrestling, and just be being an independent contractor in general, is that you can say, ‘Well, I really only want to do this amount of work.’ What that amount of work is, I have no idea yet. I still have to figure it out. But I also need to be respectful of the people who are relying on me to go to work. I have to give them an answer sooner rather than later. I’m trying to figure that out, trying to be responsible as an employee of somebody who’s taken care of our family very well. But then also, trying to take the time to figure it out.”

There’s much more in Bryan’s interview with TVLine talking about how the pandemic era of WWE has allowed him more time at home with his kids, plus some funny stories about golf carts backstage at WWE shows and more.

Here are some tweets from Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman to hype up tonight’s match.

TJR Thoughts: I assume Reigns retains the Universal Title tonight and Bryan is off Smackdown “forever” whatever that means. I expect Bryan to stay in WWE in some capacity likely as a part-time wrestler and probably on the Raw brand. I don’t know for sure, though. It’s just my hunch. I know Bryan has said that he wants to stay with WWE (and since WWE produces Total Bellas I don’t see him ever leaving), but he would like to be able to have matches in other companies too. Could it happen? No idea. I don’t know what Daniel Bryan’s future is. I just hope we get to see him wrestling for many more years even if it is less often than what we have been used to.

It will be interesting to see what happens tonight. I’ll have a live review of Smackdown on TJRWrestling tonight.