Summerslam is just days away and WWE superstar Daniel Bryan will take on his arch rival, The Mix. Bryan has had a rollercoaster career during his time with the company. He's won multiple championships, but it was all taken away because of multiple injuries. However, Bryan is back fighting in the ring now, as he's been cleared by doctors, but there's a thorn in his side that's been a constant since he got to WWE: The Miz.
During a 2K event in Bryan's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, the WWE superstar spoke to GameSpot about this longtime feud and his personal thoughts on his upcoming Summerslam opponent, while promoting WWE 2K19's new Daniel Bryan themed Showcase Mode, which is narrated by the superstar.
GameSpot: After you were called up from FCW, you were on NXT in 2010, in its original format, and The Miz was your mentor. What were your first impressions of him?
Daniel Bryan: I was honestly really looking forward to that because I thought it was a really unique dichotomy between the two of us, where here's [The Miz] who people don't respect as a wrestler, but he's great at the interview stuff, and great at getting under people's skin. And here I am, who I had a lot of respect from a wrestling standpoint from the fans, and even the wrestlers backstage, but I wasn't necessarily good at the character stuff.
So, we were complete opposites in how people viewed it. It's style versus substance. It's a very interesting thing. I thought, "Oh man, this is gonna make great television." Instead of making great television [with NXT], we did things like monkey bar challenges and who can drink a soda the fastest.
It's funny because to really highlight that I really tried to downplay... like, I had gear that was nicer, but I wore the most basic gear I could, with the idea being that we would tell the story that he's gonna try to flash me up, and I had gotten a good haircut, but I did it specifically in a bowl cut, with his idea in my mind that like, "Okay, yeah we're gonna be telling these great stories, where it's like he's gonna make me get a haircut that's like his." He had the faux hawk at the time, and I was like "Oh, this is gonna be great." And then no, they didn't do any of that, and I just looked like a nerd, and then they just started calling me a nerd. It's like, "Oh, this vegan, he's a nerd," and it's just like, "Oh gosh. Okay, well back to the drawing board."
As a mentor, you mentioned you guys were both polar opposites. Did he actually teach you anything when you were with him?
No, I mean he was busy at the time. You have to keep in mind he was super busy, so it was just like... our interactions were so limited, and a lot of times, he wasn't even there on the Tuesdays because he's somebody who works very hard. WWE has him do a lot of public appearances and media stuff. So, sometimes he wouldn't even be there on the Tuesdays.
But, I did kind of watch him and watch how he navigated the political minefield of WWE, which is very different from the independents. I watched that a little bit, but it's interesting because we both... I think because of our differences and how we view pro wrestling, we both kind of respected each other and disliked each other right off the bat.
So, it's like, "Okay, I respect that you've worked so hard at this, but dude, that's not important. Like, screw off, you think you're good because you can do this?" That's both of us. That's coming from both sides of us. But there was also [the fact that] we both wanted to make it as good as it could possibly be.
Afterwards, you were in Nexus, were released from WWE, but ultimately, won the United States Championship from The Miz. Within the realm of storylines, and storytelling, where do you feel was the breaking point for Daniel Bryan and The Miz?
Well, it's interesting. Because we're such polar opposites, and we do have a legitimate dislike of each other, and the people backstage kinda know that--that there's always been that tension--but I think the real breaking point to where people care about it so much now was the Talking Smack episode, and then furthering that, Miz starting to do my moves, really rubbing it in my face in a way that at the time nobody thought I was gonna get cleared again. So, there was no payoff to this. It's just heat, for heat, for heat's sake. So, I think that's where everything--where the current incarnation, where people are really excited to see that--I think that's where that comes from.
With Talking Smack, at that point in time you guys hadn't done too much work together in years, what were your thoughts with him coming on? Were you expecting anything big?
No, this is the thing. Miz and I know how to get under each other's skin, and he was very frustrated at the time because he was the Intercontinental Champion. I think at the time, he was gonna have a PPV match with Apollo Crews. They didn't even have anything on the show for two weeks before the PPV.
So, it's like he's got this program. It's super cold. He's frustrated. I'm the general manager, so he starts mouthing off about all this stuff, and that stuff, and then so I start going in on the stuff. It kinda gets under his skin, and then he has stuff that really gets under my skin, and so that's where the magic happens though, really, where people aren't sure what's real and what's not real, and that becomes an interesting point of contention, as far as people [saying], "Wow, these guys, they really dislike each other."
It's interesting because Maryse was there--who's his wife--and my wife was there just backstage that day, and she thought I had legitimately wanted to quit. I had asked for my release at that point because I'd been cleared by these other doctors, and WWE medical wouldn't clear me. So, he's bringing up things like, "If you love .. you're a coward because you've said... yada yada... why don't you go quit, and go do the independents?"
It's like, that really gets under my skin because it's like, I asked for my release, and they said "No." It's like, here I am stuck doing this GM thing, and this thing that I don't like, and it's like, "Okay, either I'm gonna punch this dude in the face, or I'm gonna walk off," so it's one of those things where people can see the realness in that, and I think that that's very powerful.
When we live in a time where the lines between reality and WWE programming are blurred. How did you feel about the reaction from the fans of WWE after that Talking Smack aired?
What I was hoping was that it would inspire them to look at my case more closely to clear me, and because that was happening--I don't remember around what time, August or September-ish of that year--I was thinking, "Maybe I can get them to look at my case again, and then main [event] for Wrestlemania, maybe I could be cleared for…" No. That's what I was thinking. I was thinking in terms of like, "Wow, this could really benefit." And [WWE creative] started using it a little bit on the show, and then what happened is people really wanted to see the match, and then they backed off of it because they had no plans of doing the match. So, that's when I realized like, "Oh, man. They're not gonna budge here."
But then you did get cleared.
From a storyline perspective, when you were cleared, you immediately brought back The Miz back to Smackdown, when he was on Raw. What was going through your head during that time?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, I mean the idea is he comes back to Smackdown, and I get to punch him in the face.
Which you Tweeted.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, but then all these obstacles get thrown in your way before that. So, all of a sudden Cass attacks me from behind, so you have address that, and then The Bludgeon Brothers attack me, and you have to address that. So, now we're finally at this place where there's nothing else in the way, and now you can get down to it, and do the face punching that I've been waiting for, for so long.
So, how did you feel recently when The Miz said you're not on his level anymore, or that he's above you?
So, there's various forms of truth to that in the sense of there was a PPV where I wrestled Big Cass, and he wrestled [Seth] Rollins, and by far, the much better [match] was Miz versus Rollins. It was a fantastic match, but Rollins was also in that match, and so, you can say that from that perspective. You have to acknowledge that he has done a lot of good stuff in the time that I've been gone, including one of the matches that was one of my favorite matches to watch from a fan's perspective was him versus Dolph Ziggler. I think it might have been... it was at a PPV, and it was Intercontinental Title versus Dolph's career, or something like that, but it was an incredible match.
He's done some stuff. In that regard, he has kind of a point. On the flip side, I don't think [Miz not being on Bryan's level] that's true, but there's times that it is... his promos are on a different level than mine are. That's just the reality. I've worked on my promos a lot, I've gotten a lot better over the last several years, but he has an innate ability in interviews to be... he's fantastic. So, it's hard for me to argue that point other than on a night after night basis. If you were to go to live events, or anything like that, and compare the Daniel Bryan match, and say like, "Who's better," I think most fans would say Daniel Bryan's better, but we just haven't seen a lot of that on TV yet.
Well, hopefully we will, because you have Summerslam coming up on next Sunday.
Yeah, but if that match is great then he's just gonna say it's because of him.
Are you hoping that this story in your career is closed at this point with The Miz, or is this something that you feel will have a lot of legs, and can continue?
So, I don't think in terms of those things because those things are a lot of times beyond my control. So, I focus on the variables that I can control, which is to put out the best performance as possible, and to me, I'm just interested in things that challenge me creatively, and to do things that I enjoy within wrestling. So, whether that's with Miz, or whether that's with A.J. Styles, or whether that's against Shinsuke Nakamura, or Samoa Joe, it doesn't really matter who as long as it's creatively fulfilling.
On the flip side of that, I just don't want things that aren't creatively fulfilling, so I don't care what you do, as long it doesn't put me in this mental funk, where I just feel like, "Oh man, I can't believe I have to do this today." But anything other than that, usually I'm just happy to be back wrestling.