Daniel Bryan first stint with the NXT and WWE in 2010 saw him get fired after an appearance on Monday Night Raw on June 7. Bryan, along with other members of NXT (soon to be known as the Nexus), interrupted a John Cena-CM Punk match, destroying Cena and everyone in the vicinity of the ring. That included ring announcer Justin Roberts.
One of the lasting images of that moment is Bryan choking Roberts by pulling his tie around to the back and choking him ringside.
Bryan was released by WWE later in the week for being too violent in the moment before being re-signed later in the year. In his new book, Best Seat In The House, Justin Roberts offers up an explanation for everything that happened that night from his perspective. The full excerpt from the book can be read on Sports Illustrated.
Within a half hour of when the doors were about to open, a giant black curtain was hung around the ring that blocked everyone from seeing it. This was only done when top-secret events were going to happen on a show, and they didn’t want any word leaking out. Arn Anderson was grabbing talent, mostly the newer guys from the NXT show who were still training in FCW (WWE’s newest developmental territory) and bringing them behind the curtain. As I was about to leave, he looked at me and said, “You, too.” Okay? Maybe I needed to see how an ending was going down so that I could make a complicated announcement. I usually didn’t like to see how things were going to end because I liked being genuinely surprised so that my reaction would make for a natural, genuine announcement. The NXT guys worked with the producers and referees, and no one was talking to me, so I wasn’t sure what was going on or why I was there. I finally overheard Arn say, “You’ll get the ring, Cena, and everyone else, and the very last thing you’ll get is him.” He pointed to me. “He has never been touched, but tonight, even he is not safe. Rip his suit off and take him down. He will be the final victim before we go off the air.”
That was it. I didn’t ask for any specifics, and I didn’t know any specifics. I had an idea that after watching everyone around me at ringside get beat up after all these years I was, as Arn said, no longer safe. Tonight, I wouldn’t and couldn’t run! I was very happy to participate and do whatever I needed to help. During the main event, while John Cena wrestled against CM Punk, all of a sudden, the NXT guys came down the aisle of the arena looking like a vicious gang. Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Michael Tarver, Darren Young, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, and Skip “Ryback” Sheffield approached the ringside barrier.
It was a very intense moment. I knew something big was about to happen to spice up the show, but I didn’t know what. The gang immediately jumped in the ring and beat down Cena. Punk left, and they destroyed the ring. I mean, they tore the entire ring apart. The ringside area looked like a war zone. Then they knocked out Mark Yeaton, as well as all of the commentators. I stood there and watched until they grabbed me. They held me as Justin Gabriel knocked me down with a punch. Then they ripped my suit jacket off. Then my shirt. I wore a pink tie that night that knotted up when they pulled on it. As I laid on the ground with my suit pants and just a pink tie, Daniel Bryan did what he thought he was supposed to do: make an impact. He saw an opportunity to get one last shot in on “the last victim.” He sat behind me, pulled on my tie, and strangled me. To this day, I still get messages about that night.
Roberts wrote that the immediate reaction backstage was extremely positive and that everyone, including Vince McMahon was happy about the way everything went down. Later in the week he realized something had changed when the clip was no longer included in highlight packages, but when he was first told about Bryan’s firing he thought it was part of the story.
Vince immediately reached over to shake my hand, which was really cool but rare. Of course, when you work there, you always want his approval, and it doesn’t happen often. Everybody from Vince down was happy with what took place, and I went to the locker room to get dressed. The Nexus came to the door and shook my hand and apologized as we all exchanged thank-yous, instead. I told them that was great, and I thought it went well, and the bosses seemed to be happy. It made for awesome TV, and everybody was fine, so it was perfect. Well that didn’t last very long. As the week went on, our portion was removed from the highlight package.
That Thursday night I was out in Scottsdale, and I got a message that Daniel Bryan was fired. Wow, I thought to myself. I wonder where they’re going with this storyline. The next day, word was going around that this wasn’t a storyline. I immediately got Bryan’s number and gave him a call. I asked him what was going on, and he explained that Vince had called to tell him that he had to let him go. Something about choking not being allowed, and it was out of his hands. This was a typical example of a rule being broken without anybody knowing that it even existed. It wasn’t like guys haven’t choked each other before, but for some reason this choking incident got Bryan terminated.
Bryan was a very talented guy, and I knew he would be okay. Time just needed to pass, and this incident would be forgotten. The next morning, I began receiving all sorts of hate messages. I heard from fans that I had “told on Bryan” for choking me; that I had gotten him fired because he choked me; and all sorts of crazy assumptions spun by people and their imaginations. The Internet really is a giant forum where people make things up daily and spin these stories that just become the truth because the real truth is kept quiet by the company guys. Anytime I was in the ring to announce, the fans would direct Daniel Bryan chants at me. Fans went from liking me, or at least being indifferent, to instantly hating me. They blamed me for him getting fired!
Roberts’ side of the story offers insight into how much people involved in the production, even as closely as being the ring announcer, really know about the different storylines and what’s going to happen. It’s especially interesting that he had no idea exactly what the situation would be that would lead to him getting attacked, but simply that at some point it he was going to be involved in the action.
For Bryan, the story obviously has a happy ending as he returned to become one of the company’s biggest stars and now is the SmackDown GM. Roberts is now the one no longer working for the company as was released by the WWE himself in 2014 after an alleged spat with Michael Cole. It will be intriguing to see how much detail he goes into about what led to his departure from the company and if he reveals any other juicy details about the business in the book.