Bryan usurped long-reigning champion AJ Styles in a surprise, impromptu match on television on Tuesday night just days before the Survivor Series pay-per-view.
It turned plans for the show on their head and leaving many fans wondering about the sudden change of direction by WWE in choosing to take the championship away from Styles, who had won it in Manchester, England over 12 months ago.
Just last week Styles had celebrated the anniversary of the victory by returning to the Manchester Arena, the scene of the win, as part of the company’s European tour. Seven days later, despite being billed to face Brock Lesnar this weekend, his tenure atop of the company’s blue brand is no more.
More curious is the manner in which Bryan claimed the victory. Adored by fans and considered alongside Styles as one of the best wrestlers in the company, the call to have Bryan take the title is not in itself an unpopular one – but the night saw a dramatic twist in the Washington native’s character as he turned on Styles and effectively cheated his way to victory with a low blow.
A ‘heel’ Daniel Bryan certainly opens up a number of possibilities but does leave Smackdown a little bare on top talent where fan favourites are concerned. Regardless, Bryan goes on to Sunday to take on Lesnar instead.
It wasn’t the only bombshell dropped during the night, either. WWE announced that one of its biggest matches of the year – Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch facing Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series – is off. Lynch was involved in a storyline ‘invasion’ of Raw on Monday night and was laid out by a stray punch from Nia Jax that left her legitimately bloodied and suffering from concussion.
As such, the company have been forced to pull her from the bout with just days to go, with Charlotte Flair taking her place against the UFC Hall of Famer. Flair and Rousey will undoubtedly have a good match but the fact it’s now having to be slapped together at the eleventh hour feels unfortunate – apart from the fact that Lynch’s feud with Rousey had been the single most watchable part of WWE television in recent weeks.
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