Daniel Bryan is one of the few modern wrestlers that could, from within the WWE system, generate an autobiography of interest. Unlike many who know no better or different, Bryan spent over a decade wrestling around the world prior to getting signed. Not only this, but Bryan’s time on the independent scene coincided with a huge increase in interest in that form of wrestling. The rise of ROH, tournaments such as the ECWA Super 8 and Battle of Los Angeles, and the increased number of significant promotions in Japan helped showcase a wider variety of young and hungry wrestlers. Daniel Bryan both benefited and helped further this golden age of independent wrestling – that is a story that is worth hearing about.
It feels almost too easy to link Bryan’s likable nature to the likeability of his story, but the book is a textual representation of a man who has always come across a good guy. Bryan is someone who it is hard not to like – especially as he is well aware of his flaws and reveals them unflinchingly across the book – and his story effectively presents him in this fashion. Whilst you may think this would lead to Bryan not attempting to rock the boat about his time in the WWE, he does explore times where creatively things weren’t working for him or his character. Though he never falls on the side of completely burying ideas or people, he isn’t afraid to be open about the more difficult times spent working with the monolithic promotion.
What doesn’t work is the introduction that is present for the start of each chapter. Whilst it makes sense from a narrative perspective under the WWE umbrella to have the arc effectively be Bryan’s rise to the top at WrestleMania 30, these are by far the worst part of the story. Slipping into the third person, these quasi-kayfabe segments read like three parts Hello magazine article to one part product placement at times.
The stark contrast between this form of writing and the unassuming story of Bryan’s wrestling career is so great, it almost makes me question whether it was meant to be that way to highlight how opposite Bryan is from all of the bright lights and big city of a modern WWE experience. Or maybe I’m just giving them too much credit.
The book finishes on a sad note as Bryan talks briefly about the death of his father mere days after Bryan married Brie Bella. With the benefit of hindsight, it is a shame that such a positive experience in winning the World title at WrestleMania 30 led to turmoil, frustration, injury and retirement.
Even with Bryan back in the ring now, the book speaks almost to what might – and should – have been, offering a tantalizing glimpse of a WWE landscape that had so much potential, only to burn out before it could be fully realized.