WWE WrestleMania 36: Should Daniel Bryan Dethrone Sami Zayn?

Last week on Friday Night SmackDown, Daniel Bryan confronted the new Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn and defeated Cesaro in a grudge match. The seeds are being planted for an Intercontinental Championship match at WWE WrestleMania 36.

Most WWE fans evidently foresee an Intercontinental Championship match between Sami Zayn and Daniel Bryan taking place at WrestleMania 36 and thereby led many of them to speculate: Should Daniel Bryan dethrone Sami Zayn at WWE WrestleMania 36?

Mark Justice and Bruce Hazelwood, two of Daily DDT’s beloved contributors, will tackle this question and pontificate their opposing viewpoints in a reborn series called “Debate The Mark.”

Without further ado, here is their riveting debate on this issue, with Mark taking the side of Sami Zayn, and Bruce taking the side of Daniel Bryan.

Mark: Zayn is the model of altruism we deserve

When Sami Zayn won the Intercontinental Championship at WWE Elimination Chamber 2020, he did not just win his first main roster championship. He epitomized altruism by doing it for the “good guys.”

“When you do good to others, good will come to you.” For months, Zayn has been helping Shinsuke Nakamura solidify his legacy with the Intercontinental Championship. Now, he miraculously won the Intercontinental Championship to show to the WWE Universe how justifiable and propitious altruism can be to one’s success in life.

Why should Zayn lose the Intercontinental Championship to Daniel Bryan at WWE WrestleMania 36 after exemplifying that invaluable lesson? Why should he be treated as a one-hit wonder who loses his first title defense when he could end up being the greatest, most inspirational, most entertaining, most ground-breaking Intercontinental Champion of this era in the WWE?

Based on his recent work as an altruistic manager, it would be criminal to take the Intercontinental Championship from Zayn so soon.

Bruce: Bryan is just reclaiming what he never lost

Daniel Bryan is one of the most beloved wrestlers in history. I’m not just saying this as a fellow Washingtonian; his “Occupy RAW” moment, WrestleMania XXX and the culmination of the “YES!” movement, his emotional retirement, and heartwarming comeback have given fans some of the most memorable moments in recent wrestling history.

While he’s held the WWE Championship since his return, it’s time for Bryan to recapture HIS Intercontinental Championship.

Remember that retirement? He also had to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship (which he won in a brutal ladder match at WrestleMania 31). This means Bryan never lost the title in an official match to anyone. Him defeating Zayn at WrestleMania to regain the Intercontinental Championship would just be like starting Final Fantasy XII from a save point (a couple years in the making).

Criminal? I disagree. If anything, Zayn losing to Bryan would further solidify the altruism of “The Great Liberator” Sami Zayn.

Mark’s rebuttal: Bryan is being selfish

Good point and clever callback to WrestleMania 31. Although I agree that Daniel Bryan winning the Intercontinental Championship would be redemptive, there is another callback many may forget: the October 25, 2019 episode of Friday Night SmackDown where Sami Zayn offered Daniel Bryan to join his faction of altruism. He slyly persuaded Bryan to move forward and join his and Nakamura’s artistry rather than move backwards to revive the Yes Movement with the WWE Universe. Guess what?

Daniel Bryan moved backwards to revive the Yes Movement, the same movement you claimed “gave fans some of the most memorable moments in recent wrestling history,” yet was also the movement that failed him in his Universal Championship matches with Bray Wyatt on two separate occasions and put him at a pivotal crossroads in his career.

Instead of flipping the switch and joining Sami Zayn’s moral quest of altruism, Daniel Bryan remained inexorable, had pointless matches with Heath Slater and Curtis Axel for weeks on end, and decided to join Drew Gulak, a superstar he defeated on the same night Sami Zayn won the Intercontinental Championship. Although Gulak took Bryan to his limits and countered his every move, how can Bryan actually learn from someone he defeated? How can that assistance help him win a high stake championship match?

“If you can’t beat him, join him.” Bryan already defeated Gulak, so there was no need to join him. Instead, joining Gulak was a spit in the face of Sami Zayn, who wanted to liberate Daniel Bryan’s career just like he did for Nakamura’s. Bryan was not being altruistic; he was actually being selfish.

I disagree. Zayn losing to Daniel Bryan would not further solidify the altruism of “The Great Liberator” Sami Zayn because Zayn would be losing to a selfish WWE superstar who was not grateful for Zayn’s altruism in the past. Just like The Yes Movement failed Daniel Bryan in his quest to defeat Bray Wyatt and become Universal Champion, it will fail him in his quest to defeat Sami Zayn and become Intercontinental Champion because he was too stuck up in his old ways and too selfish to try something new.

Sami Zayn defeating Daniel Bryan at WWE WrestleMania 36 will prove that Bryan’s rejection of his offer months ago was not only a step backward in Bryan’s character development but also a rejection of altruism altogether. Consequently, Sami Zayn should retain the Intercontinental Championship to prove to Bryan that rejecting said offer was a big mistake and joining his altruistic faction would have actually been justifiable and propitious for his career.

Bruce’s rebuttal: Bryan will restore the prestige of the championship

First, if he “slyly persuaded” Bryan, shouldn’t Bryan have joined with Zayn instead of spurning him?

Second, as we all learned, only a bunch of spears and a botched jackhammer could down The Fiend. Let’s not hold that against Bryan.

You ask how someone like Bryan can learn from someone he defeated in Gulak. Just because he beat Gulak doesn’t mean Bryan can’t learn some tricks and maneuvers from Gulak. Have you never learned anything from an adversary even though you emerged victorious?

This leads to my next point: Zayn is not just the new Intercontinental Champion (with presumed title defenses on the horizon), but he is also splitting his time managing Cesaro and Nakamura. Well, how can Bryan learn from someone who doesn’t have enough time to focus his attention on Bryan?

Gulak has made it his mission the past month or so to actually spend that time and effort on Bryan. I mean, did you see that duck-walk challenge? What about that headlock squeeze challenge? These are the types of things Zayn just doesn’t have the time to engage.

Of course Bryan joining Gulak was selfish; he’s trying to improve! Again, why be one of three when you can be one of one?

Also, some might think it’s weird to have Bryan be champion when he recently revealed he’s going to take six months off for maternity once Brie Bella gives birth to their second child and his contract is up soon thereafter. He also said he doesn’t want to be a full-time wrestler once his contract his up.

This is exactly why he should win, however. Brie and Nikki Bella are still in early in their pregnancies, so we probably have Bryan for at least another six months or at worst, through SummerSlam (if it happens). Bryan with the title would (again) just pick up like a save point.


His stated aim after WrestleMania 31 was to bring prestige back to the title and defend it night in and night out. With Gulak at his side, they form a formidable wrestler/manager duo. Think of the matches Bryan could have with the likes of yes, Zayn/Cesaro/Nakamura, but once again with Mustafa Ali, Kofi Kingston, Sheamus, and others.

After all, with all we’ve seen with Zayn, it’s not like he would willingly and honorably defend the title. There are bound to be shenanigans, unlike with Bryan.

When he does eventually step away, the title would have been rebuilt by the best technician this side of Bret Hart, and hey, maybe Zayn could be the one to win it back after six months.

There you have it! What did you think of the return of “Debate the Mark,” and whose argument swayed you more? Let us know!