Late last week, reports started coming out that Daniel Bryan's rehab wasn't going as well as hoped. This afternoon, reports came out that doctors had officially told him that he won't be cleared to wrestle at Money in the Bank.
Assuming these reports are true, that means we will see the Money in the Bank match turned into a match for the WWE World Heavyweight title, as Stephanie McMahon announced on RAW last week. We may also see a second match for the MITB briefcase. We should know more about that later tonight on RAW. Now that we know he won't be defending the title though, the question becomes who will become champion, and what happens to some of the long-term plans for the title and Daniel Bryan.
Let's start with Daniel Bryan. From the moment his injury was announced, wrestling fans everywhere held their breath, because even a minor neck injury can end up being worse than originally anticipated, and rehab from surgery can be tricky. Reports have been coming out recently that his neck is still in bad shape, and he's having issues with the strength in his arms.
Now that it seems apparent that he will have to vacate the title, I would completely shut him down for now. The worst thing that could happen to him, long-term, would be to rush back and wrestle before he's ready. The biggest fear in this situation has to that this ends up being a situation like Mick Foley, where a wrestler's body had so much wear and tear on it that by the time he reached the mountaintop, he didn't have much time left.
At the very earliest, I wouldn't have him return until SummerSlam, giving him over two months from now that he can focus on getting himself better without rushing back for a match. You have to think he'll be given the title back when he returns, so there's no real reason to push him to come back at Battleground. And if he's not 100 percent, and I mean truly 100 percent, by SummerSlam, while I'd like to see him back, I'd hold off as long as it takes.
There was a reason to let him compete at less-than-100 percent when he had the title. If you're going to strip him of the belt, there's no reason to rush the recovery. And then he can return and fight for the title when he's ready. He can also come out and continue to be part of the show without wrestling, like what Steve Austin did when he was recovering from his broken neck.
This brings us to the bigger question. What happens to the belt. Let's assume for a minute that Daniel Bryan will indeed get the belt back when he returns, whether it's at Battleground, SummerSlam, or later. This inherently makes whoever wins the belt a transitional champion. Which is why I'm going to disagree with people who are saying that the WWE should give someone like Cesaro, Bray Wyatt or Seth Rollins a run with the title.
An initial run with the title can be extremely important for a wrestler. If it doesn't go well, it can severely hurt the momentum and growth of a young superstar. Look at someone like Sheamus, who was hotshotted into the title in 2009 and needed nearly a complete reboot after losing the title. He's been fine in the long run, but there was a period for a while where he completely floundered. So with that in mind, here are my candidates to win at Money in the Bank:
** John Cena: Yes, I know, this is eliciting groans from many of you. Look at it this way, though: Who can hold the title and maintain the prestige of the belt, while not being hurt if they have to give it right back to Daniel Bryan. That sounds like Cena. He's also not involved with another storyline that would have to be put on hold. It would make sense.
** Kane: This would be a somewhat controversial pick, but again, looking at it from the transitional role, it makes perfect sense. He's already involved with the title, he's the man who, storyline-wise, put Daniel Bryan on the shelf. Since Daniel Bryan would presumably also want revenge on him when he returns, it's a natural match the second he returns if he has the title. He could also have a short feud with Cena for the next couple months, which would be incredibly natural. The problem with him winning is that with his current status in the WWE hierarchy, it could hurt the prestige of the title. If they're confident that Daniel Bryan is coming back relatively soon, it's a fine move. It's much riskier if they aren't sure about that.
** Triple H: I don't see this happening, though it would be interesting if it did. There is already his built-in history with Daniel Bryan. He could face Cena, or whatever other faces stepped up (maybe someone in The Shield?) for the title in the interim, and then lose it back to Daniel Bryan. With The Shield reduced to two people, he could focus on the title while Orton and Rollins face off against Reigns and Ambrose. Quite frankly, him winning could create the most interesting storylines of any of the possibilities. Based on the way he's put people over since his return to the ring, I just don't see him taking the belt (And wow, isn't that a weird thing to say about Triple H with his past).
** Brock Lesnar: This is my pick. I don't know if it's possible with his contract, and I don't know if the WWE or Lesnar would want to renegotiate the contract. But if they can, I would do what it takes to get him back regularly and put the belt on him. He has the built-in momentum from Wrestlemania to make it credible. Even if he can't be at every RAW, he has Paul Heyman there to continue building the feuds. It would add some excitement to the title picture that you wouldn't get with some of these other guys. He's a guy that could make a transitional reign interesting, and even add some doubt as to whether Daniel Bryan would win the title coming back. It would also allow him to fully capitalize on beating the Undertaker. While Heyman has been doing a great job of keeping that in people's minds, Lesnar needs to do something soon to build on that, and this would certainly qualify. He could feud with just about anybody on the roster in the interim, and have some compelling matches. So if there's any way to pull it off, that would be my choice.
Who would you put the belt on if you were in charge? You can leave your answers below in the comments section, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOsterCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun