Bryan returned to the ring earlier this year at WrestleMania 34, tagging up with Shane McMahon to face Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. It was his first match in almost three years following issues with concussions and his brain. One of the most anticipated returns to the ring by any wrestler past or present, word of Bryan's return set the wrestling world on fire and all of the sudden ignited the possibility of several dream matches fans had thought we would never get to see.
One such feud that has been realized in a WWE ring for the first time is Bryan vs. AJ Styles, which resulted last month in Bryan winning the WWE Championship (and turning heel) on an edition of SmackDown Live. Recently, WWE's cameras followed Bryan as he prepared for his match with Styles at WWE TLC for an edition of their The Day Of series on YouTube.
The episode included some very honest and insightful comments from Bryan on his return and the way that his character has evolved this year, including how he believes that the past Yes Movement was a necessity in order for his current heel character to thrive.
"It's interesting because the new Daniel Bryan can't be defined without the old Daniel Bryan," Bryan explained. "It's kinda self loathing more so than anything else. I hated what I had become and what I represented. The good things about myself that I had taken pride in for many many years had just kinda fallen to the wayside in this idea of the expectations of what Daniel Bryan was. And even just my mindset, the mindset of the old Daniel Bryan, so, he fought so hard to come back and then when he came back he was just happy to be back he wasn't fighting for anything."
Bryan also explained now he felt somewhat trapped the first few months he was back due to expectations of his he had to perform given his past time in the ring.
"I felt a little trapped when I came back," Bryan admitted. "I had this new idea for a style that I wanted to wrestle but when you come back at Wrestlemania, they kept having people tell me, 'Oh! They want to make sure that you're okay and that you're healthy. They want to see you do all the old stuff. They want to see all the dropkicks in the corner and the dives through the ropes' and all this kinda stuff, and it felt like a trap. Like I had just fought so hard to get back to do something that I love, but then to be trapped in to a certain way of doing it."
In the end, fans have been blessed to get to see one of the best performers of this generation back in action. Bryan explained how he feels even better about his abilities now than he did in the past, despite the long lay-off.
"I'm more confident in my abilities. Ya know, I've only been back - It's been 8 months since I've returned to wrestling but somehow I feel more confident than ever," Bryan said. "It's interesting, there was a period when I was on the independent scene and probably about 2007 or 2008, where I literally felt like there was not a better wrestler than me on the planet. There were guys who were better at certain things, sure, but overall, there was nobody better on the planet. And now I'm getting back to that point."
[H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the quotes.]