By Will Pruett
Check out the 98-minute audio discussion of Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” conducted by Will Pruett and Jason Powell at Blogtalkradio.com/prowrestlingdotnet.
I like Daniel Bryan. This is not a secret to anyone who has read my writing for any length of time. His on-air persona is affable, good natured, and friendly. He seems like a nice guy. In fact, he seems like the kind of guy I’d love to sit around sipping organic coffee and swapping stories with. This is what I hoped his autobiography would be and it delivered. Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan (with Craig Tello) is as likable as Bryan himself.
The autobiography follows two timelines at once. At first, we are introduced to a diary of the week of WrestleMania XXX which was written by Craig Tello for WWE.com during the week of this show. This diary is a mixed bag. It was a great feature on the WWE website and I remember truly enjoying it as WrestleMania XXX approached. In this book, the excerpts of the diary serve to breakup the chapters of Bryan telling his story in his own voice. It gets in the way more than it helps. It doesn’t provide anything particularly useful or insightful in the telling of Bryan’s story. If it had highlighted portions of Bryan’s WrestleMania journey inspired by or pertaining to his story as being told in the chapters before or after it, it could have worked. Instead, it feels tacked on.
The second, and far more engaging timeline, is Bryan’s actual life. From his childhood in the Pacific Northwest to his climactic WrestleMania main event win, Bryan is honest as he tells his story. He talks about the negative aspects of his life with candor. Bryan never shies away from telling the reader how he felt in a particular situation, even when the subject matter is difficult (like discussing his recently departed alcoholic father). He also expresses the complications of certain relationships rather refreshingly. Bryan paints pictures of people who are very difficult to dislike, instead of giving readers a black and white world.
Bryan’s wrestling career is covered in detail and takes up the majority of the book. His early days, training with Shawn Michaels at his school with Brian Kendrick are covered with some really enjoyable details. This moves on to his short stint in the WWE Developmental system and subsequent release.
We then get to the portion of this book I had looked forward to most: Bryan’s long run on the United States and international independent wrestling scene. Bryan says he has always and likely will always consider himself an independent wrestler. This statement floored me a little when I stepped back to consider it coming from a WrestleMania main eventer.. Bryan described going from place to place in his journey and, much like Chris Jericho in his first book, Bryan discussed what he learned from each destination.
Daniel Bryan’s honesty shines through in this portion as he discusses a match with Nigel McGuinness where the two chose to head-butt each other multiple times. The match was taped before, but released after the Chris Benoit double-murder-suicide. Bryan discusses the discomfort many had watching the match and says it probably should have never been released. This story fascinated me, especially in light of Bryan’s 2015 run in WWE and his liberal use of head-butts.
As we get into WWE, Bryan doesn’t hesitate to discuss his frustrations. At one point, he even is described as “Depressed Dan” by a fellow wrestler. He talks about being artistically stifled by WWE and often pigeon-holed into segments where he didn’t quite fit. He also mentions his firing and re-hiring in great detail.
One statement worth mentioning was when he said he realized “WWE is a parody of pro wrestling”. This is a stunning revelation to include in a WWE book.
The title of the book calls Bryan’s WrestleMania journey improbable, but I’m not sure just one word is enough. Everything leading to Bryan’s rise to the top of WWE, from the Money in the Bank win in 2011, to the 18 second match in 2012 sparking the “Yes” phenomenon, to the tag team with Kane and feud with The Shield, to John Cena’s 2013 injury and Bryan’s first WWE Championship win all seemed absolutely impossible at one point. It’s amazing to see how Bryan got where he is and how candid, even to a fault, he is about it.
This book wouldn’t be complete without quite a bit of talk about Bri (as she is called in the book), Bryan’s wife. Their courtship, engagement, and eventual marriage is described in detail, including one hilarious story about a naked Bryan and Bri being stormed in on by the drunk Ted DiBiase Jr. and Sheamus just before sexy time was about to go down. Their relationship has always struck me (an ardent Total Divas fan) as sweet. Bryan’s writing about it furthered this.
As the book concludes, things get a little dark. The epilogue is thought provoking at best and depressing at its worst. This is another spot where Bryan’s candor and honesty shine through, possibly to a fault. I won’t spoil what he says, because you really should read the book. This did cause he to put down the book and contemplate wrestling, and in a way, life itself. It gets heavy.
Daniel Bryan’s Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania isn’t a genre-defining wrestling autobiography, but it is a very solid entry into the genre. Bryan is introspective, insightful, and very honest as he writes. It’s something any Daniel Bryan fan should order and read immediately. Even those who don’t enjoy the in-ring work of Bryan will likely enjoy his story. I would give it a solid B+ and highly recommend checking it out.
Got thoughts on Bryan’s book or my review of it? If they aren’t super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter twitter.com/itswilltime or email me at email@example.com.