What does it take for one to become the next Daniel Bryan? The former WWE World Heavyweight Champion has recently hung up his boots and called it a career. Thus, the WWE Universe is left without one of its most beloved Superstars. The hole runs deep within the hearts of fans as they must now search for their next unsung hero.
And that's exactly what it will take to be considered "the next Daniel Bryan." The connection built between Bryan and the fans was that of pure organic value; nothing force-fed down the throats or injected into the veins of the audience. Bryan grew straight from the soil.
Of course, this was never meant to happen. Daniel Bryan was simply a fly caught in the Web of WWE awaiting the Corporate Spiders to arrive and seal his fate. Mid-Card-Flies are not supposed to escape this web but Bryan - thanks to the fans - was willed free and sent forth towards the main event.
Standing all of 5'8" and weighing in around 200lbs, Daniel Bryan never fit the description of Sports Entertainer. In his purest form, Bryan was a Wrestler. That taboo profession which is essentially a dirty word in WWE. Wrestlers no longer make the grade in WWE. In a cruel twist, Sports Entertainers rule the wrestling ring.
However, hope is not entirely lost upon the WWE Universe as there are a number of performers currently under contract with WWE who can fill the Daniel Bryan Void; or at least attempt in vain to occupy the space left behind by Bryan. While such a task will prove difficult, it is not completely unattainable.
Daniel Bryan was never a cultural phenomenon in a Hulk Hogan sense. Bryan never drew or drastically changed the industry in the manner of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. However, Bryan left his own - no matter how small - dent on the business and will be missed dearly.
Now then, let's honour the Daniel Bryan Socrates and his Yes Philosophy.
These are the top 15 candidates to become the next Daniel Bryan:
15 A.J. Styles
Let's face a hard truth about A.J. Styles: up until January 24th, 2016, Styles was a nobody in the wrestling industry. The only way to become a somebody is to perform on the main stage in WWE.
However, the fans love A.J. Styles and such admiration could transfer into a Daniel Bryan-like movement. Styles is good but is he WWE good? Have you taken notice how Styles' mic time has been limited?
This is due to the fact that A.J. Styles sounds too Southern for WWE. If Styles is going to make a run, he will need that fan support.
It's no secret what the whole Kalisto deal is about: WWE's version of a modern Rey Mysterio. Which is fine considering the excitement level that comes along with watching a Kalisto match.
Kalisto is quickly growing into a fan favourite and while the United States Championship is something WWE has entrusted with Kalisto, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is out of reach.
Perhaps a strong effort from fans could someday qualify Kalisto in the Daniel Bryan class.
The first thing that needs to be done with Neville is to drop the Super Hero gimmick. Nobody over the age of twelve gets behind a wrestler wearing a cape as the kids in the crowd are not the voices which will overthrow a company decision.
Neville needs the adult voice; much like Daniel Bryan. It is already good to have the kids on your side but in order to truly get over, Neville is going to need that loud, borderline obnoxious adult fan.
These are the voices the drowned out promos during the Yes Movement.
12 Apollo Crews
While Apollo Crews is not the best talker in NXT, there remains a certain amount of charm to his character that is hard to ignore. Daniel Bryan himself was not the greatest on the mic but the charm was evident.
Apollo Crews is still young and has many years ahead in WWE. While it may take a while before the main roster comes calling, it would come as no surprise if the fanbase rallied behind Crews at some point.
Time will tell whether or not Apollo Crews can resemble Daniel Bryan.
11 Tyson Kidd
Once again we revert back to Sports Entertainer vs. Wrestler with Tyson Kidd. The final graduate of the Hart Dungeon is not partiality charismatic but can work inside the ring with the best in the business.
Tyson Kidd has never found much place on the WWE card. Kidd has spent more time performing of Superstars than Raw or SmackDown. However, there is definitely something to stand behind with Kidd.
Every now and again the fans wants a Wrestler to break through and who knows, maybe Tyson Kidd is next?
10 Sasha Banks
No longer must we exclude the women wrestlers from such lists. This brings us to the most in-demand Diva in WWE: Sasha Banks. It can heard every Monday night: "We Want Sasha!"
Sasha Banks has recently found her way back onto the scene; leaving behind Team B.A.D. in order to succeed on her own. Things are looking up for "The Boss" who will hopefully wear the Divas Championship sometime soon.
The fans wanted Sasha and it appears as though their demand was heard. Sounds like a Daniel Bryan situation.
9 Cody Rhodes
Stardust doesn't work. It is time to bring back Cody Rhodes and profile the generational Superstar properly. Rhodes can be a strong face in WWE, much like his father Dusty Rhodes was back in the 1980s.
Cody Rhodes can easily transition back into his real personality. The only thing required would be an impassioned speech about returning to his roots and carrying on the Rhodes legacy into the future.
The fans would love this scenario as they would stand behind Cody Rhodes while providing some of that Daniel Bryan-style love.
8 Damien Sandow
For a while, it appeared as though Damien Sandow was in fact going to be the next Daniel Bryan. Sandow began to shine while taking on the role of "stunt double" to The Miz as the fans grew fond.
When Damien Sandow finally broke away from The Miz, there was a feeling surrounding Sandow; a feeling that he was about to break on through. However, WWE decided to dress Sandow up as a "Macho Man" rip-off and ruin the momentum.
Nothing much has come of Damien Sandow since but who knows, perhaps with the proper army at his back, Sandow can surge once again.
7 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler knows what it feels like to be World Heavyweight Champion; and that is all. Ziggler will never contend for the top spot in the company or become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
And this has angered many fans who have supported Dolph Ziggler for years on end. Much like Daniel Bryan, Ziggler found that organic chemistry with the audience as the people took a liking to "The Show Off."
It would take a hell of a lot to push Dolph Ziggler to the top but strange things happen all the time.
"The Cesaro Section" was starting to catch on prior to his sidelining injury. Another pure Wrestler who traveled many of the same roads as Daniel Bryan while enduring many of the same struggles.
Cesaro is naturally gifted in terms of in-ring ability. However, Cesaro falls flat during promos which tends to hurt and also goes to show how his winning over the crowd had nothing to do with personality.
It's hard to believe but sometimes WWE fans actually appreciate good wrestling.
5 Finn Balor
Fans who are knowledgeable of both NXT and WWE patiently await the arrival of Finn Balor on the main roster. When will the Irish-born Jekyll and Hyde-like Superstar emerge on Monday Night Raw?
While posing as the face of NXT, things are bound to be drastically different up in WWE for Finn Balor. However, the Daniel Bryan experience is one which could aid Balor in his transition.
Once Finn Balor is finally called up things will become more clear as to where he stand on the card.
4 Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn has now performed twice on the main roster: first by accepting the John Cena U.S. Open Challenge and second by participating in the Royal Rumble match. Zayn has tasted the forbidden fruit while remaining in the Garden of NXT.
Rumours have surfaced in regards to Sami Zayn and the main roster and if reports are true, Zayn should make his way up through the gates full-time soon enough. And who exactly is Sami Zayn? Another one of those pesky Wrestlers.
Fan support for Sami Zayn could eventually turn into something akin to Daniel Bryan as the people attempt to push their next guy in WWE.
3 Bray Wyatt
While breaking away from the common theme, we arrive at Bray Wyatt who by all accounts is more of a Sports Entertainer than Wrestler. However, Wyatt just may be the best Sports Entertainer on the current roster.
There is nobody else currently within WWE who can captivate like Bray Wyatt, yet "The Eater of Worlds" has taken a perpetual back seat. Along with Wyatt literally comes a new face to represent the system.
Much like Daniel Bryan - another bearded comrade - Bray Wyatt does not fit the WWE Look and would need a revolt in order to rise.
2 Dean Ambrose
Watching Dean Ambrose perform at times feels like watching Daniel Bryan in jeans. Ambrose wrestles a similar style and currently sits in a similar position as Bryan: the Superstar on the brink.
The fans have gotten behind Dean Ambrose and have embraced "The Lunatic Fringe" as one of the top faces in WWE. However, Ambrose has been on the porch a few times before; having never quite been invited inside.
If the fans wants Dean Ambrose to ever compete at the top level, they need to continue screaming from the "Ambrose Asylum."
1 Kevin Owens
The only fitting way to concluded the next Daniel Bryan candidates would be with a Wrestler. The best Wrestler on the current roster: Kevin Owens. The long time independent star has finally become a WWE Superstar.
The best part about Kevin Owens is his ability to work like a Wrestler while also flashing shades of a Sports Entertainer. The mocking of Superstars, the crowd agitation, the banter with Michael Cole: all these aspects make Owens that much better in the ring.
At the end of his career, Daniel Bryan can be considered the real "People's Champion." Now, the question remains: who will fill this space? Kevin Owens feels like the right man for the job. Fight. Yes. Fight.