Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus (WWE WrestleMania XXVIII 4/1/12)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Coop C over on my Ko-fi account.

Let me actually say nice about this. Unconventional booking choices like this really do feel sorely missing in the better wrestling promotions of the world. I love the standard approach, the traditional, I have no problem with it at all. But big swings like this are the spice of life that keep things interesting. There’s something to be said about the boldness of a decision like this. There’s a narrative sense to it too. This undersized champion who’s been retaining his title by hook and by crook getting swept away by the occasion of the moment before swiftly paying for hubris.

In execution too, it works about right. Bryan is smug the whole way through, and he’s shocked and incredulous at his loss. Sheamus is given less to work with here, the camera doesn’t give him any time. Worse, Sheamus is being cast in the smiling babyface role. Babyface Sheamus, I don’t mind, but that fakey WWE smile that was so pervasive in the 2010s especially is not the ideal here.

The big asterisk over all this, of course, is that it happens to Daniel Bryan.

It’s not like Bryan hadn’t been a proven guy at this point. Obviously, we have his indie work to look back on, but even within the confines of the WWE television canon, he’d already put in the work with some genuinely great matches. In terms of overness too, he hasn’t quite hit the white hot heat of the YES! Movement but look at that crowd here and listen to their reactions and tell me he hadn’t tapped into something yet. That’s the kind of greatness that just can’t really be denied even under the worst circumstances and it’s shining through here. There’s also the added note that this is his WrestleMania debut as previous plans to work with Sheamus at Mania got regularly shrugged off.

It’s disrespectful to the ability involved, obviously. And it’s also a real telling move as to how the WWE kind of viewed Bryan at this time–not as a legitimate champion that could carry their show but as more of a utility worker cast in the role of a man who’s lucked into title success with the help of some underhanded tactics. That’s how they saw him and they booked him to accept the punishment that might deserve here.

But when it’s real, and it’s as powerful as this, it doesn’t stay down for long.

In the grand scheme of things, mostly harmless. If anything too, it only stokes the fires of Bryan’s growing popularity in the months and years to come even. Still an awful choice for the night itself, but with time and hindsight, far from the worst thing in the world.

Rating: **1/2

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