My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania
Daniel Bryan with Craig Tello
Pages: 307 (paperback)
Synopsis: Daniel's Bryan autobiography, chronicling his unique climb to the top of the wrestling world.
Two days later - June 11, 2010 - I got the second and last call I've ever received from Vince McMahon. I didn't know it was him at first because it came from a blocked number, but as I answered, I had a sinking feeling that it wasn't good news.
When I picked up, I knew right away it was really Vince, and this time there was no feeling that it was a rib. He said, "You know, Daniel, I'm sorry I have to do this. I feel really bad, but we have guidelines as far as what's PG and what's not PG, and unfortunately, you broke those guidelines. I'm sorry, but we're going to have to let you go."
As far as firings go, it was actually not too bad. It was way better than the first time I got fired when I lived in Memphis. I appreciated that he called me himself, and there wasn't anything mean or malicious about it; it was completely different than what you would expect if you've seen Vince fictionally fire someone on television. He further explained that he had to do it to set an example. He didn't want to do it. It was actually quite endearing.
My reaction to being fired was different than even I would have expected of myself. I felt liberated, as if an enormous burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I thanked Vince for the opportunity, and after he expressed his regret one last time, I responded, "Don't be sorry. I'll make more money now this year than I did with you guys, so don't be sorry for me at all."
Daniel Bryan's rags-to-riches story is one that most wrestling fans are quite familiar with. Working his way up through the independent leagues as an unsigned standout and eventually receiving a WWE developmental deal, Bryan made his way onto the main stage after competing in the first season of NXT (and losing). After bouncing around on Raw and SmackDown for a couple of years, he became a World Champion.... and was promptly de-pushed. Only after the fans complained loudly about his role in the company did Bryan get the push of a lifetime, headlining WrestleMania XXX and capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
So.... what's left to tell that readers don't already know?
Quite a bit, actually. In his book YES: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania, Bryan comes across every bit as humble as his persona does on television. Instead of bragging about what was an extraordinary career, Bryan comes across as a fan who often can't believe his good fortune.
That's not to say Bryan didn't work hard to get where he is today. Traveling halfway across the country to train with Shawn Michaels in his fledging wrestling school, Bryan then went to California, Memphis, Japan and anywhere else he could go to improve his craft. In this respect, it's quite similar to the first autobiographies of Mick Foley and Chris Jericho, paying his dues to get to the big time.
The similarities end there. Bryan is extremely laid-back, revealing that a personality test he took while working for WWE inferred that he had among the least ambition of his peers. His chill personality also means Bryan is very unlikely to cause trouble backstage, unless he's fighting for something he truly believes in.
For example, it's well known that Bryan wasn't happy with his back-to-back WrestleMania matches with Sheamus - the first, a dark match for the United States title, and the second being the infamous 18-second World Title match. In another instance, Bryan engaged in a heated exchange with Triple H backstage after The Game was forced to stop a 2013 match between Bryan and Randy Orton due to a legit injury suffered during the bout. So there is definitely some fire there; it just doesn't always bubble to the surface.
Beyond a blow-by-blow of his career, Daniel Bryan outlines the relationships he's forged with the likes of William Regal, Gabe Sapolsky, Brian Kendrick, Kane, Nigel McGuinness and even his wife Brie Bella. These are the little details that make a book like this so fascinating.
The only thing I didn't really care for in this book was how each chapter opened with a short story about Bryan's weekend at WrestleMania XXX; for example, the training regimen he endured, or personal appearances he was slated to make before the big event. This type of thing works perfectly fine in a documentary (and in fact, may have been used in Bryan's WWE Network special, if I recall correctly), but in a book, it just comes across as lazy and a bit of a page-filler.
As we know, Bryan's in-ring career seemingly came to an end roughly two years after the timeline of his book was completed, and then he was able to return to the ring in early 2018 for another run. It would have been great to have these additional details; of course, there was no way to actually plan for that in advance.
Overall Rating: Transitional Champion. I'm not going to suggest everyone needs to read this book (the aforementioned Foley and Jericho first books are far superior); it's a nice complement to the various Daniel Bryan DVDs and Network specials out there. But could it have been better? YES! YES! YES!