Daniel Bryan is the Latest Victim of the Bret Hart Curse
It's been over 20 years since Bret "the Hitman" Hart won his first WWE World Championship, but the curse of Bret Hart continues. Since its inception, the WWE has branded itself the leader in sports entertainment. And to lead their charge were handpicked monsters like Bruno Sammartino, the man with the 565 pound bench press. Or the legendary Hulk Hogan, the superhero with 24 inch biceps. But in 1992, Vince McMahon and company took a chance and put the World Heavyweight Championship on the undersized Bret "Hitman" Hart. Since then, many undersized champions, much like Bret Hart, have endured hardships that caused them to fail their top spot. Daniel Bryan is merely the latest victim.
Shortly after his title win in 1992, Bret Hart would drop the strap to the much larger Yokozuna, who in turn, forfeited it to Hulk Hogan. Vince McMahon's adventure into the "little guy as champion" never seems to last long. Even when Bret Hart was a two time champion, he was overshadowed by the muscled bodybuilder Lex Luger. The curse continued when Shawn Michaels won the championship from Bret Hart in 1996 at Wrestlemania 12. With ratings in the toilet, and Michaels suffered a career ending injury during a Casket Match with the Undertaker. A few months later, the "Heartbreak Kid" was forced into retirement. His predecessor? Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Another well strapped muscular man. It took several years for McMahon to gamble on smaller guys again. In 2004, McMahon made Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero his two crowning champions. Unfortunately for Guerrero, the Bret Hart curse struck again. Months after winning the belt, the stress of being champion weighed too high on his shoulders. McMahon, fearing that Guerrero could not haul the company, awarded the championship to the bulky Texan, John Bradshaw Layfield. Benoit too, didn't get an extensive title reign. He exhausted his championship belt to Randy Orton at Summerslam 2004. Years later, Chris Benoit would go on a rampage and murder his wife and child.
Today, it is Daniel Bryan, who is trying to break the curse of Bret "Hitman" Hart. Since his big win at Wrestlemania 30, Bryan has been plagued with stress, heartbreak and injury. Following his wedding to one of the beautiful Bella Twins, Daniel Bryan was burdened by the sudden losses of his father and young friend Colin, who was diagnosed with cancer. As if Bryan's heart wasn't heavy enough, he announced he would need to have a surgery on his neck. This ended his hot streak with the championship belt. Daniel Bryan plays the underdog on television, but to be a small guy in a world of big men, guys like Daniel Bryan and Bret Hart are always underdogs on television, and in the eyes of management.
Since his return at the 2015 WWE Royal Rumble, Bryan's popularity has grown. Arenas worldwide erupt in "Yes" chants, even before the performer arrives. Despite being the hottest property, WWE insisted on putting rookie Roman Reigns into the spotlight at Wrestlemania. Like Bret Hart in the mid 90s, Bryan now has to play second fiddle to a much bigger and physically imposing wrestler.
One has to wonder if Bryan's popularity is such that he can survive the Roman Reigns storm. And if the Reigns title reign doesn't work, will the WWE finally give the title to Daniel Bryan again? There's no telling what the future holds for the bearded warrior. But if the past is any indication, the Bret Hart curse will continue to rage in the WWE.