“I honestly wasn’t really ready to go back to the ‘yes’ chants yet”

Jan 21, 2020 - by James Walsh

My San Antonio recently interviewed WWE Superstar and former world champion Daniel Bryan ahead of this weekend’s Royal Rumble event. Below are some highlights. 

Daniel Bryan on the recent face turn for his character and change in direction: “I honestly wasn’t really ready to go back to the ‘yes’ chants yet. I was really enjoying the stuff that I was doing as the ‘Planet’s Champion’ and environmentalist type of stuff. But sometimes you do what duty calls for, right? There’s the switch, and I still enjoy doing that. But it’s weird, because it almost feels a little bit unfinished. We were starting a story with me and Sami Zayn, and to me that was very compelling. It was, ‘Do you want to go backward with these people and go back to being the ‘yes’ guy, or do you want to go forward with us?’ And to me, that’s a very interesting real question in my life and in my career. Do you want to go back to this? It’s easy to get reactions as the ‘yes’ guy and be the guy who goes out there and does the ‘yes’ chants. Or do I want to push things forward? Which is more interesting to me creatively? In this particular instance, it was kind of like, ‘OK, we’re ready as a company for the ‘yes’ guy to be back.’ And I really enjoy doing that. I do. But, I like to also push my own creative boundaries, and so one of the things that I’m trying to do with this, although I haven’t necessarily done a great job of it yet, is evolving the ‘yes’ character from what it had been before. But one of the cool things to me that we are doing now that I really have enjoyed is the Bray Wyatt Fiend character is so interesting, and this idea that he legitimately changes characters on TV. I think that’s a very compelling story. It’s been a lot of fun. And it’s hard for me when you ask, like, how has it been planned? My week to week goes by so crazily, like everything’s so crazy that it’s hard to remember. I don’t really know.” 

Daniel Bryan on cutting his beard being his idea: “Actually, it was my idea. And my idea was not the hair, it was just the beard. I had kind of pitched this to them as this idea of, ‘OK, how do we extend this story with Bray Wyatt,’ which is what they wanted to do, because he’s already defeated me cleanly, right? How do we do that? One of the things to me was that he’s changed people’s character so much when he’s faced them. And by him ripping out or cutting my beard, it would be this idea that he’s stripping me of part of my identity. That was my kind of pitch to them.” 

“What actually happened? They said, ‘Well, yeah, then he can cut your hair, too!’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t really want that. I don’t want my hair to be cut.’ I kind of wanted my hair to be longer. Just wrestling wise, I like that. But then, the day of, we’re like, ‘OK, well, he will rip out some of your hair.’ You’d have to understand the mechanisms that are going on while this is happening. We’re in a live TV show, right? So, they pulled me under the ring, they’ve got two barbers there who are in charge of like, getting my beard off and getting hair off so there can be this appearance of him ripping out my hair and all that kind of stuff. And we have a minute and a half of TV time left on the live show. And there’s also a producer down there, who’s saying, ‘We need more hair, we need more hair, we need more hair!’ And it’s completely dark under there. We were all so crammed in this little area because there’s also like real stuff under the ring that needs to be under the ring. It’s just all in this crammed little area and these guys are cutting my hair and cutting my beard really quick and they’re supposed to just to cut X amount of hair off, which wasn’t as much as they ended up doing. But the one guy on one side did a great job. They actually both did a great job considering the circumstances. But one guy just went a little too tight and a little too high. And then, after the show, they did their best … they tried after the show for like 45 minutes to make it like not just a shaved head. But that was the best we could do under the circumstances.” 

Daniel Bryan on wrestling The Fiend Bray Wyatt under the red lights: “Initially, I was like, ‘It’s no difference for me,’ but what I was thinking? I find that it’s hard sometimes for the fans watching. The fans live in attendance, and probably for people at home, too, as far as watching. Although on TV, I think they’ve done a much better job of finding a balance of where that light comes from. It’s really difficult in live events, because every building is different. And we don’t have the same kind of TV production crew that we have. I did a live event in Springfield, Missouri, and we’re under the red light, and it’s a little bit weirder than usual. I do my backflip in the corner where the guy whips me in and I run up the turnbuckle and backflip, although for whatever reason, I couldn’t see it right. I just didn’t make it right. It affects those kinds of things. But mostly what I think it affects is fans’ reactions to things, because there’s some things that they can’t see quite as well. That’s the biggest adjustment.” 

Bryan on a 3-on-1 match he had against The Wyatt Family some years back setting up his current matchup now: “To me, that sort of thing is cool. And that’s not something that I ever envisioned. Bray is smart with that kind of stuff. And he’s done a good job of when he talks to people in creative, to express that sort of thing, making that more a part of the story. And then also, our writing team gets a lot of flak, but we have great writers on our crew, and I think they’ve done a really good job with that, as well. As far as this particular story, it isn’t just some random thing. It is, ‘Why does Bray Wyatt just not like Daniel Bryan?’ It harkens back to things that haven’t been touched on since 2013, and that’s cool for me. It’s fun creatively to dig back into that and use that kind of long-term storytelling as a performer.”

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