RondaRousey.com’s Classic Match series takes a closer look at significant and super cool matches from wrestling history. For WrestleMania Week, the RondaRousey.com staff is covering an entire week of some of our favorite WrestleMania matches.
Heading into WrestleMania 30, Daniel Bryan had done everything he could to secure his spot in a title match. He’d won the title at SummerSlam, only to have special guest referee Triple H hit him with a Pedigree so that Randy Orton could cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and become the corporate-friendly champion. Bryan occupied RAW, built the “Yes Movement,” and still he was derided as nothing but a “B+ player” (a title that “The New” Daniel Bryan now uses against his WrestleMania 35 opponent Kofi Kingston) by Triple H and the McMahons.
Still, he fought against the odds, and he earned one last chance at the WWE Championship. All he had to do was beat Triple H in the opening match of WrestleMania 30, securing his spot in the main event against Batista and WWE Champion Randy Orton.
That changes quickly though. When Triple H condescendingly offers a handshake to Bryan, he’s introduced to the fighter that Bryan is. A kick to the hand and some early strikes send Triple H to the outside, looking shaken and confused. His whole perspective is changed. This isn’t the easy match he thought it would be. So, he chooses his target: the taped-up shoulder of Daniel Bryan. It’s a previous injury that was exacerbated by the COO during an attack on RAW, and a few shoulder blocks and submissions immediately send Bryan to the mat with Triple H in control.
Triple H is all over the shoulder, hitting it with driving knees and locking in submissions. Then, he goes for broke, dragging Bryan to the ring post to slam the injured shoulder against the steel. He succeeds, but Bryan digs deep and fights back, kicking Triple H while he’s on the apron and then nailing with with a spinning DDT. It’s the first real offense Bryan gets in, but it’s short lived. After hitting Triple H with a huge flip off the top rope to the outside, and getting the match’s first near fall in the ring, Triple H takes full control of the match. He sets up a Pedigree on the announce table, and when Bryan blocks it he instead slams his shoulder into the table.
It’s a devastating move, but it also shows how Triple H is maybe unprepared for this match. He runs back into the ring and tries to get a countout victory, a desperate move so early in the match. It’s clear that he’s worried about Bryan’s talent and fight, and he’s trying to get an early victory and move to the main event without putting in much effort.
The countout strategy doesn’t work, but that doesn’t stop Triple H from taking control of the match. He grounds Bryan with a number of submissions and arm whips after that. He counters Bryan’s suicide dive by punching him square in the mouth, stunning the leader of the Yes Movement. He locks Bryan’s injured arm behind his back and then suplexes him on the apron. Once again, he thinks he’s won. He takes some time to kiss his wife Stephanie McMahon on the outside of the ring while the referee counts, but once again Bryan makes it back in the ring. There’s no accounting for heart and guts.
Back in the ring, Triple H is clearly frustrated. He puts his cockiness aside and sets about beating down Daniel Bryan in the corner with a flurry of fists. It looks like “The Game” is in complete control, until Bryan counters with his own punches and then uses his quickness to hit Triple H with a brutal running forearm. Bryan follows that up with a flurry of German suplexes—he doesn’t let go after each devastating delivery—but Triple H proves to be adept at reading the gameplan, countering with his own double hook suplex that leaves Bryan prone on the mat. Triple H gets a near fall off that move, and it’s looking more and more like the Yes Movement really is going to die at WrestleMania 30.
With Bryan all but done, Triple H goes for the home run. He puts Bryan up on the top rope and tries to execute a superplex. Bryan blocks it though and then counters it into a deadly sunset flip powerbomb. Triple H, dazed and confused, retreats to the corner, and this is the moment where it seems like the momentum is changing. Bryan has him where he wants him, and he hits Triple H with a number of running kicks to the face. But then he goes for one too many, and “The Game” hits back with a clothesline that spins Bryan into oblivion. It hushes the crowd, and that’s when Triple H sees his opportunity. He goes for the Pedigree, but Bryan reverses it into a cover and then a kick to the head. The two men trade blows and submissions until they’re spent, and suddenly it looks like this match is anybody’s to win.
Triple H undoubtedly dominates most of this match, but simply put, Daniel Bryan doesn’t go away. He’s made a career out of fighting against the odds, and that’s what he does in the closing stretch of this match. He hits Triple H with two suicide dives and then pummels him with “Yes”
But then, she has reason to be confident. Triple H,
Bryan only needs a single second to capitalize and secure his spot in the main event. He’s an underdog who’s used to finding small spaces and using them to his advantage. When Triple H can’t execute the Pedigree and resorts to knees to the face, Bryan sees his moment. He ducks the offense, kicks Triple H in the head, and then backs up and bowls over Triple H with a running knee out of nowhere. As Stephanie McMahon looks on with her mouth wide open in shock, the referee counts to three and Daniel Bryan is off to the main event of WrestleMania 30. He’d make his mark on history in that match, but this bout against Triple H is perhaps the purest distillation of what Daniel Bryan and the “Yes Movement” meant not only to WWE but to all the fans backing Bryan along the way.
You can go back and revisit this match (and the entirety of WrestleMania 30) on the WWE Network.