Former WWE writer Kevin Eck has become a pretty great source of behind-the-scenes deets. He recently outed the fact that John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2014 was almost a tag match featuring Justin Bieber and the Wyatts, and he detailed the creation of the career-ruining Lord Tensai character.
Well, Eck is now dishing some details on the pairing of Daniel Bryan and AJ Lee, and Bryan’s rise to true superstardom. Their romance, and eventual breakup, was one of the most successful WWE storylines of the past five years (or more). Not only was it hugely entertaining, but it spawned one of the most popular males and the most popular female in the company. According to Eck, the Bryan/AJ romance was actually the sample storyline he pitched to get his job with WWE. The original idea was to have Bryan and AJ be attracted to one another, but too shy to make a move, so cool guy John Morrison would coach them, love guru-style. Eventually, Bryan, Morrison and A.J. would become a trio, but Bryan would start to suspect that AJ actually liked Morrison more than him, and the group would be torn apart by jealousy. This version of the story didn’t happen because Morrison was on his way out of WWE, but Eck stuck to his guns with his Bryan/AJ romance idea.
Interestingly, Bryan was completely down on being paired with AJ because he’d been burned by wrestling romance before when he was stuck in a love rectangle with Gail Kim and the Bellas (I guess he eventually had a change of heart about one Bella girl). Despite Bryan’s misgivings, he and AJ became an on-screen couple in the fall of 2011.
Things really took off in December 2011, when WWE made the snap decision to take the World Heavyweight Championship off Mark Henry and give it to Bryan. According to the Wrestling Observer, the decision to make Bryan champion was made at the very last moment, and, in fact, Bryan wasn’t even at the show. By a lucky twist of fate, Bryan was signing autographs in a nearby city, so WWE was able to find him, rush him to the show and get him in the ring in time to become a champion. If he had been on the other side of the country, things might have turned out very differently for him. Vince had the idea to have the championship go to Bryan’s head, leading to a heel turn, and Eck suggested they really drive it home by having Bryan treat AJ horribly. Just like that, we were off to the races.
It’s always fascinating to hear about these close calls and chance rises to stardom. With the exception of the occasional Chosen One like The Rock or Roman Reigns, it seems most guys make their way to the top with a generous serving of luck. Always be ready for opportunity to knock, folks.