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From:Sharon Lee, Digital Sub-Editor, BT Online, posted on 24 January at 12:55 AM
24 January at 12:55 AM

WWE's vegan superstar Daniel Bryan inspires 'Yes' movement

The colourful spectacle that is professional wrestling attracts all segments of society, from impressionable tweeners to PMEBs.

The tall and muscular archetype a la Hulk Hogan or The Rock is more often the norm and here's where World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) Daniel Bryan breaks all stereotypes.

Only 1.78m tall with regular Joe-like features, Bryan, 32 (whose real name is Bryan Danielson), has captured the imagination of fans worldwide.

Remarkably, his appeal has crossed over into other sports, including American football and basketball.

Chants of Yes Yes Yes, which Bryan has popularised, broke out at a college basketball game once in the US.

It even made its way to a football game on another occasion in Nigeria.

"It's happening all over the world and it's really cool. I think this is the biggest reason for my success," said Bryan in an phone interview with ST Communities on Thursday from his home in Phoenix, Arizona.

With WWE pay-per-view Royal Rumble this Sunday on Jan 26, 2014, (Monday morning, Singapore time), fans are desperate for Bryan to win the 30-man match which guarantees a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania.

Bryan has bad news though. 

"As of now, I'm not in the 30-man Royal Rumble match, I'm trying to get involved in it. (WWE) COO Triple H doesn't want me anywhere in the Royal Rumble match," explained Bryan.

Instead, he will face Bray Wyatt - a wrestler with a messiah complex - in a rematch. 

Magical connection

Something magical happened on the Jan 13 episode of WWE weekly flagship show Raw, after Bryan defeated Wyatt in a steel cage.

As Bryan sat on top of the cage celebrating his victory and freedom from the clutches of the evil Wyatt family, the audience embraced him with resounding chants of yes, yes, yes, leading many to compare it to the loud Attitude era in the 1990s.

Indeed, it is this strong connection to fans than Bryan is most grateful for.

"The coolest thing is how the fans have gotten behind me. How they've joined the 'Yes' movement. It's just been crazy. People will just break out in chants at any given time during a show and they do it all around the world," he marvelled.

Despite fans' expectations, Bryan feels little pressure.

"I love what I do and what I do is fun. I'm very confident in my ability to go out there and perform."

Ordinary looks

It wasn't that long ago that Bryan, a former Ring of Honor champion, joined WWE in 2009, and debuted as part of NXT - a programme about rookie wrestlers learning their craft.

Bryan was then considered to be a technically sound but colourless wrestler.

"It's hard to say, sometimes charisma is a curious thing. Sometimes it just develops over time, sometimes it's the connection with the audience and it takes time to develop that connection," he mused.

With his unremarkable looks, he knows his current success is not easy to maintain.

"The company doesn't neccesarily want somebody like me at the top. I'm not what they think a WWE superstar should look like, but because the WWE fans have been so loud and vocal in their support of me, they kind of had to put me at the top of the card because people want to see it," he noted proudly.

"I'm just thankful every day for how awesome my fans have been."

And no, that infamous beard is not going away any day soon.

"Most women hate it but I'm very lucky because Brie Bella (his fiancee) is the one woman in the entire world who loves it. She would be mad at me if I shaved it off," laughed Bryan.

Dream opponent

If he could choose, Bryan would love to wrestle the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels - coincidentally his former trainer.

"To me, Shawn Michaels is the best and he also helped train me. He's Mr Wrestlemania and he is the one guy that I never got to wrestle that I'd love to."

With Wrestlemania looming ahead on April 6, Bryan has set his sights on the top prize, the WWE World Heavyweight championship.

"If I can't do that, I'd like to wrestle Triple H. He's the one keeping me from my opportunities right now."

"And if I can't do that, I would like to wrestle the Undertaker. Anyone who doesn't want to wrestle the Undertaker at Wrestlemania shouldn't be involved in wrestling because one of the biggest honours is to wrestle him. His streak of matches at Wrestlemania is legendary."

When probed on an Internet rumour that the Undertaker has requested to work with him, Bryan replied: "I have no idea. I very rarely talk to the guy. I only see him, maybe a couple of times a year."

The Diva and The Vegan

Bryan is also featured on Total Divas, a scripted reality show centred on the lives of a group of female wrestlers in WWE, known as divas. The first season recently ended its run on StarHub, a cable TV provider in Singapore.

"I do it for Brie. It's great for her career and it's great she can get that kind of exposure. Because a lot of times, the women don't get that much exposure on Raw or Smackdown."

Despite his hectic lifestyle which sees him on the road for most of the week, Bryan tries to stick to a vegan diet due to him suffering elevated liver enzymes and several staph infections in the past. 

"I have so many favourites. Brie cuts it up so it's almost like spaghetti noodles. Then she puts a tomato sauce on it and it's just oh, so good," he enthused.

Message for Singapore fans

Bryan also gave a shoutout to his fans here in Singapore.

"I just like to thank the WWE fans in Singapore for their support. You guys do a great job. We don't get to see you guys very often but you guys make your voices heard on the Internet and we really appreciate your support."

Quips

"The chase of the title is good, everybody wants to see that. But at the end of the chase, they need to see the guy they are rooting for as the champion and hold it for a while."

"My success has never been dependent on how I look. My success has been dependent on how I wrestle. So when people call me goatface and stuff like that, at first it was like arghhh...but now I have a couple of t-shirts that depict that and it's fun, fun for me and fun for the younger audience."

"The Royal Rumble is the start of the biggest period of the year. The person who wins the Royal Rumble match gets to headline Wrestlemania, the biggest show of the year. You get to see Randy Orton wrestle John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight championship. You get to see me against Bray Wyatt and you get to see Brock Lesnar v The Big Show, it's going to be just an incredible match between two monsters and so it's going to a very fun show."

Watch WWE Royal Rumble on-demand on StarHub TV at $12.84 (w/GST) from Jan 27, 2014, 10pm.

 

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